Candidates square off
At the May 15 All Candidates Debate, NDP candidate Ethel LaValley answers a question from the audience as incumbent Progressive Conservative MPP John Yakabuski and Liberal candidate Jackie Agnew listen intently.
Who and which political party will best protect and advocate for the people of Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke?
The evening of May 15, nearly 50 members of the community pondered that question as they intently listened to Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke provincial candidates who delivered their platforms and intents during the All Candidates Debate in Pembroke.
Hosted by the Calvin United Church and moderated by Algonquin College manager of student and community affairs Jamie Bramburger, the spirited debate welcomed incumbent Progressive Conservative John Yakabuski, Liberal Jackie Agnew and New Democrat Ethel LaValley who took turns promoting their individual party platforms as they responded to questions about local and provincial issues concerning affordable housing, supportive care for seniors, mental health services and day care options for families.
The candidates fielded questions ranging from flaws in the health care system, soaring housing prices, the high price of gas and the province’s immense debt.
Yakabuski and LaValley consistently attacked Liberal government as they discussed Kathleen Wynne’s ongoing failures and how she favours politics over people.
“The Liberals don’t want to talk about the last 15 years and how they’ve failed to deliver on so many promises,” said Yakabuski. “The biggest fear in Ontario is four more years of Kathleen Wynne. Everywhere I go people are saying 'we cannot afford four more years of Kathleen Wynne'.”
“Kathleen Wynne has focused on politics and not people. She's boosted hydro rates and she's cut public services across the province which has affected all areas of homecare, healthcare, childcare and more,” said LaValley.
Along with plunging the province into an extreme deficit, both stressed that ever since the Liberals came into power in 2003, the party has failed to live up to their promise of securing affordable housing.
“Kathleen Wynne wants to cling to power at all costs and is rushing to fix something that the Liberals failed to address for 15 years,” said John Yakabuski.
“We, the NDP, believe that safe and affordable housing is a right. We have to work to get a handle on this housing crisis,” said LaValley. “The Liberal government has had 15 years to do something and I haven't seen the results. We need change for the better.”
In response, Agnew defended the Liberal policies by stating that the public needs to also “look at what we’ve done and what we continue to do” that has helped to move Ontario forward in many ways.
“This election is about care it’s not about cuts. We need to build Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke up and not tear it down. It's time to move forward and take what we’ve learned from the past to make things better,” said Agnew.
When it came to focusing on care, the three candidates agreed on many points as they all remained passionate about the importance of investing in supportive care for seniors, mental health services and day care options for families.
“When it comes to mental health, no stone that should be left unturned – it has to be a priority,” said John Yakabuski. “We've (as a society) failed to address it as a priority because it's been stigmatized. We need to treat these people with same amount of respect and dignity as we do when someone has a physical health issue.”
Agnew pledged that the Liberals would hire mental health counsellors for secondary schools across the province that would also lead to the creation of 400 new jobs.
“I will fight to make sure the mental health situation in Renfrew County changes for the better,” said Agnew. “The Liberals are now investing $2.1 billion into this area. There will be a counsellor at every secondary school that will lead to the creation of 400 new jobs.”
LaValley stressed that Ontario childcare is the most expensive in the country and in order to increase social wellbeing of local families, “we need to work with the people of Renfrew County to ensure that something can be done for childcare” to ensure it’s affordable and readily accessible for everyone.
On the dire shortage of long-term care beds in Ontario, all candidates agreed lots of work needs to be done.
“The Liberals pledge to provide 5,000 new long-term care beds over the next four years and more personal support hours for all residents. We're committed to working with our seniors to ensure that we continue to provide the supports that they need,” said Agnew.
Yakabuski stressed that it's time to take action now, and he pointed out that the progressive conservative party has committed to 15,000 new long-term care beds and up to 30,000 over 10 years.
LaValley agreed that it's a big problem and the province needs to ensure that long-term care facilities are available in all our communities. As well, she stressed that the facilities must be staffed properly to give residents a minimum of four hours per day of care.
By the end of the night, the audience members came away with a fuller picture of the three candidates’ platforms in order to vote with knowledge on the upcoming June 7 election day.