The Greater K-W Chamber of Commerce hosted candidates from the four major parties at Kitchener City Hall Wednesday night.

Part of the provincial Kitchener-Waterloo byelection debate focused on the “Putting Students First Act.”

Green party Candidate Stacey Danckert answered first, and said that while the teacher wage freeze legislation will save $500 million, “merging the Catholic and Public school board, actually would help us save three times that amount.”

NDP Candidate Catherine Fife says the Liberals have created conflict, “in order to win a majority government by the Liberal Party. It is disingenuous, and it is not in the best interest of the people of this province.”

PC Candidate Tracey Weiler says this wage freeze is a good start, “in terms of achieving our over-all wage freeze across all public-sector employees.”

Liberal Candidate Eric Davis says the act is about balancing the budget by 2017/2018, “but we’re making sure that we’re protecting the investments that we’ve made in Education.”

On how to attract doctors to the province and KW, Fife says the NDP will do more to foster growth in how Health Care is delivered, “We have to have physicians come to under serviced areas. This riding now qualifies as an under serviced area. So for new grads, we are offering debt-forgiveness in order for them to stay in the community.”

Weiler says she stands for innovative Health Care reform, “how could we provide access to doctors to be able to practice when they are Canadian, but they have been trained abroad.”

Davis pointed to the Liberal Party’s track record with Health Care, “Since 2003, KW has 408 new doctors. That’s an increase of 20%.”

Danckert said the focus in Health Care should shift from treatment to prevention.

Candidates also were asked to address their position on the Liberal governments plan to eliminate slot machines from horse race tracks.

Davis spoke first, in support of the plan, “We need to move that money elsewhere. We need to make sure we protect the investments we’ve made in Health Care and Education.”

Danckert said she’s undecided, “That’s something that I would like to think a little bit longer about.”            

Fife said eliminating the slots is the wrong thing to do. “(The Liberal’s) are interrupting a program that is actually working, that is actually creating jobs.”    

Weiler said her party doesn’t support removing slots from race tracks, “This industry stands to have upwards of around 60,000 people lose their jobs.”            

HWY 7 was not forgotten. However, it was one of the last topics discussed.

Fife responded first, saying the NDP supports HWY 7 expansion, “Minority setting is the best place to make sure that it does happen because we need to work together.”

Weiler says her party supports expansion, “My commitment is to make sure that is a priority.”

Davis trumpeted Dalton McGuinty’s announcement that shovels will be in the ground for HWY 7 in three years. “When the Liberal government took power in 2003, HWY 7 had been on the books for 14 years. The NDP had a chance to do something about it, the Tories had a chance to do something about it, and neither did anything.”

Danckert says increased public transit between Kitchener and Guelph is a better option, “Rather than sacrificing 144 hectares of farmland and wetland areas, and having to construct a bridge over the Grand River.”

Today marks one week until voters go to the polls in Kitchener-Waterloo and
Vaughan.

Mike.McCulloch@rci.rogers.com