Perhaps neophyte fringe candidate Paul Taylor, representing the None Of The Above Party, summed up Thursday’s night’s all-candidates forum best.
Seating arrangements on stage at the Italian Canadian Club had the affable Taylor sitting to the right of Green Party candidate Mike Schreiner’s, meaning Taylor had to repeatedly address a question after Schreiner’s energetic, precise and crowd-pleasing responses.
“Oh shit. I should have sat down there,” said Taylor motioning further down the table.
As he probably should, given the circumstances, Schreiner led the pack at the first local public all-candidates forum.
He has been campaigning for months, he is by far the most experienced of the bunch and he is well versed on the issues and his party’s stances on them, aided by the fact that as the provincial leader of the Green Party he also helped shape those policies.
It also didn’t hurt that the event was on his home turf, hosted by the Guelph Wellington Coalition for Social Justice, with most of the questions presented to the candidates (in written form) revolving around social justice issues.
Seven of the eight local candidates attended the meeting with Libertarian candidate Mike Riehl the only no show.
The Green Party’s credo of “people and planet first” hit home with the roughly 350 people who crammed the room. Lots of cheers. Lots of applause.
“Climate change is real and it’s costing us dearly,” Schreiner said, hitting one off the tee. “Let’s end this myth” that a clean economy hurts the economy.”
At the end of the night, Schreiner asked the crowd if it wanted change that will take the province forward, or backward.
Liberal candidate Sly Castaldi seemed to struggle on some policy questions, admitting there had been quite a “learning curve” on certain issues since she took the Liberal candidacy.
“What I can say is that I make no promises to you I cannot keep. That’s not how I roll,” Castaldi said.
Where Castaldi did shine was on subjects she needed no education: social policy and housing issues.
As the longtime head of Guelph-Wellington Women In Crisis, Castaldi didn’t need to check the notes in front of her on that one.
“We can build all sorts of buildings, but if supports aren’t in place to keep people housed, it’s not going to work,” she said.
The province needs different approaches: affordable, low income, geared-to-income housing with support and all three levels of government need to work together, Castaldi said.
The Liberal candidate said “this is not an election about change, it’s about values and where your values lie.”
“Search your souls,” Castaldi said.
Progressive Conservative candidate Ray Ferraro was Ray Ferraro. He knew he was in enemy territory but stayed true to the party colours and didn't get flustered by the occasional heckle from the crowd.
On the question on climate change he said “we need more industry for jobs and to keep taxes down.”
Ferraro said the Carbon Tax will force companies to leave Ontario.
On the province’s pollution levels, he said “China and India do that before we wake up.”
On education and health care, Ferraro shot down the “notion” that a Tory government would cut staff.
“It’s not going to happen,” he said, at which point someone from the audience yelled “liar.”
NDP candidate Aggie Mlynarz seemed a little nervous out of the gate, but warmed up as the two-and-a-half hour evening wore on. She stuck to the party line and read many of her answers off cards in front of her, but delivered the points well.
The NDP party is “not focused on the values of yesterday,” Mlynarz said at one point.
Alliance Party’s Thomas Mooney, speaking largely off the cuff, hit several solid points.
Both he and Taylor, who spoke completely without prepared notes, drove home the importance of local representation from the person elected MPP of Guelph.
“I can represent you, each and every one of you, instead of someone in Toronto running the show,” Mooney said.
“Quite frankly, that’s what’s wrong in politics today. We’re supposed to be representing you, not telling you how to be running your lives.”
Taylor said his “number one priority as a candidate is to the riding and the riding first and foremost.
“My first priority is Guelph,” Taylor said.
Communist Party candidate Juanita Burnett also stuck to prepared literature in most of her responses, including the endorsing of a $20 minimum wage, a 32-hour work week, banning compulsory overtime and four weeks of paid vacation for employees.
At least one other all-candidates meeting is in the works, with the Guelph Chamber of Commerce expected to host one later this month.
Some questions and responses from the evening included:
Mlynarz: “water is a public trust and should be kept in the public’s control over any private interests.”
Schreiner: “government has a sacred responsibility to manage water asa public trust” and said the Greens would phase out single-use water bottling operations in 10 years.
Ferraro: “how is it that the existing government for 15 years has renewed these permits?”
Burnett: the Communist party “would halt and cancel contracts for water bottling.”
Castaldi: Ontario has some of the strongest water bottling protection in Canada and “public first” is already in the agreements.
On workplace safety issues:
Taylor: “I’m disgusted and angered” at the way government handles companies when people are killed and injured.
Ferraro: “I have no idea what needs to be done.”
Mooney: “the attitude has to change with employers. Employees need a voice.”
Mlynarz: “we give (workers) a ticket to a union” and more unionized workers in the food industry.
Schreiner: “we can’t cut back on safety inspectors. We already have too few.”
On education and health care:
Ferraro: “I can’t believe there’s a shortage of funding for education.”
Burnett: “eliminate tuition for post-secondary education,” financed through progressive tax reforms” and a 23 percent corporate tax rate.
Castaldi: Liberals have increased funding every year they’ve been in power. “I realize that’s still not enough.”
Schreiner: “we need to start funding schools on need” and school boards need to start working together more to save money.
Lower hydro bills and how to pay for it:
Castaldi: “the single most issue i’ve been hearing at the door” that’s complicated and “i’m trying to get my head around it.”
Mooney: “we need to get rid of smart metres.”
Mlynarz: “our plan is to buy back Hydro One.”
Schreiner: “it was a huge mistake for government to privatize Hydro One” but the province can’t “get into a bidding war” to buy it back” or use it for “short-term electioneering.”
Ferraro: “we are going to buy Hydro One back.”
On climate change:
Castaldi: “polluters pay the money.”
Mooney: “the Carbon Tax has got to go. It sends money out of the province.”
Mlynarz: “we live in one of the most wasteful countries in the world” and need to look at secondary ways of recycling plastics.