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Perth-Wellington candidates debate housing, healthcare

Housing and healthcare are the popular topics again at Perth-Wellington debate.

ST. MARYS – Housing and healthcare stood out amongst a long list of topics debated by five Perth-Wellington candidates Wednesday night at the Pyramid Recreation Centre in St. Marys.

Eddie Matthews, GM of the Stratford and District Chamber of Commerce, moderated the debate and welcomed Laura Bisutti (Green Party), Jo-Dee Burbach (NDP), Ashley Friest-Fox (Liberal), Sandy ‘William’ McGregor (Ontario Party) and Matthew Rae (Progressive Conservative).

Burbach, who took a leave from city council in Stratford to run in the provincial election, said in her opening remarks that residents are struggling to find affordable homes and rentals. Young people deserve to be able to afford to find homes in the community they grew up in, she said. The NDP would bring back a housing minister, she said, and finance and build at least 250,000 affordable homes.

Bisutti, a Stratford resident since 1988, said that rent controls need to be brought back. The Green Party would tax people with more than two homes, increasing with each additional home. “We need to build affordable community rental homes in partnership with co-op, non-profit housing providers.”

A first-time home buyer who lives in Palmerston, Friest-Fox said a Liberal government would focus on helping first time home buyers and aim to have 1.5 million homes built in 10 years.

Rae grew up on a dairy farm in Harriston and now lives in Mitchell. He said the Progressive Conservatives would continue to work with municipalities,

Rae said the Progressive Conservatives would spend $1.2 billion to support social services relief funding to build community housing and homeless supports. Locally, $3.9 million was given to the Brittania Street community housing project in Stratford. The province had 100,000 new housing unit starts in 2021, the highest in 30 years, he said.

In terms of housing supply, Burbach noted the PC government’s ‘More Homes for Everyone’ act, also called Bill 109, passed without debate on the floor.

Rae objected, noting Bill 109 was debated March 31, “as all legislation is.”

“One of the first things that the NDP would do is revoke Bill 109 because it’s undemocratic,” Burbach said.

McGregor, a Mt. Forest resident, noted that home prices have increased 180 per cent in 10 years. Prohibitive zoning and more multi-residential homes would help alleviate the housing shortage in the province, he said.

Healthcare in Ontario

Friest-Fox, a registered practical nurse and two-term board member in healthcare regulation at the College of Nurses of Ontario, said the Liberals would work to give nurses back negotiating rights that they have lost. A Liberal government would increase traditionally low PSW pay to $25 per hour, she said.

“I would advocate to see a nurse practitioner, nurse or doctor within 24 hours.”

Burbach said too many qualified nurses from other countries are not working here. The NDP would expedite accepting their credentials. “15,000 nurses in Ontario don’t have accreditation and can’t work.”

The PCs are promising $342 million to hire 13,000 nurses by 2024. Rae noted that base funding to the local St. Marys Hospital has increased by 32 per cent since 2018.

Bisutti said the Green Party wants to ensure the healthcare system is funded and ready for the next crisis.