Three of Guelph’s major party candidates squared off for the second time on Thursday, tackling issues related to social issues, healthcare, affordable living and climate change.
Hosted by 10C, Raechelle Devereaux (Liberal), James Parr (NDP) and Mike Schreiner (Green Party) outlined their party platforms through a question and answer period.
Ontario PC candidate Peter McSherry - who was absent at the Thursday afternoon debate hosted by Bishop Macdonell Catholic High School - was also absent from the 10C debate with his campaign previously citing a conflict with another event.
The hybrid-style event saw two dozen attend the in-person town hall, with dozens of others tuning into the live stream.
With the major parties continuing to release their platforms, the local candidates were able to direct their answers to the Guelph community - outlining how they would bring the provincial party platform home to ensure Guelphites are adequately represented in Queen’s Park.
The local candidates maintained a civil composure throughout the town hall, often encouraging the ideas and forming cross-party conversations on the issues.
When asked how their parties would promote inclusive and sustainable growth in cities while protecting the natural ecosystems, with all three party candidates noted this is one of the most important issues as the population of Guelph grows.
“Development must be able to sustain itself, and we know that in the City of Guelph our community is growing by population with targets set at a provincial level and growth is inevitable,” said Devereaux. “Sustainable growth requires ensuring that lands that are protected remain protected, that we engage in activities like environmental assessment - which our current government has cancelled along with many other environmental policies.”
The candidates agreed the best way to move forward sustainably is to ensure growth is congruent with the environment to ensure all protected ecosystems remain undisturbed by development.
Schreiner went further adding that the need to not only protect but expand the green belt would be a priority for his party.
“One of the visions I have for Guelph and for Ontario is to build livable, affordable connected communities where people live, work, play shop local and can afford to live,” said Schreiner.
Similarly to the other, Parr said sustainable growth is one of the key reasons he is running, adding that he wants to see Guelph grow sustainably.
“We need cities and municipalities to build the types of housing we need,” said Parr. “Not just single-family homes, we need affordable triplexes and duplexes, we need to have public transit and that’s why the NDP are pledging to restore the provincial funding.”
On the topic of healthcare, the candidates talked about bringing forward more affordable mental health care and equitable access to services for youth who have been disproportionally affected by an ongoing mental health crisis.
“Everything’s not okay with regards to people's mental health,” said Schreiner.
“One of the things that I think is completely unacceptable in this province is we have 28,000 young people on a waitlist,” said Schreiner.
To combat this, Schreiner said his party is the first party in Ontario history to put together a stand-alone mental health strategy to increase base funding and make it affordable through the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP).
Parr opened up about his personal struggles, telling the voters he had personal struggles with depression and anxiety and the struggles are near and dear to his heart and he wants to end the stigma around mental health.
“Mental health is a very difficult thing because when you’re depressed or when you are in it it’s hard to seek help,” said Parr. “It's hard to fight with your employers to get the base covered. We need a government that puts mental health if the same level as health. I am very proud as your NDP candidate to say we are doing just that,” said Parr.
Referencing her experience working at the Guelph Community Health Centre, Devereaux said one thing she knows is limiting the childhood experiences in trauma is the foundation of many mental and addiction health challenges.
“From this knowledge, this is actually one of the core reasons why I am running,” said Devereaux.
“We can bring this to a bigger level, a broader state, but we actually need to be able to have influence for our community to be able to do that and to have a voice,” she added.
The candidates fielded a question about bringing a new hospital to Guelph, with all candidates saying they would advocate for a second hospital to be built within Guelph proper.