By LISA BROWN
And Caroline Mulroney, daughter of former prime minister Brian Mulroney, is hoping to be the one to lead the effort.
Mulroney, a Progressive Conservative party leadership candidate and hopeful for Ontario premier, held an event for her campaign at Johnny Rocco’s Italian restaurant in St. Catharines, Wednesday afternoon.
One purpose for the “Lunch with Caroline Mulroney” was to gain new PC party members since only two days remain to join the party membership in order to vote for the new PC leader on March 24.
“Life is becoming more and more unaffordable,” Mulroney said she heard from residents across Ontario during house-to-house visits.
“Ontario is in a hole and we need to stop digging. People are hurting and too many are not getting the help that they deserve,” says Mulroney.
Ontario’s debt has doubled. There’s $12 billion in annual interest expense, but Ontario taxpayers only pay more for education and healthcare.
Mulroney has been criticized for her lack of political experience, and so took an expected jab at Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government for possessing too much political experience.
“That’s why we’re in the mess that we’re in,” says Mulroney.
When asked about the criticism she has received over her lack of political experience and without bashing the opposition as a response, she responded:
“I’m going to bring a completely different approach to making policy. I was working in a nice job and raising my family, and I couldn’t stand by while this government…was implementing policy in their short-term best interest (for) what’s in the best interest of Ontarians today and for the future.
“Certain policy files aren’t easy, but we’re going to have to work hard to undo the mess that they’ve made.
“But I come to it with private-sector experience.”
This experience comes from working with different levels of government in Ontario and Michigan, and possessing a broad background in economics through financial, legal and charitable work.
Mulroney spoke of a “modern province” and “a generational change for Ontario.”
According to her website, Mulroney states that she will fight for young Ontarians.
When asked what she specifically plans to do for young Ontarians, she responded: “We need to start training young people today for those jobs, so they’re able to build the kind of future that they want and not be left without opportunity in a few years.”
She says her goal is to make sure there are available jobs today.
These kinds of jobs should pay good, living wages so people can afford their daily expenses.
These jobs also should be in the area where a person wants to live.
She added the jobs young Ontarians have likely won’t be available in the future, so an important conversation must be held between leaders of business and technology to understand what the economy will look like.
Margaret Wente, a Globe and Mail writer, wrote in a column that Mulroney has no vision for Ontario.
Mulroney said during her brief eight-minute speech that she and the PC party plan to spend taxing paying dollars better, reduce taxes, offer more hospital care, work with educational professionals and schools to meet current needs and better results as well as offer affordable child care.
Things we’ve heard before for all Ontario parties.
Two elaborated visions she and the PC party have are to produce better health care by decreasing wait times and reduce the strain on emergency rooms.
She plans to allocate $1.9 billion into a mental health care system. As a lawyer, she says she has seen first-hand the difficulties with mental health in the justice system.
They plan for 15,000 long-term beds in the first five years and 30,000 and the first 10 years.
“I think Doug Ford is the best of the three, he just happens to be a guy,” says George Appleton of Beamsville regarding Ford’s likelihood of winning against two female competitors including Christine Elliot.
Appleton said he believes Mulroney should run at a federal level instead of a provincial level because of her experience through her father.
“I was never a fan of Brian Mulroney, but she seems genuine,” Appleton adds.
He says Ford is more “competent” with a “flawless” ability to speak to the public and answer unfiltered questions in fine detail.
The only slight reference made to the sexual misconduct claims of former PC leader Patrick Brown was part of Mulroney’s speech.
“…Despite the chaos of the last few weeks, we know that the election is crucial to the future of Ontario,” Mulroney said.
“It doesn’t matter what any man does, it’s going to be misconstrued if he says it the wrong way.
It’s not that I don’t believe a lot of women were sexually assaulted in some places, but I also think they were willing participants who when the outcome wasn’t what they wanted then it’s sexual assault,” says Niagara Falls Reverend Lois Dix.
A 30-year PC party member, Dorothy Christie, said she believes the PC leader candidates need to attract the GTA and dump Brown’s platform.
“She has to start telling us what she wants and how she’s going to do it,” says Christie.
About 150 people were in attendance with an even ratio between women and men. The audience appeared to be people 55 years or older.
Some audience members said they believe it was hard to get a sense of what she’s about with such a short speech and no question-and-answer opportunity, opposite of what Ford did the night before, but some think a woman may be the necessary route for the PC party.
Mulroney says she believes people should have the freedom to make their own choices and live their own lives.