An all-candidates meeting for the upcoming provincial election was held in the Automotive Room at Cornwall’s Benson Centre during the evening of May 19. From the left: NDP candidate Wendy Stephens, GPO candidate Jacqueline Milner, OLP candidate Kirsten Gardner and All-Candidate Meeting organizer Louise Lanctot. Thompson Goddard Photo

CORNWALL – Facilitated by the Cornwall and District Labour Council an all-candidates meeting for the upcoming provincial election was held in the Automotive Room at Cornwall’s Benson Centre during the evening of May 19.

In attendance at the event was Ontario Liberal Party candidate Kirsten Gardner, Green Party of Ontario candidate Jacqueline Milner and Ontario New Democratic Party candidate Wendy Stephen. As the meeting began, organizer Louise Lanctot offered regrets on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario candidate Nolan Quinn, New Blue Party of Ontario candidate Claude Tardif and Ontario Party candidate Remi Tremblay.

After being welcomed to the meeting by Lanctot and a land acknowledgement from Elaine MacDonald, each candidate made an opening statement followed by a question-and-answer period and concluded with a final statement from all candidates in attendance.

Gardner commented she entered politics to help people and has served as the Deputy Mayor of South Dundas and sat on the United Counties council during her term as deputy mayor. A long-time resident of the riding, Gardner has advocated for many issues including long-term care, mental health supports and education and increasing the number of doctors in SDSG. As she concluded her opening remarks, Kirsten mentioned how “the focus of support for our most vulnerable says a lot.”

Jacqueline Milner, a self-employed artist and school bus driver spoke next and expressed her concern about the impact of people upon this planet. She explained how a few years ago, a student on her bus was concerned about the tree cutting and its effects on the animals who live in the forest. She continued, we need to consider the effect of people on the planet and how the GPO will listen to all concerns.

Wendy Stephen spoke on her observations as a teacher with 10 years experience, commenting on the struggles of students and their families and how “a lot of it has to do with social determinants of health and policy.” After realizing that something needs to change, she decided to enter politics and after investigating the provincial parties, decided to join, and run as a candidate for the ONDP. She mentioned issues such as healthcare, affordability as well as access to services and local concerns about the work on Highway 138 moving forward.

During the audience question-and-answer period, topics such as St. Lawrence River water levels, internet service, the effect of wind turbines on the local aquifer and health of individuals, provincial senior strategy of each party, riding representation in the provincial legislature, healthcare for all segments of society and educational issues. Each candidate expressed and explained their party and personal response to each issue.

Educational issues discussed during the meeting pertained to changes in the curriculum, online versus in-person learning and the effects of the pandemic on education, staff, and students as well as the cost of post secondary education. Concerns over regional issues being advocated by the provincial representatives were reviewed, with each candidate mentioning the need for adequate and strong advocacy for the riding. All candidates expressed the need for providing support for seniors so they can stay in their homes as long as possible, the need for accessibility of healthcare for all people and more health services available locally.

As the all-candidates meeting ended, people in the audience met with candidates. The evening ended on an amicable note.

All-candidates meetings are scheduled to take place in the reading room area of the Cornwall Public Library on Wed., May 25 between 5:30 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. and the Chesterville Legion on Thurs., May 26 between 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.

Election Day in Ontario is scheduled for June 2, with advance polls currently open.