The Napanee Golf and Country Club was packed on Wednesday night for an all candidates meeting in the riding of Hastings, Lennox and Addington.
The meeting was hosted by the Napanee and District Chamber of Commerce and questions focused on the economy, education, long term care and health care and agriculture.
The riding sees six people vying to represent the area following the June 7 election.
Present at the meeting were Daryl Kramp for the PC Party, Tim Rigby for the Liberals, Nate Smelle as the NDP candidate and Sari Watson as the Green Party representative.
Absent at the meeting were Trillium Party candidate Lonnie Herrington and Libertarian Greg Schofield.
Liberal candidate Tim Rigby told the crowd he operates under the motto “leave a place better than how you found it” and he feels his party has the best chance to do just that.
While he admitted the Liberals may have hit a few rocks along the way, they are out in the fields doing the work and they have delivered change and will continue to do so if elected.
Nate Smelle is running under the NDP banner and he says people want change and his party presents the best plan to do that.
He says the old way isn’t working and quoted Albert Einstein saying the very definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
Green Party representative Sari Watson wants to unleash the power of the local economy noting that renewable energy is a $3 trillion dollar sector at our fingertips.
She told those in attendance her party wants to do government different and do good in a way that protects the planet.
PC candidate Daryl Kramp stated this is the most important election in years.
He says the government can’t spend their way to prosperity and the way the province has been governed can’t continue.
The candidates were asked how their parties would address the goals of the Ontario Chambers of Commerce to open the discussion. The goals include: strengthening business competitiveness, fostering job creation, building healthy communities and improving government accountability.
Watson says the goals set out by the Ontario Chambers is very similar to her party’s platform and they’ll focus on green energy and green jobs to increase prosperity in the province.
Kramp says he has no issue with any of the objectives set out and said people need to have a decent job to make a contribution back to their community.
Rigby told those in the crowd his party is doing the right things as they have decreased the small business tax which has fostered business growth, but says there is still more work to be done.
Smelle says the current way of doing things, like selling off Hydro One and closing schools hasn’t made for a prosperous province and if elected the NDPs would buy back Hydro One, put a moratorium on school closures and invest in an apprenticeship program to help fill those skilled jobs.
One question posed to the candidates was what they plan to do about youth retention in our area.
Smelle says they want to create more opportunities for young professionals through their Better Ontario Program and the NDP would provide $300 million over three years and will fund not-for-profit sector and community groups that are making communities better places to live.
Watson says young people want a vibrant life, and a thriving community with arts, culture and affordable housing are all necessary to make that happen.
Kramp told the crowd, young people need to be trained for the jobs that are available here and that is what will keep them coming back.
Rigby says this is the technology revolution and they need to take advantage of the new technologies becoming available.
All four candidates found ground when it came to Risk Management Program funding. They all agreed it was necessary and Smelle and Kramp said their parties would raise the funding cap to help mitigate the challenges faced by farmers.
Of course, health care and long-term care questions were asked as Ontario does have a fairly significant aging population.
Watson says her party’s focus is to prevent sickness and offer universal dental and pharmacare plans as well as the expansion of nurse practitioner-led clinics.
Kramp says there is no easy answer to this problem but 30,000 long-term care beds is a good start as it frees up hospitals to do what they need to do.
Rigby cited the work his party has already done like adding long-term care beds and a number of major hospital projects that are underway.
Smelle didn’t hold back and said health care has been underfunded for far too long and says the NDPs will open 40,000 long-term care beds as well as start a find and fix inquiry.
When discussions switched to education, both Smelle and Watson said their parties would eliminate the EQAO testing to save the province money.
Smelle says they would hire more Educational Assistants and establish a Mental Health and Addictions Ministry to help deal with those issues in schools.
Watson says the Green Party would hire 1,000 Early Childhood Educators, cap class sizes and have mental health professionals in schools.
Rigby told the crowd the Liberals are working to make the education system better as funding has increased, but it is something they’ll continue to work on.
Kramp didn’t deny there is a serious problem in schools right now and they need to work with the professionals to come up with a solution as he said young people are the future.
Election day is June 7 and advance polls have already opened.