It’s day seven of the Ontario election. Today, the leaders of the major parties will face off in the first of two debates (a second debate is scheduled for May 16, two weeks before the vote). The debate was held in North Bay at The Capitol Centre and covered issues of affordability northern Ontario, mental health and highway maintenance and safety.
The leaders of Ontario’s main political parties are all in North Bay today. Here’s what they are up to:
Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford
Doug Ford will take part in the northern debate, alongside the other main party leaders.
Ford has been up north for several days, touting commitments he has made to restore northern passenger rail service, rebuild Highway 101 through Timmins and continue work to build road infrastructure to the Ring of Fire.
At the debate, Ford argued that the key to improving conditions in the north is stimulating the economy and increasing the region’s population. He wouldn’t commit to giving municipalities more revenue tools, if re-elected, saying instead that he’d make sure people have jobs.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath
Andrea Horwath will make a campaign stop this morning at the North Bay Marina before the afternoon debate. After the debate, Horwath will be in Redline Brewhouse in Barrie for a campaign stop at 6:45 p.m.
“We’re going to talk to northerners today about the things that matter most to them and I’m very excited about it,” Horwath said on Tuesday morning after a walk by the North Bay’s waterfront.
At the debate, Horwath said she understands that the lower populations in northern communities have led to lower budgets, but raising property taxes can’t be the answer because housing is already too expensive.
Both the NDP and Liberals are promising to end the standardized Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) testing if elected. The NDP say they will collaborate with educators to determine how random sampling could spot early trends and areas for improvement.
On Monday, the NDP leader released her northern platform, including health-focused pitches, including promises to reimburse medical travel expenses more quickly, add more local health centres and “immediately” hire 300 doctors in the region.
Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca
Steven Del Duca will announce details of the Liberal’s plan for northern Ontario at 10 a.m., before participating in the northern debate.
At a campaign stop, Steven Del Duca said the Liberals would attract more residents to Ontario’s north by building roads and improving access to medical care, including ensuring everyone has access to a family doctor or nurse practitioner within 24 hours, regardless of where they live.
“We will work with the federal government, seeking a mandate from the people of this province, to make sure that Ontario is in the driver’s seat when it comes to our own immigration system,” he said.
He said he would attract more doctors and nurses to the region by covering the tuition of medical and nursing students who “commit to working in a rural or remote community.”
Del Duca also pledged to build more roads to the resource-rich Ring of Fire to make it more accessible – a project he said would draw even more workers to the region.
During the debate, Del Duca said he’d share five per cent of the existing mining tax with municipalities to pad out their pocketbooks.
The Liberals released their costed platform on Monday, and say they will be releasing their northern platform details today. The full Liberal platform includes promises to cover tuition for any medical or nursing student who works long-term in a rural or remote community, expedite applications for Consumption and Treatment Services sites in northern Ontario and ensure high-speed internet for all, including First Nations communities, by 2025.
On EQAO, the Liberals pledge they would replace the current approach with a new assessment strategy in order to capture and address the pandemic’s impact on learning.
Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner
Mike Schreiner will announce the Green party’s platform for the north this morning, before taking part in the northern debate. He will participate in a “sign wave” in Sturgeon Falls at 5:30 p.m., followed by a meet-and-greet with residents and supporters at 7:30 p.m.
During the debate, Schreiner said he would give all municipalities in the north the same powers as Toronto to earn revenue and control their budgets.
“We need new solutions to old problems,” he said.
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