Three of the four MPP candidates in the Kitchener-Waterloo riding gathered on the Laurier campus for a debate on environmental issues. NDP incumbent Catherine Fife, Stacey Danckert of the Green Party, and Liberal Jamie Burton were all in attendance at the May 26 debate.
Tracey Weiler, the Progressive-Conservative candidate was set to attend however sent her regrets at nearly 11 p.m. the night before the event. She did not specify her reason for not attending, only saying, “an unexpected conflict has come up.” Weiler sent the debate organizer a message with some “areas of focus” for the PC party regarding environmental issues. The moderator, Jodi Kokerinksi of the Organic Council of Ontario stopped the organizer, Matthew Casselman’s attempt to read the message aloud to the audience, saying the candidates who made the debate a priority should decide if the message was read. The candidates agreed to not have Weiler’s message read.
The debate questions touched on environmental concerns like conservation, renewable energy, increased public transit, and climate change.
Fife took several jabs at the Liberal party, calling their budget “vote-buying.” Burton brought most questions back to the importance of environmental education for children. Danckert said repeatedly that the province should focus less on environmental tax credits, and more on a province-wide conservation strategy.
When discussing transit, Danckert said the Liberals’ budget of $1 billion is not enough, adding that at least $3 billion is needed to make Ontario transit effective. Fife said that two-way, all-day GO service in KW is a priority for the NDP, adding that the Liberals are slowing that process. Burton disagreed by saying her party will have the two-way service in KW by 2015 adding that their plan will create 33,000 jobs.
The debate became heated on multiple occasions and the moderator had to remind Fife and Burton several times that the debate was not about the provincial budget.
One subject all candidates agreed on was the risks of strategic voting, which was brought up by an audience member. The asker was especially concerned that Weiler was not present at the debate saying that the KW riding was likely to experience a “vote-split.”
“Strategic voting is dangerous for democracy,” said Fife.
During closing remarks, Danckert reminded the audience and her fellow candidates that all provincial issues ultimately come back to the environment, adding that a provincial conservation plan is essential. She added that the Liberal budget is not consistent with current environmental issues.
Burton used her final time to say that NDP leader Andrea Horwath should have presented a plan when she announced the NDP would not support the Liberal budget. Fife responded by saying that many of the budget promises would happen over the next decade and her party does not believe they would ever be carried out.
All candidates, including Weiler, will be on the UW campus May 28 for a debate hosted by Feds and <em>Imprint</em>. Voting takes place June 12.