The issue of poverty and how to overcome it was the focus of a Bay of Quinte candidates meeting in Belleville Thursday night.
It was sponsored by the Hastings Prince Edward Poverty Roundtable and held at Eastminster United Church.
The list of nine questions focused on the challenges faced by people on fixed incomes, the challenge to access health care, how they would improve the system for people with disabilities, low income families who need help with child care, and food insecurity.
The questions came from members of the public in attendance and on Facebook.
Moderator Ed Bentley announced that the three of the seven Bay of Quinte candidates in the Ontario election were invited because “they were most likely to form a government.”
Progressive Conservative candidate Todd Smith said there is a need for more emergency shelter space and the minimum wage should stay at 14 dollars for next few years.
Joanne Belanger of the New Democratic Party said there is a revenue issue with the Liberals and the Tories, and wealthy people get off too easily when it comes to paying taxes.
Liberal candidate Robert Quaiff emphasized there needs to be a better effort funding mental health, schools, and hospitals.
All three agreed a regional transit system would be a big benefit for low income people. Quaiff posed the idea of discussions among the three municipalities of Belleville, Quinte West and Prince Edward County to come up with such a system.
Smith said,” It could start with the Roundtable.”
On the issue of health care, Smith noted there is a need to open up access for, and loosen restrictions on, foreign-trained doctors.
Belanger pointed to her party’s approach for a “multi-pronged approach with mid-wives, nurse practitioners and new mental health programs.”
Quaiff pointed to the fact this area has an aging population, “64% of the population of Prince Edward County is senior citizens, the highest in Ontario and fifth in Canada.” He pointed to the Liberal government adding Long Term Care beds and free prescription drugs.
All three candidates saw housing for low income families as a major issue.
Quaiff noted Airbnb is taking away housing in the County, 50 units so far, and emphasized a Fair Housing program.
Smith says there is a need for the government to partner with developers and accused the Liberal government of wasting dollars for housing on government trips.
Belanger noted there is an affordable housing wait list of 185,000 families in the province. She says the government has not addressed affordable housing repairs in the last 15 years.
In a closing statement Smith said, “We have to run government more efficiently.” He noted more people are struggling and it’s about the government “spending money wisely.”
Belanger emphasized her party wants “affordable child care and reduced hydro bills.”
Quaiff commended the public for the questions saying “it opened up my eyes when it comes to social services” and said he wants to represent a government that puts care over cuts.”