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Meadow Lake Progress, Sunday, September 28, 2008

The candidates face the crowd

By Jennifer Blake, Progress Staff

It was a much talked about debate for the candidates of the Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River federal riding, as they faced their constituents in person on Thursday night. About 70 people attended the forum, held at the Carpenter High School theatre. Four of the five candidates showed up for the debate - incumbent MP Conservative candidate Rob Clarke was the only no-show.

The people in attendance had a lot of questions for their candidates, everything from agriculture and healthcare to the economy and aboriginal issues. Many questions had much broader answers than the one-minute time limit allowed.

First People National Party of Canada candidate Rob Ballantyne opened the evening saying that he appreciated the opportunity to attend the debate.

"I'm very thankful for being invited here today," he said.

"This is the first run that the First Peoples National Party has run in this riding and I took the initiative to be in the party. One of the reasons why I decided to run in the election is the moral of our aboriginal people is too low."

NDP candidate Brian Morin said he was passionate about working for the people of northern Saskatchewan.

"I know there's a lot of issues - that's why I'm running," he said.

"None of our issues have been heard. I want to represent you people, not me, you people out there in Ottawa so that your voice will be heard."

Green Party candidate George Morin said the issues of the riding are important to everyone who lives here.

"As this election proceeds the economy seems to be the upper issue," he said.

"I'm concerned about the economy, especially what's happening in the United States and we're not immune to it. The Green Party is a new party, we have new ideas."

When asked the question about his party's platform, Liberal candidate David Orchard told the crowd that he is focused on many issues in his campaign.

"One of my priorities is the war," he said.

"Agriculture is a big issue for me. First Nations, Métis issues, there is a whole array of things. The lack of economic development, the exclusion of decision making. The health issues in the north."

Each candidate took the time to answer every question posed by the people. Even at the end of the evening, when one man asked what many have been asking since the debate was announced, "can someone here tell me why Mr. Clarke did not attend tonight?"

Orchard was the first to respond, saying that he thought Clarke should have been there.

"I think it's not right when an elected representative as Mr. Clarke was, and then refuses to stand in front of the people who pay his salary and defend his ideas," he said.

"I think Mr. Clarke is doing a disservice to the people of Meadow Lake and this riding by failing to show up."

Following applause from the crowd, George Morin chose to speak to the question as well. He said he agreed with Orchard.

"The man that is supposed to be here I think is a little bit off base in terms of being a true representative of this constituency," he said.

The debate will be televised on CPAC later this week.

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