By Jeff Labine
The Chronicle-Journal

The Conservative candidate running in Thunder Bay-Rainy River has apologized for how her party has treated some veterans.

Conservative candidate Moe Comuzzi faced off against fellow challengers Don Rusnak, for the Liberals, and Christy Radbourne, for the Green Party, as well as NDP incumbent John Rafferty during the final debate hosted by The Chronicle-Journal, which was held at the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium where around 60 people attended.

The candidates exchanged jabs on a variety of topics including the Ring of Fire, foreign policy, creating jobs, strengthening environmental protection and accountability.

But it was when the topic turned to the closed Veterans Affairs offices that Comuzzi apologized for how the Conservative government acted.

“We are grateful for the service of our veterans,” she said. “It was unacceptable (the way) they treated local veterans. More dialogue and communication needed to be had. We are very deeply sorry. That apology was removing (former veterans affairs minister Julian Fantino). On behalf of my government, I am truly sorry for what happened.”

Comuzzi, who is a legion member, promised to work on the behalf of veterans if she’s elected but stopped short at saying she would reopen the offices.

The Liberals, NDP and Green Party have all promises to reopen the offices.

The candidates also discussed First Nations education.

Rusnak said it’s about letting First Nations make their own decisions.

“It’s not just about money,” he said. “They are underfunded. The Liberal party is committed to removing the two per cent cap (on funding increases). We can talk about all the money going into it but it is about the process and the decision making power. First Nations don’t want to be told what to do. They were told what to do during the residential school situation here in Canada. They want to make their own choices and they want to teach their children their own way.”

Radbourne also made it no secret that she wasn’t in favour of the recently signed Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, which is a free trade agreement between several Pacific rim countries including Canada, Japan and the United States.

Comuzzi said that the deal will create millions of jobs.

Radbourne disagreed.

“The only thing the TPP is going to do, and this is one of the reasons we oppose it and will continue to oppose it, is it increases pharmaceutical drug prices,” she said. “It increases the investor’s state agreements in which foreign corporations will have superior rights over domestic corporations to complain and sue Canada if they don’t like our regulations. It attacks our diary and agriculture sector and supply management. We need regional food markets, not big trade deals that damage our sovereignty and risk our Canadian businesses and our jobs.”

Twice during the debate, Rafferty had to promise his party would not be bringing back the controversial long-gun registry. Rafferty along with Bruce Hyer received sanctions from the NDP after voting against party wishes.

He said the long-gun registry divided Canadians and they won’t be turning back the clock on the issue.

“It’s funny that no one, no journalist, not one, has wanted to talk to the other half of that team,” he said. “They only listen to Bruce Hyer as he continues to try to make his legend grow. There’s a reason I stayed. You can be guaranteed that it is very low on the priority list. You have already heard about all the things we talked about today and how important they all are. The long-gun registry isn’t even there. It’s not returning.”

Each candidate also explained on how they would deal with the Senate. Comuzzi said the Senate acts as a check to the prime minister while Rusnak argued it needed to be reformed. Both Radbourne and Rafferty favoured abolishing the Senate.