ICYMI: Fredericton federal riding candidates debate

    The St. Thomas University Students' Union hosted a debate for the Fredericton federal riding candidates on Sept. 17, 2021. (Collage by Aaron Sousa)

    Disclaimer: The Communist Party, the Conservative Party and the New Democratic Party candidates did not attend the debate. Of the three parties not in attendance, only the NDP platform points are included because they reached out to The Aquinian with an interview request. 

    The St. Thomas University Students’ Union, the New Brunswick Students Association and the STU Department of Political Science hosted a debate for the Fredericton federal riding candidates on Friday evening. The event was held in preparation for the federal election on Sept. 20.

    There are seven candidates running in the Fredericton riding. Four were able to attend the debate. These four participants included Liberal Party candidate Jenica Atwin, Libertarian Party candidate Brandon Kirby, Green Party candidate Nicole O’Byrne and Independent candidate Jen Smith. Communist candidate June Patterson, Conservative candidate Andrea Johnson and New Democratic Party candidate Shawn Oldenburg did not attend.

    The candidates and their platforms:

    Jenica Atwin – Liberal Party

    Atwin won the Fredericton riding as the Green Party candidate back in the 2019 federal election. She left the Green Party in June of this year and became a Liberal Party MP.

    Her summarized points are:

    • She said the only reason to not get vaccinated is a medical exemption unless there are extenuating circumstances.
    • She said she will implement national mental health standards and increase health transfer dollars that go specifically to mental health access across Canada. She said improving mental health services comes down to the proper training for teachers and university faculty.
    • She said she will move closer towards free tuition for students. As of right now, the Liberal Party platform has a section on students not paying student loan payments. The platform also mentions cancelling interest on federally-held student loans.
    • She said she will promote access to the job market and Canada Summer Jobs to international and domestic students.
    • She said regulations need to be established under the Canada Health Act to make sure it’s followed in all jurisdictions, such as reproductive services at Clinic 554. She directly fought for Clinic 554 and will continue to do so.
    • She said she will focus on developing a Black Canadian justice strategy to address anti-Black racism specifically in the justice system.
    • She said she plans to fully implement Joyce’s Principle to address systemic racism in the Canadian healthcare system.
    • She said she’d like to see a national inquiry on police intervention wellness checks.
    • She said she will push the government to reinstate tax-sharing agreements in New Brunswick for Indigenous communities.
    • She said she wants to push Indigenous protected conservation areas.
    • She said there needs to be recruitment to support the 15,000 people in Fredericton who don’t have a nurse practitioner or family physician. She said there needs to be a collaboration with the recruitment efforts that are ongoing to hire more doctors and nurses.

    Brandon Kirby – Libertarian Party

    Kirby studied philosophy at the University of New Brunswick and is now an anti-money laundering officer. He is also the creator and director of Being Libertarian – Canada.

    His summarized points are:

    • He said the Libertarian Party platform promotes the non-aggression principle and firmly believes in not causing harm or taking money from citizens.
    • He said citizens should practice personal responsibility with masks and vaccinations like the model used in places like Japan and Taiwan.
    • He said the cost of living must be addressed in order to help students get jobs after they graduate.
    • He said Clinic 554 is the decision of the Department of Health in New Brunswick, not the federal government.

    Nicole O’Byrne – Green Party

    O’Byrne is a UNB law professor, where she teaches courses on evidence, criminal law, Canadian federalism as well as Indigenous-non-Indigenous relations. O’Byrne said she didn’t plan on running in the election, but her students told her it’s time to “stop teaching Canadian federalism and start doing something about Canadian federalism.”

    Her summarized points are:

    • She said medical exemption and freedom of religion are both acceptable reasons to not receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
    • She said the Green Party will invest in free tuition and forgive all student loan debt.
    • She said to mitigate the effects of climate change, they would prioritize making greener living more affordable by providing public policy incentives.
    • She said she wants to have a retroactive student benefit to help students with secondary costs, such as food and rent.
    • She said the Canada Health Act is under federal legislation and federal government officials need to enforce standards to give Canadians accessibility to services, such as Clinic 554.
    • She said we need to educate ourselves on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, our treaty obligations and responsibilities, section 35 of the Constitution and the history and legacy of residential schools.
    • She said more money and equitable funding formulas are the solutions to New Brunswick’s healthcare issues.
    • She said the funding formula for healthcare needs to be flexible to work for the population it’s being funded to.
    • She said more resources are needed for counselling and health support for students.

    Jen Smith – Independent

    Smith is choosing to run as the Independent candidate because she has been in the Liberal Party, Green Party and NDP of Canada. With her experience, she thinks running independently is the middle ground and offers a collaborative approach that has no competition for her.

    Her summarized points are:

    • She said the only exception to not receiving the COVID-19 vaccine would be a medical exemption.
    • She said there’s a lot of reasons that can lead to not everyone receiving an education and believes it’s crucial to have access for everybody including immigrants, minorities and those facing economic inequality.
    • She said she wants to make sure international students have the assistance they need to reduce the barriers of educational attainment.
    • She advocates for the rights of women and the LGBTQ2S+ community.
    • She said new policies need to be created to undermine the current policies to address systemic racism in the region.
    • She said getting to know and learn about different cultures is how to work towards ending systemic racism in the region.
    • She said peer support and conversations will support student mental health services.

    Shawn Oldenburg – New Democratic Party

    Oldenburg is a letter carrier for Canada Post and has worked with the company for 30 years. Oldenburg originally planned on attending the debate but opted out due to COVID-19 precautions since the debate was public and held inside the Kinsella Auditorium. Oldenburg reached out to The Aquinian because he wanted to share his platform points, but was not given a virtual option to attend the debate. He also stopped door-to-door campaigning as COVID-19 cases rose in the province in an attempt to protect his constituents.

    His summarized points are:

    • He said the highlights in his platform are healthcare, pharmacare, access to abortion, mental health, transgender health and student debt.
    • He said there must be a compassionate and fair immigration system that would keep families together.
    • He said there needs to be better recognition of international credentials.
    • He said the NDP platform is promising 500,000 affordable homes and he would ensure Fredericton receives its fair share of homes.
    • He said the plan for economic development is to subsidize everything and speak with professionals that know how to help.
    • He said their main priority for climate change is reducing emissions.