Sarnia-Lambton candidates talk money


The bottom line.

That seems to be what most people at a recent debate for the June 12th provincial election in the Sarnia-Lambton riding had on their mind.

The five candidates in the race Conservative Bob Bailey, Liberal Anne Marie Gillis, Brian White of the NDP, Kevin Shaw of the Green Party and Libertarian Andrew Falby – faced members of the Sarnia Rotary Monday to talk about the issues. And whether they talked about wind turbines, social services or the deficit it was all about the numbers.

Shaw told the group of about 100 people one of the ways the Green Party plans to lower the deficit is to merge the public and Catholic school boards. The party estimates that would save a billion dollars.

But Gillis questioned that number saying when the Conservatives started merging school boards in the 1990s; it actually cost $1.2 billion.  “When someone says they’re going to save money that way, think carefully.”

Gillis says the Liberals plan to sell off real estate which is no longer needed, including the LCBO and Ontario Power Generation’s headquarters. They also plan to put hard caps on salaries in the public service and reduce the number of public agencies.

The NDP plans a Minster of Savings and Accountability, according to White, whose goal it will be to find at least $600 million in savings per year. “We also plan to reduce the government by one-third.”

Bailey, whose party has said it will reduce the public service by 100,000 jobs, says the Conservatives will freeze public sector wages – something Bailey says no other party is proposing. “We’re on the road to ruin and we have to make decisions and they won’t be very easy,” he says. “But we’re the guys to do it.”

Falby meantime, says the plans of the four parties don’t go far enough. Libertarians advocate as little government as possible. “We’re fiddling as Rome burns,” he says “We need as little government as possible but government is not going to limit itself. It’s a pathological institution.”

While the candidates stressed cutting the province’s $12 billion deficit, many agree that money has to be put back into social services. Gillis, Bailey, and White all agreed that the past government committees had come up with some important changes to fund socials services which would provide much needed help for people such as elderly caregivers of adults with disabilities. All three said their parties would make those changes.

Shaw advocated a guaranteed income for Ontario residents and local solutions to some of the social services problems.

But Falby brought it back to the numbers saying the Libertarians didn’t have a plan for social services adding the province simply doesn’t have the kind of money the three main parties are talking about.

“We’re already in the hole for $300 billion; where are we going to get this money?”

But all could agree, including Gillis, that the Liberal’s push for green energy was not handled well. “It’s an industry that took on a life of its own,” says Gillis.

“We need to control unfettered development on our wonderful farmland,” says White, saying the turbines take a lot of land out of production. Shaw agreed adding local communities need more control of the development.

Falby said all “corporate welfare” including for the wind industry should stop. Bailey agreed saying the province will spend $46 billion in subsidies for wind energy over the next 20 years. “It has to stop.”