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A combination photograph of New Democrat Megan Leslie, Liberal Ruby Dhalla and Conservative Kellie Leitch. (The Canadian Press)
A combination photograph of New Democrat Megan Leslie, Liberal Ruby Dhalla and Conservative Kellie Leitch. (The Canadian Press)


Women weigh in: Candidates square off on election issues that matter Add to ...

What do three female candidates have to say about the campaign so far, the issues, the politics?

The Globe has asked three candidates to participate in a weekly debate: Conservative Kellie Leitch, Liberal Ruby Dhalla and New Democrat Megan Leslie.

This week, we asked them: What issues are missing from the debate and what, so far, has been the biggest surprise of the campaign?

Of course, they couldn't resist taking some shots at their opponents and their policies - nor could they resist giving a plug for their team.

Kellie Leitch says debate on the "substantive issues", including job creation, lowering taxes and research and innovation" is missing from the campaign.

"A lot of time has been spent focusing on process issues like the format of the political leaders' debates," the Conservative candidate for Simcoe-Grey said

What she's hearing at the door are questions and concerns about the global recession and ensuring the Canadian economy recovers fully. The people she is speaking to are worried about the job prospects for their children and how to ensure adequate care for aging parents. And she says the Conservative budget addresses some of those concerns.

Her biggest surprise? The Liberal platform. "It really turns back the clock to those sad days of reckless tax-and-spend governments," she said. "The Liberals seem to offer wild new spending initiatives with no credible plan on how to pay for them, except by raising taxes on students, families, seniors and businesses."

Ruby Dhalla wants more imagination and creativity from politicians as to how to engage young people. The Liberal incumbent from Brampton-Springdale said "engaging youth in the political process is vital to ensuring the future of our nation." Too often, Ms. Dhalla said, she hears about "youth who are unengaged in the political process; but we don't often hear from politicians about their ideas to increase participation of the next generation involved." Ms. Dhalla said a youth advisory council she created in her riding has helped spur on some young people to come up with ideas for their issues.

Her biggest surprise? The Conservative campaign "bubble." "Running a campaign behind closed doors that is tightly sealed in an age of new and social media is a huge mistake," she said. "Checking pictures on Facebook pages of those who want to attend rallies and turning them away will not help increase voter turnout."

Megan Leslie is hearing concerns about pocketbook issues - childcare, pensions and postsecondary-education funding. But the NDP incumbent for the Halifax riding is also finding that her constituents are worried about the environment - an issue, she said, that isn't being discussed as "prominently as in the last election."

"Mothers, fathers and grandparents know they have to pay the bills today, while also thinking about the world their children will inherit. They are keen to talk about this on the doorstep." said Ms. Leslie, whose riding also takes in fishing villages affected by climate change. She laments the Conservative and Liberal approaches: "They frame the national debate as one of the economy versus the environment, when they should be talking about the next wave of innovation being led by environmental technologies."

Her biggest surprise? Canadians know there is an election. "Usually it takes a couple of weeks for it to 'sink in'," Ms. Leslie said. "But since I got off the plane from Ottawa, people have been talking to me about the election non-stop. With so many people engaged this early, let's hope it boosts voter turnout on May 2."

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