Candidates grilled over roads, medical care, and referendum

The five candidates for the Wellington Hal­ton Hills provincial riding were forced to handle a wide spectrum of questions from about 70 people who packed a local school here on Sept. 25 to talk to those who would repre­sent them in the legislature after Oct. 10.
The riding is made up of the municipalities of Guelph-Era­mosa, Puslinch, and Centre Well­ington Townships, Erin, and Halton Hills.
Candidates were given a brief time to introduce them­selves, and then the questions began.
A woman wanted to know where the province will be get­ting its nurses in the future, be­cause the average age in that profession is 55. “Do the math,” she said.
Green Party candidate Mar­tin Lavictoire said health care already takes half of all tax dollars. He suggested getting more young general practitioner doctors interested. He said the Green Party would consider paying young doctors to stay in rural areas and if their school­ing takes eight years, “[If you] stay eight years, we will pay your school bill.”
Progressive Conservative Ted Arnott said he favours a health care resource strategy, and agreed pay and better work­ing conditions would also help.
Liberal Marg Bentley said her party has delivered on health care, and when George­town was in danger of losing its hospital, people rallied to keep it. She said her party has brought down waiting times for cardio and cancer patients, is spending over $3-billion a year with a large part of that to nur­ses, and created 100 spaces for training doctors.
Giuseppe Gori, of the Family Coalition Party remind­ed people that when they hear about money being spent, “That money comes from us.”
He said he knows foreign doctors who cannot practice in Canada because of the Cana­dian Medical Association rules, and “We have doctors deliver­ing pizzas.
NDP candidate Noel Duig­nan said Canada seems to have welcomed free trade, but not within its own borders. He said thinks must change for all par­ties, and “We need to stop and recognize the treasure  we have here in Canada, and treat it as such … and not treat it as a political football.”
A resident asked how to rein in the Ministry of Transporta­tion, which plans to run a Highway 8 through Puslinch that he believes will not help Cambridge and its traffic prob­lems, while creating big prob­lems in the township, particu­larly with the environ­ment.
Duignan said his opinion is the ministry has always acted a little strangely. He said in his time at Queen’s Park, “The MTO was one of our biggest enemies,” and he wants a full environmental assessment.
Arnott said three months ago, Puslinch Mayor Brad Whit­combe called him about that road study, and he has met with the mayor and his council over this. Arnott has already proposed major trans­portation works for his old riding of Waterloo Wellington, and said there needs to be much work done with such places as Highway 6 in Morriston, up­grades to the Hanlon Express­way in Guelph, and a Highway 7 extension in Marden.
He noted he has written the MTO, but has not yet received a reply to his questions. “I am very interested in this issue,” he said.
Bentley said she will will­ing to “work with the residents and take their concerns to Queen’s Park. She prefers to see environmental assessments done, and that the province plans to spend $60-billion in the next ten years on infra­struc­ture, but, “It is up to people to say where it’s needed.”
Gori said the province should look at transportation long term, and consider fast trains and “a more balanced ap­proach to development.
Lavictoire said people should “be realistic. If the Lib­erals or Progressive Conserva­tives get in, it will go through.”
He said the attitude in the countryside by city people seems to be “Where do we pave and when do we start?”
He said the Green Party would cut transportation for autos by 75% and use the money for mass transit.
A volunteer with the Citi­zens Coalition that is promot­ing a change to the electoral system asked about what deals would be made and would there be a change to the voters’ system if there is a minority government.
Arnott said flatly, “The pro­posal to change our electoral system is not good. He said the riding size would increase, there would be 39 MPPs elec­ted by party instead of by the people, and because they are responsible to the party and not the people who elected them, “They won’t be busy on week­ends working for constituents. They would be a provincial senate currying favour of their party.” (Those remarks brought loud applause.)
Lavictoire said the current system is flawed, but the people in power like it “be­cause it keeps them in power.” He said it is a shame the issue is being decided during an elec­tion because it deserves time on its own so it can be properly considered.
Bentley said the current system “has stood the test of time and provides good, stable government. We have respon­sible government with enough power to act in a crisis.”
She also pointed out with the MMP system, people would not know which party to vote out.
Gori likes the MPP pro­posal, and said 44 of 45 gov­ern­ments in Europe use some kind of proportional represen­tation. He said MMP will “actually stabilize government because, now, “a few per­cent­age points gives a majority government.”
He gained some laughter, too, when he said “Progressive and Conservative don’t go to­gether. They would split into five or six parties.”
The issue is a tough one for Duignan. He was born in south­ern Ireland and said there is a proportional system there, but not the one being proposed here. He said he like’s Ireland’s system, but fears MMP is the wrong one for Ontario
“I’ve not decided, but I lean to the current system because this system [MMP] is not cor­rect. Candidates should be picked by the people – not party hacks.”
Highway 6 redesign
A resident noted a Highway 6 redesign has been in the planning stages for 30 years and is still not ready. He asked what will be done by each can­didate to get the job done, and, “I want it carved in stone.”
Arnott said, “You’re abso­lutely right. Thirty years is ridi­culous.” He said he has pushed the MTO minister on this file, and will continue to work with the local council to keep pushing.
Bentley said she would “take it directly to Queen’s Park. I would work for you and push it through.”
Duignan said he would work hard to get the job done, but noted that the MTO some­times uses “mysterious meth­ods.”
Gori confessed this is the first time he has heard of the issue, but he prefers local solutions to local problems. He would like to reduce agencies, boards, and commissions run by the province and hand more power to the local level. He also noted it is odd that some things the ministry can get done in a hurry, and other times it is very slow.
Lavictoire said his party would promote a full environ­mental assessment, and that 30 years is not very long in terms of the environment. He added there needs to be some tough de­cisions about growth, which causes heavy traffic problems.
Faith based funding
A resident asked about fund­ing for faith based schools, as proposed by the Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory.
Lavictoire said his party believes that will further segre­gate students, increase costs, and detracts from the real issue, which is that the current school system is crumbling.
Arnott said the issue is com­ing up regularly at the door. He said he has always supported the public school board, but leader John Tory made a com­mitment to address the issue. He noted there are strict cond­itions on that funding.
Arnott was further ques­tioned about private schools still charging tuition while getting provincial funding. He said Tory’s policy does not extend to such schools, and noted that some faith based school officials have told him they would refuse the funds to keep control over their curri­cul­um and teaching.
The questioner also asked about private schools going to court over funding, but Arnott said he has no answer. It is possible the courts would force faith based funding in any case.
Duignan opposed faith bas­ed funding. He noted the elite Upper Canada College is Angli­can, and “I have a prob­lem with my tax dollars going to UCC.”
He said there should be proper funding for public schools, so they can stop such things as school fundraisers.
Gori likes the idea from the United States where students receive vouchers, and their parents can use those to send their kids to the school of their choice.
Gravel pits
Puslinch has many gravel pits, and one residents wanted to know what happens if a company fails to rehabilitate a pit.
Arnott said he would like to review the entire licencing ar­rangement for gravel pits. “It has to be addressed by the next government.”
Duignan said one pit had left a big hole for two years, and the company was able to get away with it. He said the rul­es should be the same pro­vince wide.
Gori lives next to a pit, and said his big issue is his own drinking water. He said that some licence holders should never get licences from the Ministry of Natural Resources.
Lavictoire attacked Arnott over two pits proposed near In­verhaugh, where Arnott has not supported residents who are fighting the pit at the OMB. He said those pits will put “700 trucks a day in Elora and threat­en the water supply.”
He also said his party would charge more fees for hauling gravel than the industry cur­rent­ly pays to municipalities where it takes gravel.
Arnott replied that once the issue has gone to the OMB, he cannot intervene because the OMB is supposed to be free of politics.
Lavictoire disagreed, and said Arnott should have been fighting the pit before the OMB got the issue.
Duignan supported Arnott, that an MPP cannot interfere in a judicial process.
Lavictoire conclude his re­marks by stating there is “a stark choice” in three old line parties or to let someone else have a chance.
“The Green Party is the only one with a clear plan for the next 20 years.”
Arnott thanked the hosts and audience, and urged voters to support him because he has experience, courage to stand up for them, and will always vote in their best interests.
Bentley said her party has made progress that supports farm­ers, schools, roads and brid­ges, and showed it can “work together with all levels of government.” She, too, pledg­ed to work in the best in­terests of Wellington Halton Hills.
Gori said all politicians have good intentions, and they also have one thing in common. “They all affect the family. Look at it from a family point of view.”
He said the audience has heard there is nothing wrong with Ontario’s education sys­tem, but it is number one in spend­ing, and number 17 in results.
“Think about different points of view and the longer term – especially the referen­dum. We need all points of view. Eventually, all the parties say the same things. This is a better democracy.”
Duignan said the election is about leadership, and the Lib­erals have had four years. He said his party has no ax to grind with anyone, and “to say they are all the same is not the case. Fight for a high quality of public service. On Oct. 10, we can build a better community.”