From Manotick Messenger, June 3
Progressive Conservative incumbent Goldie Ghamari took the high road at the Richmond Village Association’s all-candidates meeting Wednesday night at the Richmond Fairgrounds Dining Hall.
The hall was one of the few buildings in Richmond that had power when the meeting was held. Richmond was hit particularly hard by the weather event of Sat., May 21, which saw winds of up to 190 kilometres per hour wreak havoc on the area.
The meeting had a turnout of about 50 people. However, many of people in the audience were campaign members, party delegates and family members of the five candidates in attendance.
Ghamari was joined on stage by NDP candidate Kevin St. Denis, Liberal candidate Tom Dawson, Green candidate Cody Zulinski, and New Blue Party candidate Rob Stocki.
Stocki gave an interesting account of his background as he went first for opening remarks. Stocki was a very successful and accomplished member of the Ottawa Police Service, but left policing to pursue a new career as a business owner. He said he is a former Conservative who was drawn to the new party.
“I was a proud Conservative for many years,” he said. “I was a PC and actually helped Doug Ford get elected. I was in Ottawa on his strategic team, and we did a lot of strategic sessions to get him elected.”
Stocki explained that not many people know about his party because Post Media would not run their advertisements, and Facebook also refused to run their advertisements. He also said that the New Blue Party was being shut out from participating in debates.
“The efforts taken to silence us have been monumental,” he said.
Stocki and his party never approached the Manotick Messenger for advertising, and they did not send any press releases or announcements to the Messenger.
While the candidates did not have a time limit as they talked about their backgrounds and platform. They also took turns criticizing Premier Doug Ford.
“When I go door to door, I keep hearing that people are becoming disenfranchised by politics,” Dawson said. “Doug Ford did break a lot of promises. And you’ll notice that he’s not running on his promises from 2018, or on his track record, because then he would have to answer why hydro rates weren’t cut by 12 per cent, or why your income tax didn’t go down by 20 per cent, or why the fuel tax didn’t go down then.”
Dawson also criticized Ford for hospital care, longterm care, autism wait lists and home prices before talking about Liberal promises. He also talked about the Liberals’ proposed one dollar transit plan, where any public transit ride will cost a dollar, and their plan to give every home in Ontario access to broadband internet.
Kevin St. Denis is an occasional teacher with the Ottawa Carleton District School Board who is running as the NDP candidate. He brought an interesting perspective to the meeting, taking many questions and scenarios and spinning his answer to allow the audience to see the perspective through the eyes of the elementary school students that he teaches.
He also talked about the NDP’s platform in increasing accessibility to mental healthcare and dental healthcare.
Green Party candidate Cody Zulinski, a teacher at South Carleton High School, said his party’s platform is rooted in sustainability. He was the first candidate to bring up last week’s devastating wind storm. He said it was a storm “the likes of which we will be seeing much, much more of if the climate continues to worsen.”
Ghamari kept her comments brief, speaking for less than two minutes while other candidates spoke for between five and 10 minutes.
“We’re the only party to say ‘yes’,” she said. “We’re the only party that said yes to investing $30 million to build the Ottawa Hospital. We’re the only party that said yes to expanding the 417. We’re the only party that said yes to expanding CHEO and investing $100 million into CHEO.”
Ghamari also talked about her accomplishments locally.
“I’m the only candidate who has actually helped Richmond grow and thrive,” she said. “Before I was elected, almost all of the stores in the Richmond Plaza were either shutting down or changing over. Now, if you look around, Richmond is thriving. We have new homes being built, we have new businesses coming in and opening up. Richmond is growing and expanding.”
Ghamari talked about her role in bringing Contact North to Richmond. Contact North is a provincial organization that brings access to education for free to rural areas.
“Richmond did not have this, and this is one of the things that I accomplished for Richmond, so that people in rural areas in rural Ottawa can have a place to go right here in the community if they want better access to education.”
One issue that became a hot button involved Munster Elementary School. After the Wynne Liberals closed the school and gave no reason for the closure, Ghamari fought and blocked the sale of the school from the school board to the City of Ottawa. Dawson commented that the school was closed because that was the wish of the parents, which drew some ire and groans from the audience.
The candidates fielded questions submitted to the moderator before people started lining up at the microphone. All three questions from the floor came from people involved in campaigns.
The first two questions were directed at Ghamari. They first came from Kevin Hua, who ran against her as the NDP candidate in 2018. He was asking how her party could support the new Ottawa Civic Hospital despite the local opposition to the project. Ghamari was precise and tidy in explaining that the issues he was talking about were municipal, not provincial matters.
The second question came from Carleton Liberal Provincial Riding Association President Patricia Pepper. She read a lengthy question about the auditor general’s report of 2021, prompting the moderator to interrupt her and be mindful of the other people in line behind her. Ghamari was neat and tidy in thanking Pepper for the question, and then delivered a quick and to-the-point answer.
One of Ghamari’s volunteers delivered the final question of the night, asking Dawson to elaborate on who he talked to and what parents wanted the Muster school closed. Dawson delivered an answer that did not address the school. The Ghamari volunteer pressed again on the topic, and Dawson again skirted the issue with his answer.