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We have compiled a list of 16 questions for our 2018 Provincial candidates from our editorial staff as well as you, our readers. Here’s how they responded.

Links to the other candidates’ responses can be found at the bottom.

Don Matheson, Liberal candidate, Huron-Bruce

Question: What do you think is the most important issue facing Huron-Bruce residents today and how will it be addressed?

Answer: The most important issue facing Huron-Bruce is the deficit. People are concerned. We committed today to mandate that every dollar that we out-perform our projections by must go to debt reduction.

Our budgets invest in care and opportunity for people. And they are built on prudent assumptions about growth — one-tenth of a point more conservative than average private sector growth projections and prudent assumptions about expenditures, including appropriate contingency and reserve funds.

Since 2013, using this approach, the government has improved on its budget projections by $13.9 billion, or an average of almost $2.8 billion per year. Every penny of that improvement has seen used to reduce the debt and deficit.

To support ongoing fiscal sustainability, a re-elected Ontario Liberal government will introduce legislation to mandate that 100 per cent of funds available due to improvement on fiscal projections at the end of a fiscal year go to reducing the debt.

Q: How will you protect the interest of the Huron-Bruce constituents and rural Ontarians?

A: I will protect the interests of Huron-Bruce constituents and rural Ontarians by being a strong advocate in Queen’s Park. Instead of fighting government, I will work with it. I will work with our mayors and my newly created Agricultural Advisory Committee to create locally driven solutions for the issues that affect us. A sort of made in Huron and Bruce County solution that works for everyone.

Q: What is your role in ensuring your party will deliver on its promises to Ontarians.

A: As your MPP, my role is to hold the government responsible. It is my job to voice the concerns of not just my riding, but all ridings in the province if the government is not doing what it said it was going to do. I will be loud. I will question the government repeatedly if they do not keep their pledge to do what is right for Ontario.

Q: How will you invest in public health care to ensure that Ontarians receive a high quality of service now and into the future?

A: As I have walked across this riding and talked to people in towns, they keep saying great things about our health system, yet the Liberal Government knows that we must continue to improve how we look after people in rural Ontario.

Publicly funded health care is a core value for Ontario Liberals. We believe that every Ontarian deserves the best care possible, when and where they need it, regardless of their ability to pay.

Our health system is a community of care providers, maintaining high-quality care for patients, clients, and residents across an integrated system, with access to team care that is available to everyone, whenever they need it. Our plan will:

• Reduce health disparities among racialized and marginalized communities by collecting appropriate data and developing, with community partners, health equity indicators and local plans to ensure more culturally appropriate care is available across the province;
• Continue to invest in telemedicine and new models of care, including virtual care to reduce wait times and make accessing health care easier;
• Create a capacity planning table to develop multi-year funding plans for hospitals and ensure Ontario has the necessary data and models of care available to meet the health care needs of our growing population;
• Develop a health workforce planning strategy and ensure health care providers have a seat at the table;
• Make it easier for people and families to access the care they need from their local pharmacist, such as vaccinations and managing chronic diseases;
• Maintain current nursing staffing levels and continue to hire more nurses across the health system to support direct patient care; in 2018 this will mean adding 3,500 more nurses to the health system across the continuum of care, including 2,500 in hospital settings, prioritizing Registered Nurses;
• Work with nursing and health system partners to ensure nursing vacancies are filled quickly and full-time work is prioritized;
• Continue to make health care settings safe for patients and health care providers by continuing to implement the recommendations of the Workplace Violence Prevention in Health Care Leadership Table.

Q: How will you invest in education to ensure that Ontarians receive quality education now and into the future?

A: I have to admit that I am a little biased on this question because I am a teacher, and I believe that students already get a quality education. As with most things however, you must continually work to improve them. We need to provide students with the opportunities now to succeed in the workforce later. A strong public education is the bedrock of a fair society. It gives our kids the skills and support they need to reach their full potential and succeed in the classroom and beyond.

You can’t stand still, we know that we need to do more. Our curriculum, assessment and reporting practices must focus on the skills students need to succeed. Parents and teachers have told us that students with special education requirements need more in-school supports. Students need more help planning for the future. That’s why the Ontario Liberals will modernize the system, improve special education programs and put more teachers and support staff in classrooms. To do this, we will:
• Explore curriculum links for the Edible Gardens Program, which creates experiential learning for students in agriculture, environmental sciences and healthy living;
• Add 2,000 new teachers and education workers, including more Education Assistants to support kids with exceptionally high needs and more specialists, including behavioural specialists and speech language pathologists;
• Add 450 guidance teachers in elementary schools to help students transition to high school and start career planning;
• Improve access to high-speed Internet at publicly funded schools, including connecting an additional 250,000 students at 850 schools by the end of 2018 and connecting all classrooms by 2021;
• Place mental health workers in all high schools to improve access to mental health supports.

Q: How will you protect the interest of farmers and agriculture in Huron-Bruce?

A: I know that Agribusiness is a critical part of our economy in Huron-Bruce. It is our economic engine. And I know that agribusiness interests – your interests – have not been a top priority for our current MPP at Queen’s Park.

That’s why, if elected, I am committed to creating an agribusiness advisory committee. This group would include representatives from all agribusiness sectors – producers, processors, shippers, as well as implement and material suppliers. Working cooperatively, this committee will create local solutions and design local initiatives to serve local needs.

As your MPP, I will deliver your ideas to Queens Park, not the other way around. I’ll be your advocate. I will do my best to “make rural relevant”.

Q: What can be done to help families with special needs children?

A: Young people with autism spectrum disorder need services and supports as soon as possible. The Ontario Liberal government has created the Ontario Autism Program, which puts families at the heart of all decision-making and provides individualized support to help their kids thrive.

Kids with special education requirements need support to reach their full potential. The Ontario Liberal government has added over 30,000 additional teachers and staff since 2003 to support student success, including 900 more Education Assistants to support students with special needs since 2013.

Those with special needs and their families need access to services and supports when and where they need them.

That’s why the Ontario Liberals will provide more financial and residential support to people with a developmental disability and more services and support for young people with autism spectrum disorder and special education needs. We will further enhance accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities. Our plan will:
• Help youth transition into adult services and better support people with developmental disabilities by expanding the Passport Program to provide every eligible individual with at least $5,000 in direct funding per year;
• Create a 24/7 hotline to ensure that families have quick and easy access to urgent services to prevent crises;
• Support new and innovative community-based housing and housing options and create new residential spots for people and families;
• Create new respite opportunities for caregivers;
• Provide developmental services agencies with a base increase of over $200 million to help stabilize and grow the services they provide in our communities;
• Continue to improve the new Ontario Autism Program by creating more services, regulating the therapy sector and working to improve access to autism services in schools;
• Add 2,000 new teachers and education workers in Ontario schools to eliminate wait lists for special education assessments and support kids with special education needs;
• Ensure all high schools have access to mental health workers to provide access to mental health supports;
• Complete the ongoing AODA legislative review, continue to develop the two accessibility standards — health and education — and work with stakeholders to ensure they have a positive impact.

Q: Are there plans to increase the availability of skill labourers in Huron-Bruce, eg: bringing in post-secondary education?

A: A highly skilled workforce is essential to Ontario’s economic competitiveness. Employers and education and training institutions must work together to make sure people can get the skills and experience they need to get good jobs.

Today, Ontario’s colleges and universities are among the best in the world. The Ontario Liberal government’s investments are creating hands-on learning opportunities for more than 70,000 postsecondary students. Our apprenticeship system has certified almost 10,000 trade professionals a year for the past three years.

The Ontario Liberal government also supports newcomers through investments in services and programs that help them and their families settle in their new lives and get ahead. It supports the Ontario Bridge Training Program, which connects skilled immigrants to the job market. It also provides language training and other settlement supports.

But we are hearing from people that we need to do more. We must ensure that our apprenticeship and training system meets the needs of students, job-seekers and employers in a rapidly changing economy. Many newcomers can’t find affordable training programs or face challenges when they try to continue to work in the same careers they worked in before coming to Ontario.

That’s why the Ontario Liberals will modernize Ontario’s apprenticeship system by creating 15,000 more opportunities, improve our employment and training system and help maintain the strength of our workforce. We will help newcomers achieve their full potential by expanding access to training and ensuring that their experience, credentials and qualifications obtained outside Ontario are fairly assessed. Our plan will:
• Expose more youth to trades by expanding the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program, which helps grade 11 and 12 students work toward becoming certified journeypersons in a skilled trade while completing their high school diploma;
• Support regional, local and sector-specific apprenticeship pilot projects as part of a $170 million investment over three years in the new Ontario Apprenticeship Strategy;
• Create a Graduated Apprenticeship Grant for employers to hire new apprentices, with additional incentives to hire underrepresented groups;
• Invest $63 million to create the first Ontario Training Bank, which will develop new, short-term training options for workers who want to upgrade their skills and help ensure training options meet employer needs;
• Invest $132 million over the next three years in innovative college and university programming that strengthens partnerships with employers and gives students more experiential learning opportunities;
• Help newcomers succeed, through employment supports, language training and settlement services.

The Ontario Liberal Government has been working with local school boards to create partnerships with local Community Colleges. To this end, we have already seen partnerships with local schools in Huron and Bruce counties. Fanshawe and Conestoga College have seized the opportunity to attract students to programs that they might not have taken before. This is just the start.

Q: What will be done to address the family doctor shortage in Huron-Bruce?

A: Every community needs to have a Doctor Recruitment Team. I know that these teams work very hard to try and bring new doctors to our areas. To that end, we need to look at how we are doing this.

One way to bring new doctors and especially specialists is to designate different local hospitals as centres of excellence. An example of this is the Wingham hospital. They have brought in their cancer treatment centres and it has been a success. People do not have to travel as far to see their specialists.

• Continue to invest in telemedicine and new models of care, including virtual care to reduce wait times and make accessing health care easier;
• Create a capacity planning table to develop multi-year funding plans for hospitals and ensure Ontario has the necessary data and models of care available to meet the health care needs of our growing population;
• Reduce health disparities among racialized and marginalized communities by collecting appropriate data and developing, with community partners, health equity indicators and local plans to ensure more culturally appropriate care is available across the province.

Q: How will you address climate change and ensure that the water and environment will be protected for future generations?

A: Ontario’s forests, wetlands, parks and green spaces are among the most beautiful in the world. Our wetlands are biodiversity hotspots, serving as an important habitat to an array of plants, birds, insects, amphibians, fish and other animals, including many species at risk. Wetlands also provide Ontarians with clean and abundant water, flood and erosion mitigation, climate moderation, recreational opportunities and other important benefits.

Since 2014, the Ontario Liberal government has taken steps to protect our natural spaces, including establishing and growing the Greenbelt and updating land use plans that help grow communities while protecting green spaces, farmland and lands and water at risk. It has also taken steps to protect species at risk and promote their recovery.

But we need to do more. Climate change, pollution, habitat loss, unsustainable use of our natural resources and invasive species are threatening our natural spaces and the species that live in them.

That’s why the Ontario Liberals will bring in new measures to protect Ontario’s natural environment and biodiversity
We are protecting the Great Lakes and ensuring Ontario families and farms have access to clean water. An adequate supply of clean water is essential to our health, environment and economy.

The Ontario Liberal government has introduced measures to protect our lakes and rivers, including investing over $200 million in comprehensive source water protection and a plan to sustain the Great Lakes, which are the source of drinking water for most people in the province. We have also increased the fee for water taking and imposed a two-year moratorium on new or expanded water bottling operations. And we have helped reduce municipal sewage outflows by investing in wastewater infrastructure, requiring pollution control plans for key facilities and supporting wastewater optimization programs.

Q: What is your stand on nuclear energy and nuclear waste management?

A: I fully support nuclear energy. The Liberal Party of Ontario supports Nuclear Energy. In fact, the Liberal Party is the only party that will guarantee full support for the Bruce Power Major Component Replacement Programme. The PC party has not given their full support, and the NDP, although their candidate supports it, has publicly stated that they do not support Nuclear Energy.

As for Nuclear Waste Management, I believe in the science. I believe that Canada is a world leader in Nuclear Energy. I also believe that the Nuclear Waste Management Organization is doing a fantastic job in the storage of all waste material at the Bruce site.

Q: What is your stand on carbon tax?

A: I believe in climate change. I believe it is the job of the Government of Ontario to be stewards of our environment. As such, it is our duty as a government to cap the amount of greenhouse gas emissions businesses can emit. I also believe that the Ontario plan – the Cap and Trade Program, is doing a fantastic job at helping to control these emissions. It is also a great source of revenue when we can sell un-used credits to Quebec and California. At the moment, any excess revenue we receive from the Cap and Trade is applied back into environmental projects that help reduce Ontario’s carbon emissions.

Q: What are the plans to address hydro rates for Ontarians?

A: Electricity is an essential part of our daily lives, powering our homes and businesses. High electricity rates create huge pressures on household budgets and business’s bottom line.

Electricity rates have gone up because, for decades, governments of all stripes let the maintenance of our system slide. The grid became less reliable and we began to experience blackouts. Our system was long overdue for some significant and expensive upgrades.

Hydro bills have also gone up because we ended coal-fired generation. Coal was a cheaper way to generate power, but created smog, contributed to climate change and was costly in terms of environmental and health effects.

Over the past decade, we have invested approximately $70 billion to transform our electricity system. We now have a clean, green, reliable system. While those investments were necessary, they came at a cost, which was being disproportionately placed on current electricity customers. By spreading out these costs over a longer period of time, they will be shared more evenly with future generations who will benefit from the investments. It is a fairer way to pay for our electricity investments.

That’s why the Ontario Liberal government brought in the single largest electricity rate reduction in our province’s history. By spreading out the cost of modernizing, cleaning and greening our electricity system — improvements that benefit current and future generations — we have cut electricity bills for residents, farms and businesses. Our Fair Hydro Plan:
• Cuts electricity rates for half a million small businesses and farms;
• Cuts hydro bills by 25 per cent for residential consumers;
• Cuts hydro bills by as much as 40 per cent to 50 per cent for people with low incomes or who live in rural and northern communities;
• Ensures rates won’t rise beyond the rate of inflation for four years;
• Builds on previous Ontario Liberal action to reduce electricity costs, including removing the Debt Retirement Charge early for all residential customers, saving a typical ratepayer $70 per year.

We are also taking action to ensure that Ontario’s electricity system is efficient, clean, and reliable in the long run, to keep rates down for good. We have launched an electricity market renewal process to build more flexibility into the electricity system and ensure it operates as efficiently as possible. By designing a system that keeps ratepayer costs down and reduces greenhouse gas emissions, we expect to save up to $5.2 billion in cost savings over a 10-year period.

Q: Are there plans to increase old age security for seniors?

A: After a lifetime of hard work, people deserve to have a secure retirement. But many people are worried about being able to sustain their quality of life in retirement. Workplace pension coverage is declining and people are living longer.

That’s why the Ontario Liberal government played a leading role in achieving enhancements to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) to improve the retirement security of workers. These historic changes, which enhanced CPP benefits, are especially important to the future quality of life for the two-thirds of workers without workplace pension plans. Enhancements to the CPP include:
• Increasing the maximum CPP retirement benefit by about 50 per cent;
• Making employees’ CPP contribution tax deductible;
• Protecting the value of retirement benefits for workers, including women who leave the work force to raise children and people who can’t work because of a disability;
• Ensuring the CPP remains funded and well managed

We are hearing from people that we need to do more to enhance retirement security. It is clear that people are able to save more, and earlier, when they have access to high-quality pension plans, rather than relying on private investment mechanisms that charge high fees.

That’s why the Ontario Liberals will expand access to pensions and other high-quality retirement plans and make sure retirees receive the benefits that they are promised. We will support innovative retirement security solutions from the public, private and non-profit sectors, with a goal of giving all Ontarians access to the quality plans that have made Ontario a worldwide leader in pension innovation. Our plan will broaden access to effective retirement savings opportunities by:
• Supporting the creation of portable retirement plans that stay with a worker from job to job; these plans could be sponsored by unions, associations, multiple employers, or multiple stakeholders within a sector where access to high-quality retirement plans is a challenge;
• Giving the new Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario an explicit mandate to expand access to high-quality retirement plans;
• Removing barriers that prevent existing successful public-sector pension plans from offering their services to more people;
• Piloting a three-year, $65 million program to encourage Personal Support Workers who work in publicly funded home care to save for retirement through a group Tax-Free Savings Account;
• Strengthening the ability of the pension regulator to intervene in cases where pensioners are treated unfairly;
• Calling on the federal government to revise existing bankruptcy and insolvency laws to provide pension obligations with super-priority status;
• Improve the quality of existing retirement arrangements through greater consumer protection, including encouraging the development of retirement security solutions to help seniors in the post-retirement phase, including new ways for seniors to protect themselves against outliving their money.

Q: Are there plans to address mental health and drug issues in Huron-Bruce?

A: There is no health without mental health. Yet many people — including children and youth — are facing serious mental health challenges. Nearly one in three people in Ontario will experience a mental health or addictions challenge in their lifetime.

As part of our commitment to provide better care for people with mental illness, the Ontario Liberal Government has improved access to mental health care, including free talk therapy, 17,000 new supportive housing units and Youth Wellness Hubs. We have fought the opioid overdose crisis and saved lives by funding harm reduction supports, supervised injection services and overdose prevention sites.

But we need to do more. No one in Ontario should struggle to access mental health or addictions care for themselves or their loved ones.

That’s why the Ontario Liberals will make a historic $2.1 billion additional investment in mental health care to make sure that whatever your age or wherever you live in our province, you will have fast and easy access to the care that’s right for you.

Q: Is there anything else you wish to share with our readers about yours or your party’s platform?

A: This election has divided the people of Ontario. People are not sure which government to believe. The debt scares people as does the prospect of losing services.

What we must remember is that the job of a government is to look after the people – all the people. The job of government is to make the decisions that we expect them to do.

The Liberal government is the only party that has the well being of all Ontarians in mind. Our plan of “Care before Cuts” is designed to meet the ever- rising needs of all the people in Ontario. The choice has never been clearer. A vote for the PCs is a vote to cut the most essential services that we hold dear. A vote for the NDP is too accept less than what we deserve. They are not ready. A vote for the Liberal Party of Ontario with Don Matheson as your MPP is a vote for what the people of Ontario really need – stability. Stability as we grow. And most important of all, the belief that Care before Cuts is the best policy.

See Saugeen Shores Hub for other Huron-Bruce candidates (in alphabetical order):

Jan Johnstone - NDP
Lisa Thompson - PC
Nicholas Wendler - Green

At the time of publishing, we hadn’t received a response from Alliance Ontario’s Gerry Huenemoerder and Libertarian Ron Stephens. If we get a response from either of these candidates, we will publish and update accordingly.

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