Ottawa Centre candidates asked 'Now What' after Me Too

Organizers of a debate in Ottawa Centre Wednesday night wanted to push candidates on how they will take the lessons of the Me Too movement to make Ontario a safer, more inclusive place for women.

A coalition of gender-based violence groups hosted a debate Wednesday on the steps forward

The debate focused on gender equality and violence against women. (Ryan Tumilty/CBC)

Organizers of a debate in Ottawa Centre Wednesday night wanted to push candidates on how they will take the lessons of the Me Too movement to make Ontario a safer, more inclusive place for women.

Several Ottawa groups who are focused on diversity, equality or gender-based violence came together to form a coalition called Now What?

The coalition includes:

It bills itself as a non-partisan alliance aimed at encouraging debate on these issues in advance of the June 7 election. 

Liberal candidate Yasir Naqvi, NDP candidate Joel Harden and Green candidate Cherie Wong attended.

Progressive Conservative candidate Colleen McCleery and Libertarian candidate Bruce Faulkner where both invited to the debate but did not show up.

Province has power to help

Holly Campbell, one of the debate organizers and co-founder of Because Wilno, said there are important issues in this election and they're not being discussed in the provincial leader's debates.

"Whether you are talking about education or childcare or funding of sexual assault centres, a lot of these things come under the provincial jurisdiction, so this election is super important," she said.

A healthy crowd showed up for the Wednesday night debate at the Bronson Centre. (Ryan Tumilty/CBC)

The Me Too and Time's Up movements have brought big-picture attention to these concerns, but real political action is still missing.

"It is fine and dandy to have lots of talk on social media and cool hashtags, but what are our elected leaders going to do about this?" she said. "We are quite fed up with waiting."  

Candidates weigh in 

The NDP's Harden said he was glad to have a debate focused on gender-based violence and poverty, and that we need a better culture that treats women equally.

"We have a lot of compassion in this riding," he said. "We have an opportunity to lead across the province, because of organizations like the ones hosting this debate tonight."

"I'm so encouraged to be here to talk about the things that have been done and what more needs to be done to out an end to gender-based violence," said Naqvi, the Liberal incumbent.

"I'm really excited to see the young women and children here, because it's their future we're talking about."

Wong talked about her party's commitment to inclusivity and implementing affordable daycare, as well as addressing the gender pay gap. 

NDP candidate Joel Harden, Green Party candidate Cherie Wong and Liberal incumbent Yasir Naqvi on stage. (Ryan Tumilty/CBC)