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Area candidates sound off on Lake Simcoe's health, climate change

Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte candidates participated in local installment of 100 Debates on the Environment initiative

Climate change and the environment were among the issues addressed this week as three of the Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte (BSOM) candidates vying for the MP's seat in Ottawa took part in a virtual debate.

NDP candidate Sarah Lochhead, Liberal candidate Tanya Saari and Conservative candidate Doug Shipley answered questions Wednesday afternoon as part of the local 100 Debates on the Environment initiative, which organizes non-partisan, all-candidates debates on the environment in ridings across Canada. People's Party candidate Chris Webb is the fourth name on the ballot in Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte, but he did not take part in the debate. 

Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition executive director Margaret Prophet moderated the online debate, which was organized by the coalition and Rescue Lake Simcoe. 

The protection and future of Lake Simcoe was top of mind and candidates addressed how they would work to protect it.

“I will work with all levels of government to ensure the Bradford bypass undergoes an environmental assessment," Saari said of the controversial project in southern Simcoe County and what effect it could have. "Residents in this area cherish Lake Simcoe and we have to protect it. It’s a very important thing and I am committed to seeing that through"

Shipley said the health and future of Lake Simcoe are of paramount importance to him and the Conservatives. 

“We will reinstate the Lake Simcoe Clean-up Fund to protect our vital natural resource," said the incumbent. "I have advocated for the reinstatement of the Lake Simcoe Clean-up Fund to be fulfilled since the last election and we have heard nothing from the current Liberal government. That tells me in Barrie-Springwater-Oro Medonte that the Liberals are not serious about protecting Lake Simcoe, but the Conservative Party of Canada is.”

Lochhead said she knows the project as the “Holland Marsh highway," adding it’s going to run through some of the most important wetlands in Ontario. 

“So yes, we need a federal environmental assessment on this project and the Liberals ordered one for the proposed (Highway) 413, but not for this project, which doesn’t make sense to me," she said. 

"Right now, it’s using an assessment from the late '90s when (the musical genre) grunge rock was cool the first time and that’s just not acceptable because climate leaders don’t build highways," Lochhead added.

“What I see is the need to support forward-thinking initiatives that look for green solutions of how we get around," she explained. "An NDP government will look at green solutions such as public transit, as well as looking at our communities and helping minimize urban sprawl by creating good jobs where we live. We need to make sure we aren’t building a highway that’s going to be congested again another 10 years after it’s done.”

Lochhead also shared plans to protect more green space, increase green infrastructure and assemble a coalition of local NDP candidates to vote as a block in Parliament in the interest of Lake Simcoe.

Housing was another item the candidates addressed. They were asked what measures they would take to ensure housing as a right for all Canadians.

“Everyone in Canada should have a safe and affordable place to live," Lochhead said. "We’ve got a plan to invest right now to create half a million units of affordable housing across the country. That will create jobs and build the co-operative and social housing that is needed so desperately in this country. As a way to kick-start those projects, for co-ops and social and non-profit housing, we want to break the log jam that’s prevented these groups from accessing housing funding.”

The issue of housing is a top priority in this area, acknowledged Saari, who noted she has been out talking to residents for several weeks and housing is always at the top of the concerns. 

“For myself, I have been working with Redwood Park Communities for several years  and as well as my experience as a real estate agent  I can see first hand what the lack of affordable housing has done in this area," Saari said. "I also know from working with Redwood what a huge impact that a safe and affordable home can make to people so we have to continue our work on housing.

"I was really pleased with the policy platform that came out that we are going to build more affordable housing... 1.4 million across the country, introduce a buyer's bill of rights, introduce a rent-to-own program for those looking at getting into the housing market (and) introduce a new multi-generational home tax credit to help families," she added. 

Saari added her party will also make additional investments in Indigenous housing and work with Indigenous partners to develop an Indigenous housing strategy and support by dedicated investments. 

“We will continue to work to end chronic homelessness because the bottom line here is everybody deserves a safe place to call home," she said. 

Shipley noted he has also heard from residents in the riding who are being forced out of their community in order to find a home they can afford. 

“This must be a top priority for the next government," he said. "There is a serious problem with supply and demand and (the) Conservatives will swiftly increase housing supply across the country by effectively funding infrastructure projects. That means building public transit infrastructure and requiring cities and towns receiving those funds to increase density near transit.”

The full debate can be viewed on YouTube by clicking here.

The federal election will take place Monday, Sept. 20. 

For more local election coverage, visit BarrieToday'CanadaVotes page


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About the Author: Nikki Cole

Nikki Cole has been a community issues reporter for BarrieToday since February, 2021
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