Healthcare, housing, Hydro One, and the economy were among the topics discussed
by the five candidates looking to be the Member of Provincial Parliament for the new Northumberland-Peterborough South riding at an all candidates event Tuesday night at Campbellford District High School.
The hopeful candidates were incumbent Liberal MPP for Northumberland Quinte West, Lou Rinaldi, Progressive Conservative candidate David Piccini, the NDP’s Jana Papuckoski, Jeff Wheeldon of the Green Party and Derek Sharp of the Trillium Party.
The format of the event was question and answer and was organized by the Trent Hills Chamber of Commerce. Close to 150 people attended.
Not surprisingly for a Chamber sponsored event, the first question put to the candidates was what they’d do for small business if elected.
The Green’s Jeff Wheeldon said the riding, and especially in Trent Hills, was lucky to have a small, energetic and creative business culture.
Wheeldon says the growing agri-food sector was especially promising and said the Green Party is especially focused on local economies and promoting self sustaining agriculture and other businesses spinning off it, including tourism.
Wheeldon also said his party would reduce payroll taxes for small business, allow private businesses to sell marijuana and sell excess electricity to small business at a discount.
Jana Papuckoski of the NDP said that small business was the backbone of Ontario’s economy, blaming the Liberal government for hurting it by allowing hydro rates to soar.
She said there would be help for small business in an NDP government and that any programs have already been costed.
She stressed that the NDP has committed to sourcing at least one third of all government purchases from local small and medium business.
Liberal MPP Lou Rinaldi told the crowd that he was one of the creators of the Eastern Ontario Development Fund, whose format has been expanded into Western Ontario.
Rinaldi said a number of companies in Trent Hills and throughout the riding have benefited over the years from funding from the program.
He said thousands of new jobs had been created along with jobs retained because of the fund.
Rinaldi added that the corporate tax rate had been lowered by his government and that millions more was being invested into expanding the broadband network in the region to help business.
The Trillium Party’s Derek Sharp said that the 40-year track record of various governments shows that the “big 3” parties had “put the boots to the people”.
He, while candidly admitting he or his party were unlikely to win the election, said the Trillium Party would lower hydro rates and eliminate any carbon tax.
He said for every new regulation on business, two would have to be eliminated.
David Piccini of the Progressive Conservatives said the past 15 years of Liberal government have left small business people worried, saying two thirds of people find themselves in ‘precarious” employment situations.
“Life’s tough for small business people these days.” Piccini said hydro rates would come down another 12% under a PC government and corporate taxes would go down to 10.5%.
The candidates fielded another question about business taxes and whether they’d support lowering various taxes now levied against business.
Derek Sharp said he would support tax cuts for business, especially payroll taxes.
David Piccini said his impression was that small business felt it wasn’t being listened to by the current government. He said the PC Party supports a living wage, but that the speed at which the Liberals raised the minimum wage stung small business badly.
He called the move a cynical last minute ploy to buy votes in the June election.
He called for a reduction in the tax burden for business and less regulation.
Jeff Wheeldon said the Green Party would support less tax on small business while supporting a small increase in taxes for large wealthy corporations.
He said bad things such as pollution should be taxed, not productive things.
Jana Papuckoski of the NDP said her party has been upfront about its intention to have wealthy individuals and big business pay “their fair share” with slight tax increases.
She supported a reduction in education taxes for small business.
Lou Rinaldi said Ontario, under his Liberal government, had the lowest corporate tax on business in the country.
Rinaldi said the big challenge was educating the people for the jobs of today, saying his government is increasing investment in training and will continue to do so.
He said everyone wants tax cuts, and wondered how the PCs were going to cut taxes and pay for expanded programs at the same time.
The province’s 300 billion dollar debt and one billion dollar monthly interest payments on the debt was another bone of contention.
Rinaldi said the borrowing, which has been done by various governments over the years, is helping to pay for important services that people need today, such as pharmacare and home care.
“Yes the debt is costly but so are the important services. I’d rather do positive things than use the slash and burn techniques of previous conservative governments that promoted job loss and the decaying of important infrastructure, such as schools.”
Jeff Wheeldon of the Green Party said controlling the deficit and debt were priorities for his party and that if elected they would try to make upfront investments in services, such as preventative medicine that would lead to long-term savings for taxpayers.
Jana Papuckoski of the NDP said she was proud to have a detailed and costed plan to pay for investments in communities.
She said many of the ideas in the NDP platform are similar to the Liberals but that they were being up front and honest about how they would be paid for.
Again, she stressed the NDP would ask the wealthy to pay their fair share.
Derek Sharp said the Trillium Party would focus on ways to get money to people in need more directly, by rooting out waste in the bureaucracy and cutting red tape.
The PC’s David Piccini said Ontario had the largest sub-sovereign debt in the world and that the Liberals had absolutely no idea how to pay either the deficit or debt off.
Piccini said the Liberals had 15 years to invest in programs to improve the lives of people, but did little.
“Now, they’ve had a “come to Jesus moment” and they’re investing all over the place because they’re in trouble in the polls and an election is coming up soon.”
When asked what their number one priority would be for Trent Hills, all of the candidates mentioned improving healthcare as being the most important.
All of the candidates slammed Hydro One executives and board members giving themselves raises and everyone except Rinaldi criticized high hydro rates.
Rinaldi said the hydro system was left in a mess after years of neglect and residents and businesses were suffering from brown- and black-outs when his government got involved.
He said the system was much better now and upgrades to the hydro grid were continuing.
“But that requires a lot of money over a long time”.
One woman surprised the MPP by asking him why his government was spending millions of dollars in court and on investigations to kill dogs. She was referring to the province’s Dog Owners Liability Act and specifically to breed-specific bans.
She said there was a much better chance of dying from a respiratory disease than from a dog bite.
Rinaldi was taken aback, apologizing for not knowing how many dogs were being put to death but adding that he’d look into the matter.
All of the other candidates said they’d do away with breed-specific bans, stressing the process now was a waste of time and money, adding that owners were the problem in the vast majority of cases involving problems with dogs.