[Video]Packed at the Pinestone – all candidates go toe-to-toe

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Packed house at the Pinestone. Photo By Terrance Gavan

BY TERRANCE GAVAN – HALNEWS.CA

A firestorm of voters at advance polls (up 38 percent from last election) serves notice that this Ontario election is visceral.

Finally. What a nice dawdle away from mediocrity. And how great is it to see voters’ engaged in their province?

This election may actually shake your windows and rattle your walls. Good news for Ontario.

And kudos to all those voters from this riding who showed up last Monday (Oct 3) at the Brock-Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes all-candidates meeting at the Pinestone Resort.

It was a great meeting that was unfortunately subjected to the raucous and boorish presence of some of Laurie Scott’s contingent – who were not residents of Haliburton County – who interrupted Rick Johnson continuously throughout the evening with cries of “Liar!” and “Bullshit!” Absolutely and completely unacceptable at any level and certainly tactics more in keeping with a tea party brunch than a serious meeting with concerned residents of Haliburton. Shame on that small group for bringing such poison to an otherwise respectable meeting.

I am sure Laurie Scott was just as embarrassed with the infantile ramblings and peremptory pejoratives as most of the serious voters in attendance. At the curling club on Tuesday night I heard numerous complaints about the disrespectful mob of  blue-clad trombones.

Jobs, environment, jobs, health care, jobs, the deficit, hydro rates, jobs, the HST and jobs formed the talking points on Monday as they have right through this race. Did we mention jobs?

The provincial candidates echoed those sentiments and that sanguinity on the Pinestone dais on Monday.

The room was jammed with engaged voters. PCsupporters seem to have forgiven Laurie Scott the candidate who gave up her seat to former leader John Tory back in 2009. We liked them better when they were disengaged and just sullen. Rather than their current state of sullen and profane. But we’ll leave that to their consciences.

Scott’s retirement, of course, resulted in a Tory loss and a surprising victory for the Liberal incumbent Rick Johnson on March 5, 2009.

Johnson supporters were outnumbered and less pejorative than the PCs, but still very vocal in support of their man.

The other candidates Don Abel of the NDP, Green Party’s Anita Payne and the ever-ebullient and effervescent Charles Olito of the Freedom Party took some swings at McGuinty’s policies, and of the three Abel, a wise old pol, made the best case for third place.

No doubt this is a race between Scott and Johnson. Advance polls would suggest that the PCs are in front, but Johnson has an impressive record of community service and solid representation in his short term as the Liberal MPP, so it’s unclear just how solid Scott’s lead is right now.

Both Tim Hudak and Dalton McGuinty have been trading cavalier bon mots of late, and there is a pervasive notion that Ontario is headed to a minority. (Please don’t shoot the messenger.)

We have some video of the closing statements up here. (Still processing sorry!)

The exchange everyone was waiting for came at the midway point of the meeting when Johnson and Scott exchanged lively blows on the one-on-one portion of debate deftly handled by Canoe FM’s Bram Lebo.

Scott hunkered down on the Hudak talking points re HST, Hydro rates, the debt and green energy. Johnson responded with McGuinty’s jobs and health plan strategy before dancing into the the one ersatz – ahem – twiddle that has dogged Scott from the outset of the election.

Johnson called Scott on her decision to step aside and let then PC leader John Tory run in Brock-Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes. Johnson said that she had misled voters when she stated categorically back in 2009 that she would not give up her seat. And that set the tone for the rest of the debate. Gloves off with Johnson and Scott trading open verbal shots on the dais. Great stuff.

Pundits will tell you that Johnson’s victory over Tory hinged on a wholesale no-show from traditional PC’s who were disappointed that Scott had resigned. But that’s pure speculation. Scott prefereed to ignore that shot and peppered Johnson on the Liberal’s fiscal policy. Scott said that McGuinty’s Grits had led the province into a debt-hammered nightmare.

We are especially disappointed here at HalNews because our video card filled up midway through that exchange.

Because it certainly underlined the crux of this race here in Brock-Haliburton-Kawartha.

To wit: Will the traditional PC base emerge at the polls in a forgiving mood, because Scott’s reputation certainly suffered as a result of that decision to step down and let the PC leader take a run at the riding.

Johnson meanwhile popped home most of McGuinty’s promises of debt resolution, corporate security, job creation strategies and health care reform.

It did appear to this pundit at least that a lot of people had come to the meeting just to listen.

Were undecided voters convinced by any of the talking points?

We know that the NDP – especially with the loming prospect of a minority government – had the most to gain in this riding.

Don Abel is a veteran of the wars, an old warrior and former MPP and he acquitted himself quite well, especially twoard the end of the meeting.

But Charles Olito gets our award for kickin’ butt. The Freedom Party iconoclast’s gruff responses, no-nonsense maxims and disparaging remarks kept the audience entertained.

When asked who or what inspired him to politics, Olito never missed a beat.

John Diefenbaker, roared Olito.

And there’s a guy to end on.

Because if you recall Dief the Chief was the guy who said on a prairie whistle stop stump: “I don’t care about polls, why are you asking me that? My dog knows what to do with poles.”

On that piss-popping note we end this scrum.

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