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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Questions to the Candidates

Updated: May 31, 2018

The Essex Free Press forwarded a list of questions to the Essex NDP, Liberal, and PC candidates to answer, ahead of the June 7 provincial election. The candidates’ answers will provide readers a chance to get to know them a little better. The answers are printed, unedited.

The candidates were asked to stick to a word count.

For the Riding of Essex, Chris Lewis is running for the Progressive Conservatives, Kate Festeryga is running for the Liberals, and incumbent Taras Natyshak is running for the NDP.

Photos of candidates, from left to right: Incumbent Taras Natyshak - NDP, Chris Lewis - Progressive Conservatives, and Kate Festeryga - Liberal

1. Ontarians are feeling the pressure at the pump. Do you believe the Carbon Tax should be eliminated or reformed, or is it fine the way it is? Is it working to reduce Greenhouse Gas?

Festeryga: A carbon reduction plan like the Carbon Tax is a federally mandated requirement. Anyone or party that says that they won’t implement one is not being honest. The Ontario Liberals have opted for a Cap-and-Trade system. Our plan is the best plan because it puts the burden on businesses our largest emitters, not people. And it allows us to invest in projects that will fight carbon emissions. This is includes housing retrofits and upgrades.

Through SaveON, every household and business can find savings in things like upgrading your windows to be more efficient, saving you money on your heating/cooling costs.

This program is one of the ways that the Liberals have helped to offset the cost of electricity…and the program is working. I’ve spoken to people at the doors who are worried they will not be able to use this program under a change in government.

Lewis: The Ontario PC Party Government will cancel the Justin Trudeau / Kathleen Wynne’s Cap and Trade slush fund. This one move will immediately save drivers 10 cents per litre at the pump. Under the Carbon “Tax and Trade” tax plan, Ontarians may soon pay over $2.00 per litre at the pump.

Residents of Essex don’t have a choice other than to drive to work and visit family and friends, leaving less money in their pockets.

The PC Government will use every resource at its disposal to challenge and oppose any attempt by the Federal Government to impose a carbon tax on the people against their wishes.

The Ontario PC Party is the ONLY Party who will cancel the Cap and Trade slush fund.

Natyshak: After 15 years of Liberal government, gas prices continue to rise in Ontario, especially in communities like Essex. And Doug Ford won’t stand up to powerful oil and gas companies that charge drivers higher gasoline prices even when the price of oil drops. Andrea Horwath and the NDP are committed to making life more affordable for everyone. That’s why we will end the gouging that happens at the pumps before a long-weekend for example by mandating the Ontario Energy Board to monitor the price of gasoline across Ontario, and advise on policies to reduce price volatility and unfair regional price differences, while encouraging competition and transparency.

New Democrats believe polluters should pay for the emissions they release. But we also believe the transition to a green, low-carbon economy must be a fair one that doesn’t leave communities behind.

That’s why we will continue pricing carbon through a fair, effective and transparent cap-and-trade market. And that’s why we will also dedicate at least 25% of cap-and-trade revenues to support communities and individuals facing disproportionate burdens from increased fuel costs, such as northern and rural Ontarians, and low-income families.

2. Hydro rates have been a common talked-about issue. What is your plan to tackle hydro costs, or do you think the current system is working? Also, locally, there have been a number of momentary power outages experienced, which could damage appliances and equipment. How should such instances be remedied?

Lewis: Fifteen years of Liberal / NDP mismanagement have left families, seniors, farmers and businesses paying more for hydro. The PC Government will reduce your hydro bill by an additional 12%. We will do this by;

• Return all Hydro one dividends to hydro customers-saving the average family $70 on their hydro bills.

• Stop the practice of burying the cost of conservation programs on hydro bills and instead move those programs to the tax base-saving the average family $43 on their hydro bills.

• Place an immediate moratorium on any new energy contracts while walking back and re-negotiating existing contracts where possible-saving the average family $60 on their hydro bills.

This will save the average family $173 per year on their hydro bills. The PC Government is about fixing problems, not putting a band-aid on them. We will invest in hydro infrastructure to eliminate the outages. We understand the disruptions that residents face. WE will FIX the problem. That is just common sense.

Natyshak: Kathleen Wynne lied and sold-off Hydro One despite widespread opposition from the people of Ontario. Under the Liberals, hydro rates have gone up 300%. So Wynne cooked up a scheme to borrow billions to artificially keep bills down until after the election. Now, Doug Ford wants to keep Wynne’s scheme in place and dump $40 billion in new charges onto hydro bills, which will increase hydro bills by 70% after the election. Andrea Horwath and the NDP know that it doesn’t have to be this way. We are going to reduce hydro rates by up to 30% by bringing Hydro One back into public hands and getting private profits off your bill. We’ll also scrap the unfair rural delivery charges that mean people in our community pay more for the same amount of energy usage than those in the cities. We will also get rid of mandatory time-of-use charges because we know that families and small businesses can’t choose when they need power. We will also cap profit margins and executive salaries and fix the oversupply in our system so that we aren’t selling power across the border at a loss.

Festeryga: I’m proud to be part of a government that invested in our electricity infrastructure. If Bob Rae, Mike Harris or Ernie Eves had bothered to invest in the electricity grid we wouldn’t have had to spend so much. But we realized that the investments we made-to ensure you can flick a switch in your kitchen and have the lights turn on-were too quick.

That’s why we brought in the Fair Hydro Plan. You are seeing our plan in action on your electricity bills every month, 25% off.

The NDP’s plan to buy back shares of Hydro One won’t save a single cent on your bills and will just be a waste of $8 billion over decades. In the meantime, they will scrap our plan and you will see your prices soar.

There have been power outages across this riding, due to natural causes beyond our control.

Some would ask for LDCs to pay back the taxpayer for the amount of time without power-but that’s shortsighted. They aren’t thinking about where the costs would come from. That money would come out of the workers pocket, who is just doing their job to get the power back on.

3. A community is judged by how it treats it most vulnerable. What provisions does your platform offer long-term care needs for seniors in need of direct care? How is your plan financially attainable?

Natyshak: Every senior deserves long-term care that protects their safety, health and dignity. Sadly, decades of Conservative and Liberal governments have made deep health care cuts, then swept problems under the rug. Andrea Horwath and the NDP will fix seniors care to give our aging family members the care they deserve. We will immediately expand the scope of the public inquiry into long-term care to include systemic problems. We will fund 15,000 more long-term care beds over five years and 40,000 by 2028. We will require four hours of hands-on care a day for every long-term care resident and we’ll fund homes so they can meet this standard. We’ll also update Ontario’s Long Term Care Residents’ Bill of Rights to include the right of spouses not to be separated against their will. And to make sure every

Ontarian has drug and dental care, we’ll work with care providers to ensure residents have full access to these new services. To pay for this, we’ll close corporate income tax loopholes and ask the wealthiest among us to pay a bit more. Ontarians earning more than $220,000 will see a 1% income tax increase. Those earning above $300,000 will see a 2% increase.

Festeryga: People keep talking about what’s financially attainable, and I want to say that every party will be running a deficit. Every party will add to the debt. Only the liberal party has a fully costed plan and a path back to balance.

But our Liberal party is making strategic investments in our people and businesses. That includes increased care for our seniors. We have a proven record...we’ve added 700 long term care bed in Essex county, we are making prescriptions free for seniors 65 and older and we are increasing investments to home care because we’ve consulted with seniors and families and they want to stay home longer. We are also introducing home care maintenance for seniors, $750 per year so that you are able to renovate your house appropriately, to ensure your driveway is shoveled in the winter. Not to mention we pushed the federal government for CPP enhancement, to ensure we are all better off when we retire.

Lewis: For the past 15 years, the Liberals have known Ontario’s senior’s population would continue to grow but failed to take the appropriate steps to ensure the system would be prepared to care for them. We will do this by committing to build 15,000 long-term care beds in five years and 30,000 beds in 10 years.

This plan will ensure that seniors and the elderly in Ontario get high-quality care in the most appropriate setting. Further, the PC Party will support our seniors by introducing dental care for low-income seniors. This investment could assist almost 100,000 seniors

The low-income threshold for the Ontario Drug Benefit will be used. Therefore, a single senior with an income of $19,300 or less will qualify, or a couple with a combined income of $32,300 or less will qualify. Finally, relief for our Seniors.

4. Is there a “hallway healthcare” crisis within the Windsor-Essex Region? Describe the healthcare priorities highlighted in your party’s platform? Why are those matters important?

Festeryga: I personally have never experienced hallway healthcare in Windsor-Essex, nor has any of my family or friends. And I’ve spend a decent amount of time in our hospitals, my Mother is five years cancer free and she never experienced anything other than fantastic and expedient care.

That said, our government knows that we need to increase our funding to the healthcare sector. We are taking a holistic approach to healthcare, making investments in home care, long-term care, mental health care, the list goes on. By investing a historic $2.1 billion into mental health care, we can address the needs of people before they go into crisis, and thereby reduce pressures on our hospital systems. And by investing in home care, we can ensure everyone who wants to stay at home, can do so longer.

We’re investing $19 billion into hospital infrastructure, part of which will be for the mega-hospital.

Lewis: There is a crisis in our health care system: our hospitals are being pushed to the breaking point and patients are receiving care in hallways. The Ontario PC Government will cut hospital wait times and end hallway medicine. We will do this by committing to build 15,000 long-term care beds in five years and 30,000 beds in 10 years. Further, we will invest 1.9 billion in mental health, addictions, and housing supports to cut hospital wait times in Ontario. Together, with the federal government’s contribution, we will invest $3.8 billion in mental health, addictions, and housing supports.

Families and loved ones should NOT have to wait for hours in emergency rooms to receive health care, and our front line Care workers must be respected and taken care of.

Natyshak: After decades of bad Liberal governments and worse Conservative governments, health care in the Windsor-Essex region has been stretched to its breaking point. And while Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals have refused to even acknowledge the hallway medicine crisis, Doug Ford has promised even deeper cuts and more reckless privatization.

This time we don’t have to choose between bad and worse. Andrea Horwath and the NDP will fully invest in health care so we can put an end to overcrowding and hallway medicine. That means immediately opening 2,000 new beds across the province, including 89 beds at Hotel Dieu Grace Healthcare in Windsor.

In addition to opening beds, we will ensure hospital funding keeps pace with inflation, changing demographics and the unique needs of communities like those in rural and small-town Ontario. We’ll shorten surgery wait times by letting hospitals remove arbitrary caps that force surgery cancellations and delays. We’ll invest in expanding hospitals to meet growing capacity needs, including much needed investments to replace or repair aging rural hospitals. And we will lighten the load on hospitals by providing universal drug and dental coverage plans that will help keep people out of emergency rooms.

5. If elected, how would your party handle the sale of cannabis once it is legalized?

Lewis: The PC party is open to a free market on cannabis sales in Ontario versus a market monopolized through government run stores. To be very clear, this does not mean opening the market to all and making cannabis available at the corner store. It means that consumers who can legally purchase cannabis, can purchase it through private vendors as opposed to one run by the government.

Mr. Ford has stated that he would consult with our caucus to design a plan for that to be implemented. For example, cannabis could be sold through the existing network of pharmacies in Ontario or by direct marketing from licensed producers via the internet. The current plan already includes the sale of cannabis through an e-commerce platform, with an arrangement between the current Ontario government and Shopify.

Natyshak: Andrea Horwath and the NDP have long supported a legal, regulated cannabis industry. We are concerned about Kathleen Wynne’s plan to restrict the initial number of retail cannabis locations to just 40 for the province. This will allow organized crime to thrive and erode assurances that products are safe.

We are also concerned about Doug Ford and his PCs, who would turn Ontario into the Wild West with no regulations, where anyone can sell cannabis and the government has no role in ensuring products are safe or that profits fund things we need, like health care. Both these approaches are a recipe for the criminal element to thrive.

Andrea Horwath and the NDP believe the government has a role to play. Kathleen Wynne has made a mess of legalization in Ontario. In June, the new premier and their government will have to get to work quickly to clean up the mess the Liberals will leave behind, and ensure cannabis is available and properly regulated. Andrea Horwath and the NDP are looking forward to getting that done.

Festeryga: We have committed to and starting implementing a plan to sell cannabis through a government agency known as the Ontario Cannabis Store, which is run through the LCBO. It’s important to balance out the need to combat the illegal dispensaries that are popping up in many Ontario cities and towns, with an approach that keeps our youth and most vulnerable safe.

That’s why we’ve chosen the LCBO – they have a proven track-record with the sale of alcohol.

I believe it’s important to keep the sale of cannabis and alcohol out of convenience stores like the PC’s have proposed. We need to ensure our youth remain safe as the federal legalization of cannabis unveils and having these products readily accessible goes totally against that.

6. What are your feelings about the incoming ‘mega hospital?’ Will it be adequate to service the area’s needs?

Natyshak: After a Conservative government that slashed health care followed by 15 years more of a Liberal government that has frozen funding for hospitals and allowed the health care crisis to deepen, our community is in desperate need of resources. Not only do communities like Essex need new and updated facilities – which is why we are committing more than $19 billion over 10 years to hospital capital expansion – but it is also so important to make sure these hospitals are properly resourced, so they can service the area’s needs.

A new hospital under a Wynne or Ford government would still be painfully under-funded, which would only continue existing overcrowding and hallway medicine in a new facility. That’s why we will immediately increase hospital funding by 5.3% to make sure it keeps up with changing demographics, inflation and the unique needs of communities.

Festeryga: I’m excited for the new state of the art mega hospital to be build. I wish we already had shovels in the ground for this hospital because I’m genuinely concerned that it may not be built if the government changes hands.

The Liberal government has committed the funding for the hospital but the last time a PC government was in power, they closed 28 hospitals and the last time the NDP was in power, they cut funding to healthcare and closed over 9,000 hospital beds.

We know that the PCs will need to find billions in cuts, meaning this hospital could be on the Doug Ford chopping block. The NDP have already flip flopped on their support of this hospital so I can’t take their word that they will complete it either.

This new mega hospital will not only benefit our residents for their healthcare needs but will also attract top talent, diversify our economy, and build the foundation of a medical industry in the Windor-Essex region.

Lewis: Health care is very important to me as it is to all of our families across Essex County. Obviously, I am not a doctor or a nurse so I have been speaking to various Board members of the Hospitals and the front line care workers across Essex to better understand the grass roots issues that they are facing. The message that I am hearing is that they are mostly comfortable with the hospital and the location.

What they desperately need is funding and front line care nurses and doctors. Our area Hospitals have been neglected for far to long and are running deficits in the millions, which directly causes the lay offs of our nursing staff. This is unacceptable.

Our front line care workers are being stretched way to thin. They deserve the support of a Government that respects them. Not makes them empty promises that they won’t keep. Our PC Government will ensure that they are respected and more nurses and Doctor’s are brought to Essex.

7. Green Energy has sparked much debate. What is your stance on the file?

Festeryga: I’m proud to be part of a government that has taken serious action on climate change. Shutting down dirty coal was the single largest climate change initiative on the continent. By eliminating our reliance on dirty coal, we save $4 billion a year on healthcare costs.

In the Chamber of Commerce debate, Chris Lewis said “Green Energy is just plain wrong”. I think he should speak with the people employed as wind turbine technicians. Or the students at St. Clair College who are taking courses to get jobs in this field. Or the greenhouse growers who use solar power to reduce their energy costs.

The next generation has spoken and they care about climate change. It’s about time that all political parties agree on that.

Lewis: The Green Energy Act was introduced by the Liberals and voted in favour of by the NPD. NOT the PC Party of Ontario. While we as a party are concerned for the environment, the Green Energy Act is directly responsible for the high hydro rates that are unaffordable. These contracts continue to feather the nests of Kathleen Wynne’s friend’s.

We will place an immediate moratorium on any new energy contracts while walking back and re-negotiating existing contracts where possible-saving the average family $60 on their hydro bills.

Natyshak: Andrea Horwath and the NDP support green energy, but Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals have made a mess of this important issue by focusing on private power and ignoring communities. What’s clear is that we can’t afford to replace Kathleen Wynne’s poorly managed privatized electricity system with Doug Ford’s poorly managed privatized electricity system - that would be going from bad to worse. Doug Ford and his PCs are willing to say and do anything to avoid talking about police investigations and his plans to close hospitals, fire nurses and cut taxes for the wealthy and well-connected.

We want to put our green energy system in public hands, and ensure that it responds to the concerns of communities across Ontario. That is why Andrea Horwath and the Ontario NDP were the first party to commit to moving forward with the Health Hazard Study that Water Wells First asked for. We will also aggressively re-negotiate and cancel bad energy contracts so that we can stop the absurd practice of being forced to sell energy we don’t need at a loss.

8. One of the most talked about issues here is the future expansion of Highway #3. Has progression on the file been adequate or, in your opinion, what needs to be done?

Lewis: The widening of Hwy #3 is personal to me. As a Firefighter for 7.5 years, I have personally responded to dozens of accidents on this stretch of highway. I have seen the carnage, the devastation and families torn apart first hand.

My son travels this stretch of road to school to Windsor daily, and I worry about his safety as so many other families worry about their loved ones.

The Liberals and NDP have had EIGHT YEARS to get this project done. Not a shovel has been put in the ground! Absolutely NOTHING has been done.

The Liberal Minister of Transportation recently announced that “Hwy#3 is not an immediate need” for our community.

I beg to differ…

The PC Party is the only party to commit to the widening of Hwy#3 “Immediately.” Not in the future, but “Immediately.” Hwy #3 will be widened under a PC Government. Family’s lives and businesses deserve nothing less.

Natyshak: Kathleen Wynne and her Liberals have repeatedly failed to act on the widening of Highway 3. Even now, during election time, they don’t have any answers for the people of Essex or a firm commitment. Then there’s Doug Ford. On a recent morning campaign stop in Essex, he was asked about twinning Highway 3 and refused to commit to doing so. Then, at a different campaign stop later that same day, he said that if he was elected he would twin Highway 3 immediately. At any moment, on any issue, there’s no way to know which Doug Ford you’re going to get - so how can we trust what he’s said about Highway 3?

Andrea Horwath and NDP have been clear about this issue from day one. We will complete the long- planned but never delivered twinning of Highway 3. We’ve said it in public and it’s written in our fully- costed platform in black, white and orange. That’s change for the better.

Festeryga: The further expansion of Highway 3 is one of the most important issues to local voters and to myself personally. Already 13km of the highway has been widened but the people of Essex deserve to have the rest of the project completed.

The widening of Highway 3 is not only a critical project for the safety of drivers, but it is also important for growing local businesses, getting goods to market faster, making sure that commuters make it home safe and in good time to their families.

The further widening of Hwy 3 is underway. Phase 1, the environmental assessment, is complete and the project is now in phase two. But there needs to be strong advocacy to get this project completed, advocacy that has been missing in Essex. We need a strong voice to get the project to the top of the priority list for June 8th.

Only the liberal party has funds dedicated to the widening in the Southern Highways Program. Neither the NDP or the PCs include this program in their platforms, meaning if they form government this project is not shovel ready.

9. When in need of advice, to whom do you turn? Why?

Natyshak: When I need advice I turn to my wife. After being married for over 15 yrs, she’s the person who knows me best. I tend to be focused on the future and things that may or may not happen; Jenny on the other hand, lives in the moment and keeps me grounded.

Festeryga: When I’m in need of advice I turn to my brother Ted. He’s the person I go to for any big decisions in my life. In fact, he’s the first person I called when I started considering my candidacy for Essex. He’s honest and isn’t afraid to give me a reality check when I need it.

He taught me the value in getting back up when you fall down-from the first time I learned how to rollerblade to getting back into politics after Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election. We all need a Ted in our lives.

Lewis: I am extremely fortunate to have many incredible mentors in my life. My father, mother, brothers, my wife and friends. I believe that no one person has all of the answers so I consult as many people as possible to ensure that I am making the right decisions. I am a business owner, so I understand the importance of surrounding ones self with knowledge and experience, and making educated decisions after consulting everyone. The magic of seeking advice is to be humble and listen, and that is what I intend to do as your MPP.

10. If you had the opportunity to spend an afternoon with anyone who has ever existed, who would that be and how would you spend that time?

Festeryga: I’d love to spend the afternoon with Chris Lewis. He’s been more or less absent on the campaign trail so far. He’s only made it out to one debate and didn’t take any real policy stances there. He hasn’t addressed what support programs Doug Ford is going to cut from our community. He also said he’d get an answer from Doug Ford on why he didn’t expand his company to Windsor-Essex. I’m still waiting on a response.

Lewis: To me, it is vital that the people of Essex know who I am and what I stand for. I am humble and very much want to serve. I want to leave our future generations with a Province that they can prosper in and be proud to call home.

That being said, I would spend my day with Mother Theresa, a woman that devoted her life to the people. A woman that gave up everything she had to help those in need. I would follow her and listen to her message of humbleness, generosity and graciousness.

Natyshak: I would love to sit down with one of our WWI veterans to understand the challenges that they faced and the stories of bravery, sacrifice and service beyond self that exemplifies those who we know as “The Greatest Generation” we are forever grateful for their sacrifices and can never forget the role they played in our freedom.


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