Byelection candidates face open forum

Photo by Kate Turner

Four of the ten candidates for the Kitchener-Waterloo byelection — Eric Davis, Catherine Fife, Stacey Danckert and Tracey Weiler — were put in the hot seat Monday evening at the annual K-W open forum, hosted by the Waterloo Region Record. The forum, essentially a formal political debate, gives citizens the opportunity to ask the candidates questions about the issues that affect the community and the province at large.

With this riding having the ability to enable a Liberal majority if it and the Vaughan byelections swing in favour for the Liberals, many of the questions weren’t necessarily restricted to the individual candidates but their parties larger aspirations and leaders, something that caused a little resentment by some audience members against those asking questions who weren’t from this riding.

The Record was also criticized, namely by Ontario Communist Party leader and candidate Elizabeth Rowley in an outburst at the beginning of the forum, for only allowing the top four parties from the past three elections to have a seat at the forum. The Record defended their decision by noting the limited time.

Discussions revolved around the Liberals’ recent introduction of the wage-freeze bill that will freeze teachers’ pay and prevent a strike or lockout, full-day kindergarten, job production in the community, the completion of Highway 7 between Kitchener and Guelph, the economy and trust in the current McGuinty government.

“One size does not fit all. A one wage freeze is not the answer, it needs to be part of a holistic view of the economy in this province. This is not the road to go down,” said Fife, the NDP candidate, about the wage freeze.

In addition to commenting on the ramifications of the byelection, many of the candidates applauded Elizabeth Witmer — the previous MPP for the K-W riding of 22 years who stepped down to head the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board — and her service to the community.

“I have a great deal of respect for the dedication that she showed to Kitchener-Waterloo,” said Davis of the Liberals. “She invested a great deal of her life for working on our behalf.”

Many of the questions also dealt about the on-going deficit that has accumulated in Ontario.

“I agree with you that the deficit is something we need to tackle, and that’s why the McGuinty government has a plan to do just that. I have to plan to eliminate the deficit by 2017-18,” said Davis in one of his responses to a deficit question.

“One of the things that I find really troubling about Ontario’s debt, is that Ontario will double its debt in 2012. A feat that took 23 premiers, 137 years to do, and that is scary to me. We need to reduce the cost and size of government,” said PC candidate Weiler.

A member from the University of Waterloo Federations of Students asked a question about post-secondary education affordability and quality, something that has been a huge topic of discussion for the provincial election in Quebec.

“Your ability to get post-secondary education should not be based on affordability but academic ability, and that’s an important principle,” said Davis.

One of the big discussion points in Ontario lately has been the 30 per cent tuition grant that the Liberals released in February.

“Those grants only seem to be available to non-professional students. I think they should be available to the students who need them,” said Green party representative Danckert.

Advance polls are open until Aug. 31. Polls open on Sept. 6, a polling station will open in Concourse at the Wilfrid Laurier University campus with the Elections Ontario returning office located on Regina Street, down the street from Laurier’s 202 Regina Street building


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