Ontario leaders spar in their final debate

May 16, 2022 | Headlines, News, Ontario Election 2022

By Liam McCurry and Tim O’Shaughnessy

Ontario official party leaders engaged in heated exchanges over issues such as healthcare, public education, housing, highways, and mental health on Monday in their second and final debate in the provincial election.

Both the Green Party and the NDP took their turn to criticize the government led by Progressive Conservative Doug Ford and agree on addressing the housing affordability crisis.

While all leaders were given time to speak, it quickly turned into the leaders speaking over each other making allegations against each other or refuting allegations against them.

Raj at one point had to say, “Nobody can understand you when you’re all talking at the same time.”

Healthcare was a hot topic for the leaders to tackle.

“Every decision I made on long-term care was with the best intentions and the best medical advice I could get at the time,” Ford said.

NDP leader Andre Horwath went after Liberal leader Steven Del Duca and spoke on Ford’s cuts in healthcare as detrimental even before the pandemic.

Horwath said Ontario must scrap Bill 124 which limits pay increases for public workers.

“Our healthcare system is in shambles,” she said.

Green Party leader Mike Schreiner blamed Ford for the healthcare issue because nurses are feeling disrespected because their wages are being cut and frozen.

All the leaders attacked Ford for the PC plan to privatize parts of healthcare to help with the backlog.

In response Ford said his party is investing in healthcare because it was, “on the brink,” we he came into office.

Horwath didn’t let Del Duca off the hook for what she said was his party’s role in hurting healthcare in the province and asked him if he was out for coffee when these decisions were made.

She pushed for Del Duca to take responsibility for what she said was his role and his party’s role in the health care crisis.

Schreiner and Ford went at it with the Green leader calling out Ford for disrespecting nurses and draining money out of long term care when they needed it the most.

Schreiner says the Greens will “care for people first.”

All leaders had a chance to speak about Ontario’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ford said he inherited a broken system from the Liberals and while the PCs may not have gotten everything right, he said he plans to fix health care so that no future leader needs to go through the same thing.

Ford was criticized heavily by the other party leaders for decisions made during the pandemic. Horwath challenged his handling of long term care homes, while Del Duca accused Ford of not listening to science.

Schreiner said that poverty is the largest stressor on health care and needs to be addressed.

When it moved into open debate following leaders comments, it again broke down into all the leaders speaking over each other before the moderators moved on to the next question.

The section of the debate on education started off with Schreiner talking about what he saw as three years of instability for two million students in Ontario.

“Ford wants to build highways, we want to build schools,” he said.

Ford was on the defence saying the changes he will support “real life and job skills.”

Del Duca called Ford’s record on education “appalling” and said that Ford “does not value publicly funded education.”

Horwath and Schreiner made it a point to show that Liberals have been just as responsible as Ford for the issues in education.

“When the last Liberal government was in power the repair backlog got worse,” Schreiner said.

“Kids should be able to find their gifts,” Horwath said.

The second question on education was asking the candidates how they would work to improve safety in schools.

While Ford took his time to speak about how proud he was of how his government is getting students prepared for future jobs, the other candidates all took the time to attack Fords record on education.

Horwath focused on Ford’s past promises to invest in education for children with autism that were not achieved, while Schreiner criticized him for speaking of future jobs while not investing in the climate economy.

When the candidates moved on to open debate, Ford accused the other candidates of misleading the public on his governments policies, directing the audience to go online to his platform.

Del Duca brought up the rising cost of post secondary education, along with cuts to education, and said that Ford should be ashamed.

Ford opened the debate by calling his party the one that is saying yes to making jobs, building highways, and bringing costs down.

Horwath in her opening remarks talked about how her party will fix the problems the previous governments were unable to solve.

Schreiner at the start of the debate said it is now or never to address the climate crisis, wanting to build homes instead of highways.

“Affordability is the number one concern in the province,” Schreiner said.

Del Duca opened by saying the past four years have been tough on Ontarians, focusing on how the Liberals will invest in schools and long term care.

“We are in an affordability crisis,” Del Duca said.

Only parties with official party status and those that had an MPP elected under their banner in the previous election are taking part in the debate