By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
There were plenty of barbs traded between the Liberal and Conservative candidates in the Durham riding at a recent debate in Port Perry.
Incumbent MPP Granville Anderson and first-time runner Lindsey Park were the lone vote seekers at the table.
Organizers told The Oshawa Express that NDP candidate Joel Usher had declined to participate, while Green Party candidate Michelle Corbett and Libertarian candidate Ryan Robinson were also absent.
Taking aim at the fact the province’s deficit has “nearly tripled” under the Liberal governments of Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne, Park said she “couldn’t stand on the sidelines.”
“[The PCs] are the only party that will balance the budget in the first four years,” she said.
Asked for specific examples of the government “efficiencies” party leader Doug Ford has pledged to find if elected, Park said, “I can think of many ways we will save money.”
She said the number of deputy ministers has increased steadily under the Liberals, and just cutting those numbers down will bring savings immediately.
Anderson said Ontario currently has the top economic growth of any region in a G7 country.
He said due to the situation that was left by previous governments, increased spending was needed.
“We believe in building bridges and investing in health care,” he added.
He also noted that five of the last eight balanced budgets in Ontario have come under a Liberal government, which elicited groans from some of those attending.
In response, Anderson said while it may not be what they want to hear, “it is a fact.”
On minimum wage, Park said the jump to $14/hr was done too quickly and will cost the Ontario economy 90,000 jobs.
However, she did vow support for future increases when considering inflation.
While the Conservatives will not continue with the increase to $15/hr, she said minimum wage earners would not be paying any income tax.
Anderson countered that this measure would not actually save lower earning workers money, but put them $1,100 in the hole.
He supports a $15 minimum wage “because it is the right thing to do,” but acknowledges it caused issues for small businesses.
“We realize it’s taxing,” Anderson said.
With GO train service scheduled for extension to Bowmanville in 2024, Anderson said the Liberals have a “fully-funded plan,” and in his four-year term as MPP he has pushed for it consistently.
Park questioned Anderson if commuters could get on a GO Train in Bowmanville at this moment.
“We’ll see the project is done on time and on budget,” she stated to loud cheers.
Anderson pointed out little effort was made to bring rail transit to Clarington by his Conservative predecessor.
“My job is to build Durham up,” he said.
Park said community mental health agencies have not received any increases in operating funding under the Liberals, and that waiting lists and the number of referrals are increasing.
“We want kids and adults to get the help they need.”
Pointing to a Liberal promise of $2.1 billion over four years for mental health services, Anderson said it’s a start, but conceded more support is needed to fix the problem.
Park claimed the Liberals only made their announcement after the Conservatives “record” 10-year, $1.9 billion pledge for mental health and addiction care.
The province’s cap and trade program will continue if the Liberals are re-elected, Anderson confirmed.
“For those of us who believe in climate change, we’ll continue to advocate to keep our families safe,” he said.
Calling climate change “an important issue,” Park noted Ontario requires a “home-grown” solution.
“Cap and trade simply sends millions of dollars to California,” she said, a statement challenged by Anderson, who noted his party has set aside $380 million in cap and trade profits to help seniors and families renovate and retrofit their homes.
Anderson also questioned Park’s familiarity with the riding.
“My opponent is not from here. It’s home for me,” he said.
Stating she indeed lives in North Oshawa, Park said she’d be happy to invite Anderson over for “coffee” the day after the election.