Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley candidates listen to closing statements from Green Party candidte Jason Blanch during a radio debate last night in Truro. From left are Liberal Jim Burrows, Christian Heritage Party's Jim Hnatiuk, the NDP's Wendy Robinson and Blanch. Conservative Scott Armstrong participated in the radio debate via telephone after taking part in an environmental debate on CTV Newsnet late Monday afternoon. Jason Malloy - Truro Daily News
TRURO - Poverty and the economy were central themes during a 90-minute radio debate last night in Truro.
Incumbent Scott Armstrong said Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley has the 285th lowest average family income out of the country's 308 ridings.
"This is why during the economic action plan we focused on supporting those that are the most needy in our society," the Conservative candidate said, noting investments in social housing, income splitting for seniors and lowering taxes.
Liberal Jim Burrows said the family income puts the riding in the bottom six per cent in Canada and wondered if it has continued to go down during the recession.
"It's not much to be bragging about when you're talking about this and the stimulus package and what it has done for us," he said during a rebuttal.
Armstrong said he was not bragging but he promised during the 2009 byelection to do his best to attract infrastructure money to maintain jobs and growth in the riding.
The Conservatives, Armstrong added, have reduced the federal tax burden by 50 per cent to families with an income between $15,000 and $30,000 and removed more than 120,000 single-parent families off the tax rolls.
"If you're on income assistance you don't have enough money to live and you don't have enough money to buy food," said Green Party candidate Jason Blanch.
He said his party would double the amount of income people could make without it being taxed from $9,000 to about $20,000.
"That will give people enough money to buy food and at the end of the day it will save us money because we won't have these people in the health-care system," he said.
The 90-minute debate, presented by the Truro and District Chamber of Commerce and Cat Country 99.5 FM, provided candidates an opportunity to answer questions submitted by the public. They included traditional topics such as agriculture, global warming, representation and health care.
As is often the case the need for change was raised with the incumbent explaining what he has done since being elected.
Blanch said a vote for him would send a message to Ottawa and all parties that "you want change.
"You don't have to go and get a gun. You don't have to light anything on fire. All you have to do is walk to the polling booth and tell the world that you've had enough," he said. "You're ready for a new beginning and the green party represents that new beginning."
Candidates will square off again tonight in a Cumberland County radio debate that can be heard at ckdh.net. There is also a candidates' event Wednesday in Pugwash and a student forum Thursday at Parrsboro Regional High School.
"There are people in several countries right now that are fighting for the right just to get out and cast ballots, so please, please get out and vote on May 2," said chamber executive director Tim Tucker, who co-moderated the event with Cat Country's Mandy Wood.