Candidates differ on transit needs
Conway seeks GO bus service improvements, while Smith pushes for passenger rail service
Progressive Conservative candidate Dave Smith argued at a debate on Thursday that both increased freight train services and a new passenger rail service are needed “immediately” in Peterborough — but his NDP opponent, Sean Conway, said more spending on the GO bus is his priority.
At a debate at the Holiday Inn, organized by the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce, Smith said companies such as Quaker and Unimin Mines depend on freight service to do business.
If Via Rail introduces a local passenger train service as proposed, Smith said, then the rail lines would be refurbished – which would benefit commuters as well as businesses.
“We have to have passenger rail service immediately, to save that (freight) rail service,” he said.
But Conway was skeptical. “Via isn’t necessarily affordable transportation for anybody,” he said, adding that he’d prefer to see increased spending on the GO bus service to Peterborough so the bus runs more often.
About 40 people attended the debate on Thursday afternoon. Smith and Conway were joined by Green party candidate Gianne Broughton and Liberal incumbent Jeff Leal.
There are three other candidates in the election who weren’t there: Jacob Currier (Libertarian), Rob Roddick (Trillium party) and Ken Ranney (Stop Climate Change party).
Many of the questions on Thursday centred around business.
Leal defended the government’s choice to increase the minimum wage, for example, saying a person should be paid adequately for an honest day’s work.
But Smith said Ontario has shed 58,000 jobs since the minimum wage hike, and that many people working full time for minimum wage have seen their hours dwindle to 28 weekly.
“You can’t saddle an election promise on the backs of small business – and that’s exactly what happened,” he said.
Meanwhile Leal also defended the Liberal government’s spending – even if it has meant a debt of $312 billion.
“Many governments look at deficit spending to make investments on the capital side,” he said, adding those capital projects – such as the Kawartha Trades and Technology Centre at Fleming College, for example – benefit young people.
Leal noted that former Progressive Conservative premier Bill Davis, in office from 1971 to 1985, invested heavily in founding the province’s college system.
But Smith said that’s outdated thinking.
“Back then the cellphone wasn’t even invented, and no one had ever heard of the internet,” he said. “I’m dealing in 2018, not 1970.”
Meanwhile the candidates were also asked how they would rein in hydro costs.
Broughton said the Green party would refrain from spending on the refurbishment of nuclear power plants – they would consider buying power from Quebec or Manitoba instead.
She also took great exception to Smith’s comment that nuclear energy ought to be a priority because it’s “green” energy.
“Nuclear power generation is not green,” she said. “Uranium is one of the most dangerous elements in the world – we do not know how to dispose of it.”
Conway said the NDP would “repurchase” Hydro One from private interests in a bid to try to reduce electricity costs.
“You can’t sell off the golden goose,” he said. “We need to maintain the public service.”
Smith said they PCs would slash hydro prices by 12 per cent immediately by putting Hydro One’s dividends back in the hands of ratepayers.
He said that in the early 2000s, electricity in Ontario was cheap.
“Now we have the most expensive (rates) – and it’s businesses that are paying,” he said.
But Leal reminded the crowd there was a large blackout in 2003 prompted by a lack of transmission capacity.
The Liberal government invested $50 billion in the transmission lines so a massive blackout will never happen again.
“It is the reinvestment that has driven the cost (of electricity) upwards,” he said.
The next debate – on climate change — will be held Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Trinity United Church hosted by For Our Grandchildren and LEAP Peterborough.
Peterborough-Kawartha Greenparty candidate Gianne Broughton responds to a question next to Liberal incumbent Jeff Leal , NDP candidate Sean Conway and Progressive Conservative candidate Dave Smith at an all-candidates meeting hosted by the Chamber of...