Four candidates seeking election in the Bay of Quinte riding put their platforms out on display last night (Tuesday) in Quinte West.
As the election campaign period enters the home stretch, the Quinte West Chamber of Commerce hosted an all candidates meeting at Trenton High School and a meet and greet to begin the night.
In attendance were the NDP candidate Joanne Belanger, Independent Paul Bordonaro, Libertarian Cindy Davidson, Trillium representative James Englesman, Robert Quaiff under the Liberal banner and PC candidate Todd Smith.
Only Belanger, Englesman, Quaiff and Smith were asked to be on stage for the meeting which saw all the questions coming from the public.
Hot topics included taxes, hydro, small business and the economy.
Taxes, the provincial debt and income security were some major concerns for those in attendance.
PC candidate Todd Smith says the interest payments the province is currently paying amounts to $3 billion a month, which is the third largest expenditure and it needs to get brought under control in a fiscally responsible way.
Joanne Belanger told the crowd the NDP would add to the deficit initially but people need to give their government time to turn the ship around and balance the budget and then provide a surplus.
She said taxation shouldn’t be a dirty word. The NDP candidate said the average family is struggling and if that means the wealthy have to pay a little more that isn’t unreasonable.
Smith says the middle class needs a tax break but they aren’t looking at a flat tax. He said their party is the only one offering change when it comes to creating an environment for good paying jobs.
He even took a swing at the NDP platform stating “God help us if the NDP get in because we will lose a lot of those good paying manufacturing jobs.”
Robert Quaiff said his party could have balanced the budget this year but they instead listened to what Ontarians wanted. He warned that efficiencies mean cuts.
When it came to income security, Quaiff told the crowd he believes in the minimum wage and says there are too many food banks, which spurned more than a few people in attendance. Quaiff says he feels the funding formula can be improved upon when it came to the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP).
Smith says he wants to ensure people can live in Ontario and in order to do that, they need to ensure they can drive down costs overall and get more money in the pockets of people, while encouraging those on ODSP to find jobs.
When it came to revitalizing downtowns, Belanger says small businesses make up the downtown and they need to encourage people to be a part of the community and there needs to be transportation plans in place to get people there.
Smith says they need to create an environment where businesses want to locate there. That means reducing small business taxes, cutting the cost of hydro and making the red tape navigable.
On the topic of reducing hydro costs, Smith says they would put a moratorium on the Green Energy Act, and return the Hydro One dividend to customers which would save Ontarians on average $70/year.
Quaiff responded by saying sometimes you need to remortgage to survive and said the Liberals spent $50 billion to make a more reliable system and get rid of coal fire plants.
Belanger jumped into the fray stating both the PCs and Liberals damaged Ontario hydro over the years. The NDP’s plan is to buy back Hydro One gradually, reform the Ontario Energy Board and exempt electricity from the HST.
One topic all four candidates spoke on was the updated sex education curriculum.
Engelsman told the crowd the Trillium Party would scrap the plan and have a major parental review of the curriculum as it wasn’t well thought through and the schools are being treated as co-parents.
Quaiff says in the age of social media, the new curriculum is bringing an out of date document into the present. He said there were parents, mental health experts and many, many others consulted in the creation of the new curriculum but feels the age of consent should be raised.
Smith believes there wasn’t enough parent consultation but did state the old curriculum was outdated. He told the crowd there are things in the new curriculum that aren’t age appropriate and they need to go back to the starting blocks and get it right.
Belanger says she thinks it’s a good document but encourages a review of it as there are some things with the older ages she felt were not appropriate. She says they have a problem and it needs to be addressed.
In closing, Quaiff told the crowd he plans to bring a strong rural voice to Queen’s Park and provide more care to those who need it the most.
Engelsman said the Trillium Party would lower the tax rate, make Ontario more competitive to bring businesses back to the province and make minimum wage jobs for entry level employees.
Smith wrapped up the night by saying he wants to work together to ensure the region can become even better and thrive and stand out.
Belanger knows people want a change and believes her party can make a change for the better because they offer a true sense of hope for Ontario.
Advance polls are now open. Election day is June 7.