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Newmarket-Aurora candidates meeting highlights electoral reform, Southlake nursing

Conservative candidate opts out, while Liberal, NDP and Green candidates discuss platforms at Aurora Public Library virtual event
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Newmarket-Aurora candidates advocated for their party platforms but avoided barbs at an all-candidates meeting Sept. 14.

The Aurora Public Library hosted the event, with Liberal Tony Van Bynen, NDP Yvonne Kelly and Green Tim Flemming attending. The format featured candidates answering questions submitted by the public to explain their party platforms, with the format avoiding debate or targeted questions.

Manager of community collaboration Reccia Mandlecorn said the library regularly hosts such election events to provide public information about the different candidates.

“I asked all of our candidates to respond to questions in a respectful manner, and to speak to the questions and not to dismiss any of the other candidates,” she said. “I was so pleased, each of the three candidates all spoke respectfully.”

Mandlecorn said the library started inviting candidates the day after the election was called, including those in the Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill riding. She said Conservative candidates declined to attend, while People’s Party of Canada candidates were due to attend but did not show up. Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill Liberal Leah Taylor Roy cancelled on Friday.

Flemming said he decided to run after connecting with the Green Party platform. He said there is a great opportunity to focus on a green future that will provide jobs.

“Really build an employment framework that works for all Canadians whether they're starting out or whether they're transitioning from an alternate career,” he said. 

Van Bynen said his experience connecting with leaders in both Newmarket and Aurora is important during the ongoing pandemic.

“We’re going to need experienced leadership, an MP who can work with everyone to support our community through the recovery,” Van Bynen said. “We can continue to keep building a community that all of us can be proud to call home. That’s what I stand for.”

Kelly challenged voters to consider a new vision for the future.

“Embrace a bold vision for what Canada can be. COVID has shown us that we want a future for the next generation, and we need to do things to secure that,” she said.

Candidates were each asked in turn to speak to party positions on different topics, including climate change, Indigenous issues, and deficits. 

But one sore point came on electoral reform, with promises of proportional representation present both in the Green and NDP platforms but absent from the Liberals.

“It’s the only equitable way to go,” Flemming said. “Democracies around the world — not all but many — have embraced it to great success." 

Van Bynen noted he was not in office when the Liberal government opted not to go ahead with electoral reform, but said the government should examine the issue. 

“I’m not sure proportional representation is the only solution,” he said. “We should be doing that in consultation. Broadly consulting with our communities and broadly looking at the options.” 

“Probably the most disappointing broken promise of your leader was this one,” Kelly said, referring to Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s promise to end the first-past-the-post system. “That we would never again have another election in Canada without electoral reform.”

Candidates were also asked to talk about navigating jurisdictional issues on health care, and the controversy over Southlake Regional Health Centre moving to a team-based ICU nursing model

Van Bynen said it is complicated given health care is a shared provincial and federal responsibility but there should be federal standards that are upheld in sectors like long-term care.

"We need to make sure there is a shared responsibility that is clearly defined, and the outcomes the federal government is seeking should be the basis on which the funding is generated," he said. 

Kelly said the NDP would like to restore a 50-50 funding split between the provincial and federal levels for health care, and the Southlake situation is an issue.

“We should be really concerned,” she said. “It has exasperated to the point nowhere people are completely ridden with fear and worry they’re not given good quality care. I think we need to listen to the nurses.” 

Flemming said there is too much bureaucracy in health care in the middle, and more funds need to be invested on the frontline. He added his wife is a Southlake nurse, and the model is difficult.

“It puts an extreme stretch on the registered nurse,” he said. “What we need to do is make this an appealing profession.”

The meeting is the last scheduled all-candidates event in the riding before the Sept. 20 election after the Newmarket Chamber of Commerce cancelled its debate. 

The full meeting is available on the Aurora Public Library Youtube channel