Three of the four candidates vying for leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario squared off in a final debate Thursday afternoon in downtown London.
Held in-studio at 980 CFPL, and moderated by 980 CFPL’s Andrew Lawton, the debate covered a range of topics including hydro rates, the manufacturing sector, green energy, rural school closures, and overcrowding at hospitals.
It was attended by former Tory legislator Christine Elliott, former Toronto city councillor Doug Ford, and parental rights activist Tanya Granic Allen. Toronto lawyer Caroline Mulroney declined an invitation.
The first question, about whether or not the manufacturing sector could return to southwestern Ontario and what would be done to support it, drew a comment about hydro rates from each of the candidates.
“We can’t talk about bringing back manufacturing, or increasing manufacturing in Ontario, without discussing the crippling hydro rates,” said Granic Allen.
“That scares businesses from coming and making investments in Ontario. So until we tackle those high hydro rates, we will not be able to be attractive to manufacturing in Ontario.”
Ford, who said he believes manufacturing can return to the area, said it’s the government’s job to make a region attractive for development.
“We have to give these companies some tax incentives, and don’t mistake that for corporate welfare because I’m dead against corporate welfare, but it starts off with, No. 1, making sure that we don’t have a carbon tax.”
Although Elliott believes manufacturing can grow in the region, she doesn’t expect it to return to the size it used to be.
“We have to settle the conditions to make it such that businesses want to locate here. First is the hydro rates that my colleagues have already discussed — we need to deal with that by repealing the green energy contract and the multi-fit contracts that were signed.”
Elliot added that a well-educated workforce would foster entrepreneurial spirit, and would help make sure businesses can stay in the province.
Lawton also posed a question about overcrowded hospitals, in light of the plight of a 71-year-old London man who waited a week after hurting himself while on vacation to come home because there was no hospital bed available for him in London. Stuart Cline has a brain bleed, and has since been found a bed at a hospital in St. Catharines.
Elliott said the first step to resolving hospital overcrowding is to make sure there are adequate long-term care resources.
“At any given day, up to 25 per cent of the beds in any hospital are occupied by frail elderly seniors who don’t need to be in the hospital, but there is nowhere else for them to go.”
Elliott’s platform pledges to create 15,000 more long-term care beds in five years, and another 15,000 beds afterwards, which will free up space in hospitals for people like Cline.
Ford suggested that there are efficiencies to be found in hospitals, and that doctors and nurses should be tapped for advice on how to make facilities operate more smoothly.
“I keep mentioning Humber River Hospital, the first digital hospital in North America. They run things more efficiently, they look at lean systems, it’s not always throwing money at the problem,” said Ford.
To spend more money on health care, however, is Granic Allen’s approach.
“I know that we have an aging population, and I know that our health-care spending is only going to increase… we know those costs won’t go down.”
Granic Allen emphasized the importance of making sure the money is there, so people can access health care when it’s needed.
“If that means we have to sit down and look at our budget and say, ‘OK, where can we spend? Where do we have to spend?’ Health care has to be a priority.”
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