Local Conservative candidates are facing criticism for missing out on the only all-candidates events in the riding.
The Conservative Party was the only party without representation at both the Aurora Chamber of Commerce debate Sept. 8 and the Aurora Public Library all-candidates meeting Sept. 14. Both events invited candidates from Newmarket-Aurora and Aurora-Oak Ridges Richmond Hill ridings.
Newmarket-Aurora Conservative candidate Harold Kim said both events conflicted with other activities. He also said he planned to attend a Newmarket Chamber of Commerce debate scheduled for Sept. 16, but that was ultimately cancelled.
“The demands of an election campaign force me to make difficult choices on what events I am able to attend,” he said. “I have a long involvement in this community, as an individual and a councillor, and my commitment to the issues and concerns of this riding are well known.”
Newmarket-Aurora Liberal Tony Van Bynen, NDP Yvonne Kelly and Green Tim Flemming attended both events. PPC candidate Andre Gagnon did not attend either event, but his Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill counterpart Anthony Siskos did attend the chamber debate. Independent Newmarket-Aurora candidate Dorian Baxter was also at the chamber debate, but not the candidates meeting. Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill Liberal Leah Taylor Roy cancelled her attendance at the library event.
Aurora Public Library manager of community collaboration Reccia Mandlecorn said she reached out to registered candidates about their event the day after the election was called, with both Conservative candidates declining.
Newmarket-Aurora Conservative candidate Lois Brown also faced criticism in 2019 for missing an election forum, though said there was a scheduling conflict with a long-standing event.
But Kim did submit answers to questions from the Newmarket Chamber of Commerce, along with other candidates, a replacement for the chamber debate. Kim also responded to a questionnaire from NewmarketToday, as did Van Bynen and Kelly.
Van Bynen remarked on the Conservative absence at the candidates meeting.
“I appreciate the opportunity to have this discussion,” Van Bynen said. “How disappointing it is that our Conservative candidates have again chosen not to participate in these important discussions, as people in our community are trying to make informed decisions about this election.”
Kim said any assertion that not attending events indicates a lack of interest is dishonest.
“It’s always disappointing when another candidate stoops to making unkind comments without basis or merit rather than focusing on the issues of the campaign,” Kim said. “It degrades an important exercise in our country.”