Austin Wright, September 19, 2007
The Ontario provincial election is set for October 10, and the candidates are hard at work on the campaign trail. We are unable to cover many of the debates this time, but we have prepared a list of non-partisan questions for each local candidate. The responses will be posted as they are received, and the questions are presented further down.
The candidates and their party are:
Answers have been returned by: Murray Gaudreau - NDP
We appreciate you taking the time to inform us. ... Read what the candidates have to say
Thank-you for your dedication to serve your community by running for Provincial Parliament. As a consequence of my interest in community and political matters, I run a modest website called The Maple City Star <www.maplecitystar.ca> presenting an alternative responsible source of information for many Chatham-Kent readers. Given the number of concerns this region is currently experiencing, I have complied a list of questions for each candidate. I would appreciate it if you could take a few moments and supply your responses to the following questions. The complete answers will be posted in an article I'm writing. There is no word limit, but please try to include your main points in the first paragraphs to fit in the planned format. Feel free to include additional comments. I look forward to receiving your prompt replies by return e-mail.
Austin Wright, The Maple City Star
The previous government offered Ontario residents massive cuts in income tax, then proceeded to finance these cuts by downloading provincial services to municipalities. In Chatham-Kent, some examples are social services, highways, and bridges. In turn, the municipality was forced to finance these added expenses by raising property taxes, which are not indexed to income, creating hardship for those with low or fixed incomes, and even middle-class families. As a candidate, what would you do to correct the imbalance resulting from attempts to fund provincially mandated services and infrastructure with regressive property taxes?
Murray Gaudreau, NDP - The NDP agrees that the down loading of provincially mandated services has placed an unfair financial burden on taxpayers. We will immediately start up loading costs and have all the costs for provincially mandated costs transferred by 2009.
Recently, the provincial government announced changes in funding to municipalities that had Chatham-Kent scrambling to avert a possible disaster. At the time, the possibility of closing rural libraries, fire halls, and recreational facilities was discussed to mitigate excessive tax increases. Eventually, after intense municipal lobbying, a change in the funding formula was announced, along with some interim funding. What will you do to represent Chatham-Kent's best interest with regards to securing sustainable long-term funding?
Murray Gaudreau, NDP - The NDP had, when they formed the government, worked with municipal organizations to do just that. It is a complex problem that will require extensive consultation.
Doctor shortages are endemic in Chatham-Kent. At the same time, some of our health statistics, such as cancer, heart disease and doctor/patient ratios rank the worst in Ontario. Previous efforts do not seem to be working, with several newly recruited doctors choosing not to stay, exacerbated by the retirement or death of established physicians. Health care problems are cited as a major obstacle to attracting new business to the area. What needs to be done differently to attract and retain more doctors to the area, and describe the initiatives you see yourself taking as MPP?
Murray Gaudreau, NDP - Back in 1999 the NDP Candidate recommended speeding up of the certification of foreign trained Doctors. Now 8 years later we've made very little progress. We believe that we should fastrack any Doctor who is willing to locate in an under-serviced area. If the Medical Association isn't prepared to actively work towards speeding up the process then the Government would.
Transportation woes have plagued Chatham-Kent, particularly with the bottlenecks between Highway 401 and 402. In the past, disagreement between the municipality and province have delayed or hindered progress. With Highway 40 in urgent need of upgrades, what is your priority to ensure that an adequate provincially-maintained route exists that will remove constant truck traffic from cities, towns, and other municipal roads?
Murray Gaudreau, NDP - The most logical choice to move truck traffic around Chatham would be to put a bridge from Bloomfield to Bear Line to Pioneer Line to 40 highway. 40 Hwy should be 4 lanes. Having said that, it's only my opinion and there would need to be consultations with all affected parties.
Chatham currently suffers from an unfortunate historic choice of access to the 401. With substantial improvement planned for the 401 in the near future, how will access to the 401 be improved to 21st century standards, without placing the financial burden on local property taxes?
Murray Gaudreau, NDP - Again this would require local discussion although we have party policy that requires the province to pay for it's responsibilities. Changes to 401 would fall under provincial jurisdiction.
Rural schools are the lifeblood of our small communities. Recently, a number of these schools have been closed due to declining enrolment and funding cuts. Would you approach the funding of rural schools strictly from an accounting perspective, or do you understand the intrinsic value of these schools to the community with benefits that aren't easily quantified on a financial balance sheet? How will you defend your position as MPP?
Murray Gaudreau, NDP - missed
On several occasions, Chatham-Kent has been the second choice of prospective new industries. There are no prizes (nor jobs) for second place. Provisions of the Municipal Act which restrict the incentives that can be offered have been cited as a major contributing factor, resulting in a playing field that favours neighbouring states. However, other Ontario jurisdictions were successful in attracting new industry, in part through the involvement of the provincial government which was able to work around legislated municipal restrictions. What is your commitment to examine the Municipal Act and revise any portion that hinders Chatham-Kent's ability to attract business, and what will you do to ensure Chatham-Kent receives equal consideration with provincial incentives?
Murray Gaudreau, NDP - missed
During the recent municipal election, unattributed third-party attack ads were published in the local media. Other unusual conduct was also observed during the election campaign which appears to be inadequately addressed by the provincial Municipal Elections Act. If (re-)elected, how will you familiarize yourself with the areas of concern, and press for changes to the Act to close any loopholes and eliminate grey-areas which, if found to exist, could be exploited to subvert the democratic process?
Murray Gaudreau, NDP - At this point my knowledge of the Municipal Elections act is limited however if the legislation needs revision to ensure fair election results we will do that.
Provincially mandated standards for municipal services such as fire and police protection, and drinking water account for a substantial amount of recent property tax increases. Some of these standards are either new, or more stringent. How do you think the province should address the funding of edicts which create additional expenses for municipalities?
Murray Gaudreau, NDP - By uploading to the Province the costs of mandated programs. This will free up money for the municipal upgrades. There may be some additional support for obtaining provincially required equipment.
Ontario is experiencing an energy crisis. While extensive campaigns have been under way to reduce consumption of electricity, it could be argued that restrictions are a stop-gap measure that could also restrict economic growth in Ontario, and prevent people from enjoying the same standard of living. What is your party's commitment to securing a stable and affordable supply of electricity for the future, and how will these needs be met? In your opinion, what are the relative merits, if any, of wind power, new hydroelectric developments (dammed rivers), nuclear and coal-fired generation?
Murray Gaudreau, NDP - We are committed to green energy production and are prepared to commit money to achieving goals in conservation, green energy, employment opportunities and phasing out of coal and nuclear production.
In recent years, Ontario has experienced record "bad air" days. Much of this pollution comes from the United States, however, Ontario has some facilities that rank amongst the worst polluters in North America. What is the plan to deal with international pollution, while cleaning up our own act?
Murray Gaudreau, NDP - Until we change the government in Ottawa and put in a federal government that is willing to challenge the US on pollution, not much from a Provincial standpoint can be done. We can enact legislation to reduce pollution in Ontario.Collapse article