Candidates kept on their toes during ‘citizen-driven’ debate

A debate directed by questions from the audience created sparks between the Liberal and NDP candidates at Thursday night’s final Ottawa Centre all-candidates’ debate at St. Paul University.

Organizers called the debate style “citizen driven,” meaning that candidates would not know the questions in advance. Audience members were instructed to write any questions on paper provided by the organizers.

The debate got heated during discussions about the current condominium construction on the LeBreton Flats, which NDP candidate Paul Dewar said was “an example of how not to do things.”

He called Phase 1 of the LeBreton Flats construction project a “disaster.”

Liberal candidate Scott Bradley agreed, but took it as an opportunity to criticize Dewar’s five-year term as Ottawa Centre’s MP.

“Paul Dewar is right,” said Bradley. “LeBreton Flats is a disaster, but I haven’t been the MP for the last five years.”

“We had a huge opportunity with LeBreton Flats. We could’ve built community housing two years ago the second those developers screwed up,” he said. 

The questions from the audience varied from international human rights concerns in China, to each candidate’s thoughts on abortion and the candidate’s priorities in the first 60 days as MP.

One of the questions that garnered most reaction from the audience centred on a proportional voting system because, as the question read, “most Canadians are represented by somebody they don’t vote for.”

Dewar said he supported proportional voting.

“You would have two votes: one is for who you want to represent you and the second is for what party is in line with your values,” he said.

Conservative candidate Damian Konstantinakos appeared to avoid the question until audience members shouted at him.

“I disagree with it,” Konstantinakos said. “I like the idea that . . . where you make a decision there are people at the start who didn’t agree with you.”

Green Party candidate Hunter said her party stands very clearly for electoral reform, whereas Bradley would like to “make government far more interactive” by leveraging technology through online voting and putting more information online.

To address homelessness in Ottawa, Hunter said she wants to advocate for the inclusion in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms a section that would ensure safe shelter and affordable housing for all, as well as appointing a minister to implement national housing plans.

Bradley said the Liberals would “invest $550 million into housing over the next two years.”

On the topic of health care, Hunter said the Green Party would target health services for seniors, while Konstantinakos said the Conservatives want to get doctors into the field faster.

Dewar focused his attention on foreign-trained doctors who can’t get jobs when there are five million Canadians without a family doctor.

“We can’t make them wait forever until their skills are stale,” he said.

Bradley slammed the Conservative government’s health-care policies.

“We have a government focused on fighter jets and super prisons,” he said. “We need to . . . be in the best fiscal position when the health-care discussions take place.”

Following the debate, candidates representing the Radical Marijuana Party, the Marxist-Leninist Party, the Communist Party and the riding’s only independent candidate, Romeo Bellai, were given two minutes each to make their pitch as why they should be elected..

The election is next Monday. Polls are open from 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. For information about the location of polling station and voter registration visit Election Canada’s website at