UPDATE: MPP McDonell slams Liberals in first SDSG all-candidates debate

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By Adam Brazeau
CORNWALL, Ontario - MPP Jim McDonell came out swinging in the first of several provincial election debates, suggesting the direction Liberal candidate John Earle's party has taken over the last decade is "wasteful and corrupt."

From left are Liberal John Earle, Progressive Conservative MPP Jim McDonell, Libertarian Shawn McRae, and NDP’s Elaine MacDonald.

First-time Ontario provincial candidate Earle fought back against the barrage of criticism, claiming he doesn't necessarily toe the party line.

But the candidates weren't the only ones on the attack at the Martintown Community Centre Thursday night. Of the 75-person crowd, nearly half were members of The Martintown Goodtimers seniors group, who hosted the event.

During question period McDonell took some heat for supporting nuclear energy, and for the Ontario PC Party 'Million Jobs Plan,' specifically the skilled trades component and cutting 100,000 public sector jobs.

McDonell claimed that despite concerns from the Ontario Federation of Labour, Cornwall would not feel the impact. Then, he was back on the defensive, smashing the Liberals' track record.

“I have to say that even I was shocked at the waste and corrupting of this government," said McDonell.

Earle stood firm and explained that although he fully supports Premier Kathleen Wynne's decisions, his orders really come from local constituents.

"The reason I'm running to be your next MPP is I believe we deserve a voice at Queen's Park - that's just for us in SDSG," said Earle. "I think that's what we had a few years ago (referring to former Liberal MPP Jim Brownell). But I don’t work for Kathleen Wynne - I work for you."

Earle's entrepreneur mentality was highlighted when responding to questions about health care and education, expressing how the government should run more like a business.

It clearly wasn't the NDP's Elaine MacDonald's first time at the podium. The applause and reception from the crowd reflected the polish of a two-time candidate and two-term Cornwall city councillor.

"The tragedy of the last 10 years has been the sheer waste," said MacDonald, who ran in the 2011 provincial election.

She listed several demolished mega-projects run by the Liberals, and extravagant CEO salaries as signs of disregard to taxpayers.

"Andrea Horwath knows the value of a dollar and that it's time for government to rebuild trust with the people," said MacDonald. "She will cap the salaries of public sector CEOs and get the Financial Accountability Office up and running."

Libertarian candidate Shawn McRae, a Bainsville farmer, is taking his first crack at politics.

"I don't remember ever looking at an election ballot and feeling hope or excitement in any of the options presented to me," said McRae.

He focused most of his speaking time on the need to de-centralize the government, limiting its role.

McRae believes Ontario needs to shift from socialism, where citizens are dependent on government services or government employment, and move towards self-preservation, entrepreneurial spirit, and community improvement.

“We’re going to have to wean our entire society off the easy fix, and re-educate them on how to take care of themselves,” said McRae.

When it came to the discussion around nuclear-generated power, the candidates’ views ran the full spectrum.

“I’m absolutely for nuclear. It provides nearly 65 per cent of our power. If we were to shut that down with no other solution, you can only imagine the cost we would pay,” said McDonell. “Our CANDU reactors are unique in design, and what happened in Russia and Japan would not have happened here.”

MacDonald didn’t share her opponent’s views.

“I don’t believe that the future is nuclear. The future - believe it or not - is in conservation and in green energy,” she said.

MacDonald also questioned the long-term effects of using nuclear energy.

“We have no way to dispose of the waste from nuclear power production responsibly,” she added.

McRae mostly agreed with MPP McDonell. “Yes, I’m in favour of nuclear. I’m simply not in favour of the government owning it,” he said.

Earle, like the NDP candidate, was more concerned about the environmental aspects of the issue.

“When you think about where the waste coming out of a nuclear plant is going, that’s scary for me,” he said. “I think clean, green energy is the way to go. We need to be a healthier Ontario.”

The Cornwall Chamber of Commerce will host an all-candidates debate May 29 in salon B of the Cornwall Civic Complex beginning at 7 p.m. The event will be televised live on TV Cogeco.

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