By Chris Simon
It didn’t take long for talk to centre around faith-based school funding and protecting Lake Simcoe in Sandy Cove Acres Monday evening.
Hundreds of local residents crowded into The Wheel community centre in Sandy Cove, for a York-Simcoe riding all candidates debate featuring members from the provincial Liberal, Green, New Democratic, Progressive Conservative, Libertarian and Family Coalition parties.
While several topics ranging from improving health care to raising the minimum wage were discussed, faith-based schools drew plenty of attention. On Monday, PC leader John Tory announced his party, if elected to govern, would investigate the feasibility of faith-based school funding, then hold a free vote on the subject in the provincial legislature, said PC candidate Julia Munro.
“Having done that kind of policy development, Tory has made it very clear his caucus would have a free vote. They would be able to come into the legislature when that draft legislation comes … and vote based on ones own conscience and the wishes of the constituents.”
However, others say the Tory leader backtracked on the issue and cannot be trusted.
“Tory’s plan to take a half billion dollars out of public schools is a mistake, his scheme to fund private religious schools is divisive,” said York-Simcoe Liberal candidate John Gilbank.
The Liberals would continue to improve education. They’ve also made strides in the health care and environmental fields over the last four years, hiring nurses, reducing wait times at hospitals and introducing the Lake Simcoe Protection Act, he said.
However, Green Party candidate Jim Reeves said the region – including the lake – has been damaged by poor planning and government neglect over the last few decades.
“The Lake Simcoe watershed has undergone continual degradation for over 20 years, all the major parties have contributed,” he said.
“We can recover from economic mistakes, but what we cannot do is recover from building a freeway over sensitive marsh areas (and) building homes over sensitive farmland. The major parties are making those mistakes. The Liberals introduced (a) Green Belt (protection plan), and that was good. But what they left unprotected was the area from Newmarket up to Barrie.”
If elected, the Greens would implement community growth strategies, that include local jobs for residents and easily accessible services, shops and restaurants.
Libertarian candidate Caley McKibbin says good communities are built on a respect for private property rights.
“We don’t want to put a gun to anyone’s head because we think we know what is best,” he said. “You can do whatever you want, as long as you respect the personal property of others. Everyone is the owner of his or her body.”
If elected, the Libertarians would reduce taxes and government departments, said McKibbin.
Nancy Morrison, the NDP candidate for York- Simcoe, wants fairness for families and children across the province. Her party, if elected, would immediately raise the minimum wage to $10, roll back the $40,000 per year wage increase for MPPs that was approved by the provincial government earlier this term, increase funding for children with autism, and insure seniors receive better long-term care.
“This election is about fairness, honesty and integrity,” she said. “McGuinty fails to live up to promises he made to me during the last election, promises to families of children with autism. My son is at home, unable to attend classes with his therapist, because she’s not allowed in the classroom.”
Over the last few years, Morrison has advocated for autism awareness and funding from the provincial government.
“I wanted to take my advocacy further, to Queen’s Park, to ensure our children are not cast aside any further,” she said.
Victor Carvalho, Family Coalition candidate for York-Simcoe, has also advocated for government legislation in the past. He strongly opposes abortion, and supports traditional family values and compassion in all aspects of government.
“(We’re) the only party that openly and fundamentally recognizes the supremacy of God, the preciousness of life from conception to natural death (and) the uniqueness of marriage as one man and one woman,” he said. “The family as a basic building block of society is the healthiest environment to bring up a child. Our policies reflect our fundamental values.”