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Oxford MPP candidates sounded off on hot topics in front of over 100 Oxford residents

By Chris Funston, Woodstock Sentinel-Review

Progressive Conservative Incumbent Ernie Hardeman has held the riding for over 22 years. (Chris Funston/Sentinel-Review)

Progressive Conservative Incumbent Ernie Hardeman has held the riding for over 22 years. (Chris Funston/Sentinel-Review)

Who does Oxford want representing them at Queen's Park?

That was the question for roughly 200 Oxford residents who filled Reeves Hall on May 15 for the first all-candidates debate of the provincial election campaign.

On hand were the six filed candidates – NDP candidate Tara King, Libertarian Chris Swift, Liberal James Howard, Freedom Party candidate Tim Hodges, independent candidate Robert Van Ryswyck and Progressive Conservative candidateErnie Hardeman, Oxford’s longtime MPP.

With most of the candidates sticking to their party’s platforms for the majority of the debate, there was little direct conflict – until they were asked about health-care funding.

The question – how they would support the need for increased health-care funding to keep pace with rising costs to protect critical services – brought some pointed replies.

King was quick to question Hardeman, asking him to tell the people of Oxford where he and Doug Ford were going to cut $2 billion from the health-care system.

“Tell us how many nurses you will cut and how many home-care workers will be cut and how many staff in long-term care homes will be cut,” she said.

Hardeman was quick to deny her claims, saying her allegations weren’t true.

The next spat came when candidates were asked how they would give local municipalities more authority over proposed landfills and other unwelcome developments.


Oxford MPP candidates, from left, NDP Tara King, Libertarian Chris Swift, Liberal James Howard, Tim Hodges of the Freedom Party, Independent, formerly of the Alliance Party of Ontario, Robert Van Ryswyck and Progressive Conservative Incumbent Ernie Hardeman. (Chris Funston/Sentinel-Review)

While each of the candidates were against the proposed Walker Environmental landfill in Oxford, Howard, a researcher for the OPAL Alliance, explained he studied the environmental assessment and environmental protection acts searching for ways municipalities would be able to block landfills.

He explained that no government in its right mind would attempt to amend that legislation, explaining the planning act would have been a better opportunity for municipalities to fight for their right against landfills.

“Our current representative wasted the public's time and went over and over and over again saying the same things. What happens when our public representatives don't have the information and research to properly advocate for their communities? They waste,” Howard said.

Van Ryswyck disputed Howard’s claim, saying it's wasn’t fair calling out Hardeman on the landfill bill he brought to Queen’s Park.

“It's not that he was being wasteful, it just wasn't close enough to election period to do something yet,” he said.

Hardeman said that Howard was totally wrong on the issue.

“This cannot be medicated through the planning act, it has to be through the environmental protection and environmental assessment act because the landfills do not apply to the planning act,” said Hardeman.

His private member’s bill, the Respecting Municipal Authority Over Landfills Act, passed second reading at Queen's Park on April 30. The bill will need to be reintroduced following the recess due to the provincial election.

Hardeman explained it wasn't that the bill is delayed, but it was necessary to be brought forward at this time before Walker finished its environment assessment and makes an application for a landfill.

“We all need to understand they haven’t applied for a landfill yet. They're in the process of getting an application and I want to be ready to say no when they get there.”

During their closing remarks, candidates were given the chance to tell voters why they were the right choice.

Van Ryswyck asked the crowd to look to their left where there were three signs: NDP, PC, and Liberal.

“What I see there is Toronto. That's where their leaders are and that's where their leaders’ interests are. That's where they get their support from. They're going to look after them before they look after us,” he said. “Once they got your vote, they will no longer need you. They'll be gone, they will be in Toronto and that's where their interests will stay. I've been born and raised here and that's where my heart is. If anyone asks me what I intended to do, the answer is it's what you want me to do.”

Hardeman said to stop the problems that Oxford and Ontario are facing, a PC government is needed, not a government that will take more money from families that are already struggling.

King explained that Ontarians have always been told to settle for less, to choose between the Liberals and PCs who she says only make their lives harder.

“It does not have to be this way. It's time to do something completely different. We don't have to settle for less,” she said.

Swift explained he fully relates to the struggles that poorly designed and unfair government policies and restrictions have created for everyone, saying the “status quo” has no plan to fix what they've created.

“It is imperative that we reduce the size and scope of government. We can all win if we can begin to reverse the damages the status quo parties have caused,” said Swift. “Vote like your future depends on it, because it does.”

Howard said he is Oxford's most competitive candidate and that his commitment to the advocacy of Oxford led him to running for MPP.

“Oxford's representative needs to be able to rock the boat and will rock the boat. I am telling you I am ready to rock,” he said.

Hodges suggested many of the problems Ontario is facing is due, in part, to the Progressive Conservatives, saying high hydro rates started because of nuclear cost over-runs while long wait times began under an OHIP system set up under a Tory government.

“We pay politicians good money. They need to do some work for it,” he said.

Voters will head to the polls for the provincial election on June 7.