Ottawa Centre candidates debate social assistance

By: Emily Dickinson

Provincial candidates debated about social assistance yesterday evening at an event held by an Ottawa organization that represents low income families,  which was characterized by accusations and arguments between parties.

Ottawa Centre PC candidate Robert Dekker was one of the seven PC candidates invited to the debate who never replied, said representatives from the organizing group, ACORN Ottawa. Thursday evening marked the third consecutive debate this week that Dekker missed.

“I’m very disappointed the Conservatives aren’t here today,” said leader of the Communist Party of Ontario, Elizabeth Rowley, filling in for Ottawa Centre candidate Stuart Ryan.  The crowd cheered as she urged people not to vote Conservative.

Also Representing Ottawa Centre was Liberal incumbent Yasir Naqvi, NDP candidate Anil Naidoo, and Green Party’s Kevin O’Donnell. The panel also included Emmanuel Houle of the Family Coalition Party (Ottawa-Vanier) and John Redins of the Party for People with Special Needs.

Naidoo, a first-time candidate, criticized Naqvi and the Liberals for the stagnant benefits in welfare.

“This is not the Ontario we want,” he said. “At the heart of it, Liberals choose corporate tax cuts over people.”

Naqvi agreed that more had to be done, but defended his party stating welfare benefits have been increased 13.7 per cent in the eight years that the Liberals have been in power.  Naqvi prides himself and his party on making 350 affordable housing units available in Ottawa Centre since he was elected in 2007.

Rowley criticized the Ontario government, saying that it’s obvious people on Ontario Disability and Support Program (ODSP) can’t afford to pay rent and eat well.

“How is this even a debate?” she asked the cheering crowd and the candidates. “People have to decide between paying rent and food. Everyone knows it, except Parliament. It’s not so hard to understand.”

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