Whitehorse Daily Star

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DEBATING THE ISSUES – All five Yukon candidates attended Wedneday evening’s debate hosted by the Association franco-yukonnaise. From left to right, interspersed with others at the event, are incumbent Liberal Larry Bagnell, Conservative Jonas Smith, the NDP’s Justin Lemphers, the Greens’ Lenore Morris and Joseph Zelezney of the People’s Party of Canada.

Association franco-yukonnaise hosts candidates’ forum

The Yukon’s five federal election hopefuls were present for a French-language all-candidates’ forum on Wednesday evening.

By Gord Fortin on October 3, 2019

The Yukon’s five federal election hopefuls were present for a French-language all-candidates’ forum on Wednesday evening.

Voters packed the Association franco-yukonnaise-hosted debate at the Centre de la Francophonie to listen to each candidate answer questions in French.

People’s Party of Canada candidate Joseph Zelezny said, in French, that the Oct. 21 election is the most important in Canadian history. Canadians will be deciding if Canada remains Canadian or becomes something else, he said.

Zelezny feels the Canadian identity is important, and without it, there is nothing.

If elected, he said, the People’s Party would correct the current government corruption and make sure there are adequate services in both official languages.

Green Party candidate Lenore Morris spoke English but had her answers translated through an interpreter. She said the Yukon is her home, and she is a citizen of the Earth.

She said the Green Party is not a single-issue entity, as there is more to it.

She believes in providing stable funding for Radio-Canada, the French-language wing of the CBC.

New Democrat Justin Lemphers addressed the crowd in both languages. He said, in French, that the francophone community in the Yukon is open to everyone.

He said it’s important to provide educational opportunities to the French-speaking minority.

Lemphers acknowledged that French-language services need to be available, especially in health care. He regards this as a human right.

Conservative candidate Jonas Smith gave a brief opening statement in French. During the rest of the forum, he spoke English, with his comments being translated by an interpreter.

He told the crowd he believes in bilingualism.

Liberal incumbent Larry Bagnell said, in French, that he works hard for his constituents.

He pointed out that Whitehorse is a welcoming bilingual city. He added that the Liberals plan to launch more digital French programs.

The first two questions were from the association. The first was about modernizing Canada’s language laws and the second centred on French-language services in the health care sphere.

Morris said a Green government would modernize language laws. She herself felt the laws should be revamped.

She explained that health services are public services. She said this is the case even if it is privately provided.

She felt that the services should be available in both official languages, and patients can choose.

She clarified that the the government does not offer the health services; it instead funds them.

Morris said her party supports providing funding to French-speaking doctors, and that other health care professionals can be hired.

Lemphers, through his interpreter, said his party would also modernize the laws.

He said the French-speaking community needs to be consulted before anything is done. He said this is inconvenient, as he believes service in French is a human right.

As for health services, Lemphers believes all Canadians deserve to be served in the official language he or she is the most comfortable speaking.

He said there should not be barriers to this service. If his party forms government, he said, it would form a plan and work with the community.

Smith was not in a position to comment specifically, as the Conservatives’ platform has yet to be released.

That said, he feels the French-speaking community is important and that its support is needed to form government. He added the party has a strong team in Quebec and other French-speaking regions.

“Implementing bilingualism is something all Canadians have to work on,” Smith added.

On health care, Smith said the Conservatives are committed to raising the health care transfer to three per cent. This will mean an extra $2 million for the Yukon, and should help provide a stable as well as predictable budget, he said.

This is important because anyone who is sick or injured needs to be able to communicate in the official language he or she is the most fluent in, Smith added.

Bagnell said the language laws need to reflect reality, and the Liberals are committed to modernizing them. He said the party has done round tables and forums on this subject.

Bagnell said his government has invested money in French-language health care services for francophones living outside of Quebec. This includes increasing access for seniors and promoting child health care.

Zelezny said he supports modernization of the laws, adding that everyone is equal.

He said a People’s Party government would eliminate the laws on multiculturalism and work to integrate immigrants into Canadian society.

On health care, he said it’s important to be served in the official language of your choice.

He said this is a responsibility that would be transferred to the provinces or territories under a PPC regime. He said the transition would be soft but effective.

Zelezny felt this was an improvement that’s necessary.

Jean-Sébastien Blais pointed out that the Yukon has an aging population, which includes the French-speaking community. He wanted to know the candidates’ views on francophone immigration.

Smith said he is for an orderly immigration system. He is not against immigration, saying Canada is a country of immigrants, including his mother. He said Canada needs immigration to empower the country’s economy.

He wrapped up his answer by encouraging French-speaking immigrants to move to Canada, calling it a priority.

Bagnell said this is a Liberal priority as well. The Liberal government has spent $2.6 million to encourage francophone immigration and integrating them into society, he said.

“I hope this program will resolve this issue,” Bagnell said in French.

Zelezny said this is a complicated question. He said he wants to reform economic immigration. When the country is prosperous, he said, more people can be let in.

Morris said there needs to be a vibrant community in the Yukon to recruit francophone immigrants. She added that services are need to help these immigrants settle here.

She feels other issues play into this, like job creation and affordable housing.

“We need to keep the economy strong,” Morris said in English.

She is convinced that anyone who comes to the territory will stay.

Lemphers said he believes there need to be multiple pathways on this front. He wants to make sure settlement practices are in place in the Yukon.

He also wants to know what the barriers are and where things can be improved.

The New Democrat aims to establish a baseline so the francophone population can grow. He feels everyone needs to work together, and not just assume what’s needed.

Comments (9)

Up 0 Down 0

Joe on Oct 9, 2019 at 7:59 pm

Hi obi, not sure I understand your rationale, Yukon is not Alberta and we’re hardly in a position to critique about who gets free money when our per capita welfare is pretty much highest in the country

Up 5 Down 1

Obi on Oct 9, 2019 at 1:57 pm

Hey Joe!
I tell you what, tell Ottawa to keep their billion dollars, and the Yukon will take the money that is given to Quebec every year by Alberta.
Quebec would freeze in the dark if it wasn't for the west.

Up 6 Down 3

joe on Oct 8, 2019 at 5:15 pm

@ drum, were all welfare recipients...we got over a billion dollars a year from Canadian taxpayers, including 20% or more francophone so like 200 million or more annually from francophone taxpayers. Not sure I understand your whinning.

Up 17 Down 2

Charlie's Aunt on Oct 7, 2019 at 4:50 pm

@ jc; I agree with you and we'd better hope a lot of this is election BS. I am all for equal rights, but that is not what we are witnessing. Too much self-entitlement expected from squeaky wheels that manage to receive the oil.

Up 17 Down 2

Yukoner71 on Oct 7, 2019 at 4:35 pm

JC - I’m only in my 40’s and I’m almost perpetually sad about what I see happening in Canada today, I was raised by the generation of people who knew the difference between right and wrong and things like truth, honour, respect, and integrity were their natural way of life. Most of what I see happening around me today conflicts with who I am and what I believe whether political or otherwise. I’m just glad that older generation mostly isn’t around to experience all this nonsense happening today.

Up 40 Down 3

Mr M on Oct 4, 2019 at 7:12 am

@ JC. I agree with you and I for one do not think you are a racist you are telling the truth and most times people do not like to hear the truth. I have and still work two jobs. I give back to the community and lately have been cutting back on that because I was told years ago that if you want more do more. I drive down 4th ave and there are a lot of people that don't want to do anything. Sit on social assistance and believe me I know there are people out there that honestly need it but I honestly believe some people know how to work the system. That also goes for people on WCB and EI.

Up 57 Down 4

drum on Oct 3, 2019 at 7:02 pm

We are not Quebec even although we are building a huge school just for just 80 French students - taxpayers money. They have too much say in this Territory. Small minority. Why do the minorities get to say so much and the majority is scared to say anything in case we are accused of being racist or not understanding minority rights. That is is how to rule by being a victim.

Up 42 Down 4

My Opinion on Oct 3, 2019 at 5:54 pm

I know what you mean. All these politicians have to deal with all these special interest groups, French groups and all their wants, all the new immigrants and how they believe Canada should be, climate alarmists, every different type of sexual preference and about a dozen that I didn't even know existed, women rights and all of the programs they require.

Good Lord. Nothing never even gets brought up about what I may need. I just pay the Taxes. But these guys better get it figured out because our generation who built everything is retiring and won't be paying taxes anymore.
Wakey Wakey guys where do you think the money will come from?

Up 49 Down 9

JC on Oct 3, 2019 at 4:07 pm

Political elections are no longer based on truth. Everyone has to BS to get elected. And sometimes I wake up and wonder what country I'm in. I guess that makes me a racist. But at my age, I just give a crap anymore. I put my time in, military and labour. No one is going to intimidate me nor take my personal rights away. Except the media that is.

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