Voters in HWAD 'not impressed' as PC candidate misses second debate

After Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas PC candidate Ben Levitt missed an all-candidates meeting his absence drew criticism from the NDP and some in the crowd.

Levitt's campaign manager said disappointment at his candidate's absence should be directed at him

An empty chair and name tag sit at the end of the table where Ben Levitt, PC candidate for Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas was meant to sit at an all-candidates meeting Thursday. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

An empty chair at the all-candidates meeting held at Dundas Baptist Church Thursday drew boos and from the packed house and the criticism of NDP candidate Sandy Shaw.

The name card for Ben Levitt, PC candidate in Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas was there, but the man himself was not — according to the moderator he was sick and sent his regrets. 

Bob Corey said he'd attended two all candidates meetings in hopes of hearing from the PC candidate who he considers a front runner.

"I can't make a good judgment if he's not here …. so I'm not impressed," he said, adding he's not crazy about any of Ontario's political parties and would consider voting for the PCs if only he could hear from Levitt.

"I've come twice now to see this gentleman speak …and he's not here," Corey explained. "I'm not a political junkie. I'm just trying to do a good job voting." Levitt also missed an all-candidates debate on senior's issues held on May 22.

Doug Ford, right, chats with Ben Levitt, PC candidate for Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas. Levitt was unable to attend an all-candidates meeting on Thursday because of illness, said his campaign manager. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

But Dan Muys, Levitt's campaign manager, said any disappointment at that empty chair should actually be directed at him.

"I sent him home," he said, adding he believes the candidate is suffering from heat stroke after door-knocking all day in "40-degree humidity."

"He's not avoiding debates. He's been in three," Muys added.

NDP candidate Shaw said "I think it's unfortunate that the PC Candidate didn't show, because I think this is a hugely important election … and there's a lot of unanswered questions." She called Levitt's absence "disrespectful."

Shaw also pointed to reports of PC candidates skipping all-candidates meetings in ridings across the province and questioned if the local candidate was avoiding tough questions about his party's lack of a "costed platform."

The 'most respectful debate I've ever attended,' audience member says

That story was backed up by Liberal incumbent Ted McMeekin who said although he's a lot older than Levitt and also spent the day meeting voters, it's his understanding his opponent was very sick by the end of the day.

"I don't think that's quite fair. I was out in the heat today ... and I put sunscreen on and I understand he did not," he said. "It's my understanding he was throwing up and collapsed of heat stroke."

Levitt's absence seemed to be the only point of contention during the hour-long gathering organized by the Dundas Association of Churches.

Bob Corey said this is the second all-candidates meeting he's gone to in hopes of hearing from Ben Levitt. He was disappointed the PC candidate wasn't able to attend. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

In fact, at the end of the question period that was more more of a discussion than a debate a woman in the crowd stood up and told the candidates, "This is the most respectful debate I've ever attended," to applause from other audience members.

Candidates faced a series of seven questions selected in advance on topics including, poverty, climate change, health care and provincial debt.

Green Party candidate Peter Ormond called for society to "slow down" and spend some time looking up from their screens, while Shaw promised her party would support the overburdened health care system that left her father's hospital bed in the hallway for days after he had a stroke.

McMeekin touted a list of accomplishments attained over his long political career and highlighted his dream of creating an eco park that connects green space between the Niagara Escarpment and Cootes Paradies as his No. 1 priority and an example of how the battle against climate change can be carried out at the local level.

The candidates for the new riding spoke before a packed house. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

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