Five of the candidates in the running for the June 7 provincial election tackled a range of topics during a debate in Sunderland Wednesday (May 23) night.
Incumbent Conservative MPP Laurie Scott was joined by challengers Zac Miller (representing the NDP), Brooklynne Cramp-Waldinsperger (Liberal), Chuck MacMillan (Consensus Ontario) and Thomas Rhyno (None of the Above) for the event, which was hosted by The Brock Voice and the Sunderland Legion. Libertarian Gene Balfour and Green Party candidate Lynn Therien were unable to attend.
Scott, who has represented the riding for roughly 13 of the past 15 years, started the evening by urging voters to send the Liberal government packing.
“This is a very important election,” Scott said.
“We find ourselves being led by Kathleen Wynne’s tired Liberal government…I have lived each day to fight against Kathleen Wynne and bring change to this province. A Tory government would bring that change.”
A Conservative government would cut taxes, as well as lower hydro and gas costs.
“People are working harder, they just aren’t getting ahead. We need to make life in Ontario more affordable,” Scott said.
“Our goal is to get more money back where it belongs — back into peoples’ pockets.”
Cramp-Waldinsperger, a 22-year-old first-time candidate, defended her party’s record throughout the night and countered that claim by saying a vote for the Liberals would be a “vote for progress.”
“The Conservatives will gut healthcare and education,” Cramp-Waldinsperger said.
As a lifelong area resident, Cramp-Waldinsperger said that she’s watched neighbouring ridings — such as Peterborough — prosper much more than Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock.
She implied that this was more of a result of Scott’s representation of the riding over the years than an indictment of the Liberal government.
“I’ve grown up in this riding, I’ve volunteered in this riding…I’m still waiting to see this riding thrive,” she said.
Miller, another first-time candidate, urged voters to elect “people that care” if they want to see real change in the province.
“Not people that shed crocodile tears on issues,” the 19-year-old continued.
An NDP government would focus on the entire province, not just the GTA, Miller said.
“A fix for the 416 is not a fix for the riding of Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock. We have to overhaul the entire system so it favours all of Ontario,” Miller said.
While those three candidates took aim at each other for much of the evening, MacMillan and Rhyno spent most of the debate explaining the political foundation of their parties to the voters in attendance.
Founded in 2016, the main goal of Consensus Ontario is to eliminate all political parties, including itself, and to replace the existing system with one comprised of entirely of independent MPPs.
“It’s about people — that’s what our party is about,” MacMillan said.
Rhyno explained that None of the Above, or NOTA, campaigns for the “three Rs of direct democracy” — referendum, recall and reforms that give voters control of politicians and parties.
“Make sure your vote counts for real change,” Rhyno said.
“We want to end partisan-based policy and put everything to the people. Take the power back from the elites and bring it back to the taxpayers.”
The first question that candidates fielded on the night concerned healthcare, specifically around improving access in rural municipalities.
Cramp-Waldinsperger noted that planning of the Brock Community Health Centre is well underway.
That comment drew a chuckle from Scott, as the project has been bogged down by numerous delays over the years.
“The hold-ups are not acceptable,” said Scott.
“The Brock Community Health Centre has been a long time coming…I’m committed to getting that project finalized,” she added.
Scott also noted that her party is committed to ending what she called “hallway healthcare.”
“Our hospitals are backlogged and part of the reason for that is there aren’t enough long-term care beds for the people that need them,” she said.
Miller was quick to agree.
“We need to get people off the stretchers and out of the hallways,” Miller said.
He also cautioned residents about the ongoing amalgamation of services between Ross Memorial Hospital and Peterborough Regional Health Centre.
“We know what usually happens in this kind of situation — the smaller of the two hospitals gets swallowed up,” Miller said.
“We are not closing Ross Memorial Hospital,” Scott said in rebuttal.
“We need more healthcare — not less.”
Along with healthcare, candidates also sparred over hydro costs.
Cramp-Waldinsperger defended the Liberal government, saying it inherited aging infrastructure that required significant investment.
The government has also made environmental improvements, eliminating coal completely, said the Liberal candidate.
“We have a generation of children who don’t even know what smog days are,” Cramp-Waldinsperger said.
She also noted that the government has taken steps to cut bills by an estimated 25 per cent since January of 2017.
“We heard from the Ontario people that hydro bills have been too high…the Fair Hydro Plan has reduced bills,” she said.
Scott responded by saying that hydro costs have jumped by nearly 300 per cent under the Liberals.
“There’s no question the increase in hydro has been the number one issue across the riding. I’ve heard that there’s people that have had to burn their furniture just to heat their homes,” she said.
And it’s not just residents feeling the pinch.
“Hydro costs are the number one job-killer in this province,” Scott said.
Miller said an NDP government has fully committed to lowering hydro costs.
“The NDP are ready to end time-of-use billing and introduce a flat rate of 10-cents per kilowatt hour,” he said.
If elected, the party would also work to return Hydro One to public ownership and control and work to change “unfair” service delivery costs for rural residents.
“People shouldn’t be punished for where they decide to live,” Miller said.
Consensus Ontario would also restore a flat-rate and work to build energy storage solutions across the province.
“If we generate it (power) in Ontario, we should use it in Ontario,” MacMillan said.
The candidates in attendance did find common ground on two issues throughout the night.
All were supportive of the Basic Income pilot project in Lindsay and two other municipalities and all condemned the recent comments from Mississauga NDP candidate Laura Kaminker that compared the poppies worn leading into Remembrance Day to “war glorification.”
Miller was particularly outspoken, saying the comments were “totally unacceptable” and disagreeing with NDP leader Andrea Horwath’s decision to allow Kaminker’s candidacy to stand.
Other topics of conversation throughout the evening included:
Support for small business
“Business owners have been crippled, not only by the high hydro rates but also by red tape and regulations…It’s like Ontario has a big ‘Not Open for Business’ sign. We want to change that.” — Laurie Scott
“One-third of the goods and services bought by an NDP government will be bought from small businesses.” — Zac Miller
“We know that small- to medium-sized enterprises are the bread and butter of our community. Our government needs to provide funding and resources for them to flourish.” — Brooklynne Cramp-Waldinsperger
Handling the provincial debt:
“All parties will be running deficits. The NDP will be running the smallest deficit.” — Zac Miller
“No one’s life is better off after 15 years of a Liberal government. You can’t spend your way out of debt. The interest on the debt is $1 billion per month. That’s more than the government spends on education….We cannot continue to mortgage the future of our children and grandchildren.” — Laurie Scott
Support for seniors:
“There’s no question that seniors, especially those living on fixed incomes, are struggling.” — Laurie Scott
“We would help seniors by increasing the available affordable housing, offering universal dental care and reintroducing flat-rate hydro.” — Zac Miller
“Seniors have already worked for 30, 40, 50 years. Why are they being forced back to work? It’s scary out there and I’ve seen it.” — Chuck MacMillan
Why you should vote for them:
“This election has to be about where we want to see our province going for us and future generations. An NDP government will stand up for families and the working class.” — Zac Miller
“A vote for the NOTA party is a vote for you.” — Thomas Rhyno
“I believe it’s time for a new face to represent our riding at Queen’s Park. As MPP for Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock, I will make sure our residents get the services they need.” — Brooklynne Cramp-Waldinsperger
“Together, we can bring change to Ontario. Change that matters.” — Laurie Scott