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York-Simcoe MPP candidates spar over Highway 400-404 link, environment, debt

York-Simcoe residents will head to the polls June 7.

Bradford West Gwillimbury residents sick and tired of traffic congestion “don’t want a cow path” instead of a Highway 400-404 connecting link, and the York-Simcoe MPP candidates all say they will make the road a priority.

Five of the six local provincial election candidates took part in a debate at the Bradford and District Community Centre Wednesday night.

The Green Party’s Alexandra Zalucky was the only candidate not to attend the event, which drew about 200 attendees, including York-Simcoe MPP Julia Munro, who is retiring this year and received a standing ovation.

“We don’t want a cow path connecting (Highway) 400 and (Highway) 404. We need a highway,” said NDP candidate Dave Szollosy.

There is a “heavy irony,” he said, in government plans to cut infrastructure funding but still promise new road projects such as the link.

Liberal candidate Loralea Carruthers, who was the first local candidate to publicly commit to building a connecting link, said she has been advocating for it for five years.

“I sit in the same traffic you do. I know firsthand how badly we need it,” she said, questioning why Progressive Conservative candidate Caroline Mulroney had not publicly commented on the issue until shortly before the debate started.

Mulroney said she has been speaking face-to-face about the connecting link with members of Bradford council and the public for some time.

“It’s the question I get the most. I will certainly advocate for the building of the connecting link,” she said. “It is essential that we do more than include it in the plans” but also get funding in place.

The Holland Marsh and protecting the environment were also hot topics at the debate, with Szollosy and Trillium Party candidate David Loft calling for more greenbelt preservation, citing the approval for housing development in a provincially significant wetland in the North Gwillimbury Forest in Georgina.

“I will commit myself to protecting greenbelt land in this area and expand it,” said Szollosy.

Loft questioned why only he and Szollosy have contributed to a GoFundMe page to support the

North Gwillimbury Forest Alliance, to which Carruthers said she has contributed her time instead.

“When Doug Ford said he’d (cut) greenbelt, I didn’t hear a squeak from (Mulroney),” she added.

“While Loralea is passionate,” Mulroney quipped, “she has been unsuccessful in persuading the Liberal government in listening to her.”

Carruthers responded: “I’m not the MPP yet. They don’t do whatever someone in the community wants.”

When asked about potential annexation of the marsh because some farmers’ lands are within different communities, the candidates simply said they would consider it if that is what residents wanted.

“Our party is going to do nothing, but I will,” said Loft. “It’s insane for a farmer to have half his farm in Simcoe (County) and half his farm in York (Region). He has to treat his petunias differently than he treats his marigolds.”

When it comes to Ontario’s carbon tax cap and trade program, Carruthers and Szollosy were the only candidates to support it.

“Whether we’re in favour of it or not is irrelevant (because it is federal),” she said, adding it is the MPP’s job to decide how best to use it in Ontario’s favour, such as energy audits and retrofitting schools with greener equipment under the cap and trade program.

Szollosy said the NDP would give 25 per cent of the cap and trade revenue to people who have been charged disproportionately because of it.

Mulroney said she is not in favour of cap and trade, and the Progressive Conservatives would take 4 ½ cents off people’s gas bills by cutting the program, as well as lower gas prices by 10 cents a litre.

“We have not seen the skyrocketing prices the fearmongers to my left (are suggesting),” said Carruthers, followed by people in the crowd yelling, “Gas prices!” and “Where do you shop?”

During the debate, Libertarian candidate Silviu Druma said his party’s main platform is to allow private sector companies get involved in some areas, such as economy and health care, to ease some of the burden from government.

“If we don’t have freedom, you have nothing. Government slowly and surely encroaches on every aspect of your life. Why does this have to be this way?” he said.

When the topic moved to Ontario’s debt, Carruthers pointed to the former Progressive Conservative Mike Harris government.

“When you’re left with a government that wants to cut, cut, cut, you have to think what that will do long term,” she said, adding changes such as creating free daycare will help more women go back to work, which will then help pay off the economy.

Mulroney said the Liberal government is taking on “debt we don’t need.”

“When you’re in a hole, you stop digging,” she said.

“We’re actually in a state of surplus,” Carruthers responded. “The economy doesn’t grow by cutting. It grows by investing.”

“It’s not Doug Ford who says we’re in a deficit — it’s the auditor general,” Mulroney said.

York-Simcoe residents will head to the polls June 7.

Some promises made by candidates during debate:

Loralea Carruthers, Liberal

  • Three new public elementary schools and one high school
  • More GO Train service in Bradford
  • New hospital for south Simcoe

Caroline Mulroney, PC

  • Lower hydro rates
  • More supports for students and teachers to raise math scores
  • Lower gas bills by 10 cents per litre
  • Cut cap and trade program

Dave Szollosy, NDP

  • Cut hydro bills by 30 per cent
  • Lower housing costs
  • Build 65,000 more affordable homes
  • Hiring more education assistants and special education teachers
  • Protect and expand greenbelt land

David Loft, Trillium

  • Stop urban development on greenbelt lands

Silviu Druma, Libertarian

  • More involvement of private sectors in health care, economy to ease government’s burden

Jenni Dunning

About the Author: Jenni Dunning

Jenni Dunning is a community editor and reporter who covers news in the Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury.
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