Voters from Lambton-Kent-Middlesex had the chance to hear about a variety of issues ranging from small businesses, labour shortage, housing, health care and the pandemic at a candidates' forum .
Incumbent Progressive Conservative candidate Monte McNaughton leaned heavily on the government’s record, claiming 550,000 more people are working in Ontario since the current government took office in 2018, indicating there were 300,000 manufacturing jobs lost during the previous Liberal government.
During the debate at the Portuguese Canadian Club in Strathroy on May 16, McNaughton pointed to investments to the hospital in Wallaceburg as one of the achievements of the government. He added more natural gas was also expanded to residents in Lambton County - although some local leaders complained the promised expansion in Warwick Township was not materializing - and license plate fees were eliminated. He said his party is committed to growing the economy, noting the expansion of electric vehicle manufacturing. An expanded economy will allow for more investment in health and education, he said.
NDP candidate Vanessa Benoit said her party would increase the minimum wage up to $20 incrementally over four years and would appeal Bill 124. This was passed in 2019 which keeps annual wage increases to one percent over three years for nurses and health care professionals. The NDP would also regulate the price of gas and revert Hydro One back to public ownership. Small businesses would also continue to get relief in 2022 and 2023 due to the pandemic.
New Blue Party candidate David Barnwell pledged to reduce the HST from 13 percent down to 10 percent to reduce the tax burden on people. He called for the end of wind turbines as he felt this was a way to lower the electricity rates.
McNaughton fired back that his government cancelled 300 wind turbine contracts and got out of those bad deals after the Progressive Conservatives took office
“The passport system should be banned,” said Barnwell, as he called for any health care employee who lost their job because they refused to get vaccinated against Covid-19 be rehired. He also spoke out against the federal government’s carbon tax, saying the province needs a strong leader who will push back against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and not just enable him.
Dean Eve of the None of the Above Party said that many of the issues the province is facing are long term consistent problems. “We really need to investigate why this hasn’t changed. We don’t seem to know what it is,” he said.
In reducing the deficit, he said the government needs to look at where all the spending goes, suggesting much of it goes into corporate pockets. Eve’s main campaign plank was to put democracy back into people’s hands, by something he called the three Rs, responsible government, recalling politicians and referendums.
The Green Party candidate Wanda Dickey couldn’t be at the event and instead London West candidate Colleen McCauley was sitting in her place. She called for a shift in the economy so more new jobs can be created in the Green economy. She also wants much of the money slated for the 400 highway expansion to go into building homes to alleviate the housing shortage .
One party, which was absent, was the Liberals. Bruce Baker is the Liberal candidate in Lambton-Kent-Middlesex according to the party’s website.
Blake Ellis, The Independent