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Four Dufferin-Caledon candidates square off at first of two Board of Trade forums

May 17, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Pauline Kerr

Health care, hydro costs and environmental protection – the Dufferin Board of Trade’s candidates’ forum at the Shelburne Legion Tuesday Night (May 15) touched on a wide range of issues affecting voters in Dufferin-Caledon riding.

Approximately 100 people attended.

There were some surprising points of agreement among the four candidates who participated, and several more areas where the main difference was in how change should be implemented.

The four candidates – Sylvia Jones (Progressive Conservative), Bob Gordanier (Liberal), Laura Campbell (Green Party), and Jeff Harris (Libertarian) – had the opportunity to state their ideas and those of the parties they represent, as well as answer several questions submitted on-line by the public.

Andrea Mullarkey (New Democratic Party) and Andrew Nowell (Trillium Party) declined the invitation to participate. Also absent was the seventh candidate, Stephen McKendrick of Consensus Ontario.

The second in the series of two forums will be held next Thursday, May 24, at Orangeville District Secondary School, and will give all the candidates another opportunity to state their views.

Forum moderator Joe Andrews, director of Humber College Orangeville and past chair of the Dufferin Board of Trade, introduced the candidates following a half-hour “meet and greet.” He described the format of the forum and explained how the questions were selected. They had to be submitted on-line ahead of time and were reviewed by a committee. There were no questions from the floor.

The order in which the candidates spoke was determined prior to the forum.

First to speak was Mr. Gordanier, farmer, retired firefighter, and proud husband, father and grandfather. He described his strong leadership in several agricultural organizations – “Agriculture is Dufferin-Caledon’s biggest industry” – and stated there are only three things that matter – air, water and food security. It was a theme he repeated throughout the evening.

Mr. Harris, a successful businessman who runs a multi-million-dollar software company and developed the well-known consumer advocacy site TheSqueakyWheel.com, described how the private sector can help streamline health care. He also garnered a few laughs when he spoke about “putting fun back into politics” by holding an event at which he plans to give away money – his own.

Ms. Campbell is a mother, restaurant owner and a PhD student at the University of Toronto. She spoke about “doing politics different” and of the need for small business to have a voice. One point of pride was working with other parties to stop the major quarry in Melancthon. However, she said the Green Party was the only one talking about how they’ll pay for change.

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Ms. Jones spoke of her record of working tirelessly for the people of her riding since 2007. She outlined four main points: how the PCs will put more money into health care, especially for mental health; restoring “teaching methods that work” to education; end unsustainable deficit spending; and rein in hydro costs starting with firing the Hydro One CEO.

The first question was about sustainable funding for medium-sized hospitals.

Mr. Gordanier said Ontario has a good hospital system, “but we all know we have to up the funding.”

Mr. Harris said the issue is not the funding, but what’s done with it. He spoke of eliminating “huge administrative overhead” and allowing the option of private health care.

Ms. Campbell disagreed, saying she has spoken with the local hospital administrator and doesn’t think there’s administrative waste. “There is a funding problem.”

Ms. Jones said small hospitals had their funding model changed by the Liberals early-on, and large teaching hospitals always do well, but “medium-sized hospitals are struggling.” She noted that in her experience, the “bed blockers” (people who occupy hospital beds while waiting for another level of care) in Dufferin are mostly “young people waiting for mental health care.”

The second question was on child-care costs. Again, all the candidates agreed change is needed although the method of achieving it differed.

Mr. Harris said reducing taxes would allow for more disposable income. He also spoke of changing regulations to create more private options.

Ms.Campbell said she was concerned about the statement he’d made about regulations – “Safety is important” – and reiterated the Green Party’s support for affordable, or even better, free childcare.

Ms. Jones also echoed her party’s platform calling for a substantial child-care rebate to parents of children up to age 14. “Before and after (school) care is the real challenge,” she said.

Mr. Gordanier said child care is a “huge issue” and told how the Liberals plan to provide free child care from age 2 1/2 to when children enter full-day kindergarten.

In response to a question about supporting arts and culture, all four candidates noted how much they add to the local economy.

Ms. Campbell said she didn’t see PC leader Doug Ford as “an arts-type guy,” while Mr. Harris doesn’t think a government that has to “borrow to pay doctors and police” can be funding the arts.

Regarding Greenbelt legislation, all four expressed support for protecting the Greenbelt and adjacent agricultural lands. However, Ms. Jones pointed out that the Liberals had “changed the boundaries 17 times.” In response, Mr. Gordanier noted Doug Ford’s about-face after saying he’d open up some Greenbelt land for development – “He put the tractor in reverse and backed out.” Ms. Campbell said the province is losing too much agricultural land to development. “We need to do more,” she said.

In response to a question about waiting lists for developmental services, Ms. Jones made an eloquent plea for more money for Direct Funding Options. “These kids have a right to receive services!”

The candidates each described how they and their respective parties would promote investment in rural Ontario. For Mr. Harris, it was lower taxes – farms are small businesses, and need “what the rest of Ontario needs.” Ms. Campbell described a number of ways government could support small family farms, including a   institutions using Ontario products. Ms. Jones spoke of how extending broadband service into rural Ontario will help create jobs and allow young people to remain here. Mr. Gordanier said Dufferin’s hiring of an economic development officer was a step in the right direction. “We need to grow our towns,” he said.

A question on increasing the minimum wage to $15 brought a surprising consensus – all four candidates agreed there was no turning back the clock to reduce the $14 minimum wage. What they didn’t agree on was raising it an additional dollar. Ms. Campbell was all for it, as long as it was accompanied by a payroll tax cut for small businesses. Ms. Jones said no to the additional dollar – the PCs prefer no income tax for minimum wage earners. Mr. Gordanier said he was “totally in favour” of a $15 minimum wage. Mr. Harris was not. What he proposed was eliminating corporate income tax which he said would lead to companies from all over North America bringing high-paying jobs to Ontario.

All four spoke in favour of better internet services, although Harris noted the private sector has a good alternative to broadband – the problem is it’s expensive and more competition is needed to reduce prices.

The question on hydro costs proved to be contentious, with one candidate, Mr. Gordanier, reminding everyone of how much we depend on hydro. “As a farmer, I know all about hydro bills, but I also know about blackouts and brownouts.” He said the latter are now a thing of the past, thanks to Liberal investments in hydro upgrades.

The other three focused on the massive cost increases, with Ms. Campbell saying no to expensive nuclear upgrades. “We can import from Quebec,” she said, stating retrofitting homes for energy efficiency is where the real savings are. Ms. Jones stressed the need to stop the subsidies for wind and solar. Mr. Harris said the Libertarians would end time-of-use billing, delivery charges and “over-rate contracts (for wind and solar) and selling at a loss.”

The final question was about home care for seniors, and all four candidates agreed extending home care is not only the cheaper option, it’s one seniors need and want.

In closing, each of the four summed up how they and their respective parties would bring positive change to Ontario. While all four stayed pretty close to party lines, they each brought views that reflected their varied backgrounds and interests. There were few surprises in the answers to the questions, but plenty of interesting information.

         

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