Perth-Wellington NDP candidate Michael O'Brien answers a question about residential development. Liberal candidate Brendan Knight is seated in the middle of the table with Progressive Conservative candidate Randy Pettapiece to the far right. (photo by Adam Bell)

First Perth-Wellington All-Candidates Meeting

An all-candidates meeting at the Queen’s Inn at Stratford Wednesday gave some voters their first view of two new candidates who are challenging PC incumbent Randy Pettapiece.

Liberal candidate Brendan Knight and NDP candidate Michael O’Brien joined Pettapiece at the head table of a dinner put on by the Stratford & Area Builders’ Association.  All three answered questions dealing with housing affordability, apprenticeship ratios, as well as challenges facing youth.

Canadian Homebuilders’ Association 2nd Vice President John Meinen felt the meeting gave association members a chance to have their voices heard by all candidates, noting this gives his members peace of mind knowing they’ve spoken to them and that each candidate knows the issues they’re facing.

Pettapiece answered every question, except for one note on the Ontario Municipal Board re-structuring.   When asked what he thought of the re-structuring, Pettapiece said the system has not been in place long enough and is reserving judgement.

All three candidates had an answer for the hottest topic of the evening; apprenticeship ratios.
Skills Canada stated recently that 40% of new jobs created in the next decade will be in the skilled trades, however, currently only 26% of people aged 13-24 are considering a career in these areas.

In addition, construction industry stakeholders are reportedly upset with a recent Ontario College of Trades decision to extend the review of journeyperson to apprentice ratios by one year, stating it will delay opportunities in the skilled trades.

Knight said the Liberals will be considering a skilled trades tax credit that he will be looking into more after the meeting.    O’Brien said the NDP would work to increase the number of apprenticeships granted, while Pettapiece said he has taken calls on the ratios issue, and says it will be one of the first problems tackled if the Progressive Conservatives win the provincial election.

When it came to debt and deficit servicing, Knight remarked that the Liberal Party is making life more affordable for Ontarians, but says he’ll look into ways he can promote reducing debt.

O’Brien lacked an answer on debt servicing.

Pettapiece says the provincial Liberal government is spending “billions of dollars per day serving Ontario’s debt”, also noting the recent $25,000 raise approved by Hydro One’s Board of Directors (which also includes a $70,000 raise for its chairperson).

Perth-Wellington has more all-candidates meeting coming up. They will meet again Thursday night at the Optimist Hall in Alma beginning at 7:30pm.

On May 29, two meetings will be held — 2pm at the Harriston Community Centre, hosted by the Minto Retirees Association, and 8pm at the Kenilworth Public School, hosted by the Perth Federation of Agriculture.