By Samantha Reed 
BELLEVILLE – The Empire Theatre was packed with passionate and opinionated voters Wednesday evening during the Bay of Quinte federal candidates debate.
NDP candidate Terry Cassidy, Conservative Jodie Jenkins and Liberal Neil Ellis were present to defend their own parties’ platforms and question their peers. The election will be held Oct. 19.
Ellis said the Liberals will invest over $300 million a year toward businesses using green technology.
Ellis also said that youth unemployment is a major issue in our area, and the Liberals would invest to create 40,000 youth jobs across the country.
“We’d like to strengthen our middle class through tax cuts, and we need to look at changing our economy off of oil to a green economy,” the former Belleville mayor said.
Cassidy criticized the Conservative government for supporting the oil industry, adding that the industry has had major problems even with that support.
“We have to begin to start investing in our own people to create jobs by what we do,” he said.
An NDP government would build oil refineries and support local economic development, Cassidy said.
Jenkins spoke about the high price of oil and its impact on Canada: “Our economic future is in great shape under the leadership of our Conservative government. We have been able to weather this economic instability with our plan of low taxes and balancing the budget.”
The Conservative party would continue to implement low taxes and attract investors from all over to Canada, Jenkins said.
Cassidy said the NDP is in favour of a federal cap-and-trade system  to encourage industry to lower carbon emissions.
“It is a system that begins to address the issue – in fact it says that polluters have to pay and share with others that have been doing the right thing,” he said.
The environment is a big priority for the NDP, he added.
Jenkins said he wanted to make it clear that his party does not support a carbon tax or cap-and-trade system.
“We believe it’s a scheme that’s going to kill jobs and it’s not going to work,” he said.
The present Conservative government is the first in Canada to reduce the country’s greenhouse-gas emissions while protecting the economy, Jenkins said.
Ellis took a moment to shake his head at Jenkins’s response, before going on to touch on the environmental issues in the Bay of Quinte.
The federal government under the Liberal platform would free up money to invest in cleaning up Canadian waters, he said. This is a big priority for this area, given the struggle to clean up the Bay of Quinte, Ellis said.
Legalization of Marijuana
Ellis said the Liberal party would legalize, control and license marijuana. He added that the Canadian government should look to the American states that have had success with legalization.
Cassidy said that the NDP is also in favour of decriminalizing marijuana.
Jenkins said legalizing marijuana is not a priority for the Conservative party, a statement that sparked boos a from the crowd.
Jenkins said the Conservatives would lower the small-business tax rate from 11 to nine per cent.
Ellis said his party would not lower the small-business tax, adding that the problem with doing so is some people taking advantage of tax loopholes. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau would would rather award small businesses in other ways, he said.
Cassidy said the NDP would also lower the tax to nine per cent, and charged that the Conservatives had copied the NDP’s stand on the issue.
Both Ellis and Cassidy said their parties would pull out the mission against ISIS. Jenkins said the Conservatives would continue.
Cassidy said peacekeeping should be the military’s priority.
Ellis said the military needs to be better-equipped.
Jenkins said: “We believe that we must continue with our military efforts on the ground, because that is what we have to keep doing. These parties would not have us do that; they would …allow (ISIS) to continue beheading people left, right and centre.”