Election 2021: A look at Pontiac candidates

Pontiac August 25, 2021

In the lead up to the 2021 federal election The Equity spoke to candidates from the Conservative party, Green party, Liberal party and the NDP. The Bloc Québécois did not respond in time for publication.

‘I am a fiscal conservative,’ says Pontiac candidate

The Conservative candidate for the Pontiac riding, Michel Gauthier, has lived in the region all of his life. He was born in the village of Bois-Franc in the Gatineau Valley. At three, his family moved to Maniwaki, where he grew up.

Halfway through his first year at CEGEP, he decided his heart wasn’t in it, so he decided to take a break. The plan was to return in a year. 

He was a talented writer and was soon hired on as a journalist at the small paper L’Écho de la Lièvre in Mont-Laurier. However, he would never return to school. 

“I’m what you call a dropout,” Gauthier said in an interview with THE EQUITY.

During that time, he learned on the job and honed his craft under the tutelage of professional journalists.

He then worked at Le Gatineau in Maniwaki and eventually made his way to Le Droit in Ottawa. 

There he worked as a journalist, sportswriter, chief of information technology, where he oversaw the paper’s transition from print to the internet. Under his direction, Le Droit was the first French-language newspaper in the world to make the switch to online, according to Gauthier. In his final time at the paper he would beome Editor-in-Chief.

Gauthier ended his career in journalism at the same place it started. Growing up, he delivered Le Droit as a paperboy in Maniwaki. 

His early days in journalism at L’ Echo would also lead him to his second passion. In 1973, he met his first elected official. Gauthier was tasked with interviewing newly elected Liberal MP Thomas Lefebvre. The meeting would have a profound impact on him.

He was struck by how Lefebvre seemed to listen to people and take action on people’s concerns. “I have very good [memories] of him,” Gauthier said. “He never lost an election.”

After retirement, it was an easy transition to make from journalism to politics. As a journalist, he travelled the region, worked on stories, wrote features. “I have always been involved in the community,” he said.

During that time, he also learned about the economic woes of the community. He notes that the MRC Pontiac and the Gatineau Valley MRC, where he grew up, have been some of Quebec’s most economically depressed regions for decades. He plans to release a separate platform addressing rural concerns in the coming days, so he did not want to speak further on the issue until then.

However, he did mention that labour shortages are a problem in the region, which can be blamed on the federal government’s handling of the CERB program. Gauthier feels that we should change how we are helping Canadians.

“A lot of businesses, restaurants, retail outlets, are unable to find manpower because people prefer to stay at home.”

Gauthier is a proud fiscal conservative. He disagrees with the government’s management of public finances. Over the last six years of the Liberal government, the deficit has ballooned. However, he acknowledges that help was needed to stabilize the economy and Canadians needed financial assistance after mass job losses. “the government had to invest, to support people,” he said.

He does not believe the winding down of the pandemic will slow down Liberal spending.

On healthcare, he said it is a provincial responsibility, but the federal government partially funds it. He believes the federal government should provide more funds, but without conditions. Something the Conservatives have promised to do. The Liberals have pledged to increase transfers, but there are always conditions attached, he claimed.

Over the years, the Quebec government and federal government have announced a series of plans to increase high-speed access across the province. The project, called Canada-Quebec Operation High Speed, is expected to be finished by 2022. He said he would work to ensure those commitments are met.

Green candidate to focus on people, planet, Pontiac

The Pontiac riding’s Green candidate, Shaughn McArthur, said that he hopes to address a lack of political willpower and to change the political system to be more capable and willing to tackle major issues.

“I am doing this because I have two of the most beautiful children on earth... who are expressing climate angst,” said McArthur. “I want to be able to look my kids in the eyes in 20 years and say ‘I did everything I could.’”

McArthur holds a masters degree in public policy from the Hertie Institute and a bachelor’s degree in communications and journalism from Concordia University.

McArthur currently serves on the Green party’s Shadow Cabinet as Critic for International Affairs and Defense.

He’s previously worked on Parliament Hill as a policy advisor to Senator Raynell Andreychuk, the former chairperson of the committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade. In that time, McArthur said, he learned about trade issues which has served him well in his career.

McArthur lives in Wakefield with his family and serves on the Board of Governors at St Michael’s High School and on the Board of Directors for the Centre Wakefield La Pêche. He added that he is also leading an initiative to provide positive masculinity training in the Pontiac.

Part of the reason McArthur joined the Green party is due to the party’s views on electoral reform. He criticized Liberal leader Justin Trudeau for reversing his stance on electoral reform after the 2015 election and said he hopes to push for changes to the current system.

“Canada is one of the only self-respecting democracies that still uses the broken first-past-the-post system,” said McArthur. “Unless we fix that, our debates and our discussions about the big issues are going to be reduced to small, low-hanging fruit that are frankly more of a distraction than a benefit.”

Social justice

McArthur explained that he built his platform around social justice, climate action and economic justice, a trio which he refers to as “people, planet and Pontiac.”

He described his goals for social justice as “protecting our most vulnerable, ensuring there’s affordability, eliminating poverty, making sure that no one is priced out of Pontiac.”

Climate action

On a federal level, McArthur wants to push for a “meaningful price on carbon,” carbon border adjustment and to eliminate federal support and subsidies for extractive industries which extract materials such as coal and oil from the Earth. 

On a local level, however, he wants to focus on developing a more local and sustainable economy.

“In the Pontiac, the planet and environmental policy we need is one that is building a regenerative economy,” said McArthur. “And for me, that’s about investing in farmer, forester and Indigenous led land stewardship so that we can sequester carbon and revive our Pontiac traditional rural economic sectors.”

Economic justice

McArthur also proposed taking measures to ensure that municipalities can promote smart growth of the region and limit urban sprawl, protect green spaces and enhance communities. He noted that this would include rural connectivity, charging networks in underserviced areas

“One of the big challenges that we’re facing in Pontiac is that you will never have an integrated regional economy with the types of disparities that we have right now,” said McArthur. “We have some of the richest neighborhoods in this country, as well as some of the poorest neighborhoods in this province. And unless all of those people see themselves inside the tent of a green and regenerative economy, you’re going to be at loggerheads.”

McArthur said that he hopes among other issues that the Green party will be able to push for changes to the first-past-the-post system. He added that he hopes that citizens have seen that in a minority government, smaller parties have a chance to make an impact and can push for concessions from larger parties. 

“We need to inspire and encourage more Canadians to recognize that the only strategic vote available nowadays is one that shifts the balance of power,” said McArthur. “A vote for greens is a vote to send a message to the Liberals that they’re on notice, that people are done with half-measures and that we can leave behind a more liveable future.”

Liberal candidate to focus on internet, public transit, environment

The Pontiac riding’s new Liberal candidate, Sophie Chatel, said that it was out of concern for global warming that she decided to try her hand at politics.

“I’m not known in the local political community,” said Chatel. “I’m a citizen, like many of the people in the riding, just very concerned about global warming and wanting to do something about it.”

Chatel holds a bachelors of law from the University of Montreal and a masters degree in taxation from the University of Sherbrooke. She used these in her time working as a tax adviser in Drummondville and in Montreal. 

“Then I had my twin boys and looked for a change in my career. [I] looked to work in policy as opposed to private practices,” said Chatel. She later worked for the CRA and Department of Finance until moving to Paris to work for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

“I worked with the United Nations with the IMF, the World Bank,” said Chatel. “Recently, there was a deal that we achieved at the OECD with 134 countries to tax the most profitable companies – the largest companies in the world, including digital giants – so that they pay their fair share of taxation.”

Chatel lives in Gatineau near Cantley with her family.

She’s spent time exploring the riding while serving as a scout leader, spending time in Fort Coulonge, Sheenboro and La Pêche.

Chatel said that she’s interested in an integrated approach to the preserving environment, which she believes her experience working on global, national and local policy will be of use for.

She added that she believes that the Liberal party is the best option to explore this integrated approach.

“I think [the Liberals] have a comprehensive approach to many issues, whether it is environment, or other social issues,” said Chatel. “They are focusing on growing the middle class, creating the jobs of the future. They have a comprehensive plan to do that. And I believe that it’s the only party that could meet those challenges.”

High-speed internet

Chatel stressed the importance of high-speed internet for training and education within the riding. She intends to closely monitor the previously-launched Canada-Quebec Operation High Speed project.

“I think that the number one issue is still to ensure that the Canada-Quebec high-speed internet project is on schedule,” said Chatel. “You can’t just move your eyes away from that ball because that is too important.”

Developing public transportation

Chatel hopes to address a lack of public transportation in the riding. She said that investing in public transport in the riding would aid students in pursuing education and help combat a shortage of workers.

“It’s a big priority because it has so many positive effects on our region,” said Chatel. 

To aid in the development of public transport, Chatel referenced the Liberal budget 2021, which includes a transit fund of $14.9 billion over eight years for transit projects across Canada.

“So locally, this is concrete action we could do not only to help the environment, but connect our communities together, and also bring some workers and bring our students to school in the urban area,” said Chatel.

Protecting the environment

Chatel said that her third priority for the Pontiac is to focus on protecting the environment within the region.

She aims to protect the region’s nature, develop sustainable agriculture and food security in the region, as well as encourage residents to buy locally.

She added that the federal government has announced support, but initiatives themselves need to come locally and provincially.

“[One] priority is to really be a partner, to be a very strong partner in all of those initiatives in the community, to protect the environment,” said Chatel.

Chatel noted that she expects the Liberal government as a whole to focus on protecting the environment and will listen to science to reach climate goals. She is also confident that the party will “bring the economy towards the future.” 

“And what we mean by that is focusing on creating jobs that will be relevant in the future. So focusing on green technology,” said Chatel. “This is a party that will bring us into a place where our generation will be successful.”

NDP candidate places importance on Chalk River, cost of living and internet

Denise Giroux is your NDP candidate for the Pontiac riding. Last Friday, THE EQUITY caught up with her to discuss her life, her career and her run for office. 

Giroux described herself as a “Northern Ontario girl, francophone from both sides of the family. “She was born in the community of Kirkland Lake not far from the Quebec border. 

Her family would eventually move to Hamilton where she grew up.

After receiving a BA in English, she left Hamilton for Montreal where she received a law degree from McGill University.

Giroux returned to Hamilton and spent the following years working at a legal clinic practicing poverty law on behalf of tenants, injured workers and new refugees.

In 1993 she dipped her toes into federal politics for the first time when she ran as the NDP candidate for Hamilton West. The 1993 election was divisive with two new parties, the Bloc Québécois and the Reform Party, taking second and third place victories from a fractured Progressive Conservative party.

After the ‘93 election, Giroux opened her own general practice. She worked within the gay community during the AIDS crisis advocating on behalf of gay men in estate matters and survivor benefits that were denied to gay men and generally working to help families with wills and real estate matters.

During that time, she was made adjudicator for an Administrative Tribunal. “My legal experience was recognized and my ability to both advocate for and make decisions that were fair and practical for people,” she said.

Giroux moved to Montreal in 2001 and started working in labour law. After a few years, she would eventually work at the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada in Ottawa, ultimately settling in Cantley, Quebec, in 2005.

In 2019 she ran as the NDP candidate for the Pontiac. 

Giroux is recently retired and lives with her husband Greg Lobb in Cantley.

Her son is expecting a child “any day now,” and she is about to become a grandma for the first time.

She has called the Pontiac home for almost two decades and has seen “its amazing diversity, both urban and rural.” From struggling farmers to city dwellers with a lack of affordable housing. But the environment itself is also vital, she said. “The Ottawa river and the Gatineau are the arteries of this riding,” and we must make sure these eco-systems are healthy and clean. 

Chalk River

In that regard, Giroux mentioned that the Chalk River nuclear waste facility is a primary concern. Giroux has spent years working with community groups concerned with current plans to permanently store nuclear waste at the facility. “It is an accident waiting to happen,” she said.

She said, “we do not have a strong Safety Commission that prioritizes human and biodiversity and water health.” 

Cost of living

One of her top concerns is the cost of living which, she says involves many other issues. For example, the high cost of living encompasses affordable housing in the city, but also cheap and reliable internet in rural areas where prices are high and internet speeds are extremely low. 

She wants the federal government to return to a national housing program to build co-op and non-profit housing.

Internet services

On the internet front, she wants large ISPs to open up their networks to small providers to create a more competitive environment.

Giroux highlighted the NDP’s achievements during the past minority government. She is especially proud of what the NDP achieved during the pandemic while holding the balance of power in parliament. For example, the original wage subsidy proposed by the government was 10 per cent, the NDP managed to get Trudeau to commit to 75 per cent. 

Giroux said she wants to be the NDP MP for Pontiac because it is a matter of core values. Previous leaders have not done a good job of representing the people of the Pontiac, she said. “And the NDP and I stand for a vision of the world where we collaborate towards real progress.

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