London West candidates gather for 980 CFPL’s third Ontario election debate

From left to right: Green Party's Pamela Reid, Liberal Jonathan Hughes, New Democrat Peggy Sattler and Progressive Conservative Andrew Lawton sit across from moderator Craig Needles. Andrew Graham / 980 CFPL

Four candidates from London West stopped by 980 CPFL studios on Tuesday for a debate on trust, healthcare and a number of other issues affecting Ontarians.

The station’s third debate leading up to the Ontario general election was again moderated by Craig Needles and featured Liberal Jonathan Hughes, New Democrat Peggy Sattler, Green Party candidate Pamela Reid and Progressive Conservative Andrew Lawton, who is a former 980 CFPL talk show host.

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After allowing time for opening statements, Needles kicked off the debate with a question on trust. Candidates were asked how they could ensure London West voters that their elected MPP would represent the riding in a way constituents would be proud of.

“No one has questioned whether I have the commitment, the drive and the dedication,” responded Lawton, referring to his ability to address issues of affordability.

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The PC candidate, who has spoken openly about his struggles with mental illness and his suicide attempt in 2010, said his mental health battle provided him with the “strength and courage to tackle any issues, head-on.”

The conversation switched gears when Needles brought past comments from candidates into focus.

Earlier this month, Lawton admitted to making controversial statements in the past and released a statement on social media asking for forgiveness. He also revealed that he struggled with mental health between 2005 and 2013, a time when many of those comments were made.

READ MORE: Ontario Liberal Party calls for Doug Ford, PCs to dump Andrew Lawton as candidate

Sattler and Reid both expressed their compassion for those struggling with mental health, but stood firm on their concerns for the comments.

Hughes took a more aggressive approach claiming, “It’s unequivocally clear that people are not willing to give their vote to Andrew Lawton.”

The Liberal candidate added, “In this riding, it’s really a clear choice. You can choose between the NDP or myself.”

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The question of childcare had Hughes recalling the Liberal government’s implementation of full-day kindergarten. He then described the Liberal party’s plan to provide free childcare for preschoolers, and attacked the NDP’s childcare plan by calling it “ideological” and “not practical.”

Sattler defended the New Democrat plan, which includes a type of childcare left out from the Liberal platform — infant care. “We know from other provinces, like Quebec, that providing infant care results in a huge number of women going back into the labour market,” Sattler said.

Lawton criticized the plans of both parties, which, he claimed, follow a premise of “government knows best.”

“That’s very flawed,” the PC candidate said. “Our party’s plan on childcare is very clear. We’re going to give the power and the money to the parents.”

Meanwhile, Reid reiterated the Green Party’s plan to provide parents with options.

“We do support people finding childcare out in the community,” Reid said, “but the basic income guarantee addresses many issues regarding lack of funding to do so.”

READ MORE: Ontario budget 2018: Liberals run deficit, introduce new spending in pre-election budget

A final question on providing care for the aging population turned into a heated exchange on each party’s budget.

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Hughes expressed a need for federal funding in pharamcare, which Lawton described as the result of the province running out of money. The Liberal candidate then pointed out the Progressive Conservative’s lack of a costed platform, asking how the party will balance the budget.

Lawton voiced a number of ways to make cuts from the Liberal’s budget with mentions of smart meters, gas plants, and inefficiencies found by the Auditor General.

Hughes then targeted budgeting errors from the NDP. Sattler refuted his comment with mention of economists, who say the NDP’s plan generates the smallest deficit.

Meanwhile, Reid referred to the basic income guarantee and other Green Party strategies for helping problems associated with healthcare.

You can watch the full debate here, or you can listen to it here.

The next debate, between candidates in the Elgin-Middlesex-London riding, can be watched live on Facebook or listened to on 980 CFPL, starting at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

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