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Sam Oosterhoff, left, talks with Liberal candidate Vicky Ringuette at an all-candidates debate in Vineland, Ont. on Monday.

J.P. MOCZULSKI/The Globe and Mail

Sam Oosterhoff is against the Ontario Liberals' new sexual-education curriculum and a proposed law to make it easier for same-sex couples to have children.

But the Progressive Conservative candidate in next week's Niagara West-Glanbrook by-election doesn't much want to talk about either.

"We need to make sure that kids nowadays are recognizing the realities of the world they grow up in," he told reporters Monday before a debate at a country club in Vineland. "But we need to ensure that parental voices are being heard in this discussion."

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Asked if this meant he wanted to repeal the curriculum, he refused to answer directly.

Asked for his views on Bill 28, which would close a legal loophole that makes it harder for same-sex couples to have children using surrogates, Mr. Oosterhoff also dodged.

"Thanks so much," he said and tried to walk away.

That Mr. Oosterhoff, a preternaturally self-possessed political science undergrad, was taking questions at all was unusual. The 19-year-old – who is angling to become the youngest MPP in Ontario history – has repeatedly dodged media requests from Queen's Park reporters since winning the nomination in an upset last month.

Mr. Oosterhoff unexpectedly defeated party president Rick Dykstra, a close friend of PC Leader Patrick Brown, by rallying social conservatives. His campaign platform described him as the candidate of "family values" who will "never waver in my support of parents as primary educators."

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His accession was something of a rebuke to Mr. Brown. The Leader angered social conservatives by changing his position on sex-ed three different times before definitively endorsing the new curriculum at the end of August.

In Monday's debate, however, it was the Liberals that got the roughest ride. Candidate Vicky Ringuette acted as a lightning rod for spectators angry about Premier Kathleen Wynne's handling of everything from the electricity system to public debt.

When she opened an answer on electricity prices with "I do pay a hydro bill," one man heckled: "Lucky you!" As her answer continued with an explanation of the necessity of closing coal-fired power plants, the room erupted in boos.

NDP candidate Mike Thomas, meanwhile, faced tough questions of his own. He was a member of the PC party as recently as this year. Asked by reporters if it was opportunistic to switch political affiliations so quickly, he angrily demanded to see reporters' credentials.

Mr. Oosterhoff's most uncomfortable moment in the debate came as fringe candidate Queenie Yu – who recently founded an anti-sex-ed political party – repeatedly exhorted voters to pick Mr. Oosterhoff if they agreed with her values.

"I hope that Sam is elected next week. He is the best candidate of the three main parties," she said. "Please don't let Patrick Brown silence you once you are elected."

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There was, at least, one issue on which Mr. Oosterhoff was unequivocal. When the candidates were asked for their views on abortion, he jumped up without hesitation and declared: "I am 100-per-cent pro-life."

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