Three Greater Toronto Area candidates locked horns over transit, education funding and the economy in a live debate hosted by CBC Radio host Matt Galloway on Thursday.
The debate brought together candidates from each of Ontario’s three major political parties ahead of the Oct. 6 provincial election.
Brad Duguid (Liberal, Scarborough Centre), Pam Hundal (PC, Brampton-Springdale) and Paul Ferreira (NDP, York South-Weston) debated the issues before a live audience. The debate was broadcast live on CBC radio and through a video livestream on CBC.ca. Anyone who missed the debate can watch it by clicking on the video linke above.
The debate’s theme centered on how each party planned to help the more than five million residents of the Greater Toronto Area.
"We’re struggling financially," said Galloway before introducing the candidates. "And yet, there doesn’t appear to be a strong advocate for the region at a time when it’s needed more than ever."
The first question came from Carol Wilding of the Toronto Board of Trade. She asked whether the candidates — considering Toronto's importance on the provincial economy — would support the creation of an economic program focused specifically on the Toronto region.
Duguid didn’t commit to such a strategy, but said the Liberals would "continue to invest in Toronto" and "would consider anything the Toronto Board of Trade recommends."
That prompted Ferreira to accuse Duguid of "waffling," adding that he would support such a strategy. Hundal said she would also back such a plan and said red tape and high taxes are stifling small businesses, which she said were key to the GTA’s economy.
The debate became somewhat heated when the discussion turned to job creation. Hundal slammed Duguid and said the Liberals’ green energy plan is an "expensive experiment" that has only created "phantom jobs."
"I don’t understand why your leader won’t support these projects," Duguid snapped back. "We should be supporting these jobs, not tearing them down."
An audience member asked what each party would do to help seniors struggling to keep up with everyday expenses.
Duguid pointed to a Liberal plan for a $1,500 tax credit for renovations — such as ramps and grab bars — to allow seniors to remain in their own homes for longer.
Hundal said seniors were ignored under the Liberal government and said "a tax credit means nothing when you can’t afford to renovate your own home."
Ferreria said the NDP’s plan to remove the HST from essentials such as home heating would benefit seniors more directly.
On education funding, Duguid touted the Liberal plan to cut post-secondary tuition by 30 per cent, while Ferreira questioned why the Liberals wouldn’t instead commit to a tuition freeze.
Candidates' views differ on transit funding
Much of the debate touched on transit, a key issue in a city with some of the worst traffic congestion and longest commute times in North America.
Ferreira pointed to the NDP’s plan to provide cities with 50 per cent of transit operating costs in exchange for a freeze in fares. He also said the Liberals allowed the city to scrap Toronto's Transit City plan, which called for a series of light rail routes across the city.
"We’re the only party that fully funds our plan for transit," said Duguid. "We’ve been a champion of public transit from day one."
The debate also touched on the Liberal plan to provide employers with a $10,000 tax credit to encourage businesses to hire new Canadians. The plan, which was the hot topic during the first week of the campaign, would only be available to Canadian citizens.
Ferreria said the plan was so limited it would help very few people. Duguid slammed PC Leader Tim Hudak for calling the plan an "affirmative action" scheme that would benefit "foreign workers" over other Ontarians.
Hundal, however, said the tax credit was simply bad policy.
"There should be equal jobs for everyone," she said. "People I speak to are not for this policy."
An audience member asked the candidates which party they would be willing to work with in the event that no party achieved a majority in the Oct. 6 election.
Only Hundal answered the question directly, saying she would be willing to work with the NDP.
Both Ferreira and Duguid declined to answer.
"I’m not taking the bait," said Duguid. "It’s up to the people of Ontario."