Candidates Carole Mallette of the Coalition Avenir Québec, Jean-Claude Poissant of the Parti Libéral du Québec, François Gagnon of the Parti Conservateur du Québec, and Emmanuelle Perras of Québec Solidaire took part in a debate on September 20 in Saint-Chrysostome. (PHOTO Sarah Rennie) Around 150 residents in the Huntingdon riding attended, either in person or virtually, a debate on September 20 in Saint-Chrysostome between four candidates vying to represent the region at the National Assembly. This first and only debate in the riding was an important opportunity for candidates to get their message across to voters before the October 3 general election. François Gagnon of the Parti Conservateur du Québec, Carole Mallette of the Coalition Avenir Québec, Emmanuelle Perras of Québec Solidaire, and Jean-Claude Poissant of the Parti Libéral du Québec, responded to seven questions relating to local economic development, housing, the protection of agricultural lands, the accessibility of services, the environment, education, and healthcare. Other candidates in the riding, namely Nathan Leblanc of the Parti Québécois and José Bro of the Parti Vert du Québec, were invited to participate in the event, but were unable to attend. The format for the debate allowed each candidate three minutes to respond to each question, which ensured all were able to address each topic, while precluding the possibility of a rebuttal or response. As such, the debate was very civil, with candidates responding largely with statements that did not stray far from party lines. The evening was not without barbs, however, as each candidate managed to slip in a few pointed attacks on opposing party platforms and positions. Mallette was very focused on numbers and defending the actions of the CAQ over the past four years, suggesting on several occasions that her party has a vision and costed plans for the future of the province where the riding of Huntingdon plays a crucial role when it comes to agriculture and economic development. Poissant was passionate in his responses to questions pertaining to agriculture, the environment, and access to education in English. Perras appeared to be empathetic and was able to link her responses to examples in the riding; she noted Quebec Solidaire has been behind the group fighting to keep the Centre Mère-Enfant at the Suroît Hospital in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, and she highlighted the Mercier lagoons as another example of her presence on the ground. Gagnon’s responses were often provocative; he spoke about the importance of individual freedom and his party’s convictions, while suggesting privatized health care would be a way to save services at the Barrie Memorial Hospital. The debate was organized by the CDC du Haut-Saint-Laurent in partnership with the CDC des Jardins de Napierville, as well as the Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie Beauharnois-Valleyfield-Haut-Saint-Laurent (CCIBVHSL), and the Haut-Saint-Laurent syndicate of the UPA. Questions were submitted by the different organizations highlighting local issues and concerns. “This debate was important in order to make an informed decision about the future of our region,” says Anik de Repentigny, the president of the CDC du Haut-Saint-Laurent board of directors. “This difficult period has demonstrated the vital role that many organizations play in the quality of life of individuals and in supporting the community. Issues such as access to social and affordable housing, the climate crisis, and support for low-income families are among the concerns that we must address as an inclusive society that cares for all its citizens.” “The CCIBVHSL is proud to have contributed to this electoral debate that will bring the region’s economic issues to the fore. The business community is as always alert to the area’s entrepreneurial and economic development. We are all eager to see to what extent the election promises will be kept by the candidate who will be elected," says Suzanne Carrier, the president of the CCIBVHSL. Michel Hébert, the president of the Haut-Saint-Laurent UPA syndicate, says the candidates recognize agriculture and agritourism are at the heart of the economic development within the territory of the Haut-Saint-Laurent. “Farmers are now waiting to see how the promises and commitments being made will be implemented,” he concludes. A series of additional questions submitted by area groups, organizations, and citizens was sent to each candidate prior to the debate, and the respective answers were made public during the event. The answers, as well as the debate in its entirety, can be viewed online at www.cdchsl.org/debat-electoral/.