The Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities (FONOM) is disappointed that the province's Liberal leadership candidates will not attend a second debate in Northern Ontario.
Such a debate could help to address crucial issues for the region, including the government's decision to divest from Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC), which were surprisingly overlooked in last week's Thunder Bay debate.
FONOM offered to organize a second Northern debate but candidates turned down the invitation earlier this week. In an email, Christine McMillan, secretary general of the Ontario Liberal leadership convention 2013, said, “the candidates agreed at the start of the campaign to participate in seven debates, all of which have been scheduled.”
The scheduled debates have left Northern Ontarians, and even some leadership candidates, feeling short-changed. The party organized events have had pre-scripted questions and little audience participation.
OLP Leadership candidate Gerard Kennedy expressed his distaste for last week's Thunder Bay debate, and said “it smacks of a governing party that thinks it's their conversation. It's not.”
Tom Laughren, FONOM vice president and mayor of Timmins said, “If the Liberals only listen to the voices of registered party members, there is little to no hope for change or renewal in Northern Ontario.”
“The Thunder Bay debate failed to address key issues for Northern Ontario including the divestment of the ONTC and the closure of overnight camping in 10 provincial parks,” said FONOM president Al Spacek. “Both issues will have to be addressed immediately when the next leader is selected, so we'd like to start the conversation start now.”