Brad Trivers, MLA for Rustico-Emerald, and James Aylward, MLA for Stratford-Kinlock, squared off at Credit Union Place answering an array of questions about health care, seniors home care, mental health access, school reviews and high-speed internet.
About 80 people attended the event.
“I felt very passionate about the high-speed internet issue,” Trivers said after the debate.
“It’s low-hanging fruit to me. If we want small businesses to be able to run and grow on the Island, if we want communities to grow in rural areas and across the Island we need to have a reliable, faster internet. It’s a no-brainer.”
Health care was a topic Aylward stressed, saying countless Islanders have contacted him by phone, email, Facebook and in person.
He was specific to mention the concerns about mental health, addictions, a child advocate and the possibility of a senior’s advocate.
“For a while there has been the need for a child advocate on the Island. But we’re at the societal point where we might need a senior’s advocate. I don’t have my head in the sand, I know that there are cases on the Island of elder abuse, or say they decide to only take half a dose of medication because it’s that or they won’t be able to eat because they can’t afford medication and food. There are some who can’t afford to heat their homes in the winter.”
The debate started with five-minute introductions for each candidate. A moderator posed four questions with two minutes to answer and a 60-second rebuttal.
“The recent school board review talked about the future development prospects for rural school areas,” the moderator said. “The analysis indicated that for most areas, there are no prospects for increased population growth and school enrolments will continue to decline. What is your plan to ensure that our rural communities grow and flourish under a new Progressive Conservative government?”
Trivers answered first.
“It’s awful that Islanders had to go through this again. First off, it was an incomplete and flawed analysis.”
Studies are like looking into a crystal ball, he added.
“If schools close then for sure we’re not going to grow populations in these areas.”
Aylward agreed, saying the process was an exercise that didn’t need to be taken.
“I saw the anxiety the parents had to go through. The fears of the students and the tears at those meetings… If you close a school, you’re shutting down the heart of the community.”
Kent Pendleton of Trout River, who stood up twice to ask questions, said he found the event “very educational” and “very useful.”
“Forced amalgamation is something on the mind and I wanted to hear their opinions. We moved to a rural area because we want to be there. But we don’t want to be forced back into a city like scenario. If a community wants to amalgamate I’m all for it. But if they don’t, they shouldn’t be made to.”
Pendleton also questioned the candidates about the growing debt on the Island.
“I wanted to know how they planned to get a balanced budget. The answers were a mixed response, but it was something I can take away with me.”
When are the next leadership forums?
– Sept. 19: Bloomfield Legion
– Sept. 26: Charlottetown Holland College Campus
– Oct. 4: Brudenell RODD