Trade Major Focus at Essex All-Candidate Meeting

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The first all-candidates meeting for Canada's 2019 Federal Election is in the books for the riding of Essex.

Four candidates took part in the debate, hosted by the Essex County Federation of Agriculture at the Essex County Civic Centre Thursday night. Thirty-five people had a chance to submit questions on climate change, rural infrastructure, and an ongoing trade war with China that's hurting farmers throughout Essex County.

Liberal Audrey Festeryga, Bill Capes of the Peoples Party of Canada, and NDP incumbent Tracey Ramsey participated in the debate.

Chris Lewis of the Conservative Party, who's still on the mend after a recent barn accident,  attempted to join in but had to bow out early on due to discomfort from his injuries.

Capes, who's People's Party is new to area politics, took the opportunity to welcome suggestions from the farming community.

"Explain to me what you mean? I don't know your business in full, I'd prefer not to to be honest with you, but I'm here," he says. "When you need someone to speak for a group, when you need someone to speak … on your behalf, I'm willing to do so and I will be doing so beyond this election."

Festeryga says electing a Liberal in Essex will end what she calls a perception that "Canada ends at London."

She also weighed in on political, "mud slinging." A 2005 video of the Conservative Leader Andrew Sheer debating same sex marriage in Parliament surfaced earlier this year. Now Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is the subject of a controversy of his own after multiple images surfaced of a 29-year-old Trudeau donning a "black face" at a party surfaced.

"It's because we have not had an effective voice down here where Canada starts in the deep south," says Festeryga. "I agree integrity is incredibly important, it's important to me as well, but that is the sad thing about politics, you're seeing a lot of nastiness. I do not encourage that in the least."

Ramsey stands by her record in Essex County, but told the crowd she still wants to do more.

"I believe I still have work to do for the people of Essex and I want to continue to be that strong voice to attract the attention from Ottawa so they never forget about Essex," added Ramsey

The Essex County Federation of Agriculture’s Leo Guilbeault mediated the debate Thursday night.

Guilbeault says none of the candidates offered a plan to deal with issues facing agriculture, but that isn't necessarily an issue yet.

"We wanted to see where they stand, but it's also an education process for them too because they get to understand our issues and how we see things going forward," he says. "The trade war isn't our fault, we didn't cause it, but we're caught in the middle of it. Our competition in the U.S. for global markets is getting compensation, but the Canadian farmer isn't."

Organizers will allow Conservative candidate Chis Lewis to respond to questions at a later date.