Audience asks for straight answers
(Matthew Strader, Caledon Enterprise) – There was a noticeable tone of frustration with the usual politics at the final all candidate debate in Caledon Monday. The Kinsmen Club of Bolton hosted the event for the candidates looking to represent Dufferin-Caledon.
The majority of the public questions were centred around the proposed mega quarry in Melancthon township. Many members of the public were clearly concerned about how theyâ€™re local representative was going to confront the proposal, and wanted clear answers on where they stood.
One word answers actually.
Sylvia Jones, Progressive Conservative candidate and incumbent MPP, was singled out by an audience member for the vague answers of her leader.
â€śThe question is, where does your party stand?â€ť A member of the public asked her. â€śWhere does Hudak stand? Will he honour the environmental assessment (EA) the Liberals have asked for? On CBC radio, he never gave an answer. I want a clear answer whether Tim Hudak or your party will support the fight on this mega quarry?â€ť
Jones tried politics first, saying during the CBC interview in question, the tape of Hudak speaking about the mega quarry was more time than she had heard Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty speak about the quarry at all. â€śWhen my leader Tim Hudak was asked, he made reference to the fact that we should go back to the drawing board, he made reference to the fact that you can see it from space, he made reference to what Iâ€™ve been doing, working with the environmental council, working with Melancthon township. If youâ€™re asking who has been speaking up, I have been, and if you give me the honour, I feel strongly my role is to represent you.â€ť
But the audience member didnâ€™t get their answer.
â€śIs that a yes or a no?â€ť
â€śIâ€™ll send you the transcripts (of the CBC interview),â€ť Jones replied.
â€śIs that a yes or a no?â€ť
â€śI believe he (Hudak) will honour the environmental assessment,â€ť Jones answered.
And her opponents showed as much frustration as the audience. On a few occasions, they aimed the guns and took their shots.
Liberal candidate Lori Holloway was the first to take on the incumbent MPP by attacking the record of her party.
In her opening address she spoke about her own experiences as a health care worker. â€śI remember back when we had Conservativeâ€™s in power,â€ť Holloway said. â€śIt wasnâ€™t pretty times for education or healthcare. And now the Liberal government has reformed the system into the best education system in the world.â€ť
Later in the evening a young resident asked Jones to answer again for Hudak and declare a position on the quarry.
â€śYou may have been very helpful in the fight, but why has your leader not taken a solid position in asking for a full EA?â€ť
Jones said she believed Hudak had been very supportive of her during her fight.
But a lack of a direct answer again, left her opponents an open door.
â€śI just want to point out that that was not an answer to your question, and youâ€™re not going to get one,â€ť Holloway said. â€śBecause he is not going to say anything about this issue. They have a $14 billion hole in their platform. If they get elected theyâ€™re going to ask for two per cent form every ministry. Theyâ€™re going to cut environment and specific ministries that will help protect you and the environment. There is power in silence, you need to listen to what is not being said.â€ť
Green party candidate Rob Strang pointed out people needed to read between the lines of everything being said by the government and industry.
â€śI think something important to know, in the whole scheme of things, is that aggregate is permitted on farmland because itâ€™s considered an interim land use,â€ť he said. â€śSo you strip the top soil, take the aggregate, put the soil back and farm again? Itâ€™s hardly well drained soil again, plus, with this pit, you have to pump 600-million litres of water a day, or itâ€™s flooded. So, itâ€™s not an interim land use.â€ť
NDP candidate Karen Gventer simply attacked ministry cuts themselves.
â€śCuts to the ministries would affect us all,â€ť she said. â€śHudak called for cuts, the Liberals have made cuts already with an announcement of more cuts in the fall. The Green party is talking about cutting public services. The NDP is the only government talking about investing in public services.â€ť
Jones defended the two per cent cuts to ministries outside of health care and education that her government would call for the idea that a small cut would affect service.
â€śThe Liberals have increased the debt by $110 million, more than all Ontario premiers since Confederation. If you donâ€™t think we have a problem you havenâ€™t been watching Europe and the rest of the world. We have to reign in government spending.â€ť
Holloway said her party is managing responsibly and blamed a previous â€śdeceitfulâ€ť Conservative government for leaving the Liberals in a hole.
Strang agreed with Jones, saying debt is a huge problem, but called out all three other parties.
â€śIf the Liberals go on, we will have doubled the debt. But I will then ask Sylvia the same questions. The Conservative party is not planning to balance the budget any faster than the Liberals, not in this term of office. None of these parties are planning to. If we go with any one of the three, our public services will be in jeopardy.â€ť