Giving credit where credit is due: NDP and PC candidates clash during Timmins debate
Liberal party not running a candidate in the Timmins riding
The two leading candidates to the be next MPP for Timmins agree the city has made great progress on the addiction crisis.
But they don't agree on who deserves the credit for that.
"I'm quite frankly very proud of the province's response to homelessness and the opioid crisis," Geoge Pirie, the Timmins Mayor turned Progressive Conservative candidate, said during a Tuesday afternoon debate.
The retired mining executive also says that he helped to co-ordinate the use of the $2.3 million in provincial funding by working with local doctors and agencies.
"And it wasn't the NDP and it hasn't been the NDP. That's the bottom line," Pirie said.
"It was not led by the NDP, in fact the NDP was not involved at all."
"That is not true and you know that," replied long-time NDP incumbent Gilles Bisson.
"It's entirely true," said Pirie.
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"To all of a sudden say 'This didn't happen because of you' it happened because of us. We work well as a community and the more we remember that, the better we're going to be," said Bisson.
"The great thing about the City of Timmins is once the elections are over we work together to achieve what's important to our community and I don't think any one person can take credit for that."
It was a similar story when the two candidates discussed the new Côté Lake gold mine being built south of Timmins near Gogama.
Pirie says the project was languishing in bureaucratic red tape for "17 years" before he and Greater Sudbury Mayor Brian Bigger successfully lobbied the newly-elected Ford government in 2018.
"It was stalled. And it took the PCs, when they got elected, to step in and make sure that project got built. Simple as that," he said.
But Bisson says it was a group effort, which included Mayor Pirie and his city council, as well as First Nations in the area and elected officials like himself and NDP MP Charlie Angus.
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"Everybody worked toward getting that mine open because we understood it was sustainable and it was good for the economy," he said.
There was also a question during Tuesday's debate sponsored by the Timmins Chamber of Commerce about cost of living.
Pirie says the Ford government adopted a social safety net "broken after 15 years of Liberal rule" and put $1.2 billion extra into social assistance.
"It's been very clear that Ontario PCs will always take care of the most vulnerable by ensuring greater access to better jobs and bigger paycheques," he said.
"The bottom line is the rates haven't gone up significantly to make the difference," said Bisson, adding that an NDP government would put an additional 20 per cent on social assistance cheques.
Bisson is going for his ninth straight election win and faces one of his toughest opponents in Pirie, who won the Timmins mayor's seat in 2018 with 64 per cent of the vote.
David Farrell of the New Blue Party, Elizabeth Lockhard of the Green Party and Nadia Sadiq of the Ontario Confederation of Regions Party are also on the ballot in Timmins for the June 2 election.