Progressive Conservative candidate Donna Skelly hammered incumbent Liberal Ted McMeekin in a televised debate, demanding to know why a potential $477-million bailout of the MaRS innovation hub in downtown Toronto was kept secret from taxpayers.
“You didn’t want that to come forward, you didn’t include it in your budget and you certainly didn’t tell the media or the public about it,” said Skelly during the Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale provincial debate taped by Cable 14 May 29.
McMeekin said there is “nothing secret” about the potential deal, which did not go through because the election was called before the Treasury Board could approve it, which is a requirement.
“MaRS is out there. It’s doing a good job. (It) does a lot of great work. They deserve to be supported.”
McMeekin added the Tories are confused about how to blame the Liberals for any industry trouble. If a company struggles, the Liberals are criticized, but if the government bails out an industry, as it did with the auto sector, it’s called corporate welfare.
“You can’t have it both ways,” said McMeekin. “We said we will continue to make strategic investments in research and innovation.”
NDP candidate Alex Johnstone also cornered McMeekin during the debate, repeatedly asking why people should trust the Liberals.
“How can we trust you, Ted? It seems like the same show over and over again,” said Johnstone. “How can we believe anything will change?”
Johnstone repeated the NDP charge that the party didn’t support the Liberal’s budget because in the 2013 budget the government didn’t follow through on its promises to improve health care for seniors, establish an accountability office and lower auto insurance, requirements for the NDP to support the minority Liberals.
“It’s not a progressive budget,” said Johnstone.
But McMeekin pointed out other NDP supporters, such as Michele Landsberg, the wife of Stephen Lewis, and Ontario Federation of Labour’s Sid Ryan both endorsed the Liberal budget.
“They haven’t been part of the NDP for a very, very long time,” responded Johnstone, as McMeekin responded that “Tommy Douglas would be rolling over in his grave.”
McMeekin, who played defence for most of the debate, managed a few sharp counter attacks, arguing the party’s One Million Jobs Plan will mean hundreds of lay offs in Hamilton that could include firefighters, paramedics and other civil servants.
“Who will you give the pink slips too?”
Johnston, a public school trustee representing Ancaster, said with the Liberals mired in another scandal, and the Tories with their own poor track record, voters need to look at the NDP.
Also participating was Barry Spruce of the Freedom Party, who was drowned out by Skelly and Johnstone for most of the debate as they went after McMeekin.
Two candidates who didn’t take part in the debate but are running in the election are Ray Dartsch of the Green Party and Glenn Langton of the Libertarian Party.
The debate will be repeated on Cable 14 until the June 12 election. For more information check out www.cable14.com.