Here’s what those vying for your vote on June 7 had to say at the all-candidates meeting held Thursday at the Algonquin Theatre during closing remarks—their last ditch attempt to get your vote.
Jeff Mole – Independent
Independent candidate Jeff Mole, a volunteer firefighter in Bala who ran a car service called Muskoka Limousine, professed his passion for community economics, which roughly means contracting out not-for-profit community organizations to do the government’s business rather than large corporations. He encouraged those present to learn more about the concept by finding him on LinkedIn.
He asked this riding’s voters to vote for him on June 7, because he said it’s time that Parry Sound Muskoka had someone who can work with the government, any government. “Now Norm has done a great job working across party lines and God bless him for it, but I think he could be doing more to represent our interests, interests of specific communities,” he said. As for the NDP, he said he supports their anti-privatization message, “but I don’t necessarily want to create more government employees and increase the size of government. I would be more in line with the PC party, supporting smaller government and trying to save taxpayer’s money. I do have liberal values, I support liberalism as defined by Wikipedia, or wherever you want to get your definition on liberalism, but I think the Liberals are losing their way and not particularly liberal anymore.”
Mole told those present that he ran as a Green candidate in 2011, “so clearly I can support a lot of what the Green party has to offer, but at the same time I have to question some of their methodologies and the way they go about it and you know, just exactly where they want to be when they grow up, sort of speak.”
Norm Miller – PC
Miller in his closing statements accused the Liberals and NDP of trying to borrow their way to victory in this election, while leaving the debt for our children and grandchildren. “I firmly believe that this is wrong, I don’t think any of us would do that in our private lives and I don’t think we should be doing it as a province.” He accused the McGuinty/Wynne government of designing programs that may work in urban Ontario, but not in Parry Sound-Muskoka. He cited the Liberal’s childcare plan as an example. “It only allows for licensed daycare. First of all, we have communities in which there are no licensed daycare operators and other communities where there are no spaces available in licensed daycare. Beyond that, licensed daycares generally operate from 7:30 or 8 in the morning until about 6 p.m., that’s no good for a parent who works shifts in tourism, in hospitality or even in retail – it only works for professionals who work 9 to 5 jobs, mainly in large centres,” he said.
Miller also accused the Liberals of raising hydro rates through the rough “without considering that many people in Parry Sound-Muskoka and elsewhere in rural Ontario have electric heat. I fought to ensure the government sees the damage it is causing. My caucus colleagues and I were successful in getting the government to understand that closing a rural school is a nail in the coffin of a small community.”
Miller said he petitioned the government, which resulted in a moratorium on school closures until a review process could consider the social and economic impact of such closures on a community. “With another Liberal government we would face a similar battle to change the funding for medium-sized hospitals like those in our riding. I’m proud that our leader Doug Ford has committed to maintaining two hospitals, one in Huntsville and one in Bracebridge. I will continue to work for a change in the hospital funding formula under any government, but I’m confident it would be fixed under a PC government.”
Miller said he’s excited to be part of a team that “wants to bring jobs back to Ontario, clean up the hydro mess, put money back in your pocket, end hallway healthcare and restore responsibility, accountability and trust to government. We have a strong team of people like Christine Elliott, Caroline Mulroney, and Vic Fideli working with our leader. I believe that Ontario and Parry Sound Muskoka can do a lot better than it has the past 15 years.”
Brenda Rhodes – Liberal
Liberal candidate Brenda Rhodes said she believes in care over cuts. “I know people are struggling, it may be you, we all know somebody that’s struggling and we need to give them that hand up.”
Rhodes defended her party’s platform saying it’s been vetted, it is evidence-based and it’s fully costed. “We talked tonight about policies that we all agree in, that we all worked together to bring forward but the Liberal Government has worked on that co-operation and made that happen. It isn’t perfect, I agree and so does Kathleen, more work needs to be done. Politics needs to change,” she said. “We need to hear your voice and I need to hear it to bring it back to Queen’s Park.”
She pointed at a young person in the audience and told him she commends him, “because we don’t have a lot of youth that are sitting in this audience and that needs to change. We need somebody that’s going to engage the youth and get them involved again. We talked about disillusionment, when I’m knocking on doors I’m hearing this. People don’t trust politics,” she said, adding that she’s also heard that they don’t like policies, they don’t like politicians, they don’t like the process, “I agree. It needs to change. We need to work together and we need to change that. We’re seeing change at the Liberal party. If you look at the roster this time, the roster is young. There is a multicultural gamut. There’s a lot of young women. A lot of the old are leaving. This is positive change.”
She told those present that she’s worked alongside many of them. “[hauling]bags for fireworks, working on committees, bringing forward innovation – whatever it might be, I’ve worked alongside you and I want to continue working alongside you. We have an awesome community, Parry Sound-Muskoka. We have the people, we have the talent, we have the natural environment and we have the potential. I see the potential and I want to help it grow.”
She talked about organizations making change and thinking outside the box. She said governments at all levels need to support that “and we need to move forward together.”
Rhodes said she has one wish, other than being elected. “I wish that Ontarians in this vote show the rest of the world that we will not stand for Trump-like politics. This is not what we want and I hope that you help on the day and vote for me so we can prove that.”
Erin Horvath – NDP
NDP candidate Erin Horvath said she’s been in the community for five years and what’s led her to stumble the most is the complacency about the disparity between the haves and have nots, or what she referred to as “this wage difference between the high and the lows. And also too, the kind of challenge of how do we break out of the status quo. I was talking to my neighbour one time and I said to her why is it this way, why is it so high, so low and she said it’s always been that way… and as we were looking at her blue sign… she goes: it’s kind of a tradition. Yeah like I voted for him and I voted for his dad,” paraphrased Horvath. “And I just want to remind you that in voting for him, you’re voting for Doug Ford and that’s a whole new kind of interesting,” she said to chuckles from some of those present.
“What I would like to suggest is again… let’s go for a change, but I would like to suggest that we look at not just any change but something that makes sense, the alignment of policy, person and power. So we have with the NDP platform a policy that we can use, that looks at strategically building quality of life – the roads, the pharmacare, the childcare – all these things that are a necessity and you can look up the research, these are required to grow economic prosperity.“
Horvath told those present that the NDP platform has the policies, but that someone is also needed who knows how to roll up their sleeves and get right down into the grassroots. “I’ve done that for years and years, 24 years my whole life working with communities to figure out how to get from where they are to where they want to be. I would love to work with you further. I love to work collaboratively.”
She wondered what would happen if “we took that policy and we took that person and we put them together. Last thing: power. The NDP right now is poised to take power and what would it look like if the MPP is also in the party of power? Yeah, what would that look like for our region? I agree vote for change and I would say vote for a party that has an accurate assessment for where we are at and has the ability to work with the two dominant parties and figure out how to incrementally bring us all in that same direction that we need to go. So on June 7 vote for change and join me in building prosperity for all people in Parry Sound-Muskoka.”
Matt Richter – Green
Green Party candidate Matt Richter emphasized the need of “doing politics better.” He said his party is comfortable sharing and taking good ideas. He spoke of carbon pricing and noted that the Conservative’s platform borrowed a page from the Greens. The PC plan under Patrick Brown was a revenue-neutral carbon tax, which would encourage a reduction in emissions rather than the Liberal’s cap and trade system which enables the biggest emitters to buy the ability to pollute. He said the Greens were driving change with their ideas at Queen’s Park “but positive change, real change based on people power change and this was without a seat at Queen’s Park. Just imagine what we could do with one seat at Queen’s Park.”
EQAO testing was another issue discussed that evening with Horvath noting that the NDP would get rid of EQAO testing and spend the money it costs to run the test elsewhere in the education system while also contributing towards programming for youth mental health.
“Do you know the NDP’s position on EQAO, up until oh a couple of months ago, was to maintain EQAO standardized testing at a cost of $30 million a year?” asked Richter. He noted that as the education critic for the Greens and in concert with the party, for the past ten years he’s been calling for the elimination of EQAO standardized testing.
“That 30 million dollars easily could be transferred over to hire 1000 EAs (Education Assistants), which is putting our money to our students, the ones who deserve it and should expect it.”
Richter said he’s been advocating for and with the community for the past 11 years and will continue to do so. “When Burk’s Falls was closing their hospital back in 2008/2009, I was there… saying this isn’t fair, but they promised us that that little bit of sacrifice was going to maintain our Huntsville and Bracebridge hospitals. Where did that get us?”
He also spoke of championing passenger rail in 2012. “We were there advocating and saying this is not a hand out, this is fair for our communities. And here we are, still pushing for those ideas.”
He spoke of school closures. He said Burk’s Falls, Magnetawan and the Almaguin area, “they’ve done their sacrifice for school closures in for our area and recently, this past couple of years, Honey Harbour was on the chopping block, Our Lady of Mercy, did go and that’s in our riding we lost that school… we’re not being honoured here in Parry Sound-Muskoka and I don’t fault our candidates but I fault the status quo of politics. We need to do better.”
He said Ontario is at a political crossroads. “We still have hope, we do—your vote. Each and every one of you has a vote and that vote can be the champion of change because here in Parry Sound-Muskoka we can be the voice. We can inspire Ontario to say we here are standing up for ourselves. We are looking for a better way forward and on June 7 or at the advance polls you can join the rest of Parry Sound-Muskoka, the people who are getting on to this idea that it is time for a better way of doing politics and at that time you have the right… to give yourself permission and to give yourself hope that this better way can start this year,” he said, adding “ladies and gentlemen we have an opportunity to make history. Vote for Matt Richter, most importantly vote for Parry Sound-Muskoka.”
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