With two weeks left until residents can head to the polls, candidates for the Kenora Rainy-River riding are addressing the concerns of their potential constituents. Another all-candidates debate was held last night at The Centre in Dryden, hosted by the Dryden District Chamber of Commerce.
Kenora’s Glen Archer, representing the NDP, started the night off by jumping right into the potential $6 billion in cuts that he says is planned by the Progressive Conservatives. He says that the PC’s plan to cut 20,000 nursing jobs and close 36 hospitals across the province.
“For too long, people have had to choose between the Conservatives and the Liberals. It’s just been getting worse. It doesn’t have to be that way. You don’t have to pick between bad and worse.”
He adds that the NDP platform plans to regulate gas prices and cut hydro rates by 30 per cent.
Progressive Conservative veteran Greg Rickford noted that the planned cuts are not as severe as others make them out to be, and that the cuts are necessary to combat soaring debt across the province.
“Our once proud province has become a fiscal basket-case. We are seeing soaring debt, that is greater than any other state or province in the world. Nursing staff shortages. Doctors closing their practices. Hallway-health-care. Chronically under-served mental health services.”
“We will not keep money on the table. Experience matters. ”
Rickford adds that the PC’s plan to create more long-term care beds in Northern Ontario, expand natural gas access, expand access to broadband service, introduce a moratorium on northern school closures and cut hydro bills by up to 15 per cent on an average family’s bill.
Ember McKillop, a special education resource teacher in Open Roads Public School and the representative of the Ontario Green Party, says that her goal is to leave a better future behind for her students.
“This situation, I don’t feel that it is good enough. Change has to happen. The Squeaky wheel gets the grease. We need a squeakier wheel.”
McKillop notes that the Green Party has no plans to raise property or personal taxes, and will further tax corporations to help the people in the riding. She says that she learned a lot from Elizabeth May, the leader of the Green Party of Canada.
Iskatewizaagegan band councillor and Liberal representative, Karen Kejick, says that she plans to be an MPP who “won’t run away from issues,” and that the area needs more investments from the provincial and federal levels.
“I will stand by the people. In the past couple of weeks I’ve heard concerns about the Experimental Lakes Area. I will stand by those investments. I will make sure that there are no cuts to things that are important to us. I’m an Indigenous woman and I’m proud of that. I’d like to be clear that I’m in it for everyone, and I mean everyone.”
In her role as a band councillor, Kejick noted that she handled the Shoal Lake community’s file for twinning the Trans-Canada, and has experience dealing with governments at a variety of levels.
Current MPP Sarah Campbell isn’t running, meaning that the riding will have a new voice in Toronto next month. Kejick and Rickford both made note of Campbell’s work as the MPP in Kenora Rainy-River.
“It’s tough to do business with an absent MPP. We didn’t have a voice,” said Kejick, in relation to her work on files with Shoal Lake.
“We have to appreciate the work that Sarah Campbell tried to do,” added Rickford, in response. Rickford did note that he found the NDP party to become “passive” in their role in representing the riding.
Kejick and Rickford then agreed on one issue brought up at the debate, the alleged $1.4 billion budgeting error with the NDP’s provincial platform. Both Kejick and Rickford said that the NDP’s platform may be based on a mistake. Archer refuted, saying that the NDP’s plan is solid, and is clearly outlined.
Voters are set cast their ballots June 7, and the latest polls show a tightening race between the leading PC’s and the New Democrats, who have leap-frogged the governing Liberals.
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Change is in the air