Housing, agriculture, freedom among key discussions tackled at all-candidates’ meeting

·4 min read

PERTH-WELLINGTON – MPP candidates for Perth-Wellington came together at Listowel’s Ag. Hall on May 17 as part of the all-candidates’ meeting. Hosted by the Perth County Federation of Agriculture and the Listowel Agricultural Society, candidates were invited to speak about agricultural and rural issues.

The panel included New Blue’s Bob Hosken, Freedom Party’s Robby Smink, Green Party’s Laura Bisutti, Ontario Party’s Sandy MacGregor, Liberal Ashley Fox, PC Matthew Rae, and NDP Jo-Dee Burbach. The event was streamed live on Facebook and gave candidates the chance to speak on user-submitted questions.

In their opening statements, many candidates brought up the housing crisis, issues facing farmers like urban sprawl and profitability, and freedom, the last of which was discussed at length regarding the Province’s reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic. Also discussed was the issue of health care, specifically in the region.

Perth-Wellington’s current MPP, Randy Pettapiece, is not seeking re-election and did not attend the meeting, but he was brought up. In fact, a number of candidates – like Hosken, Fox, and Burbach – cited a perceived lack of communication as one of the reasons why they ran. The new PC candidate, Rae, expressed that communication is very important to him. He recited his phone number a few times, encouraging people to speak with him.

Agriculture, the topic of the night, was not everyone’s strong suit. MacGregor said that for issues pertaining to agriculture, he was no expert; however, he believes that they are important to the riding, and he will make sure they have a voice at the table.

Freedom Party candidate Smink, who has run for office every year since the party’s inception in 1984, used his time primarily to speak on topics he says are crucial to his party: “the ideals of truth, rights, justice, and freedom.” While not expressly sticking to all the questions, he said that the topics he discussed – like chemtrails – were of dire importance to everyone. He also said that he does not anticipate being elected. To vote for the Freedom Party is a ‘protest vote.’

While the crowd at the candidates’ meeting was at first reserved, as the discussion on the panel turned to the pandemic, lockdowns, and vaccines, a few attendees began to pipe up, expressing frustration over the answers. Notably, when Bisutti mentioned that the public had the choice to get the vaccine, one audience member piped in, “not really!”

After a lively debate, candidates gave their closing remarks.

Hosken reiterated that established parties want to push liberal ideology and want to “waste our taxpayers’ money.”

As a grassroots effort, he asked for support because his party wants to implement real change.

Smink expressed concern that discussion during the evening didn’t get to the destruction of ‘our culture,’ and the hoax of carbon dioxide being harmful. He said that if anyone wants to vote for a party of principle, they should look to the Freedom Party.

Bisutti stressed the importance of land and the Green Party’s dedication to protecting the region’s agriculture. “We need to support our family farms while they protect this precious resource,” she said.

MacGregor said that this is a crucial time in the history of our province. He expressed frustration over the ‘lies’ of Doug Ford. He said that a vote for him is to stop government overreach and to vote for the freedom of Ontario.

Fox expressed gratitude for the night and the organizers that put together the meeting. She said that “Ontario can be a place to grow, but only if we make the right choices and it is your choice.” She stressed that modernizing education and health care are her priorities.

Rae highlighted his experience working in government and said that the PCs are the only party to “get it done for Ontario farm families and businesses.” He said that Perth-Wellington deserves an MPP that understands rural communities.

Burbach stressed the importance of protecting farming in the community. The NDP’s priorities include: “Investing in rural transportation, health care, schools and infrastructure. We would protect prime farmland and water while also planning for climate change adaptation and mitigation,” among other things.

A recording of the whole discussion is available on the Perth County Federation of Agriculture’s Facebook page.

The provincial election is on June 2. The candidates have many more chances to discuss issues, notably at another upcoming all-candidates’ meeting at the Alma Community Centre on May 31.

Connor Luczka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner

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