ONTARIO ELECTION | St. Catharines candidates debate on CKTB

St.Catharines candidates in the hot seat today in CKTB's final debate highlighting MPP hopefuls across the region.

NDP candidate Jennie Stevens, the Liberal's Jim Bradley, the Green Party's Colin Ryrie, and PC candidate Sandie Bellows joining us on-air in the 610 CKTB studio for a debate hosted by Tim Denis.

Incumbent MPP Jim Bradley is a long-time politician and if re-elected in June is set to become Ontario's longest serving MPP ever.

The first topic of discussion was how the parties would address hydro prices. 

NDP Candidate, and city councillor Jennie Stevens says her party is focused on reducing hydro bills by 30% and getting Hydro One back into public ownership.

She says they also want to get rid of time of use pricing.

Bellows says the PC party plans to reduce hydro by 12%, and get rid of high price CEOs.

Bradley says the easiest way to lower hydro is to burn coal.

He says that's not good for the environment, which is why the Liberal party spent money investing in greener energy, like refurbishing Niagara Falls.

Regarding beer and wine sales, Bellows says the Ford government wants to bring back buck a beer and bring booze to corner stores.

Liberal Jim Bradley says he can't promise buck a beer, adding that it's a popular catchphrase but it's not realistic.

Green candidate Colin Ryrie agreed.

Ryrie says beer in corner stores is not a Green priority, he says on a personal note he's worried about our local craft beers and how they can't get into the big stores.

Changing the topic to debt, Bradley says the Liberal party is dedicated to balancing the budget in the next 5-6 years.
He adds that Ontario has its lowest unemployment rate in 20 or so years.

Ryrie responded by saying the Liberals have had 16 years to balance budget, 9 years since the recession.

His worry is the younger generations will have to deal with the debt. 

Stevens says the NDP plan to have people with higher income pay higher taxes.

Bellows says the PC party plans to go through hundreds of provincial programs line by line to find efficiencies.

Bradley responded by saying that you can't just throw out slogans without a program to back it up.

Talking about healthcare, Ryrie says the Greens plan is to reduce amount of people in the emergency rooms by hiring more nurse practitioner lead clinics.

They're also focussed on improving homecare/long term for the baby boomer generation.

Stevens says the NDP plan to increase the number of nurses to help eliminate hallway medicine, and plan to invest $19 million into hospital expansions.

Bellows of the PC party says they plan to invest $1.9 billion into healthcare. 

She says they plan to listen to doctors and frontline workers on what to do, what they need, and move from there. 

Bradley says the issue is that people aren't utlizing other parts of the system, but the Liberal party plans to increase homecare funding, establish family health teams, and increase funding to hospitals. 

With regards to addiction and mental health, Stevens says the opioid crisis in St. Catharines needs to be addressed.

The NDP party would create a minsitry dedicated to mental health, says Stevens.  

Bellows says her party woulf invest $1.9 million to mental health.

Since St. Catharines has already started a subcommittee for the opioid crisis, and have already been approved for a safe injection site, Bellows says it's important to make sure that mental health workers as well as nurses work at the site. 

Stevens says she understands that Bellows supported safe injection sites at a municipal level, but is worried that Doug Ford has said he doesn't support them. 

Ryrie says the important thing to remember with the opioid crisis is that it's a mental health issue, not a criminal issue.

When it comes to childcare and education, Bellows says the PC party would help families find care for children from infancy, to age 15.

With education, Bellows says the PC government wants to get back to basics; teaching kids multiplication, cursive writing, etc. 

She doesn't think it should be up to teachers to teach their children sex ed, it should be up to parents.

Bradley says the Liberal government will provide free childcare for kids up to full day kindergarden. 

Regarding sex ed, he says they consultated with families, parents, professionals, and the curriculum was changed to reflect what kids need to know in 2018. 

He says a lot of the content is about safety and consent, and people like to use scare tactics to shoot the curriculum down. 

Ryrie of the Green party was in support of the Liberals sex ed curriculum, saying he's glad they consulted professionals, and not Doug Ford.

The final question was about a private members bill. If each candidate could introduce one, what would it be?

Sandie Bellows said she'd like for all sex offenders to have to wear tracking bracelets.

She'd also like to see the mental health system improved, so that people can better transition from childhood mental health care to adult. 

Jim Bradley would like to see the organ transplant system simplified. He'd rather the system be opt out, rather than opt in. 

Ryrie echoed a bill introduced by Elizabeth May, regarding a national strategy to tackle lyme disease. 

Stevens, who works at Hotel Dieu Shaver, would like to see better care for seniors.

Also running in St. Catharines is Daniel Tisi of the Libertarian Party, Saleh Waziruddin of the Communist Party, Duke Willis of the Cultural Action Party, and Jim Fannon of the None of the Above Direct Democracy Party. 

The debate will be replayed at 7 o'clock tonight.