Can­di­dates tackle schools, hous­ing, med­i­cally as­sisted sui­cide

The Glengarry News - - News - BY STEVEN WARBURTON News Staff

School clo­sures, so­cial hous­ing, and med­i­cally as­sisted sui­cide were just three of the is­sues that the five pro­vin­cial can­di­dates tack­led to con­tend with dur­ing a po­lit­i­cal de­bate hosted by the Mart­in­town Good­timers at the Mart­in­town Com­mu­nity Cen­tre last Tues­day even­ing.

South Glen­garry res­i­dent Bill Cham­bré asked the Stor­mon­tDun­das-South Glen­garry hope­fuls, Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive MPP Jim McDonell, Lib­eral Heather Megill, NDP Marc Benoit, Green Party’s Elaine Kennedy and Lib­er­tar­ian Sa­bile Trimm, how they in­tend to sup­port ru­ral ed­u­ca­tion. His com­ments were sparked by the mem­ory of the school clo­sures that hit the prov­ince a cou­ple years ago and how sup­port­ers of Char-Lan District High School lob­bied for its sur­vival.

Ms. Megill, who is also a teacher and union rep­re­sen­ta­tive, said that schools are im­por­tant as ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions and as com­mu­nity hubs. She said that Wil­liamstown Pub­lic School will need ex­ten­sive ren­o­va­tions in the near fu­ture; she also pointed out that the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment had in­vested $20 mil­lion in ru­ral schools, some of which went to the Up­per Canada District School Board and the Catholic District School Board of Eastern On­tario.

She said she’d sup­port the stream­lin­ing of the four com­pet­ing school boards “just to make sure ru­ral schools sur­vive.”

Mr. McDonell, who said he tabled a mo­tion call­ing for a mora­to­rium on school clo­sures, agreed that stream­lin­ing works, though he ac­cused the Lib­er­als of hav­ing no plans in that di­rec­tion.

“School boards can share the same build­ings,” he said. “Glen­garry District High School and Le Re­lais did that at one time [in Alexan­dria] and it worked out well.”

Mr. Benoit said that there’s a $50 bil­lion back­log in school re­pairs that needs to be ad­dressed and that there should be no fur­ther school clo­sures un­der the ed­u­ca­tional fund­ing for­mula is up­dated.

Ms. Kennedy took a much more ab­so­lutist stance re­gard­ing amal­ga­ma­tion.

“One school board with one set of trustees and one trans­porta­tion,” she trum­peted, stress­ing that tech­nol­ogy can help stu­dents con­nect with the best re­sources.

Ms. Trimm took a com­pletely dif­fer­ent ap­proach, say­ing that fam­i­lies should be given ed­u­ca­tional vouch­ers that they can spend at the school of their choice.

Med­i­cal sui­cide

One au­di­ence mem­ber wanted to know if physi­cians would be re­quired to par­tic­i­pate in a med­i­cally-as­sisted sui­cide if it vi­o­lated their con­science. The PC, Lib­eral, and Lib­er­tar­ian can­di­dates all said that physi­cians should not be re­quired to par­tic­i­pate. The NDP can­di­date said that there isn’t any­thing about the sub­ject in the cur­rent plat­form so he wouldn’t com­mit his party to a de­fin­i­tive an­swer, though he sug­gested that it would likely not re­quire it.

“In NDP phi­los­o­phy, there is a com­mon theme of more freedom,” he said.

Ms. Kennedy also said she couldn’t find any­thing con­crete in her party’s plat­form, though, “I think we’d agree a doc­tor has the right to refuse.”

So­cial hous­ing

Ms. Megill said that peo­ple need ac­cess to good qual­ity hous­ing and that she would pro­mote so­cial hous­ing, adding that the Lib­eral plat­form is “about care and com­pas­sion.”

Mr. Benoit said that so­cial hous­ing has “al­ways been a strong is­sue” for the New Democrats and that there needs to be more pub­licly funded so­cial hous­ing avail­able.

Mr. McDonell said so­cial hous­ing doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily have to be pub­licly run.

Gov­ern­ment trust

One au­di­ence mem­ber grilled Mr. McDonell about the On­tario PC party hir­ing ac­tors to cheer for the Tories at a rally in Toronto ear­lier this month.

Mr. McDonell down­played the se­ri­ous­ness of it and said that about 300 peo­ple at­tended a rally in Corn­wall re­cently to sup­port party leader Doug Ford. “There were no ac­tors,” he said. “Peo­ple were com­ing out to see him be­cause they are tired of what they see in the gov­ern­ment.”

For her part, Ms. Megill said that Doug Ford’s win­ning his party’s nom­i­na­tion was what en­cour­aged her to run. She likened him to US Pres­i­dent Donald Trump (“Lin­coln’s party has a buf­foon for a pres­i­dent,” she said) and hopes that Doug Ford is “just a blip on the road.”

She pointed out that Mr. McDonell did not sup­port Mr. Ford (he ac­tu­ally en­dorsed Chris­tine El­liott) and that many Con­ser­va­tives were shocked to learn Mr. Ford made the fi­nal cut.

Re­gard­ing gov­ern­ment trust, she said, “I be­lieve in truth and in­tegrity.”

Mr. Benoit said that the NDP has an MPP code of con­duct. He also ac­cused the PCs of sev­eral in­ci­dents where they used pri­vate data.

Ms. Trimm sug­gested that the sys­tem could be im­proved with pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion, which would elim­i­nate strate­gic vot­ing.

Ms. Kennedy com­mented that the Greens backed pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion, a method that would trans­late to more seats for the Green Party, and op­posed back-room deals and no-bid con­tracts. She added that there should be on­line pub­li­ca­tions of MPP’s vot­ing records and that freedom of in­for­ma­tion re­quests should be dealt with promptly.

Deficit

Sum­mer­stown Sta­tion res­i­dent Jac­que­line Mil­ner wanted to know the can­di­dates’ plans on deal­ing with the pro­vin­cial deficit, which could jump to $12 bil­lion in 2018. Mr. Benoit said that who­ever is elected needs to take an hon­est look at the deficit. Ms. Kennedy said that deficit elim­i­na­tion is a long-term plan that can’t be done in four years with­out “se­ri­ously hurt­ing ser­vices.” The other three rep­re­sen­ta­tives didn’t ad­dress the is­sue, though Ms. Megill said that the Lib­er­als ran a deficit bud­get to in­vest in child care and free tu­ition. She said the deficit was small and could be paid back.

STEVEN WARBURTON PHOTO

AD­DRESS­ING THE IS­SUES: Stor­mont-Dun­das-South Glen­garry Lib­eral can­di­date Heather Megill speaks while Sa­bile Trimm (Lib­er­tar­ian), Jim McDonell (PC), Marc Benoit (NDP) and Elaine Kennedy (Green) look on.

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