The Liberals are developing the Ring of Fire at the pace of “a sleepy turtle,” the audience at the all-candidates debate for Nickel Belt were told Thursday night.
While the barb was from NDP incumbent France Gélinas, it was a metaphor embraced by Liberal candidate James Tregonning, who argued better a slow pace than to make major mistakes.
Thursday's debate was sponsored by the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce and held at Confederation Secondary School in Val Caron. It featured Marck Blay of Progressive Conservatives, Heather Dahlstrom of the Green Party, as well as Gélinas and Tregonning.
With the election a week away, it was one of the last opportunities for candidates to make their pitch for support. But it was also the last in a debate-heavy week, and many familiar themes were discussed. As has been the case in debates in Sudbury and Nickel Belt, the Ring of Fire was discussed early and often.
Gélinas said many people, even in Northern Ontario, don't understand the magnitude of the chromite and other mineral discoveries in the remote northwestern Ontario site.
“A quarter of the world's reserve (of chromite), the only one in the First World,” she said, in addition to nickel and platinum group metals.
With the potential jobs and revenue still undeveloped, she said success there is key to our future in the North, as well as for the rest of Ontario.
“We need government that shows leadership to get this gamechanger going.”
But Tregonning, while agreeing about its importance, said the slow pace is to be expected with such a complex project.
“France is right,” he said. “It's a historic event … It will take time – we need to do it right the first time.
“I don't want to make reckless decisions. We want to get this right.”
“At the rate of a sleepy turtle,” Gélinas quipped.
While the comment drew a few chuckles, Tregonning liked the metaphor, saying the slow pace is less important than doing it properly long-term.
“The rate of the sleepy turtle will ensure we have success ... slow but sure.”
About 50 people attended Thursday's two-hour event, where the candidates fielded questions from chamber members and the audience.
While Blay came under fire for his party's plan to cut 100,000 public service jobs, most of the exchanges were between Tregonning and Gélinas who, it turns out, have been friends for years.
“We have a lot of respect for one another,” Tregonning said.
But he questioned why the NDP forced this election, despite the Liberals delivering a budget so labour friendly, some on the left have questioned why NDP Leader Andrea Horwath wouldn't support it.
“Why?” he asked.
In response, Gélinas said Premier Kathleen Wynne actually called the election before anything was decided in the legislature.
“We never actually got to vote down the budget,” she said.
But, she said, they couldn't support a Liberal budget with 70 promises, when the Liberals didn't keep the promises they made to the NDP in 2013.
“We knew the 70 promises … were just waiting to be broken.”
How could you possibly know that,Tregonning asked.
“Does the NDP have a crystal ball or tarot cards?”
Tregonning was on the defensive over the $1 billion wasted cancelling gas plants before the last election, a move designed to improve Liberal electoral chances when Dalton McGuinty was still premier.
“Dalton made a mistake,” Tregonning said. “Dalton is no longer here.”
The party has admitted their mistakes, he said, and put in rules to ensure it doesn't happen again. The other parties are trying to use it against them, even though they have had their their own scandals.
Why shouldn't they keep reminding voters? Gélinas replied.
“Because we've talked about it enough?” she said. “You used our money to buy two seats.”
Ontarians go to the polls June 12.