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Candidates square off at first debate in Wellington

Citizens who have no political party alliance, and those who may be looking to change, may or may not have heard key words that will help direct their provincial election vote next month.

Close to 150 people made their way to the first debate of the campaign Tuesday night in the Wellington Community Centre. The three mainstream candidates were in attendance, through there are (updated) seven listed officially to run in the Bay of Quinte riding by Elections Ontario. Three seats remained vacant for the Green, Independent, Libertarian and Trillium candidates.

As is typical in the County, applause was distributed equally for incumbent Todd Smith, Progressive Conservative candidate; the County’s mayor Robert Quaiff in the Liberal seat and the NDP’s Joanne Belanger.

Scott Johnston, of Wellington, was first to the microphone during the public forum with a question for Smith addressing an ‘elephant in the room’.

“I’ve supported you for two elections but I’m having difficulty this election with the fact that the PCs have elected a leader that has been called a ‘buffoon’; referred to as Ontario’s Donald Trump and in a public demonstration outside of the City TV (debate), demonstrators were paid… So help me reconcile that I’d like to support you, but I really am having difficulty with Doug Ford as Premier of Ontario.”

Applause rang out, then Smith joked “he’d never heard this”, to more applause, and laughter.

Todd Smith

“You know what? I’m going to stand on my record of what I have been able to accomplish over the last seven years. But I will tell you that the Doug Ford persona that exists is not an accurate persona. Doug actually does care for people. You can see it when he interacts one-on-one. I can tell you that he’s not a buffoon. He’s very collaborative and understands that those in his caucus who have been working on issues – in my case electricity and energy for six-and-a-half years – know what we’re talking about. We know what we’re dealing with. Christine Elliott, who I supported for the leadership, is still there. There’s a very good chance that she is going to be the minister of finance, or the minister of health. Vic Fidelli, and the entire caucus, still there.”

Moderator Bill Hutchins, news anchor at CKWS Television, brought chuckles as he cheekily re-phrased the question for Belanger and Quaiff asking “If Ontario was ready to test-drive a Ford”.

“I certainly hope not,” she said. “I was quite taken aback when Mr. Ford became the leader of the PC party. I think we need to look at a leader like Andrea Horwath who has a solid track record… she really does care about people and she’s prepared to consult with people and talk to people to solve problems… We are all part of the problem, not just the folks at the top end. We need to have conversations that move us forward in a hopeful direction.”

Robert Quaiff

Quaiff said he would “take Kathleen Wynne over these two any day. To me she appears to be sincere, heartfelt and really cares about the people in this province.”

The elephant moved to Quaiff’s corner as Gary Mooney asked about the candidates’ stances on the Green Energy Act and Smith alleged County residents who have been fighting industrial wind turbines feel betrayed that their mayor would be running with the Liberals and “joining the evil empire”.

“Gary, you’re pretty much aware of where I stand on the Green Energy Act. You know I’ve stood right alongside you and others in this community – APPEC, CSAGE and the Field Naturalists,” said Quaiff. “I was a bit surprised when the provincial Liberals approached me and asked if I would be interested in becoming one of their candidates given the strong opinions that I’ve had and the amount of time I’ve spent on the 401. I was part of that Wainfleet Working Group that came up with the Unwilling Host Communities resolution. As I’ve explained to the provincial Liberals, nothing’s changed. I’m still standing there with you and I am hoping I get an opportunity to go to Queen’s Park and make those changes that I know need to be made. I want to get there to make a difference.”

Smith countered that it’s “becoming apparant that the legacy of this government with Kathleen Wynne will be the destruction of, and discrimination against rural residents of Ontario. This is the government that has literally wasted billions of taxpayers’ dollars.”

Belanger directed her comments on the issue to leader Horwath’s pledge to look at ways to be collaborative and consultive. “We can’t foist things upon people without talking to them first and making sure people are comfortable with these things. You can’t bring businesses in to establish green initiatives in a way that they’re going to offset carbon taxes.”

Emcee Hutchins declared a second round of discussion on the issue was warranted.

“I am a driven individual to find solutions to problems,” said Quaiff. “There’s no way you’re going to find solutions to problems when you stand up in question period and yell at the top of your lungs that you’re going to cancel all these contracts; fire the CEO and the entire board… I’ve gone to bat when it comes to protecting the south shore and lobbying my heart out to get changes to that Green Energy Act. Put me there. I know what changes need to be made.”

Rebutting the rebuttal, Smith stated he had lobbied the minister of energy, the environment minister and the premier – “not in question period, but in private meetings… saying how can they stand by when there are so many different reasons why these projects shouldn’t go ahead – economics, environment, health concerns. The list goes on and on and least of all, we don’t need the electricity. We have an over-supply right now. The projects should be ended. It’s as simple as that. Yet they’re still being built as we speak.”

Belanger said the Liberals talk a good game on climate change but “they voted down all the NDP amendments that would ensure the cap and trade system was fair and transparent. The financial accountability officer, commissioner and auditor general have warned that the cap and trade might not reduce greenhouse gases to meet the province’s 2020 emissions target. The government’s climate change program was developed behind closed doors.”

Former mayor and County hospital board chair Leo Finnegan had all three candidates in complete agreement that a new Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital would be supported and move forward. Belanger added concern that the Liberals had cut 1,600 nursing positions across the province and funding for hospitals fell short of what they need. Quaiff noted the Liberals promise more nursing jobs.

Discussion continued on pharmacare, home care, education, affordability, food insecurity and hydro.

The sound of applause again rang out as an audience member wanted to know how candidates would ensure hydro would come back into public hands and “start saving us real money instead of going to the $6 million man and people who get $70,000 raises at the turn of a hat.

Belanger said the NDPs would reduce hydro bills 30 per cent, bring hydro back into public hands and exempt it from provincial tax and pressure the federal government to do the same. The NDPs she said would end time-of-use and reform the Ontario Energy Board.

Quaiff noted both the other parties voted against the 25 per cent reduction but noted the PCs “sneakily’ recently adopted the Liberal idea to include it in their plan. The NDP he said, don’t have a financially sustainable plan.

Smith said the Fair Hydro Plan cutting 25 per cent was an election scheme that will result in billions of dollars of debt.

The next all-candidates’ meeting is set for Thursday, at 7 p.m. at Trenton High School.

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  1. Chuck says:

    Well on the first day of the campaign I saw this. At the end of Cty Rd 4 (Ben Gill) and 62 there was a large Liberal Quaiff sign. The very next morning there was a PC Smith sign in the exact same spot and the Quaiff sign laid in the ditch. I don’t think it would take the OPP to determine what had transpired.

  2. Dennis Fox says:

    I heard on the radio and read today about the OPP investigating a complaint from Todd Smith about his election signs being stolen here in the County – not in Belleville, but only here in PEC. Has Todd Smith gone mad or is he pulling strings to get the OPP to do this? OH – BTW the number of signs “supposedly” taken number to the grand total of – six (6)! Are we really expected to believe that either Smith or the police are going to worry about 6 crummy election signs? If I felt that there was any merit to these complaints, then my feelings would be different – but in the course of human events, it is insignificant!!! Now if Smith was going to complain about his leader Doug Ford wrongly and illegally taking campaign funds, with his only excuse being that he didn’t know he was at a fund raising dinner, then I would support him in this effort – but he is not!

    Really – six election signs and wasting tax dollars to have the police investigate? And only in the County you say? Pity.

  3. Dennis Fox says:

    Let’s not forget what party started the sell-off of Ontario Hydro – the PCs! For them to now go back and repeal the Green Energy Act will open up a huge can of worms for them politically -memories are long. Don’t get me wrong the GEA was a huge mistake and needs to be changed – but the Tories do not have any intention of getting rid of the privately run hydro system now and I doubt they will stop any “previously approved” wind developments. If Todd Smith fumbled on his answer at the All Candidates Debate – the thing to do is to ask WHY? – not to cover his tail and to answer for him! If he is coming out with mixed messages – then ask why? If his position can’t be nailed down now, don’t think you can get him to do it after the election.

  4. Dennis Fox says:

    Susan – my problem with Doug Ford goes well beyond his current election rhetoric and lack of any campaign platform and policies. How anyone can run for office without these basics is a joke – anyone supporting such a person is ridiculous!

    I have a problem with how Ford became the current PC leader and the controversy surrounding the “questionable” PC election process. But more specific to Ford is his family’s (including him) well documented involvement in the drug trade in Toronto – dating back many years. As a councillor his attendance record was a sham – missed over half of the meetings and was out of touch with most of the issue. The things Ford is now saying are not sincere nor meaningful – as a councillor, he promised all the same things about saving money and eliminating waste and yet when the “STAFF” investigated his claims – the Ford brothers accumulated a huge debt and funding shortfall!

    The man has very few social graces – look at his recent comments about immigrants. Some are now comparing him to Trump. Personally, the people of Ontario deserve better than what Ford has to offer. Unfortunately, Todd Smith’s efforts to falsely make Ford look credible, have turned me right off him.

    So there ya go Susan, I have explained my reasons for not voting for the Ford/Smith slate.

  5. Garth Manning says:

    The PCs WILL get rid of the Green Energy Act. Todd Smith has said so in my hearing and in his election ad in today’s Wellington Times.

  6. Susan says:

    Dennis; You seem to have a problem with Mr. Ford for some reason. Is it that you are not accustom to a politician that expresses sincerity, wants to eliminate waste and return a government for the people?

  7. Gary Mooney says:

    Re my question on the Green Energy Act, I was disappointed that neither Robert nor Todd answered my question, which was: What are you going to do about the Green Energy Act?

    Earlier, Robert told County Live: “… there’s components with the Green Energy Act that just need tweaking, they need fixing. They don’t need to rewrite the entire Green Energy Act. For people to say they would just scrap it, doesn’t make common sense. There are areas it does apply properly.”

    Todd focused his reponse on Robert and the Liberal Party, and did not confirm what Doug Ford has said, that they will cancel the Green Energy Act and cancel projects that are pre-construction.

    Joanne did address the question, stating that the NDP would consult communities. Hopefully, the NDP would take action based on such consultations, unlike the Liberal Party, which consults and then consistently ignores what they’ve heard.

  8. Dennis Fox says:

    I thank Scott Johnston for his question to Todd Smith. NOTHING Smith says will change most of the public’s opinion of Ford. I am disappointed with Smith’s response by trying to protect and to promote such a person as Doug Ford – the same person he worked against just over a month ago. Politics certainly does make strange bed fellows – in this case very strange and convenient ones.

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