Taras Natyshak

Provincial candidates face off in debate

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Candidates in the riding of Essex faced off as part of a series of debates presented by the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Windsor and District Labour Council.

NDP incumbent Taras Natyshak faced challengers that included PC candidate Chris Lewis, Green Party candidate Nancy Pancheshan and Liberal candidate Kate Festeryga.

Natyshak said “we are on the cusp of change in Ontario” and that “New Democrats believe we don’t have to choose between bad and worse.” He said the NDP has a fully costed plan if elected.

Lewis said that “to say I’m grassroots is an understatement” and that he is “results and action driven.”

“I know what it takes to get the job done,” he said.

Liberal candidate Kate Festeryga

Festeryga acknowledged that the “Liberals aren’t the most popular party in the room right now” but said Liberal policies have led to big gains in the Windsor-Essex region including the unemployment rate dropping below the national average, reductions in small business tax rates and cutting regulations to businesses.

“We could go on forever on what we’re doing for the economy,” she said.

As it relates to agriculture, Lewis said it was an issue “near and dear to me,” adding the PC’s will be the only party to cut the carbon tax. He said he doesn’t claim to have all the answers but he and the PC Party will surround themselves with the right people and “we’ll get the job done.”

Festeryga said she comes from a third generation family farm and criticized PC leader Doug Ford for comments about paving over the green belt as “it’s just farmer’s fields.” She said Liberals have helped cut hydro rates for 500,000 small businesses and farms.

PC candidate Chris Lewis

Pancheshan said the Greens support small businesses and farms and support the promotion of craft breweries and wineries.

Natyshak said “my PC colleague says he doesn’t have the answers because he has no plan whatsoever.” He said the NDP will invest in broadband internet because farms are “high tech” operations. The NDP will also end the rural delivery charges and also will end time-of-use billing, noting it is “ruining” some farm operations. He said while Premier Kathleen Wynne has called the NDP position on energy “a dream,” the Liberal plan is “a nightmare.”

Natyshak added the NDP will buy back Hydro One shares as the party believes hydro should always be in public hands. He accused the PC’s of actually wanting to adopt some of Wynne’s plans regarding energy.

NDP candidate Taras Natyshak (incumbent)

Festeryga said Natyshak voted against the Ontario Fair Hydro Plan and said the NDP plan will not result in any billing decreases as rates are set by the Ontario Energy Board. Lewis said the Green Energy Act is having an adverse effect and is driving business away while Pancheshan said the Greens support not continuing to subsidize big business. The Green platform calls for a long-term energy plan that would see Ontario powered with 100 per cent renewable energy.

Pancheshan said the Greens support the idea of one school board with savings from administration costs passed down to the “front lines” such as students in classrooms. They will also eliminate EQAO testing, something Natyshak said the NDP will do as well.

There is also a failed funding formula in education, Natyshak added, something that has been passed down from as far back as the Mike Harris PC government.

Green Party candidate Nancy Pancheshan

On the health care front, Natyshak said the health system is “chronically underfunded.” Lewis indicated the party will end “hallway healthcare” and that the PC’s will “take care of front line workers” and assist mental health initiatives.

Festeryga indicated there were hospital closures and cuts under both NDP and PC governments while Pancheshan said the Greens want to prioritize front line investment.

The provincial election is June 7.

Former Essex MP lends support to provincial Essex PC candidate

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

As Chris Lewis tries to paint the Essex riding blue provincially, his campaign got the support of someone who did it federally.

Former Essex MP Jeff Watson and his wife Sarah were back in Amherstburg on the weekend to support Lewis, who is the Progressive Conservative candidate in the June 7 provincial election. The former MP, who served from 2004-15, now lives with his family in Calgary and is working to support Jason Kenney in Kenney’s bid to unite the two conservative parties there and re-take control of the government in that province.

Former Essex MP Jeff Watson raises the arm of Progressive Conservative candidate Chris Lewis during a rally May 11 at the AMA Sportsmen Association.

“I’ve spent the better part of the last year criss-crossing Alberta trying to bring two political parties together,” said Watson.

Watson said he has been friends with Lewis for several years and came back to bolster the local PC candidate. He said “it’s time for Kathleen Wynne to go” and said the premier and her Liberal Party is a government “well past its prime.”

Watson predicted there would be “significant challenges” for Ontarians going forward if the Doug Ford-led PC Party doesn’t win and said people have to think about the change they want, believing Conservative is the way to go.

“We have the right kind of change, change that will work for people,” said Watson.

Acknowledging the NDP has swept federal and provincial ridings in recent elections, Watson questioned what has become since then as he took aim at incumbent MPP Taras Natyshak. Watson brought flash cards and rallied the crowd at the AMA Sportsmen Club Friday night that read “Beat Natyshak” and tied the NDP candidate’s name to higher debt, electricity costs and taxes.

Accusing Natyshak of being a “do nothing,” Watson asked “what has he done for his $130,000 salary? Jack. Nothing.”

Believing Ford is well on his way to victory, Watson said the riding needs “someone who brings something to the table.” He said he represents the past “but it’s guys like Chris Lewis that represent your future.”

Lewis, a former Kingsville councillor and firefighter, believes the party is on the verge of something special locally.

Former Essex MP Jeff Watson holds up a flashcard suggesting that re-electing Taras Natyshak would
result in higher provincial debt. Watson was at
a Friday night rally in support of PC candidate Chris Lewis (right).

“We are on the cusp of something historic and remarkable,” he said. “The winds of change are finally here. We know we are on the NDP’s radar.”

According to Lewis, the PC’s have gained 23 points on the NDP locally and “are basically in a statistical tie. When is the last time a conservative in Essex could say that?”

Lewis said he will not partake in any mudslinging but will hold people accountable. Highway 3 will get widened if he is elected, Lewis predicted, as “the only reason it’s not fixed now is because you don’t have a voice at the table”

The province is $312 billion in debt and worried about his children’s futures and how they would pay that off. He used that as a rallying cry for younger voters.

“If we can engage our youth, we are going to be successful,” said Lewis.

Lewis said he brings no baggage to Queen’s Park and questioned Natyshak’s involvement with the Water Wells First group in Chatham-Kent, stating “things in Essex need taking care of.”

Natyshak opens campaign office

 

By Jonathan Martin

 

Essex’s incumbent member of provincial parliament is officially on the campaign trail again.

Taras Natyshak, New Democratic member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, opened his office’s doors to the public Sunday to kick off the campaign season.

The small office, located in the Town of Essex, was packed with Natyshak’s supporters.  A few of them sported T-shirts declaring, “Water is Life,” referencing the MPP’s bout with the Ontario legislature over water quality in Chatham-Kent.

Essex NDP MPP Taras Natyshak speaks to a group of his supporters in his Essex campaign office last Sunday. Natyshak is up for re-election June 7. He was first elected to the provincial Legislature in 2011.

There, farmers allege wind farms have caused harmful sediment to seep into their well water.  Natyshak brought the farmers’ concerns before the legislature on March 5, only to be ejected from Queen’s Park after producing a jar of black liquid, which he said came from one of the farmers’ wells.  Reports released by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs state that no connection between the sediment and the wind farms has been established and, referencing findings by the Chatham-Kent Medical Officer of Health, contend that the water is safe to drink.

Natyshak stands by the farmers’ allegations, though.  Despite the fact that Chatham-Kent is outside of his riding, he said he will continue to work on the issue.

“It’s not a coincidence,” he said.  “I am fully invested in their fight and will continue fighting with them.”

Some of those affected by the sediment are members of Water Wells First, a group which speaks out against anything it deems harmful to the aquifer present beneath Chatham-Kent.

Water Wells First’s spokesperson is Kevin Jakubec.  He stepped onto a chair and addressed the office.

“I’m here today and our members are here today to thank Taras,” he said.  “He’s been a bulldog on the Ministry of Environment.”

After an impassioned speech, Jakubec stepped down from the chair and Natyshak stepped up.  He said that he cared deeply about the issue of clean drinking water because it’s a health issue, and healthcare is something he is passionate about.

Water Wells First spokesperson Kevin Jakubec speaks at Essex NDP MPP Taras Natyshak’s campaign office in Essex on Sunday, May 6, 2018. Natyshak brought the group’s concerns before Queen’s Park. He is now up for re-election. (photo by Jonathan Martin)

He said, if elected, the NDP plans to introduce 15,000 new beds into long-term care over four years and inject an additional 40,000 over eight.  He said adding beds to long-term care would free up space in primary care, which is an issue he feels will become even more pressing as Ontario’s population ages.

Another major topic of focus was the de-privatization of Hydro One.  Natyshak said the provincial NDP plans to take the value of the dividends the government has with its 42 per cent stake and buy back stock in the company.  That way, the public would become a majority owner and could deal with things, he said, such as “executive salaries, which are simply extravagant.”  He vowed to reduce Ontarians’ hydro rates by 30 per cent and eliminate time-of-use billing.

Natyshak said he tabled legislation last week that would refund hydro delivery fees for customers who experienced “frequent outages.”

“That’s a big issue here in Essex County,” he said.  “Hydro, across the whole province, needs to be fixed.  I see the path to do that. Seeing this many people turn out, I think they see it too.”

 

Chris Lewis to represent Progressive Conservatives in June 7 provincial election

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Progressive Conservative Party has its candidate for the June 7 provincial election.

Kingsville resident Chris Lewis has been acclaimed as the PC candidate and will try to wrest the seat from current Essex MPP Taras Natyshak, who is running again as the New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate.

“I am honoured, humbled and excited to carry the Progressive Conservative flag for the riding of Essex. Throughout the riding of Essex, I continue to hear that people desperately want change, lower taxes and a champion to finally complete the widening of Highway #3. I am ready to go to work when elected June 7,” said Lewis.

Lewis is a former member of Kingsville town council and a firefighter.

“Nothing inspires me more, and excites me than the pursuit of this MPP seat

for the PC party!” said Lewis. “I love this corner of Canada, and I strongly feel like it’s a ‘calling’ to represent this area I call home, at the leadership level.”

Lewis added that “I have three beautiful children, a lovely wife, great family and friends and I’m deeply committed to the residents of Essex for their long-term health, prosperity and happiness!”

Stating that “the riding of Essex is a great place to live and grow,” Lewis said he cares about its long-term viability as a sustainable region.

“I have always been committed to leaving the world a better place than I found it,” he said. “You know, someone once said that Essex County is like a microcosm of all of Canada! How’s this you may ask? We have fisheries, unsurpassed agriculture and food processing industry, mining, high technology and award-winning manufacturing, international trade, cutting edge research facilities, cultural diversity, world-class education and the list just goes on and on!”

Lewis believes “enough is enough” and “it’s time to respect the taxpayer and put their interests first!”

“I am an extremely good listener and I do not believe in putting a politician into an area they don’t know anything about!” he said. “The riding of Essex needs some real political traction and I intend to provide it! We need PC troops to fight this battle!”

Adding he is “very approachable,” Lewis added he is “extremely committed” to solving people’s problems “and, boy, do we have some major problems to fix.”

“I am a home-grown, longtime Kingsville resident, so being local, I have a thorough knowledge of what, we, in this area, need fixed! Ontario varies widely, and what North Bay needs is vastly different from our needs!” he said. “I am relatively young (41) and brimming with energy! I pay a great deal of value and credence to our young adults who often get side-tracked in the political arena.. Nothing inspires me more than the talents, energies and aspirations of our young adults.”

According to Lewis, Ontario’s debt is over $311 billion and the cost to service it is over $12 billion per year.

Chris Lewis will represent the Progressive Conservatives in the provincial election June 7. (Submitted photo)

“We will balance the budget!” he vowed. “Our kids should not have to pay for Kathleen Wynne’s blunders. It’s time to balance the budget and respect the taxpayers. The party is over. It’s all about the grassroots having a voice.”

Over 300,000 jobs have been lost in Ontario, said Lewis, and believed there is too much red tape, energy costs that are too high, and too much taxation including carbon and corporate taxes.

“We have the best minds, expertise and entrepreneurs, but we need the opportunities to use them,” said Lewis.

Lewis said health care needs improvement and that “patients are waiting in hallways and broom closets for health care!” He said the health care system is “broken” and said the PC party will listen to front line workers. The expansion of Highway 3 is another issue and accused the current Liberal government of sitting on their hands too long “at the risk of residents.”

The PC’s will review existing education curriculums “line-by-line” and amend it where necessary, he said.

Lewis said he will, if elected, give Essex “a voice for real representation” at Queen’s Park, provide a solid job friendly environment, reduce taxes, foster a safe living environment and “re-establish ourselves as a democracy.” He added he will be an advocate for the environment and work with municipal leaders to help resolve flooding issues.

“The PC party inherently understands the very grass root issues that taxpayers are facing. We understand that each region has unique needs, and we will work tirelessly across the province to ensure that these needs are addressed quickly and responsibly,” said Lewis. “Specific to our region, Ontario will not stop in London any longer under a PC Government. Essex will once again have a voice at the table to ensure much needed funding for our projects such as the widening of Highway 3. Families, businesses, young adults and seniors will once again be proud to be Ontarians and have access to an honest, transparent and responsible government.”

Lewis said he is “humble beyond belief by the outpouring of support” he has been receiving.

“Rest assured, this is not about Chris Lewis, it is about the electorate desperately wanting action and change, demanding the cost of living be lowered. The winds of change across Essex and Ontario are strong. I have had many folks tell me that they have voted a certain way for a long time, but this election they will be voting PC, as they know that it is vital to have a voice, a much-needed seat at the table with the government in power.”

Ontario PC leader Doug Ford also issued a statement where he congratulated Lewis for being the Progressive Conservative candidate for the Essex riding.

“I congratulate Chris‎ on his nomination as the Ontario PC candidate for Essex,” Ford said in a statement. “Chris is a great addition to our Ontario PC team. As an entrepreneur, business owner and a long-time resident of Kingsville, Chris has always been engaged in his community. He has a passion for community service, and always puts his community first.”

The only other known candidate for the Essex riding as of press time is Tyler Cook of the Libertarian Party.

CLEC receives provincial funding, funds evaluation of employment services

 

By Ron Giofu

Community Living Essex County (CLEC) received $27,400 from Ontario’s Local Poverty Reduction Fund and used it to evaluate its employment service.

The funding was put towards an independent evaluation by University of Windsor researchers into Career Compass, a CLEC-sponsored employment support service geared towards promoting inclusive hiring and finding employment for those with intellectual disabilities.

The research was performed by Kelly Carr, Laura Chittle, Sean Horton, Patricia Weir and Chad Sutherland from the department of kinesiology. Carr, a PhD candidate, along with CLEC executive director Nancy Wallace-Gero and director of supports overseeing Career Compass Rosa Amicarelli presented the results at a media conference April 4.

Community Living Essex County (CLEC) received $27,400 from Ontario’s Local Poverty Reduction Fund and used it to evaluate its employment service – Career Compass. From left: University of Windsor PhD candidate and researcher Kelly Carr, CLEC director of supports overseeing Career Compass Rosa Amicarelli, Community Living Essex County executive director Nancy Wallace-Gero, self-advocate Reggie Wilson and Essex MPP Taras Natyshak.

Carr explained there was a 2004 report that showed that people with disabilities were traditionally paid $8.66 – slightly higher than the minimum wage at the time – and mainly held sales and service industry jobs with no health benefits. The results of the research recommended a “strength-based employment service” which marketed job seekers for their strengths, promoted an untapped talent pool of employees and adopted more of a business-like approach.

Such recommendations would result in increased hourly wages and jobs outside the service sector, further income security by increasing hours of work including at permanent jobs outside the sales and services sector and allow for long-term considerations including medical and health benefits. Carr noted that qualitative and quantitative evaluations of workplace attitudes were taken with a strength-based employment services, as opposed to a social service approach.

Carr added that strength-based employment services resulted in “significantly higher wages” as well as an estimated 55-times greater likelihood of working outside the sales and services sector.

Amicarelli said that the University of Windsor’s results will be shared with the employment team, which consists of herself and four others.

Kelly Carr, a University of Windsor PhD candidate, fields a question during a media conference held at Community Living Essex County’s main office April 4. Carr was one of the researchers that evaluated CLEC’s employment service Career Compass.

Essex MPP Taras Natyshak was also on hand for an official cheque presentation, and said that upwards of 30 per cent of people in the next decade could be faced with some sort of disability. He said it makes business sense to hire people with intellectual disabilities as it is reflective of what is happening in society.

“We were very fortunate to get this grant,” added Wallace-Gero, adding Community Living Essex County was one of the few agencies in this end of the province to receive such funding.

“We will document proven strategies that move people with disabilities toward meaningful employment within a diverse and inclusive workplace,” she said. “This research will demonstrate the real shift occurring for people with disabilities; that is, a shift away from unemployment, isolation and poverty to a real career, inclusion and income security.”

The study originated in January 2017.

For more information on Career Compass, visit www.clecareercompass.org, call 519-776-6483, “Like” them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/clecareercompass or “Follow” them on Twitter at https://twitter.com/CLECareerCompas.