The province’s Progressive Conservatives were in the crosshairs again tonight, during the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce’s candidates debate for the Nickel Belt riding.
“The platform that they put forward is not connected to reality, but you don’t have a chance to hear, to see any of this because their candidates do not take part in debate,” NDP candidate France Gélinas said during tonight’s debate in answering a question posed by Sudbury.com.
“They don’t want you to know that they really stand for, they don’t want you to know what to expect for the next four years, and this is wrong.”
Liberal candidate Gilles Proulx expressed a similar disappointment.
“Yes, our leader is the face you see on TV and the news and newspapers, but you’re voting for a person that’s going to be there for you in Nickel Belt, that’s going to be at your office answering the phones and trying to get help for you, and that’s what I intend to do,” he said.
“Four more years of Ford (Progressive) Conservatives is exactly what you’re seeing tonight. You’re going to be ignored.”
The “north won’t even exist” to the Progressive Conservatives, he said, adding that people can expect more “cuts, chaos and confusion.”
With Progressive Conservative candidate Randy Hazlett absent from tonight’s debate, these criticisms directed at his party remained unanswered. It was a repeat of the previous night’s Sudbury electoral district debate, at which Progressive Conservative candidate Marc Despatie was also absent.
“PC candidates for both Sudbury and Nickel Belt riding had accepted our invite for the events earlier but have now withdrawn their participation in the events,” a Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce spokesperson clarified to Sudbury.com, later adding that they’ve heard similar things from other chambers of commerce about Progressive Conservatives at their debates.
Sudbury.com has reached out to both the Sudbury and Nickel Belt political camps to find out why their candidates were no-shows, but have yet to receive a response. The Green Party of Ontario was also contacted to determine why Nickel Belt candidate Glenys Babcock was absent from tonight’s debate, but this inquiry has also yet to receive a response.
Topics was wide-ranging, with both Gélinas and Proulx finding themselves in agreement on various fundamental topics regarding the economy, Laurentian University and the cost of living.
How they would approach their shared concerns regarding how the Progressive Conservatives are moving the province forward, however, differed.
On their concerns about the province’s long-term care homes and what they’ve seen as severe shortcomings in patient care, both agree the facilities need to be taken out of private hands.
Proulx cited his party’s commitment to issuing no new licences for private long-term care homes by 2028, while Gélinas pledged to move “away from the big institutional-style long-term care to a model of small homes,” in addition to transitioning away from private ownership within eight years.
Both candidates agreed that more value-added jobs need to be created around the mining industry in Northern Ontario, with Gélinas pushing for a “manufacturing strategy based specifically for Northern Ontario.”
Proulx said he’d push for greater participation with First Nations communities and for a greater local focus on trades-based education to give students an earlier head start.
They also shared a commitment to improving the situation at Laurentian University, whose financial woes have gutted the post-secondary institution in recent months.
“The government can step up right now and end this process right now,” Gélinas said, urging the cessation of Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act proceedings, the government clearing of their debt and moving forward with a system that includes French-language education.
“As a parent, my wife and I have put money aside for him to go to Laurentian, so now, as a parent, we have to look at the possibility that our two kids will have to go to Ottawa,” Proulx said. “We know what happens when kids leave. … They don’t come back.”
The university “has to survive,” he said, pledging to tackle the issue head-on if elected.
Much else was discussed, with both candidates centering their dialogue on their respective campaigns and platform points rather than taking jabs at one another, which were more abundant during the previous night’s debate featuring Sudbury candidates.
Liberal, Green, NDP and Progressive Conservative candidates were invited to the two Sudbury and District Chamber of Commerce debates, which spurred some blowback from the area’s New Blue candidates, who staged a protest outside of the downtown office tonight.
A full rundown of candidates running in each of the province’s electoral districts can be found on the Elections Ontario website by clicking here.
The Canadian Association of Retired Persons is hosting an all-candidates meeting including those in both the Sudbury and Nickel Belt electoral districts on May 18 at 2 p.m. at the Northbury Hotel.
Liberal, Progressive Conservataive, NDP and Green candidates have been invited to attend.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.