The Saint Croix Courier

St. Stephen, NB

2006 January 17

Drama at debate


ST. STEPHEN — Green Party candidate Erik Millett gave a great performance at Thursday evening's debate, right up until the end.

The debate, held at the Milltown Legion, was the first of two in the county, with a second debate in St. Andrews Monday.

Shortly after arriving, Millett appeared in a white chemical suit, with hazardous material signs on his chest. In his closing remarks, he mentioned how he didn't want Canada's children to be sent to the war in Iraq, to which Conservative MP Greg Thompson responded that his son was in Iraq, drawing applause from the audience.

Millett then gave Thompson a box of garbage bags, saying they were for the soldiers to have "body bags to come home in," which drew a negative response from the crowd.

John Gardner, of Andersonville, said that Millett's "theatrics were entertaining."

Raven Reid, of St. Stephen, commented, "I'm not very judgmental on personal views, but I think the body bag was too much."

Millett is the vice-principal at Milltown Elementary School, and audience members were heard commenting that having him teaching their children is a "scary thought."

Laura Skinner of Alberta, who is currently in St. Stephen with Katimavik, said the Green Party was "going well, until he shot himself in the foot with his comment."

The evening opened with candidates giving a five-minute presentation, introducing themselves and discussing their platforms. First to speak was Stan Smith, Mayor of St. George, representing the Liberal Party, followed by NDP candidate, Andrew Graham, incumbent MP, Conservative Thompson, and Millett.

One of the evening's more lively topics was whether or not the candidates will oppose the passage through Head Harbour by LNG tankers.

Stan Smith commented, "As I stated in St. Andrews, in front of 1,000 people several months ago, I was opposed to the LNG. I have been opposed to the LNG. I will not change my mind on the LNG. But there are things that are beyond my control."

Smith stated that "I have been advised, and I have been told, and I have checked it out. We as a Prime Minister cannot stop the LNG. That's what I've been told. I might be wrong, and if I am wrong, I would admit that I am wrong."

"Neither Stephen Harper nor Paul Martin can stop the LNG until the full process has gone through," said Smith.

Greg Thompson of the Conservative Party commented, "Stan's changing his position. He had a bogus position the other day on CBC radio and said under the rules of NAFTA we couldn't stop it's bogus, that was false, now he's changing his story."

Thompson added "Canada is a sovereign nation. We have the right to do it (say no to LNG), we have the obligation to do it to protect our citizens. It will be done."

However, Erik Millett countered, "Can we count on Stephen Harper, George Bush's best buddy in the West, to stand up to George Bush and say no to U.S. energy interests in Passamaquoddy Bay? Will he buckle? Of course he will."

Andrew Graham said "the first time I heard about this whole issue in East Portland, I was pretty scared."

He added that "NDP does not have any corporate ties. I promise you I will fight this LNG tooth and nail."

Many other questions were raised during the meeting.

One issue discussed was the building of a civic centre in St. Stephen. Smith commented that he would support the project with "no hesitation."

Millett, who believes in illness prevention, said that a new civic centre would promote healthy lifestyles. Thompson supports the idea, but said that this is something that is up to the towns to make happen, while Graham thinks it is a "great idea," and that it would make good sense economically.

It would attract talent to the area, and Graham agreed with Millett about it promoting an active lifestyle.

Another question posed by the audience was whether or not the candidates support same-sex marriage. All candidates said that they were in support of union between any couple, whether they are heterosexual or not.

Thompson said "I support the traditional definition of marriage, and I also agree that same sex couples should receive the same benefits as traditional married couples."

However, he also added that he supports the "traditional definition of marriage as the union between one man and one woman, with exclusion of all others."

One audience member asked about the issue of handgun control and confiscation, and who is to compensate individuals who owned these valuable sporting pistols.

Greg Thompson responded by saying, "We have strict handgun legislation in this country since 1936, and it's working. We have to have safe storage of handguns, locked in a cabinet with trigger guards. If you want to transport that gun, you have to have a permit from the RCMP."

Thompson added "We've got tough handgun registration in this country, now it's working. The problem is we're not cracking down on the people that perpetrate crime with the aid of a gun. So we're suggesting that handgun legislation that's been in force since '36 is working, let's keep it where it is. Let's not ban handguns for legitimate owners."

On the issue of handgun control, Stan Smith said "I would ask you to ask the lady whose 15 year old daughter was shot to death in Toronto recently how she feels about handguns. But I would also say that I do believe we do need handguns, and people should be allowed to have their antique handguns."

Smith said we need "A New Brunswick made law, not one made in Toronto or half way around the world."

Candidates said after the debate that the evening was "lively and spirited." They commented on the quality of the questions asked of them, and felt that it was an excellent turnout.

Public reaction after the debate was mixed. Wayne Gardner, of Andersonville, commented that "Stanley blew it when he said nothing could be done about LNG."

Rick Doucet, MLA for Charlotte County, commented that "this is part of the democracy process. The candidates had opportunities to say their views. I really salute the people who put their name out for public office. I wish them all the best of luck."


© 2006 Advocate Media
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.

The Saint Croix Courier, St. Stephen, NB