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Community discord spurs independent candidate in Barrie-Innisfil

'We can solve a lot of our provincial issues by helping communities come together. The way forward is together,' says Benjamin Hughes

Benjamin Hughes says he chose to run as an independent candidate in Barrie-Innisfil for the provincial election because of the division he saw happening in his community. 

Hughes, 26, grew up in Midhurst but moved into Barrie around four years ago. He's a licensed electrician and did his apprenticeship in Barrie.

He said his desire to enter the provincial race, and politics in general, was due to what he was seeing and hearing from people. 

“Division that had been growing for a long time and had grown much larger over these past two years. I wanted to help stop this division and help bring us more together,” Hughes told BarrieToday. “The irony of this all is that everyone can’t seem to agree on lots of things, but we all can agree that we, as a province, are divided.” 

Hughes says he chose to run independently as a way to stay away from the lack of unity he sees.

“I chose independent because I think one of the things that adds to all of this division are party names," he said. "I want people to hear me out and tell me what they truly believe, because communicating with one another is extremely important, instead of seeing what party I’m with and blowing me off or automatically agreeing with me."

Hughes says he sees a lot going on in the community  from economic issues to health and safety, to the environmental concerns  that he believes the current government wants a system where giving them more control makes it so that people don’t have to worry about it. 

“The problem with that thinking is that the people that often make these decisions need to think of ideas that work for every community in Ontario, a one-size-fits-all type of approach,” he said. “Unfortunately, these issues are much more complicated and dynamic than for those types of approaches to actually work. With that being said, the people that do know what it’s like to live in our communities are the people that live there.”

Hughes wants policies that support and help grow local business to help the economy. He also advocates for policies that help seniors raise their quality of life and living experience so they can continue to be involved in their communities.

“Policy that gives everyone equal opportunity for being hired and keeping their jobs or participating in the community, and policy that helps restore a healthy budget and deficit so that we don’t have to feel so hopeless when it comes to things like inflation and tax hikes,” he said.

“We can solve a lot of our provincial issues by helping communities come together. The way forward is together.”

On the topic of Lake Simcoe, Hughes thinks the government should monitor the environment and water, but get people more involved in the protection and preservation of it. 

“Giving government the responsibility of looking after it and then saying, ‘if you do blank we’ll fine you.’ That works when you catch someone doing something; unfortunately you can’t stop everything and even if you do catch them, the damage is already done,” Hughes said.

“But if you involve the community and make people feel as though it is also their responsibility to preserve the environment and water, you can stop the potential damage much more efficiently and effectively," he added. 

The provincial election takes place June 2.