Pandemic and Housing Highlight TB-Atikokan Election Forum

For the second time this week, the Conservative and New Blue Party candidates did not attend an all-candidates forum.

THUNDER BAY — Ontario must learn from its lack of preparedness when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, say candidates vying for the Thunder Bay-Atikokan seat.

It was one of many topics discussed Thursday night at the DaVinci Center at an all-candidates forum — which the two right-wing candidates declined to attend — hosted by the Thunder Bay and District Injured Workers Support Group.

Green Party hopeful Eric Arner, a first-time candidate in provincial politics, said everyone likes to say they love healthcare workers, but actions speak louder than words.

To this end, the government has been miserably short.

“What we did was cap their salaries and not allow them to fairly negotiate a decent salary,” Arner told a crowd of about 50 who attended the debate in person.

“Bill 124 must be repealed for nurses and personal support workers. These people work very hard to save lives and they need to be properly compensated. So put our money where our mouths are and show them some respect.

Arner added that the province needs to hire more nurses and other support workers to avoid the burnout that has occurred since the pandemic began.

“COVID is still here and more variations could occur or another pandemic could occur. We need to take care of these people.”

Outgoing NDP incumbent Judith Monteith-Farrell said Ontarians need to be reassured that the proper measures are in place ahead of time, to take proactive action rather than being forced into reactive action. .

It’s not like a pandemic couldn’t have been predicted, especially after the SARS outbreak a decade earlier, she said.

“We had the lessons of SARS and we had the recommendations, and when we were faced with this pandemic, we discovered that the things that were supposed to be in place were not. The other thing that really needs to happen is that we’ve seen people with disabilities and older people take a heavy toll during the pandemic,” Monteith-Farrell said.

Liberal Rob Barrett fully agreed with his two competitors.

Barrett said the Liberals are committed to working with people and systems to rebuild trust.

“And as we learn those lessons, we will conduct an independent public inquiry to learn the lessons of the pandemic that we have all suffered and are still suffering, especially our most vulnerable,” Barrett said, adding that ‘they will constantly increase the laboratory. testing capacity and stock rapid tests and personal protective equipment.

Affordable housing was also discussed.

Barrett said the Liberals would build at least 138,000 affordable homes over the next decade, helping to create 150,000 new jobs. They will also impose a use-or-lose tax to prevent homes from sitting empty.

Arner said the Green Party has proposed a 20% tax on second homes, also aimed at large-scale homeowners.

“It’s for companies that buy houses and leave them empty or try to sell them to the highest bidder,” Arner said.

The Greens will build 182,000 permanent affordable homes and have also pledged to create 260,000 community rental units.

Monteith-Farrell said the NDP would restore rent control policies that were lifted by the Conservative government to protect tenants.

“We would also provide assistance to new owners,” she said.

Conservative candidate Kevin Holland and New Blue Party candidate David Tommassini were not present.

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