The all candidates meeting at the Almonte Old Town Hall attracted 100 residents of Mississippi Mills. At the beginning of the evening everyone thought the story would be "who was not in the room". Jack MacLaren, the Conservative candidate was a "no show". He cancelled just hours before the meeting which has been arranged since August 15. After questions from the audience, organizer and Hub President Glenda Jones rose to state that the political parties were advised in August that the Old Town Hall had been booked for September 15. Another notice was sent to parties before the writ was dropped and a third on September 7, the day the writ dropped. All candidates agreed to appear. Ms. Jones was assured by a personal assistant of Jack MacLaren as recently as three days ago that he would attend, but he suddenly cancelled the day of the meeting because of a "conflict". The audience was clearly irritated, not to say downright insulted, by his absence.
The real story, however, turned out to be the quality of the candidates. This is not a lame bunch. All appeared capable and credible and listened and responded respectfully to questions. They clearly knew their party platforms.
The NDP candidate, Liam Duff, while only 22 and a University of Ottawa student, was remarkably poised and thoughtful for one so young. If you think a student cannot be a credible candidate, think about the federal NDP in Quebec. Quebecers evidently felt that they could trust youthful political neophytes.
The Green Party candidate, Scott Simser, is a remarkable individual. Profoundly deaf, he had a transcriber with him to type out questions that he read from a computer screen. He has clearly learned to speak while deaf, a major accomplishment, and although he was difficult to understand at times, his intelligence is evident, he knows his party platform and is an exemplar of courage and determination. If he directs the same attention and determination to the interests of his constituents that he must have exercised to become a lawyer and to put himself forward as a candidate, he could be a very interesting choice for this riding.
Megan Cornell, the Liberal candidate is a stand out. Initially her presentation seemed a bit glib, but she answered questions straight out and when she did not know an answer, or her party does not yet have a position, she said so without fudging. She is articulate and open and clearly a seasoned campaigner.
The questions for the candidates overwhelmingly concerned health care, particularly senior care and care for the disabled, and affordable housing. Each party has a plan for increased home care in an effort to keep the elderly out of institutions,
The party platforms may be accessed at their websites .
New Democrats http://ontariondp.com/en/policy
Green Party http://www.gpo.ca/issues
All in all, it was productive evening. The audience got a look at its potential representatives and it was clearly engaged. One questioner lamented the small audience and indicated that he had been told that the meeting was cancelled, although he did not say by whom.
Editor's Correction: Reader Cliff Bennett has advised that the questioner stated that he had phoned Conservative party headquarters and had been told the meeting was cancelled.