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article imageOnt. Liberal, Tory rivals battle at raucous Don Valley W. debate Special

By Andrew Moran     Sep 23, 2011 in Politics
Toronto - Ontario's political rivals battled it out at the all-candidates Don Valley West debate Thursday night. Both incumbent Liberal Kathleen Wynne and Progressive Conservative candidate Andrea Mandel-Campbell received huge ovations from voters.
The riding of Don Valley West has become more conservative with each election. During last year’s municipal election, Leaside’s City Councillor John Parker was re-elected. In this spring’s federal election, Conservative candidate John Carmichael defeated Liberal Member of Parliament Rob Oliphant.
Will Ontario Progressive Conservative candidate Andrea Mandel-Campbell complete the pattern? Liberal Member of Provincial Parliament and Minister of Transportation Kathleen Wynne is hoping not.
On Thursday night, the St. Bonaventure Church hosted an all-candidates debate where each of the riding’s Queen’s Park hopefuls had the opportunity to talk about the issues, debate topics and reach out to voters.
The debate featured Wynne, Mandel-Campbell, Green Party candidate Louis Fliss, Communist Party candidate Dmitri Kabitsis and candidate for the newly formed provincial party the Vegan Environmental Party, Rosemary Weigh. New Democratic Party candidate Khalid Ahmed and Freedom Party candidate Souman Deb did not show up, even though they were invited.
Don Valley West voters were quite into the debate as both supporters and undecided constituents applauded loudly for both the Liberal incumbent and the PC candidate – Fliss, Kabitsis and Weigh all had their moments too.
Opening Remarks (in speaking order)
The two-term Liberal MPP opened the debate by stating that the Liberals and Don Valley West share the same set of values, such as wanting enough employment, a clean environment, and a good education.
As did Liberal St. Paul’s MPP Eric Hoskins alluded to Tuesday night, Wynne cited the Economist article that said Ontario has one of the world’s best schools systems. This has been achieved, said Wynne, by working together with the people, groups, public staff and communities.
The Transportation Minister also listed the achievements of Premier Dalton McGuinty’s government over the last eight years, including its health care accomplishments, its environmental successes and its employment growth since the recession.
The Vegan Environmental Party was recently formed and although they only have three candidates running in this year’s election, Rosemary Weigh believes they are the only party to address the issue of both human and non-human rights. The political party says they will speak for farm animals and endangered species.
Furthermore, Weigh elaborated on the topic of energy and the environment by stating that Ontario must put clean air as a number one priority and shift away from nuclear power and shift towards organic farming.
She noted that as people move to Ontario, their health decreases because of our unhealthy diets.
Andrea Mandel-Campbell is a former CTV anchor, a Financial Times journalist and author of “Why Mexicans Don’t Drink Molson.” Digital Journal recently conducted an interview with the PC candidate, click here to view.
Mandel-Campbell believes Ontario is at a “critical crossroads.” She said the premier is mortgaging not only her children’s future but the future of all kids in Ontario with his “out of control spending.”
The PC candidate noted that Ontario has now become “California of Canada” because McGuinty has doubled the province’s debt. Ontario pays more for interest on our debt than we invest in post-secondary education and is now a “have-not” province and we’re taking more from the rest of Canada – this led to a huge applause.
Dmitri Kabitsis of the Communist Party ran in the federal election in Canada. He has no illusions of grandeur but he is on a mission to promote his message of free education, free health care and free transportation. However, “if you don’t like any of these candidates’ plans, vote for me,” said the Communist.
He explained that health care needs to be public, transportation is too expensive and housing is a public matter.
The Green Party of Ontario (GPO) has candidates in all 107 electoral districts. Louis Fliss, a senior chiropodist and professional at the Flemingdon Health Centre, is one of those provincial hopefuls.
Health is an important issue for Fliss, but it doesn’t just relate to physical but also the health of the economy, health of the environment, health of energy and health of the province. The GPO wants to create 21st century jobs by investing in safe energy, local farms and quality health care. He briefly added that the GPO is “right in the middle” in the political spectrum.
Ontario Progressive Conservative candidate Andrea Mandel-Campbell
Ontario Progressive Conservative candidate Andrea Mandel-Campbell
As Mandel-Campbell alluded to earlier, Fliss believes the province needs to get its debt and deficits under control. If elected, the GPO would introduce a revenue neutral carbon tax, reduce the personal income tax and limit tuition for 2012/2013.
The Issues
The first question of the night was a generic one: what are the top three priorities for the political candidates in regards to Don Valley West?
Weigh: Overcrowded schools and impoverished areas.
Mandel-Campbell: Health care – a $6 billion plan by end of term that will focus on patients – and infrastructure – highest gridlock in North America because of lack of transit.
Fliss: Transit city and open Flemingdon to greenery.
Wynne: Job creation, implementing full-day kindergarten, make sure Thorncliffe School is built and increase home care.
Kabitsis: Housing, health and increasing jobs.
When asked how we sustain communities without taxes, Kabitsis stated that we must tax the corporations and the greedy and the big money banks.
The incumbent stated that we need to balance diminution of deficit with the investment of public services we need. Although there needs to be a retooling to health care, the province can’t go back to across the board cuts.
She added that Hudak has said in the past that he has no regrets while serving in the Premier Mike Harris cabinet.
What maybe the comment of the night, Mandel-Campbell said that the way Wynne has described her she must have horns growing on her head. Although we are all paying taxes, the province can’t treat taxpayers as an endless trough and can’t keep going back into the piggybank.
Weigh says we can’t cut taxes, but we don’t want to increase them either.
On the topic of taxes, the recently introduced and controversial Harmonized Sales Tax came up. An audience member asked if their party will eliminate the HST.
The PCs have said throughout the campaign that they will eliminate the HST from hydro and home heating, but because of the present fiscal situation, they can’t remove the HST. “McGuinty took the poison pill and we can’t pay back the $4 billion to the federal government,” said Mandel-Campbell.
Wynne supports the HST because it has created jobs and it has support throughout Queen’s Park, including the opposition “until the day it was implemented.” Since British Columbia has voted to repeal the HST, Wynne said businesses will now look to Ontario to invest in.
Kabitsis wants to eliminate the HST because it’s “taxes on taxes,” but, instead, he wants to nationalize.
All the candidates were asked if they would provide a tax credit to private tuition fees. Each candidate provided a simple answer: no.
The issue of scholarships for international students has been quite controversial since it was introduced by the Liberals earlier this month. Wynne said the program is a way to invite the best and brightest to Ontario.
However, Mandel-Campbell said the province has no problem attracting foreigners even without the scholarship. “Why spend money when we need to spend on other things” and that the $30 million is borrowed money.
Kabitsis said that it is an important to have foreign students come to Canada, but there needs to be an exchange. The GPO doesn’t want division politics, noted Fliss. Weigh said that foreign students will eventually become Canadian citizens.
Ontario Transportation Minister and Liberal MPP  Kathleen Wynne.
Ontario Transportation Minister and Liberal MPP, Kathleen Wynne.
A large number of single, full-time workers are below the poverty line. Each of the candidates addressed the issue and provided a plan to tackle the growing problem.
The PCs say relieving poverty is job creation and that the province needs to help people transition from welfare to jobs and that not to cut benefits when they get a part-time job. Mandel-Campbell added that the PCs have a five-point plan, including reducing red tape bureaucracy by 30 percent.
Wynne said it is very important that we do not equate poverty with welfare. The Liberal government has attempted to fight poverty by setting targets and introducing the child tax benefit for mothers, free eye exams and dental care. She added the province is working with the federal government on a housing strategy.
Each of the candidates was asked what is the best way to create jobs in the province?
The Vegan candidate said we need to put more money into green energy and green technology and to provide more money to the people that need it most.
Mandel-Campbell, a candidate with an extensive business background, said that the government doesn’t create jobs, but it can create a friendly environment for businesses to invest in the region and create jobs.
The best way to create an environment that is good for job creation is to lower taxes, invest in infrastructure and reduce the red tape.
Fliss again repeated his plan to introduce a carbon tax, balance the budget and create youth employment opportunities.
Wynne cited her government’s achievements by noting that Ontario created more jobs in June than in the rest of Canada by developing, investing and innovating the green sector. She also said that its investment in education has led and will lead to an educated workforce.
The Communist candidate said factories in the province belong to foreigners – he cited car imports as an example – and suggested that we need to nationalize companies in order to create jobs.
As noted earlier, both Wynne and Mandel-Campbell received huge applauses for some of their remarks.
Mandel-Campbell garnered ovations when she referred to some of the government’s policies as a “nanny state.” However, she received a mix reaction when she said that all of the physicians she has spoken to in the riding will not vote Liberal.
Wynne gained applause when she criticized the PCs for criticizing the Liberal platform in regards to immigration. She said the fear for having a small number of foreign scholarships is “borderline xenophobia.”
Don Valley West
The Don Valley West provincial electoral district was established in 1999 and is located across Eglinton Avenue East, York Mills Road, Don Mills Road and York East. Its first MPP was Progressive Conservative David Turnbull.
There are approximately 118,000 residents (2006 statistics) and contains nearly 78,000 voters.
More about ontario election 2011, Don valley west, andrea mandelcampbell, kathleen wynne, Debate
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