By Angus Argyle 
BELLEVILLE – Topics such as military action plans, dealing with an aging population and addressing student debt were among those discussed at Loyalist College  Wednesday evening as three of the Bay of Quinte riding’s five federal candidates debated political platforms and answered questions from the public.
Terry Cassidy of the New Democratic Party , Neil Cassidy of the Liberal  party and Independent  Trueman Tuck were present. Conservative  candidate Jodie Jenkins and Green Party  candidate Rachel Nelems declined invitations sent by Loyalist.
Cassidy said the NDP’s goal is to lower tuition costs and reduce or eliminate interest on student loans. The NDP also proposes a $15-a-day child-care system, giving small businesses initiatives to hire graduating students, and setting a federal minimum wage of $15 an hour, he said.
On the environmental front, the NDP wants to stop the subsidies to fossil-fuel industries that the Conservative government has given, Cassidy said. The party also wants to restore Canada’s waterways, look after endangered species and join the rest of the world in battling climate change, he said.
Liberal candidate Ellis talked about his involvement in local politics and his time spent as mayor of Belleville. He addressed topics such as health care and infrastructure in regards to the Bay of Quinte region, and what he has already done for the community in those areas.
He explained his plan to build a bicycle path from Loyalist into the city centre, adding that it is important to make the college a part of the city. His motto, he said, is “Listen to the people and what they want to do, and bring those issues back to Ottawa.”
Tuck, the independent candidate, began by disclosing to the crowd his past dealings with the federal government. He got into the health-food industry and experienced legal issues with government agencies, he said. He also opened a paralegal firm that defends small businesses and individuals from agencies such as Health Canada and Border Services, he said.
“Ottawa is a terrible place,” Tuck said.
The three major parties are not going to solve what he called the runaway problems at the federal level, he said. The only way these problems can be fixed is if the voters of Canada learn how to assert their rights, he added.
The younger generation is the key to the future, if they learn to vote and to challenge the government, Tuck said.
Like Cassidy, Tuck said he believes no students in Canada should have to pay for their schooling costs.
After the candidates had had their opportunity to speak, questions began to come in from members of the public, gathered by Loyalist journalism students. The questions were relayed to the candidates by Jordan Merkley, a third-year journalism student. Those in the audience also had the opportunity to ask questions.
One question was about Canada’s military action overseas and the recent bombing by the U.S. of a hospital in Afghanistan . All the candidates said that overseas bombing needs to stop in order to prevent further civilian casualties.
Another question was about military benefits and pensions and keeping promises that, the questioner said, have been broken in the past. Cassidy said that if his party says it will do something, it will be done. Ellis said the Liberals would invest in the military and put money back into the Canadian Navy, which he called non-existent at the moment.
Tuck said: “One thing that is of deep concern to me is the Conservative government handling of the veteran pensions  – the buyout system, the refusing of continual lifetime pensions, to me is an atrocity that shouldn’t be occurring to our veterans that are coming back.”
A question from a citizen in the audience about young people and mental health sparked answers from all candidates.
Tuck said that integration between new and old medicine – integrating the home remedies and herbal medicines used in the past with expensive 21st-century options such as prescription pills – would save on medical expenses nationwide. If Canadians can integrate more herbal medicine in their lives it will save them money, he said.
Ellis talked about a plan to help aboriginal youth as well as disabled youth make an easier transition to the workplace. The Liberals wanted to double government funding for people with disabilities, he said.
Cassidy said sustainable jobs will ensure young Canadians are better looked after and have better opportunities.
The Bay of Quinte region’s aging population was another question that triggered debate.
Ellis vowed to provide home care for the elderly as well as long-term hospital care. Building more nursing homes and hospices will save on hospital costs and therefore tax money, he said.
Cassidy spoke about poverty and how it’s becoming a serious issue, especially among young and old people. Better home-care systems are one way to save money.
Tuck said he would let citizens keep the first $25,000 they make in their lives tax-free so they would have a better start to their lives, ensuring a more financially secure elderly population.
Ellis encouraged everyone to come out and vote, and to get on social media and spread the word.
“You need to take a picture of this table and you need to send it out to your friends and you need to say, ‘The Conservative candidate and unfortunately the Green candidate did not come.’ “