In announcing his intention to run for the Ontario Liberals, Mayor Robert Quaiff said he’s convinced they’re the party with policies and answers. It’s hard to share his enthusiasm looking ahead to the election next spring.
The current government is one that has offered few favours to rural Ontario. One only has to look at headlines in this community in recent years. Unwanted by many, including the municipal council, an industrial wind project is about to go up on the county’s south shore to produce power that isn’t even needed. The same provincial government promised it wouldn’t force projects into unwilling host communities, yet as Quaiff said, the subsequent announcement never came.
Sticking with energy, it is also the party that offered a plan to cut rates by 25 per cent by the election, only to have economists state Ontario residents would be paying much more for power in years to come due to interest charges. It seems equally shortsighted to its plan to balance the books now by selling off portions of a major asset, Hydro One, to the highest bidder.
Despite a rapidly aging population, the government has not built long-term care beds in the region in some time. Small and rural health-care and education providers have also felt the crunch of its current funding formulae of late. Will there be dollars to spend on priority infrastructure and services with the size of the provincial debt? Can rural Ontario receive its fair share?
How small businesses, particularly those in agriculture and tourism, deal with energy costs, taxation, and a really aggressive boost in the minimum wage by 2019 and help grow the economy also seems to be a matter of dispute.
All of those policy items and many more will be debated in the coming months as Ontario residents decide what they want to do. Upon nomination, Quaiff will be tasked with providing satisfactory answers for his constituents — and he’ll have to sell that message to counter that being delivered by an experienced, known politician in Progressive Conservative incumbent Todd Smith.
The mayor has been a tireless advocate for this community and many rural communities in Ontario over the years and being seasoned on the municipal scene, he must be confident he can do just that. Perhaps, with many cabinet ministers not returning, there’s a new Liberal message waiting to be rolled out that Quaiff has seen. Time will tell. He’s a credible candidate, but he has work to do.