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Newmarket-Aurora candidates find common ground in election talk

Conservatives absent from virtual all-candidates event hosted by Aurora Public Library

Some Newmarket-Aurora candidates weighed in on the day’s issues, finding more common ground than differences at a virtual meet-the-candidates event hosted by the Aurora Public Library last night.

The Green Party’s Carolina Rodriguez, NDP’s Denis Heng and Liberals’ Dr. Sylvain Roy, as well as Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill Liberal candidate Marjan Kasirlou, fielded questions May 12 on affordability, the environment, health care and more. 

With no Conservative candidates present, they found themselves agreeing on many of the issues raised. 

“This would have been a much richer discussion if we were able to have some thoughts from the Conservative candidates within these two ridings,” Heng said after all candidates present agreed to repeal Bill 124, which has capped public sector salary raises.

The library said Newmarket-Aurora Conservative candidate Dawn Gallagher Murphy was due to attend but had cancelled a few hours before the event for what her campaign manager said was a family emergency.

The format had each candidate in turn provided three minutes to respond to the same question. Candidates found common ground on several issues, including cancelling Highway 413, incentivizing electric vehicles, phasing out privatized long-term care, supporting Indigenous peoples and protecting women’s rights to choose abortion. 

On affordable housing solutions, Roy said a one-size-fits-all solution will not work.

“We have to start building. We have to invest,” Roy said. “We can’t leave the markets to decide at this point in time because the prices are roaring everywhere.” 

Rodriguez said the issue goes beyond building homes.

“It’s about building with a purpose. We can’t just build on the sprawl,” she said. “That won’t contribute to the affordability of them. That will just contribute to the inaccessibility and car dependence we face … If this continues, I will never own a home.” 

Heng had another pointed response about the absence of the Conservatives and said their presence would have “enriched the discussion.”

“I don’t think the Conservatives are pointing us in the right direction with regards to affordable housing,” he said. “Increasing urban sprawl, building highways, and building more single-detached dwelling homes, I don’t think that’s affordable housing. I know I can’t afford it.”

Conservative Gallagher Murphy also declined to take part in an Aurora Chamber of Commerce candidates event May 11 and has indicated a scheduling conflict for a Newmarket Chamber of Commerce, NewmarketToday and Newmarket Era event May 19.

In closing remarks, Heng said he is part of the community and would represent it well.

“If you believe that Doug Ford has done an amazing job over the past four years, I would encourage you to vote for him,” he said. “If you believe, like myself though, that the Conservatives aren’t pointing us in the right direction, I ask you to think about who might be the best candidate to represent our local issues.” 

Roy said he would ask Conservatives voters to reconsider their intentions “because they’re not showing up. Because, at the end of the day, we have no idea what they’re standing for.”

He said he is committed to addressing issues such as the environment, health care and affordability. But the neuropsychologist raised mental health in his closing remarks.

“It’s another thing that we’ve heard loud and clear, as well, and the availability of services and people have suffered dramatically under COVID,“ Roy said. “Any recovery we want to do should include mental health.”

Rodriguez said more investment in education and health care is needed, adding that housing is also a right. She closed by encouraging voters to choose whom they think is the best candidate. 

“Not just what you think would be the best strategic move or what would get someone out that you don’t like to be there. Please vote for what you believe in,” she said.