Parry Sound-Muskoka’s provincial candidates faced off for the third and final time in Huntsville on Wednesday.
Only four candidates showed up for the nearly 90-minute virtual debate, the NDP’s Erin Horvath, Green Party’s Matt Richter, New Blue Party’s Doug Maynard and Brad Waddell with the Populist Party.
The debate, sponsored by The Lakelands Association of Realtors, opened with a question from the association on the affordable housing crisis.
The New Blue’s Maynard said the crisis is not necessarily the number of units available, but the kinds of units available. He said as he looks around the riding he sees way more luxury homes and condos being built than homes designed for the average person. Maynard said we need a government that is going to push back on that front and try and put some incentives there for builders and developers to start looking at actually building more affordable houses.
The Green Party’s Richter said the lack of affordable housing is nothing new, adding that it’s been building from one election to the next. He said our riding needs more housing so that people can afford to live and work here.
Richter said officials need to prioritize the government getting back into the business of building affordable housing units and that means saying no to a $10 billion highway south of us and yes to building over a hundred thousand affordable rental units to get the job done.
The NDP’s Horvath touted her party’s ‘Homes You Can Afford’ plan which will remove exclusionary zoning allowing for a wider variety of affordable homes to be built. She said the plans also include 250,000 geared-to-income or below-market-rent houses and a 10% down payment for new home buyers.
Horvath also said the NDP plans on increasing the nonresident speculation tax to 20% like they have in BC and Toronto but expanded out across the province.
The Populist Party’s Waddell said as far as rent is concerned, the government needs to scale back the number of Airbnbs there are, something Horvath also agreed on.
The candidates were also asked what their respective parties have in store to address the rise in hate speech, racism and erosion of public safety seen over the past two years.
Richter said throughout Ontario, Islamophobia is at its highest rate adding the province needs cross-party support to ensure that the London Family Act moves forward.
He said now is the time when politicians have to come across party lines, speak up, set the example of strong leadership and say that any kind of hate-motivated actions are clearly not acceptable.
Maynard agreed with Richter on the need for cross-party communication and added that the New Blue Party would be putting forth a policy where that kind of stuff would not be tolerated at any level of government. Any government member that chose to try to create that divisiveness or spew the hatred would be removed from any further discussions upon the matter, he said.
The NDP’s Horvath said her party plans on implementing a provincial anti-racism strategy to be informed by race-based data collection. She said, if elected, her party would introduce training for all public employees and legislators, adequately fund and support community organizations that are doing anti-racism and LGBTQ+ work and establish an Ontario anti-racism advisory and advocacy council.
Waddell also echoed Richter and Maynard’s point that dealing with hate speech and racism goes across parties. He also said this a problem that was exacerbated by the lockdown keeping families and loved ones apart.
It’s also an education issue, Waddell said, adding that it’s an understanding that a different culture is not something to be hated, despised or yelled at.
Missing from the debate were Progressive Conservative candidate Graydon Smith, Independent Daniel Predie Jr. and Andrew John Cocks with the Ontario Party. The moderators however mentioned that Cocks did attempt to connect to the debate but was unable to because of technical difficulties.
The provincial election is June 2.
***Written by Mo Fahim