CORNWALL – The two leadership hopefuls for the provincial NDP laid out their visions for the party to a crowded room of Islanders during a leadership debate in Cornwall Wednesday night.
The evening played out less like a debate, however, and more like a public interview of the two candidates on their positions regarding various issues.
Mike Redmond and Trevor Leclerc faced questions from moderator Ian Petrie and from the roomful of over 75 people on topics such as health care, education and primary industries. They were also questioned about child care, youth involvement, poverty elimination and environmental protection.
And they didn’t shy away from more controversial topics such as abortion, Plan B and HST.
Redmond began many of his answers by taking minor jabs at the current Liberal government and former Progressive Conservative administration, often eliciting laughter from the audience.
“We are, as an Island, in this mess, not just because of the Liberal government, but the Conservative government before them,” Redmond said when asked about HST.
“They flip-flopped back and forth and spent your money on golf courses and hills and Polar Foods and things that should never have been engaged in in the first place, and now they’re turning to the taxpayers and saying ‘Get us out of this mess’… It’s time for that to change and a Mike Redmond NDP will make sure there is no HST.”
Redmond drew on his experience as a sporting coach and outlined the direction in which he would like to take the party, if elected leader.
“For me, (leadership) is going and having personal interaction, making sure that people have faith, making sure that they know their value, that they’re loved and that they have a resource in me that will clear the path and get the job done,” Redmond said.
LeClerc spoke at length about his vision for the party, which he said he views as a family that respects its members and values their opinions on public policy.
“Governed by New Democrats, we will govern as a family and not as a business,” LeClerc said.
He said he plans to travel across the Island and spend a week in each riding to experience the daily lives of Islanders and hear their concerns.
“We want to assure Islanders we’re just like them,” Leclerc said.
“We are you, we’re here and we are listening.”
Both Redmond and Leclerc echoed these sentiments with promises of public engagement and heeding the will of the people – something they both accused the two main parties of not doing.
“You will see our party grow because we’ll do something that a lot people won’t do and that’s engage the general public,” Redmond said.
“As a coach you go and get good players. As the leader of the New Democratic party, we’ll go get 27 strong districts, 27 strong candidates and we form the next provincial government.”
The first advance poll for the leadership will be held Thursday in Charlottetown and advance polls in O’Leary, Summerside, Charlottetown and Poole’s Corner will also be held this Saturday.
The leadership convention will be held on Oct. 13 at The Delta hotel.