CANDIDATES SQUARE OFF
Provincial election hopefuls took the stage on Thursday for the first local debate. Here’s a riding-by-riding account of how they performed.
Some candidates knew the issues. Some didn’t.
Some could think beyond talking points. Some couldn’t. Some didn’t even answer the questions.
It was the main local debate in the provincial election campaign, hosted by the chamber of commerce and labour council at the Ciociaro Club Thursday. Here were your candidates in the three local ridings:
Remy Boulbol, Liberals Boulbol is passionate and articulate, but she’s running for a tired party that people want to dethrone. That’s difficult. She largely did what she could. She acknowledged mistakes: “Things have not been perfect.” She promoted accomplishments: “Don’t say for one second no investments have been made,” she said, citing massive investments in industry and education. The government spent millions in Windsor on the university, college, Herb Gray Parkway.
She laid out the government’s plan, from expanding prescription drug coverage to investing $2.1 billion in mental health — and doing it efficiently by eliminating silos.
But asked about high-speed rail including Windsor, she said, “It doesn’t happen overnight.” She should have said unequivocally she’ll fight for high-speed rail to Windsor.
Asked about licensing assistedliving homes, she said the Liberals were busy dealing with the Harris government’s cuts.
The Conservatives have been out of power for 15 years.
Percy Hatfield, NDP
Thirty-five per cent of respondents in an Ipsos poll for Global News Tuesday said they would vote for the NDP. The party has vaulted over the Liberals into second place. Voters are taking a serious look at them. They could lead a coalition government in three weeks. Windsor’s MPPs could become cabinet members. They need to demonstrate gravitas.
But Hatfield, the incumbent, looked like he was coasting. He should have hammered what he’s going to do when he’s elected. He mentioned free prescription drugs, dental care and day care for low earners, investing in skilled trades, measures for small businesses, raising welfare and disability payments and more affordable housing. But he spent as much time attacking the Liberals and Conservatives. Asked how his party would address the debt, a major issue, he answered: “No party here can say we have the answer on the debt.”
Mohammad Latif, Progressive Conservative
The Progressive Conservatives haven’t released a coherent, costed platform. So candidates don’t have much to work with. But candidates here showed they don’t have much of a plan, either. Latif couldn’t fill the allotted 60 seconds to answer questions.
What will he do about the debt? “Everybody will see what we are going to do.”
That’s what scares people. The Conservatives say they’ll cut $6 billion, but they won’t say how. How will he help small business? He’ll cut red tape and lower taxes.
“That’s not a plan,” Boulbol shot back. “How are you going to cut red tape?”
How will he address the shortage of employees in some sectors? Make sure high school kids choose apprenticeships and “guidance counsellors give good advice.”
Windsor has a high poverty rate, he said. His party will invest in mental health.
Let’s not label everyone living in poverty mentally ill, interjected Boulbol.
Henry Oulevey, Green Party Oulevey’s party “brings different solutions,” as he said. Some of them aren’t “the most popular,” he said.
That’s only half true. Many people want them, but the main parties won’t touch them. Because the chamber of commerce and labour council, which hosted the debate, agreed to include the Greens, voters get to hear interesting alternatives. One is a guaranteed basic income.
Another is merging public and Catholic schools, something other provinces have done but Ontario won’t consider. Another is clean, cheap hydroelectric power from Quebec. We get some of our power from this source, but it’s a mystery why we don’t get more.
Rino Bortolin, Liberals
Bortolin is running on his solid record as a city councillor representing downtown. He cited the new downtown improvement plan that has already drawn five projects worth tens of millions of dollars.
He’s had to fight for everything he’s won. Sometimes it gets him in trouble, “as many of you know,” he added. He says he’ll bring the same hard work and determination to his job representing Windsor-West. Here’s an interesting observation by Bortolin: “One of the things that’s missing in Queen’s Park is a voice for small and medium municipalities.” He’s talking about a strategy to help municipalities deal with vacant buildings and blight. It’s a fundamental issue. If you don’t address it, you can lose whole neighbourhoods. But you never hear candidates talk about it. Asked how to attract jobs, Bortolin was the only candidate to mention the obvious here: leveraging the new bridge to develop a logistics hub.
Lisa Gretzky, NDP
Gretzky recites the party’s talking points well, but after four years as the MPP, voters should expect more.
Asked how to attract jobs and what about an auto strategy, she said the Liberals have had 15 years to come up with an auto strategy and haven’t. She’s right. They appointed an auto adviser, the respected former Toyota Canada chairman Ray Tanguay. He submitted a blueprint to the provincial and federal governments in January. But we haven’t seen the aggressive drive that you see in Michigan and even Mexico. Gretzky, whose husband is an autoworker, should have said unequivocally we need to do the same thing.
Adam Ibrahim, Progressive Conservative
Ibrahim’s main point is that his party, which leads the polls with 40 per cent support, will win, so you should elect him to have a voice at the table. A voice at the table is desirable, but there are two things wrong with this. That’s not how Windsor votes. And if you’re positioning yourself as the governing member, you should actually answer the questions. He largely didn’t. Asked how to attract jobs, he spent most of his answer relaying how he’s been campaigning for a year and a half and he’s knocked on 20,000 doors, through rain, snow and freezing temperatures. He sounded like he was delivering mail.
Jobs are leaving, he said. That’s not true. The issue is we have jobs we can’t fill. Answering a question about vacant buildings, he said people are leaving. That’s not true, either. Windsor’s population has rebounded. Krysta-Glovasky-Ridsdale, Green Party
Glovasky-Ridsdale is thoughtful and articulate.
How can you run for the Green Party knowing it will never be elected, people ask her. It can’t be elected if it can’t get its platform out, but thanks to this debate, it can.
Here’s another example of an important perspective. Asked how to fight blight, Glovasky Ridsdale said we have to stop creating it by closing community schools and hospitals, and building in the middle of nowhere, leaving empty storefronts that people used to walk to.
How can we make government more open? Create open data portals for information about spending so people don’t have to file time-consuming, potentially expensive Freedom of Information requests.
Kate Festeryga, Liberals Ontario’s Transportation Ministry told Essex County council in a letter on May 4 that it isn’t planning to widen Highway 3 soon because it isn’t urgent. It could be done as late as 2021. It’s one of the biggest issues in the riding. Festeryga did the best she could with it.
“I absolutely understand how necessary it is to finish it,” she said. “We need it now. I absolutely will pursue it at Queen’s Park.” But that’s not likely enough when people are literally dying on this road, and greenhouses can’t get their products to market on time because of this road. She wasted her closing statement attacking Doug Ford when she should have said why voters should give her party another chance.
Taras Natyshak, NDP
Natyshak, the incumbent, was solid. He was best listing how his party would help farmers. Straight to the point, he said the party will expand rural broadband service because there’s a lot of high-tech in farming, expand cheaper natural gas for energy, end time-of-use billing because farmers need power all day, and raise the cap on the Risk Management Program. That answer is important because the NDP is going after new votes in rural Southwestern Ontario.
Chris Lewis, Progressive Conservative
What’s the biggest issue in education and how would you fix it? Nothing illustrates the lack of knowledge and plan better than Lewis’ answer: repeal the new sex education curriculum and consult parents.
As Festeryga pointed out, parents were consulted ad nauseam about this. This is pandering to the minority of social conservatives.
Nancy Pancheshan, Green Party Again, the Greens raised an issue others didn’t. “Climate change is not a secondary issue,” Pancheshan said, citing repeated massive flooding in this area. Pancheshan is best known for her long and gutsy fight to protect the Ojibway Complex from a big box development. She didn’t win, but we all owe her for her effort.
But she’s not ready for prime time. When she talked about Highway 3, it was about installing charging stations. She’s right that we need to accommodate other forms of transportation, from pedestrians to cycling, but that wasn’t the issue.
She read most of her answers from party talking points.
Mohammad Latif (PC)
Henry Oulevey (Green)
Percy Hatfield (NDP)
Lisa Gretzky (NDP )
Taras Natyshak (NDP )
Remy Boulbol (Liberal)
Rino Bortolin (Liberal)
Adam Ibrahim (PC)
Krysta Glovasky-Ridsdale (Green)
Nancy Pancheshan (Green )
Kate Festeryga (Liberal )
Chris Lewis (PC)
Striking Caesars Windsor employees walk the picket line on Thursday. They’ll vote Friday on a deal that could end the strike for the casino’s 2,300 employees.