Hosted by 4 Chambers of Commerce
Article by Sue Dickens, Trent Hills Now editor
Wednesday May 11, the four Northumberland Chambers of Commerce hosted an all-candidates’ Zoom event for the provincial riding of Northumberland-Peterborough South, the first in the County, a prelude to the June 2 provincial election. The presentation lasted almost two hours and was presented in a question-and-answer format. Questions were submitted beforehand by the public. There was no debate.
Representatives from the Trent Hills Chamber of Commerce, Brighton-Cramahe Chamber of Commerce, Port Hope Chamber of Commerce and Northumberland Central Chamber of Commerce spoke about their organizations’ goals in 2022 prior to the Q&A portion.
Nancy Allanson, Executive Director of the Trent Hills Chamber, noted the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s election priorities include improving business confidence and predictability, fostering business and economic growth, supporting entrepreneurship and innovation and building resilient communities. Business and entrepreneurship were the main topics.
Rob Washburn, Loyalist College professor and political commentator, moderated the event. He noted before starting that, “Given the audience and the purpose of this session, preference has been given to questions related to business, economics and concerns of Chamber members.”
Participating candidates were: incumbent PC MPP David Piccini; NDP candidate Kim McArthur-Jackson, Liberal candidate Jeff Kawzenuk, and Green Party candidate Lisa Francis. New Blue party candidate Joshua Joey Chalhoub and Ontario Party candidate Vanessa Head were invited, but did not participate.
The questions put to each candidate ran the gamut of business concerns, from asking how they will actively engage and consult with chambers of commerce across Northumberland and the business community to improve business confidence and predictability, how they will support the continued recovery of local businesses that are amongst the hardest hit during the pandemic, to what funding or programs will they continue or create to support small businesses, as well as how will they make Northumberland County a leader, and what will they do to build the local labour force.
NDP candidate Kim MacArthur-Jackson commented on improving business confidence and predictability. She said, “People have been very frustrated for years over the constant changing of government and how that has been affecting projects that are in place. We’ll have one government in place that’ll start to work on various projects and then the new government will come in and shut it down. And it’s such a waste of time and a waste of money and it doesn’t benefit the Ontario people as a whole. Making sure that we’re looking at long term goals is so important.”
Liberal candidate Jeff Kawzenuk spoke to making the County the leader in the marketplace and said, “I think it is imperative that we support small businesses that are owned by women and that are owned by indigenous peoples and racialized entrepreneurs as well. And certainly we have a plan for that.”
Candidates were also asked about their solutions for a public transportation system that will serve Northumberland County as well as how they will handle the lack of supply of homes for sale which is creating a housing crisis and includes affordability issues affecting young people who stay here and attract people who want to move here.
There was a question about improving internet access in Northumberland.
The candidates were asked a question about how would they preserve agricultural lands, in light of the growth in municipalities. As well, they were asked their party plans to ensure the agricultural industry is protected and maintained.
Questions about mental house support services for the County were asked and how they will address the growing challenges impacting communities here and small businesses. A question about direct funding so employers and employees can access mental health services was put forward.
One question asked was about what can be done to encourage the film industry and the jobs it creates here, while pointing out this industry has, “a very low in environmental impact.” As companies that film here don’t receive any Ontario film tax credits, the question was posed to address what steps will each candidate take to ensure that companies are eligible.
Another question was asked about each candidate’s vision is for the future of manufacturing in Northumberland and what they would do to encourage a Made-In-Ontario supply chain.
Close to the conclusion candidates were asked how will they support healthcare across Northumberland, in particular, the new Campbellford hospital/redevelopment project?
PC candidate Jeff Kawzenuk – said he wants to see elimination of Bill 124 which caps the wage increases of provincial employees, like nurses and teachers, at just one per cent per year, which is below the rate of inflation. He said, “This really needs to start with eliminating Bill 124 and showing our health care workers that we respect them once again. They have been the true heroes throughout COVID, working side by side with patients who’ve had COVID. They are exhausted, they are stressed and we need to certainly look after them and care for them and restore that profession that was so noble at one point in time.”
Green Party candidate Lisa Francis said, “I am one of the many Ontarians who has not had a doctor in several years. We have a broken system and we need to fix it fast.” She added, “We don’t want a province where people are lingering in the hospital hallways and corridors because there’s no beds available for them. We don’t want people struggling to find the mental health supports that they need. We can fix these problems. We have identified them and we have a plan to address this.”
NDP candidate Kim McArthur-Jackson, who lives in Campbellford, responded, “Health care in rural areas is so important,” adding, “one of the things that I keep hearing from people here as I’m talking to them is that they don’t have access to care.” Their choices are the emergency department or a walk-in clinic which although useful, “We need to make sure that people have access to primary care whether that be with a primary care physician or with a nurse practitioner. Nurse practitioners are absolutely worth their weight in gold.”
The last question asked candidates what is their party going to do to bring inflation under control and stabilize the economy to avoid a recession?
MPP Piccini took a poke at previous governments, stating, “So we saw government tinkering in the past with failed gas plants, the Green Energy Act that drove up the price of electricity driving manufacturing out of this province, and now we’re at a point where we see a manufacturing resurgence in this province where we are the home for electric vehicle automobile manufacturing.”
NDP candidate Kim McCarthy Jackson said, “We’re not looking at the big picture, and it’s absolutely integral to look at the big picture otherwise, you’re going to improve certain segments while taking away from other segments….. In order to have a robust economy. You need to make sure that you have multiple things you have to have jobs and they need to be well paying, you need to have people to work those jobs so that money is then going back into the economy.,, We need to make sure that wages are high enough that businesses are profiting and everything keeps going.”
Green Party candidate Lisa Francis said, “I’m so excited about our platform because we need to invest in the social constructs to ensure that our people can not only work in but live in and you know, engage with our economy and our communities. It’s all related… And we can’t fix one problem without fixing another. So we have to put in the supports. And we have to invest in the infrastructure and we have to do better… And in our plan no vulnerable person will be left behind.”
Liberal candidate Jeff Kawzenuk said, “You have asked a very complicated question that requires many, many different plans from many different sectors. But I think it starts with …we need to raise the minimum wage and we have said that we would do that to $16 an hour. And I think we need to look at what a living wage is, that we need to protect everyday people everyday workers in the province of Ontario. I think $10 A day childcare will help all kinds of young families that are starting off. And that’s a piece of this puzzle.”
Earlier he had commented, “And also we need to consider affordability and that’s why we are looking at removing the HST on meals (fast food) under $20.” He added, “That all helps but increasing our old Old Age Security pension by $1,000 is really really important for our seniors.”
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