There were two winners in last weeks provincial leadership debate. One was Mike Schreiner; leader of the Green Party and the other was Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford.
Schreiner was an articulate debater, sharper than the other two opposition leaders, although, like them, more intent on attacking Doug Ford than laying out his own party’s platform, especially on environmental issues.
All Doug Ford had to do to come out a winner from this debate was to remain standing at the end of it. He did that and more. He was the only leader on the platform who did not interrupt, over talk, or scream at his opponents. It was a three against one debate, but he remained gracious, defended his record and again, unlike the others, minimized the attacks and clearly outlined his priorities for the next four years.
Having said that, the performance of Mike Schreiner at that debate cannot be ignored. It won’t win him many more seats in the Ontario Legislature, but it could affect the outcome in ridings where the race is tight.
This is especially true in the provincial riding of Parry Sound-Muskoka. In fact, this is one of two ridings in Ontario that Schreiner specifically highlighted during the debate as seats they were targeting for a Green win.
There is no question in my view, that the race in Parry Sound-Muskoka is a tight one between the Progressive Conservatives and the Green Party. In fact, recent polls confirm it.
There are a number of reasons for this. Matt Richter has run for the Green Party in this riding several times before, resulting in a respectable base. More importantly, the Liberals, most likely deliberately and strategically, do not have a candidate here. They know they cannot win this riding for themselves, but a loss for the Conservatives to another party also ends up as a win for them.
If the Liberals had really wanted a name on the ballot in this riding, they could have had one. The candidate they had at the very last minute was a joke and they wasted no time getting rid of him. But I know there are other strong Liberals, good people with significant standing in the community, who may well have allowed their name to be placed on the ballot to allow Liberal supporters to vote for that party. They were not asked and that is a boon for the Green Party in this riding.
Conversely, while the lack of a Liberal candidate could help the Green Party, the plethora of fringe parties on the ballot, particularly two headed by disgruntled far-right Tories who were booted out of the Ontario Conservative caucus, could result in eating away votes that would otherwise go to Graydon Smith.
So yes, this riding has been targeted by the Green Party as one they could win. They have directed a significant amount of their resources here and have also brought in people from around the province to help the local candidate. I know there are many people who will support this strategy and I respect that.
However, I am not one of them.
I will be voting for Graydon Smith. Even if I were not a Progressive Conservative, I would vote for Graydon Smith. Here’s why.
Graydon Smith is immensely qualified. He has served this riding in a number of capacities, and he has served it well. Most importantly for Muskoka, Graydon Smith and Scott Aitchison, working side by side, played a leading and significant role in ensuring that the provincial government committed to two fully equipped, acute care hospitals here. That is a top priority for folks in Muskoka and East Parry Sound.
But the deal is not done yet. It is a long road between a commitment and a shovel in the ground.
Elections make a difference, and they have consequences. Priorities change, people change, and budgets change. In my view, we need Graydon Smith at Queen’s Park to ensure that a promise made is a promise kept. There is simply no one who could do it better.
Hazel McCallion, one of the longest-serving mayors in Canada, often a Liberal and sometimes a Conservative and always a character who calls it as she sees it, came out last week in support of Doug Ford and said this:
“Real leaders don’t show up with problems, they show up with solutions. They don’t find excuses to delay and say no. Real leaders say yes. Doug Ford is a people’s Premier that’s putting Ontario first. He’s a real leader who’s saying yes to building Ontario for the future.”
I believe that much of that can also be said about Graydon Smith, both on his record and on his unwavering, well-publicized commitment to two acute-care, full-service hospitals to serve Muskoka and East Parry Sound.
That is why it is important to vote and when I vote, my top priority will be effective and equal hospital care in all parts of Parry Sound-Muskoka.
Hugh Mackenzie has held elected office as a trustee on the Muskoka Board of Education, a Huntsville councillor, a District councillor, and mayor of Huntsville. He has also served as chairman of the District Muskoka and as chief of staff to former premier of Ontario, Frank Miller.
Hugh has served on a number of provincial, federal and local boards, including chair of the Ontario Health Disciplines Board, vice-chair of the Ontario Family Health Network, vice-chair of the Ontario Election Finance Commission, and board member of Roy Thomson Hall, the National Theatre School of Canada, and the Anglican Church of Canada. Locally, he has served as president of the Huntsville Rotary Club, chair of Huntsville District Memorial Hospital, chair of the Huntsville Hospital Foundation, president of Huntsville Festival of the Arts, and board member of Community Living Huntsville.
In business, Hugh Mackenzie has a background in radio and newspaper publishing. He was also a founding partner and CEO of Enterprise Canada, a national public affairs and strategic communications firm established in 1986.
Currently, Hugh is president of C3 Digital Media Inc., the parent company of Doppler Online, and he enjoys writing commentary for Huntsville Doppler.
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