Provincial election candidates butt heads during public forum

After weeks of campaigning, three candidates running for provincial office in Thompson came face-to-face at the Ma-Mow-We-Tak Friendship Centre Sept. 4 for a public forum.

Incumbent Kelly Bindle (Progressive Conservatives), Danielle Adams (NDP) and Meagan Jemmett (Green Party) talked at length about the biggest issues facing the north, including health care, crime reduction, jobs and education.

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Manitoba Liberal candidate Darla Contois didn’t show up for Wednesday night’s gathering.

Bindle and Adams spent most of the evening going after each other, trying to convince the audience that they’d be worse off voting for the opposing side.

Bindle repeated several variations of the phrase “we were left a huge mess,” referencing the high taxes and broken healthcare system the PCs had to contend with after winning a majority government from the NDP back in 2016.

“Since being elected we reduced taxes, cut ambulance fees and we’re the only province in Canada that has lowered hospital wait times over the last three years,” he said. “We have the budget on track for balance, we have kept our promises to Manitobans and will continue to move the province forward.”

Meanwhile, Adams lambasted Bindle for being an absentee MLA who is never around to address important issues relating to Thompson and simply parrots talking points from Manitoba PC party leader Brian Pallister.

“We need somebody that’s going to represent us and not represent Pallister,” she said. “You need a voice that will speak for you in Winnipeg, somebody who will stand up for workers rather than big corporations, somebody who will stand up for drivers rather than insurance companies.” 

Wednesday’s forum also served as a big showcase for Jemmett, since it marked the first time she’s interacted with the public on a large scale after announcing her candidacy back in late August.

The criminal defence lawyer fully admitted that she doesn’t expect to win this seat, but said a vote for the Greens will send a strong message to the establishment that their current approach to fixing issues like climate change and economic inequality is not working.

While the event’s organizers, the Thompson Chamber of Commerce, provided a handful of starter questions, audience members supplied most of the hard-hitting inquiries.

Familiar battle lines were drawn when Thompson Coun. Les Ellsworth asked about each candidate’s stance on the Mining Community Reserve Fund (MCRF) and whether or not Thompson city officials deserve access to it.

Bindle echoed past statements from Pallister by stating that the MCRF can’t be accessed when it drops below a threshold of $10 million. He also cribbed notes from Trade Minister Blaine Pedersen by saying that former Thompson mayor Dennis Fenske never presented the provincial government with a long-term plan to justify relinquishing some of that money.

However, both Adams and Jemmett agreed that the MCRF could be put to good use in the local community and that the PCs are simply making excuses. Adams also pointed out that a recent access to information request from the Manitoba NDP showed that the MCRF held a balance of close to $11 million back in May.

For a lot of these audience questions, Bindle touted the tangible measures his party has put forward over the last three years they’ve been in power.  

For example, when asked about what he’s done to improve health care and mental health services, Bindle pointed to the opening of the rapid access to addictions medicine (RAAM) clinic in Thompson last October

However, Adams and Jemmett said the PCs’ healthcare system is still plagued by cuts and privatization, with the suspension of the air ambulance services still being fresh in a lot of people’s mind. 

Adams wrapped up the evening by promising big changes on several fronts and more active representation down south if she is elected. 

“I will protect our health care system, our children’s education system and our northern way of life,” she said. “I will ensure that Indigenous voices are heard loud in clear in the Legislature halls. I will continue to listen. I will find out what really matters and I will bring it to attention.”

Jemmett pitched herself as a viable third-party candidate during her closing statement. 

“Voting Green … sends a strong message to the major parties that what they’re offering isn’t enough, that they need to rethink their approach.”

Bindle ended Wednesday’s forum by guaranteeing voters financial stability under a re-elected PC government.

“It’s time to ask yourself what four years of NDP government would mean to us,” he said. “The NDP will bring new punitive taxes like their super carbon tax and the LEAP Manifesto will decimate new investment and resource development.”

Manitobans’ last chance to cast their ballot in this provincial election is Sept. 10, although advance voting is still available in Thompson until the end of Sept. 5.

For more information on all of the candidates in the Thompson riding, please visit the “2019 Provincial Election” section of the Thompson Citizen website. 

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