There were heated exchanges, and the odd frustrated pounding of the podium during the Meet the Candidates Debate, hosted by the North Bay and District Chamber of Commerce Tuesday night.
Approximately 80 people attended the debate at L’ecole publique Odyssee to hear what the candidates in the Nipissing riding have to offer leading up to the June 7th provincial election.
PC Candidate Vic Fedeli, Liberal candidate Stephen Glass, NDP candidate Henri Giroux and Green Party candidate Kris Rivard, were all highly energized as they took shots at their opponent's platforms while trying to convince the audience their party had the solutions voters are looking for this time around.
Trevor Holliday, Northern Ontario Party leader and Nipissing candidate was not invited by Cogeco and the Chamber to be part of the debate. Instead, he sat in the audience. A video outlining his platform was played. Also not invited to participate was Libertarian Party candidate Bond Keevil, who declined to provide a video instead.
See related: Northern Ontario Party angry over debate snub
“No matter what, I wanted the constituents to know that I’m still at the debate. I was ready to go tonight. I’m disappointed and not happy with the way things have turned out, but I’m still here to give a strong voice for Northern Ontario, and also to take in the debate process,” said Holliday.
“We want to be the strong voice for the north and we’re the Northern Ontario party, but yet we’re not included in this, what seems to be a GTA debate.”
The format for the evening did not allow questions from the audience. Instead candidates responded to prepared questions read by the moderator and taped questions from people in the community.
“I found that there was a lot of the same old, same old,” said Colleen McGinn
“They were standing by what they wanted people to hear without listening to what the other person had to say. There was a lot of speaking over each other with their specific agendas.”
Colleen Males-Chaput says she came prepared to listen with an open mind.
“I wanted to hear the various party’s opinions on various topics, particularly healthcare, the field I’m working in,” said Males-Chaput.
“I’m definitely closer to making a choice. I believe it’s a personal choice but kudos for Kris getting up there as a young man, good for him, but they all made some good points.”
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Some of the hot button topics included hydro, passenger rail service, minimum wage and childcare.
Some voters left disappointed that despite it being a Chamber of Commerce event, there were no questions from the business community.
Jules-Pierre Fournier said as a teacher, he was surprised no one was talking about education at the elementary and secondary levels.
“Everybody was talking about post-secondary education, nobody is talking about provincial standardized testing. Nobody is talking about amalgamating school boards. Nobody is bringing up questions that affect the future generations,” said Fournier.
“As much as they did bring up immigration which is an important issue for no other reason than the fact demographics are showing we need more population in the north if the north is to remain sustainable, I did find it interesting that other than financing of post-secondary education, there really wasn’t much else debated that relates to children, other than daycare costs, so I found that interesting as well.”
Chamber President and CEO Peter Chirico said the candidates did address some of the issues raised in the Vote Prosperity campaign, developed through the Ontario Chamber of Commerce for the election campaign.
“Some great discussions, some great topics. How all these promises are going to be funded certainly is of major concern to us, and we certainly have to take a look at that,” said Chirico.