May 26, 2022 0 comments
By Sam Odrowski
Five candidates vying for the Dufferin–Caledon seat in the upcoming provincial election recently faced off at a candidates’ forum.
The two-hour debate, hosted by the Dufferin Chamber of Commerce (DBOT) last Wednesday, saw Sylvia Jones (Progressive Conservative), Bob Gordanier (Liberal), Tess Prendergast (NDP), Andrea Banyai (New Blue) and Laura Campbell (Green) answer questions on a variety of topics.
None of the questions were provided to applicants prior to the Applicant Forum.
Local housing crisis
DBOT’s Doug Harkness moderated the event and first asked, “If elected, what would you do to solve the housing crisis in the community?
Campbell responded that Dufferin–Caledon needed more “missing middle” housing and to stop paving farmland with urban sprawl.
The way to do this is to make key investments and help municipalities put in place low-density development, such as duplexes, triplexes, nanny suites, garden suites and other forms of housing that people can afford.
She noted that the starting price of homes in Dufferin–Caledon of $800,000 or $900,000 is out of reach for too many people.
“We have to make sure we get homes that are actually affordable, and the Greens have prioritized that,” Campbell said.
Banyai said she knows the housing crisis very well, having searched for a new home in the area in recent months without success.
She noted that larger developments design infrastructure plans that are not always best suited to innovation in the housing sector.
“We believe in development, we want to encourage development, but we need to remove bureaucracy so that small developers come into the picture so that we can create new, innovative and creative ways for people to live,” said Banyai, who quoted as an example modern trailer park communities.
Prendergast said the NDP believes housing is a human right to which every Ontarian is entitled.
“I was listening to a regional meeting in Dufferin County, and they said over 700 families had applied for affordable housing. For me, that means that there are 700 families on the verge of homelessness. It’s a very precarious situation where we live in a rural setting where access to rental housing and supply just doesn’t exist,” Prendergast remarked.
She added that the NDP plans to build 1.5 million homes in 10 years, end exclusionary zoning and build softer density in the “missing middle,” as Campbell pointed out.
“We also plan to create a new public agency, Housing Ontario, to build more than 250,000 new affordable, off-market homes for people to rent,” Prendergast said. “We will bring back rent control so you pay what the last tenant paid. It’s really important to keep people in their homes affordable.
Gordanier’s response was that during the election campaign, it’s the same complaint at the door, rents have gone up and people are paying up to $600 more than before. He said this was due to the lack of rent controls, which the Ford government removed in November 2018.
He said the Liberals would bring back rent control and build 1.5 million homes over the next 10 years, just like the NDP.
“Young people, newcomers and families need to enter the housing market,” he noted.
Jones said whether it’s a young person trying to get a foot in the door or an older person who wants to downsize but not leave behind their faith, family and friends – affordable housing is necessary.
“We’ve already started making changes as a provincial government, working with our municipal partners, working with homebuilders, working with organizations like Habitat for Humanity,” Jones noted. “We have, in fact, already put in place policy changes that have made a real difference.”
Last year, 100,000 new homes were built in Ontario, the highest in 30 years, Jones said.
“The policies we put in place are making a difference right here in Orangeville. We see rental properties under construction, I can’t remember the last time we had rental properties under construction in our community,” she added.
Internet service subsidies
Harkness asked the applicants what they would do to expedite Internet Service Provider (ISP) grant applications, as many municipalities have actively supported ISPs in their state and federal grant applications. He noted that outside of SWIFT rollouts and announcements, there has been radio silence on the fate of these apps.
Banyai said she personally understands the lack of internet connection issues in Dufferin–Caledon, having two megabits per second of speed in her rural home.
“Since I moved into my house in Mono, I’ve been trying to get faster internet access and it’s impossible,” she noted. “We contacted all the service providers there and tried to build a tower. I know how hard it is to get high speed internet.
Her house being 400 feet from the road, even if fiber optic lines were built to the end of the driveway, she would have to pay for them to get to the house.
“Really, the only option is Starlink, and I’ve been waiting on that waiting list for a year and a half now as well,” Banyai said. “There is no way to contact them. So if I was elected MPP, I think that would be one of the first things I would do is find Starlink contact information and figure out what the problem is to get it to our communities.
Prendergast said with Ontario making online learning mandatory for high school students, high-speed broadband internet is essential.
As a sixth grade teacher, she said she saw some of her Grand Valley students struggle firsthand with online learning during the COVID lockdowns, due to their unreliable internet service.
Prendergast noted that the NDP government is guaranteeing that by 2025 or by 2025 it will provide high-speed broadband Internet access to all of Ontario.
“I spoke to a farmer who had to drive 25 minutes to Tim Hortons to download critical software updates for his farm equipment. So it takes 40-50 minutes out of his day to do it, and how often does that have to happen? Prendergast asked.
Gordanier said internet service is definitely an issue in the constituency and anyone running a business needs a stable connection.
“I don’t actually know who controls all of this in terms of doing it. But you can’t run a farm anywhere without food rations, communications, sales – we can go on forever,” he said. “I believe we have to put someone on this file and do it.”
Jones said reliable broadband is a priority for his government and that by 2025, all areas of Ontario will have reliable broadband.
She commented on Mansfield and Mulmur recently getting an expansion of internet services from Bell and how Pikangikum, a fly-in community in northern Ontario, was able to get internet through low earth orbit satellites.
Jones said the slow processing of proposals the province submits to the federal government is part of the reason there hasn’t been a lot of money given locally.
Campbell said that as Ontarians increasingly work from home, reliable internet service is essential and high-speed internet must be rolled out across the province.
“The Ontario Greens have made this a priority,” she noted. “This is part of our platform to make broadband internet an essential service for the people of Ontario.
The way to do this is to work with municipalities and ensure they are not burdened with long waiting times for grants.
The Greens would also incentivize the market, according to Campbell.
“We don’t want another situation where we have two big companies [Rogers and Bell] which essentially have a monopoly on services. We need to level the playing field for small providers so that people have more choices for the internet at home,” she explained.
The provincial election is June 2.