DAN CEARNS, The Standard
UXBRIDGE: Residents of Uxbridge heard from three of their riding’s provincial election candidates, during an event held on Wednesday, May 11th.
The candidates’ forum was held at the Uxbridge Arena and Community Centre and was hosted by the Uxbridge Cosmos. The candidates in attendance included incumbent Conservative MPP Peter Bethlenfalvy, Khalid Ahmed from the NDP and Ibrahim Daniyal from the Liberal Party.
The candidates were first asked about what had been learned from the pandemic and how they would ensure the province was ready for the next one.
Mr. Ahmed said the pandemic exposed how the province’s healthcare system was “already on its knees” and the government needs “to ensure nurses are happy and [are] not leaving the province.” He added the NDP will hire 30,000 nurses and give personal support workers paid sick days and will “make sure seniors can stay in their homes with dignity.”
Mr. Bethlenfalvy stressed the importance of investing in hospital and healthcare-related infrastructure and the need for “modern beds” in hospitals.
“We made a commitment almost a year and a half ago to hire 27,000 new nurses and personal support workers in long-term care facilities. That’s happening,” Mr. Bethlenfalvy added.
The Standard asked the candidates how their governments would help the local tourism industry rebound after the pandemic.
“We have to promote Ontario. We are an amazing province. We have a lot of greenery. We have to make sure people can come here and enjoy it. We have to work and talk with businesses and stakeholders [about] how we can make it possible and what needs to be addressed to ensure we can attract tourism. We have an amazing platform on arts and culture,” Mr. Ahmed explained.
Mr. Bethlenfalvy said Premier Ford has been promoting the province across the border and in the U.S. He added the Ontario government’s “plan to stay open is so critical” to help people and businesses feel comfortable moving forward.
Affordability was also a key issue brought up during the forum.
“Our families are suffering. Poverty levels [are getting] bigger and bigger. Doug Ford’s rich friends are getting richer,” Mr. Daniyal stated. “We are increasing the basic minimum wage to $16.”
Mr. Ahmed said affordability had been a key topic he’s heard from residents.
“Life is just getting [harder]. We need to ensure there is a minimum wage increase. We need to ensure people on ODSP and supportive programs get an increase.”
He also stressed the importance of implementing “proper rent control” and lowering hydro rates.
Mr. Bethlenfalvy shared how the current government is working to “rebuild Ontario’s economy” and will focus on “supporting workers, [and] supporting people right across the spectrum.”
“Doug Ford is getting the job done. Doug Ford is putting shovels in the ground, we’re building Ontario, we’re rebuilding this economy after two tough years and supporting every Ontarian,” Mr. Bethlenfalvy stated.
One resident asked the candidates how they would balance the need for rural and urban growth with the need to protect the Greenbelt and farmland.
Mr. Daniyal attacked the use of Minister’s Zoning Orders (MZO) to build developments on ecologically sensitive or protected lands and said he cries when he sees farmland being sold to developers.
Mr. Ahmed said, “we cannot rip out trees and go through the Greenbelt just to build a highway,” and stated the NDP would protect farmland and the Greenbelt from developers. He also noted the importance of consulting farmers on future developments.
Mr. Bethlenfalvy explained the government is “listening to the farmers” and defended the use of MZOs by saying these orders are only issued at the request of the municipalities.