Ontario PC candidates in Thunder Bay-area ridings duck debates
Candidates for other main parties attending debate, PC spokesperson says its hopefuls are 'campaigning hard'
Progressive Conservative candidates in the two Thunder Bay area ridings have been no-shows at organized sessions on the Ontario election campaign trail.
Kevin Holland (Thunder Bay-Atikokan) and Peng You (Thunder Bay-Superior North) were both absent for an all-candidates' forum co-hosted by the local Chamber of Commerce earlier this week. As well, neither candidate participated in debates presented by the Thunder Bay and District Injured Workers Support Group last week.
In Thunder Bay-Superior North, the Liberals' Shelby Ch'ng, NDP's Lise Vaugeois, Green Party's Tracey MacKinnon and the New Blue Party's Kathy Suutari were all present for the forum on Wednesday. The Thunder Bay-Atikokan forum on the same day featured the NDP's Judith Monteith-Farrell and Liberal challenger Rob Barrett, with the Green Party's Eric Arner participating virtually from Atikokan.
"I just think it's so disrespectful for the Progressive Conservatives to not be sending out their candidates to speak and to be accountable, not only for the last four years, but for their next four years going forward," Barrett said.
"I just don't understand it."
PC candidates not participating in other ridings
Elsewhere in northern Ontario, PC candidates have skipped events in the Mushkegowuk-James Bay, Nickel Belt, Sudbury, Timiskaming-Cochrane and Nipissing ridings.
The party did have candidates at events in the Algoma-Manitoulin, Timmins and Parry Sound-Muskoka ridings.
"Our candidates are campaigning hard in their ridings to earn the trust of voters for our plan to get it done," said an Ontario PC campaign spokesperson in a written statement. "Some candidates have chosen to participate in all-candidates forums and others have chosen to spend their time taking their message directly to voters at the door."
The PCs also did not make their candidates in the four northwestern Ontario ridings available to CBC Thunder Bay for profile interviews.
So far in the campaign, PC Leader Doug Ford has been the first, and only, party leader to make a northwestern Ontario stop, when he came to Thunder Bay on May 7. The two Thunder Bay-area seats had been held by the Liberals and NDP during the previous term.
Speaking to local reporters during that visit, Ford said he "can't even tell you who [the Thunder Bay-area] MPPs are," and suggested the ridings would have to elect a PC candidate to have a voice at Queen's Park.
Monteith-Farrell, the NDP incumbent in Thunder Bay-Atikokan, said that's a tactic Ford has used elsewhere in places where there aren't elected PC MPPs.
She questioned whether a candidate who doesn't participate in debates on the campaign trail can be an effective elected official.
"It's very telling that if someone is not willing to talk to constituents, and to be in an open forum and answer questions now, what are they going to do when and if they're elected," Monteith-Farrell said.