The Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte candidates debate was a hot ticket as a packed Grace United Church heard from four of the local hopefuls, Tuesday night.
With the provincial election just 22 days away, Jeff Kerk (Liberal), Doug Downey (Progressive Conservative), Dan Janssen (NDP) and Keenan Aylwin (Green) spoke to approximately 100 people on six topics and received great feedback at the conclusion of the debate from concerned constituents.
Topics covered Tuesday night included the environment, employment justice, income security, health care, housing and childcare, with each candidate giving their opinion on why they’d be best to represent the riding at Queen’s Park.
It was a fairly calm debate, with the only confrontational moment of interest being when someone asked Downey how he would respond to Doug Ford if the PC leader were to be elected as premier and his views were way off from the values that Canadians hold dear.
Downey assured the crowd he would fight for the people and their voice and would talk to Ford, likely behind closed doors so as not to publicly embarrass the man who would essentially be his superior.
Aylwin took exception to that and made his stance clear.
“I’m going to have to speak to that, Doug (Downey), and say that’s a bit of a cop-out,” said Aylwin. "As a gay man, I'm afraid that our next premier may be someone who doesn't believe I should have the same rights as someone else.
"I feel you owe it to the people to call him out and let everyone know just how much you are here for them, not for him.”
With the local political landscape having seen much turmoil in the last few months and a separate municipal election on the horizon in October, BarrieToday asked each candidate how they would be the voice for the BSOM riding and make sure the area was properly heard.
“As a Green MPP I don’t owe anyone anything and I can just be a strong voice for the community,” said Aylwin. “I won’t be concerned with the party politics and can focus on my sole job of being a representative for this area.”
“I have experience being a voice for my co-workers at Pearson which is a very large workplace with several different concerns and I have been effective in creating change,” said Janssen. “Now I want to do the exact same thing in my community, take the issues that are coming forward to me and bring them to Queen’s Park to create change.”
“I am a young healthcare executive who lives in the riding,” said Kerk. “I am an educated individual who already runs a very large healthcare program; so I’m already at arm’s length from government. I think in a new Liberal government, they people are looking for the next generation of leaders and I aspire to be just that.”
“I will talk to the people who are from this area, who are actually working, living and playing in the area and I will openly take advice from them and find their priorities,” said Downey. “I ran campaigns for the better part of twenty years in the Oro-Medonte area and I grew up in Bond Head and have born and bred in Simcoe County all my life except to go off to school; I know the concerns of this region.”
The next BSOM candidates forums are a Rotary Club debate at noon May 31 at the Southshore Centre and a Chamber of Commerce event at 6 p.m. later that same day at the Lions Gate Hall.