Ontario’s overall economy, healthcare, combating inflation, bringing full internet service to the north, improving highways and what each of the of the Algoma-Manitoulin candidates would do for residents if elected was the mainstay of a two-hour debate on the issues at the all candidates meeting Thursday evening.
Taking to the podium and responding to questions from the 40 people who attended the Moose Hall was incumbent NDP candidate Michael Mantha, Liberal Tim Vine and Conservative Cheryl Fort. Due to scheduling problems Green Party candidate Maria Legault, and Ron Koski of the New Blue Party of Ontario were absent from the debate.
Each of the three main party candidates presented the platforms their parties are running on and their personal views about the input if elected the next MPP for the riding. The debate was moderated by Mayor Dan Marchisella.
Fort is the mayor of Hornepayne and the second Indigenous mayor elected in the province and is a lifelong resident and active volunteer in northern Ontario.
Mantha is well known and has served the riding as its MPP for the past 11 years and has been an ardent supporter and worker on northern issues, according to the moderator.
Vine is taking his first run at a political seat, having served in financial services as former treasurer of Elliot Lake, and with the Manitoulin Health Centre and will soon take a job with Elliot Lake St. Joseph’s General Hospital as vice president of finance.
Vine reiterated the Liberal party platform in his opening remarks.
“People asked me why I wanted to be a politician and I said rather jokingly I got tired of people liking me and I quickly found out how true that is,” he quipped.
“The Ontario Liberal party wants to try and put a little bit more money in people’s pockets, which is what responsible political policy can do,” Vine said.
He pointed to Liberal policies in the campaign which include more spending on health care and at nursing homes and in long term care, raising provincial exemption tax, increasing provincial supplement for pension by about $1,000 per year, lower housing costs, making childcare benefits retroactive, buck a ride for bus services locally and with Ontario Northland and provide for those on ODSP to give people more money for those in need.
The plan is to create 100,000 new healthcare hero jobs and personal support workers. It also calls for an increase in wages for personal support workers to $25, end for profit long-term care and provide better home care. It would also allow education for doctors and nurses to be tuition free and improvements in mental health care are also part of the Liberal plan.
“We need to provide not only for those who literally built Ontario but need to ensure the next generation can take full advantage of that prosperity.”
“The Ontario Liberal Party has a responsible, progressive, fully costed plan that spends the same amount as the PC’s, brings us to balance (budget) a year earlier then the current government and spend differently on those needed services like health and education right here in the north,” Vine said.
Mantha called it "an honour to be running again as the Ontario NDP candidate for Algoma-Manitoulin in this election on a platform that represents the needs of everyday people right here in northern Ontario."
“This is an unprecedented opportunity to elect an NDP Ontario government and to fix the things that matter most to everyday people in our province," Mantha added during his opening remarks.
Mantha pointed to the failures in dealing with the devastating pandemic that has engulfed the province for the past two years and noted “the pandemic is still here.”
The last two years have shown that decades of cuts have pushed healthcare to the breaking point, and it will take the right government to put that system back on its feet and the NDP will do that, according to Mantha.
He urged voters not to dwell on past mistakes but to focus on the future and ways to rebuild and improve the province in its future.
Mantha said an NDP government will spend more on healthcare and would eliminate non-profit homes for seniors and have them run publicly. He maintains privately operated homes resulted in the thousands of deaths among seniors during the pandemic.
He also said an NDP government is committed to larger pay hikes above the one per cent ceiling on wage negotiations brought in by Doug Ford government. The NDP program also calls for more hiring of healthcare professionals, personal support workers and improving money paid to individuals for medical travel.
Mantha said getting the healthcare system at all levels back on its feet should be the top focus of the next Ontario government.
Improved education, roads, internet service and jobs are also included in the party policies.
He said work must be done immediately to provide First Nations people with better housing, better health care and clean drinking water.
The NDP is willing to make sure life is affordable in Ontario and its government will immediately address the cost of living and will raise the minimum wage to $20 in its first term, according to Mantha.
In her remarks Fort said her background in municipal politics and volunteer work will assist her if she is elected the riding’s Conservative MPP.
“I come with plenty of experience that will assist to becoming a solid member of parliament,” she said. “Doug Ford has put out his plan to rebuild Ontario’s economy and I stand solidly behind this plan and would like to see it come to fruition for Elliot Lake and all of Algoma-Manitoulin.
She said the plan focuses on making living more affordable for Ontario people, improve health care, roads, attracting more doctors and healthcare professionals here, improve housing throughout Elliot Lake and Northern Ontario and create new well-paying jobs.
“The time is now to invest in our health care system,” she said, something the Conservative government will do.
Fort also credited the government for recognizing the seriousness of the pandemic and brought in measures needed to deal with it.
With voters electing Fort, the Conservative plan will be a reality, according to her.
“I need to say to the people of Elliot Lake and Algoma-Manitoulin we have an opportunity to have a (riding) voice at the official government table this year.”
The remarks were followed by many questions from people concerned about funding at different levels. One question that may have surprised many in the crowd came about when the candidates were asked about their position on abortion.
Both Mantha and Vine said their standing on the prolife issue is that it allows women to make their own reproductive decision and that should continue. Fort declined to comment on the issue which Doug Ford said his candidates should not comment on the pending the official Supreme Court of America ruling on abortion law south of the border.
Voters will go to the polls on June 2.
Advance voting starts on May 19 in Ontario. Voters can cast their ballot at any advance voting location in their electoral district from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. for 10 days, up from five days in 2018.
Voters in Algoma - Manitoulin can choose from 12 advance voting locations. Voters can find a list of their advance voting locations here or on the Elections Ontario app.