Posted on Wednesday, June 6, 2018 at 11:30 a.m.
Simard absent as GPR candidates trio debate issues one last time
Three of the six candidates vying to become the next MPP for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell spent Tuesday evening in Russell for one last public debate before the June 7 election polls open. But Progressive Conservative candidate Amanda Simard wasn’t one of them.
The Ontario Party’s Joël Charbonneau, Darcy Neal Donnelly of the Libertarian Party, and Liberal candidate Pierre Leroux (seen from left to right in photo with moderator Del Jones) spent about an hour and a half explaining their views on a variety of issues to an audience of a couple dozen voters gathered in the Russell High School gym.
Simard was absent from the debate, continuing a trend all through the official campaign period during which she has refused to take part in either editorial roundtable sessions with EAP and regional media or in any of the campaign debate events organized by media or community groups.
“Our Progressive Conservative candidate hides from the press, hides from the public,” said Leroux during his opening remarks Tuesday night in Russell. “I know her record at the municipal level, and the last thing she wants is for people to find out her real self.”
The Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation District 26 (OSSTF) sponsored the debate and invited all six candidates to take part. Organizers received word from NDP candidate Bonnie Jean-Louis that she was unable to attend because of a prior commitment while Simard declined to attend as she was concentrating on her door-to-door campaign. No response on the invitation was received from Green Party candidate Daniel Reid.
Both Simard and Reid were also absent for the May 31 debate in Embrun set up by TFO, the francophone television network. Reid declined to attend because he couldn’t speak French while Simard was occupied with her door-to-door campaign.
Debate questions Tuesday evening focused on daycare, taxation, the minimum wage, health care, education, and hydro. All three candidates agreed that Ontario hydro rates are high but they disagreed on the best way to deal with that issue when asked if the government should turn back the clock on Hydro One privatization during the former Mike Harris PC government and make it a Crown corporation again.
“It (Hydro One) should belong to the public,” said Charbonneau, “and it should be run as profit-neutral.”
“We love competition,” said Donnelly, adding the Libertarian Party favours increasing competition in the energy marketplace by encouraging small-scale power outfits and doing away with what he called “a single government or corporate monopoly”.
Leroux noted said that the Liberal government has been dealing with years of past neglect of the province’s energy system by previous NDP and Progressive Conservative governments. He said that from 1960 to 2000 those governments favoured using profits from electricity sales to help keep hydro rates down instead of investing the money into fixing or replacing Hydro One’s aging infrastructure.
On the education issue, Charbonneau proposed greater emphasis on trades as a post-secondary option for high school students. He said that would help deal with the problem many university and college students face of having huge debts after graduation and few high-paying jobs available in some of their chosen fields of study.
For health and senior care issues, both Leroux and Charbonneau favoured more government investment in services like home nursing care and support for community-based health care, including rural hospitals. Donnelly said the Libertarian philosophy is for a free-market setup where people choose who they want to see and pay for their health care needs.