By Michael Boriero
Shefford went through a significant shift in 2019. Bloc Québécois candidate Andréanne Larouche, a newcomer in the federal electoral scene, shocked then-incumbent Liberal candidate Pierre Breton in a narrow race to the finish line.
Larouche returns in 2021 as the incumbent seeking re-election with eight other candidates vying for votes in the riding, including Breton. The list of candidates seeking to represent Shefford in Ottawa includes:
Jasmin, Patrick (New Democratic Party)
Breton, Pierre (Liberal Party)
Schieder, Gerda (People’s Party of Canada)
Larouche, Andréanne (Bloc Québécois)
Lalancette, Céline (Conservative Party)
Morin, Mathieu (Green Party of Canada)
Lacroix, Joel (Free Party Canada)
Beaudry-Graham, Jean-Philippe (Parti pour l’Independence du Quebec)
Brisebois, Yannick (Marijuana Party)
The Record managed to contact four of the nine candidates to hear their thoughts on the worker shortage, economic relaunch, environmental protection, minority language rights, and pandemic recovery.
New Democratic Party candidate Patrick Jasmin told The Record that the main reason he chose to run in this year’s federal election is due to climate change. He believes that the current Liberal government has failed to address and properly handle the worsening situation.
“I decided to get in this election because I’m really worried about the environment. I think it’s clear that climate change is the big challenge that we need to confront and we have to take it seriously. At this point, I feel the other parties have not taken this issue seriously,” said Jasmin.
Places like the Amazon and Canada’s boreal forest are deteriorating, he explained, and they were once considered the lungs of the Earth. The trees are dying off, Jasmin continued, there are raging forest fires, and humans are destroying the land.
As a federal politician, Jasmin wants to help build homes using eco-friendly practices. He believes that Canada needs a party that is willing to tackle this issue head on. Some constituents, mainly farmers, also lamented over the worker shortage.
“What we know at this point is the immigration ministry is really not performing what needs to be done so the workers are at work on farms quickly, it becomes very complicated for them,” said Jasmin, adding that immigration became too political in the country.
He mentioned that many people in Shefford have dealt with poor Internet services, despite being forced online for school, and work during the pandemic. And as a paramedic, he anticipated a disaster in the province’s CHSLDs. He wants to fix the services for seniors.
Jasmin also discussed the potential modernization the Official Languages Act. English is a fundamental language in the province and the country, he said, and English health services, for example, need to be protected. But he noted that French needs protection, too.
“I think we have to maintain the services English people have, of course, as the NDP considers the same as I do. French on the American continent remains a minority language and we have to consider that reality and make sure that French can still continue to thrive,” said Jasmin.
People’s Party of Canada candidate Gerda Schieder spoke about protecting Canadians’ rights and freedoms. She said that as a long-time realtor, and having worked in the hospitality industry for several years, one her passions in life is taking care of people.
“I’ve been watching our freedom vanish and I’ve been really disturbed by what Justin Trudeau and his government have been doing, the measures they were taking, our freedoms that were being removed, our small businesses being destroyed, restaurants closed down,” she said.
According to Schieder, she jumped into politics this year because she couldn’t stand watching the government trample over the Charter of Rights and Freedoms any longer. She felt a responsibility to defend Quebecers and Canadians.
“I became a candidate for the People’s Party of Canada because of their platform which is freedom, responsibility, fairness and respect, that’s their founding principles, and that really resonates with me, that’s really what I think Canada should be,” said Schieder.
She promises to do everything in her power to end lockdowns, and vaccination passports. She wants to support small and large businesses as they continue to suffer from a worker shortage and economic uncertainty. Schieder said draconian measures do not work.
She moved to Quebec when she was two years old. Schieder has a strong connection the Eastern Townships, attending the Brome Fair every year since she was five years old. She understands the English-speaking community, and wants to protect their rights.
“I believe that we should have our English language rights in Quebec. I believe that we have to protect our English language rights in Quebec. I would certainly work towards making sure the Anglophones are protected in the area, and all of Quebec,” Schieder said.
She also touched on climate change, explaining to The Record that while this has been happening for years, there is no real evidence that humans are the sole cause for it. Schieder wants to protect the environment, but it needs to be financially viable and balanced.
Bloc Québécois candidate Andréanne Larouche, the incumbent in Shefford, went toe-to-toe with her Liberal opponent, Pierre Breton, in the 2019 federal election, edging him out by a slim margin. She intends to help the riding with a proactive economic relaunch.
However, Larouche noted that it is impossible to discuss a relaunch without first talking about the worker shortage. Shefford felt the pressure of the shortage and in order to address the situation, she wants to bring the topic of temporary foreign workers to Ottawa.
She told The Record that the Bloc is proposing several measures to attract skilled and experienced workers into various sectors, including agriculture. They are also planning to implement tax benefits, and investing in research and innovation.
The worker shortage also affected the health system, she said, adding that the Bloc wants to alleviate the stress on healthcare workers. She spent most of the summer meeting with business owners, workers, and community organizations.
“Well, listen, I think we were in an exceptional situation and we saw that they implemented some things that worked better than others,” said Larouche, adding that the CERB was a good idea at first, but its successor, the CRB, needs some adjustments.
She also mentioned that she has made the environment a priority on her to-do list in Shefford. It is “something close to my heart,” Larouche said, and it is important to reduce dependency on oil companies, and to avoid committing to projects like the Trans Mountain pipeline.
She is committed to investing in a green relaunch, focusing on renewable energy, tapping into natural resources, and developing green-centric technologies for the future by taking money out of oil. Larouche also addressed the fears out of the English-speaking community.
She told the The Record that “there won’t be any loss of services to the Anglophone community.” Larouche also said that the proposed Bill C-32 to change the Official Languages Act is not compatible with Quebec’s Bill 96, and that needs to be fixed in Ottawa.
“They had a beautiful Bill 96, but we have the proposal that does not respect the demands of Quebec,” said Larouche, sharing that it is a sad situation and Quebec should be able to have agency over its official language.
Liberal candidate Pierre Breton told The Record that this electoral campaign has been a grind. It is a ground battle, he explained, as he has gone door-to-door, made countless phone calls to residents, and attended community meetings and events.
He said the most important aspect of the economic relaunch is to make sure there is an emphasis on green practices. According to Breton, the Liberals have presented a strong environmental recovery plan that resonates with all Canadians, especially in Shefford.
“When we talk about reducing plastic, when we talk about protecting our oceans, our natural resources, it is part of our plan. When we say we want to be carbon neutral by 2050 […] Well, we’re the only party with a realistic program and in line with Canadians,” he said.
When asked about the nagging worker shorter in the province and across Canada, Breton explained that while the pandemic has caused the situation to get worse, it has always been there, especially in factories. But the Liberals have measures in place to reduce the problem.
He said that they want to create tax credits for people 65 years old and over to incentive people to come back to work, whether it is full time or part-time. Breton added that the Liberals also want to increase the ratio of temporary foreign workers from 10 to 20 per cent.
And he noted that the initiative to create more than 30,000 spaces in daycares will also help in attracting more people to the workforce. Instead of being forced to stay at home due to a lack of daycare availability, many parents will be able to pursue careers.
When it comes to the Official Languages Act, Breton believes it is necessary to modernize the document with the current landscape. The Liberals want to protect French minority communities outside of Quebec, and likewise for English minority communities in the province.
“The intention behind it is to assure the protection of both official languages and more specifically minority languages, so I will always work to protect the English language here […] we need to protect these people, to be able to get services in English,” Breton said.
The Record was unable to reach Conservative party candidate Céline Lalancette, Green Party of Canada candidate Mathieu Morin, Free Party Canada candidate Joel Lacroix, Parti pour l’Independence du Quebec candidate Jean-Philippe Beaudry-Graham, and Marijuana Party candidate Yannick Brisebois.