Candidates in Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes want better internet

The riding of Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes has been a Conservative stronghold for decades, but incumbent Steve Clark has some challengers.

The riding runs for roughly 100 kilometres along the St. Lawrence River, with a population of just over 100,000. It includes the United Counties of Leeds & Grenville, Brockville, Gananoque, Westport and Prescott.

Incumbent Steve Clark has held the seat for the PC Party of Ontario for 12 years.

His Ontario NDP challenger is Chris Wilson, a risk management mitigator from Kemptville.

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“Where I’m from, in Kemptville, the houses seem to have doubled in price over the last two or three years. It’s unsustainable. It’s putting a huge burden on average families and average workers,” Wilson said.

The Ontario Liberal Party candidate is Prescott native Josh Bennett, who ran for the Liberals federally in 2019.

“We can’t attract people to come to our area if we don’t have housing. If you don’t have a house and you don’t have a home, you can’t get a job. We need housing for every level of income. Everyone needs a home,” Bennett said.

Running for the Green Party of Ontario is Fiona Jager, a nurse and professor from Gananoque.

“We have vulnerable populations in this community and across Ontario who need more supportive housing. There’s really not enough supportive housing available for the people who need it. So the Greens have pledged to build 60,000 more supportive housing units,” Jager said.

All the candidates tend to agree that housing is one of the top priorities facing the riding and the province as a whole.

“In every riding across Ontario, we’re seeing housing built. We know it’s not enough. The recent housing affordability task force report says that we’re going to need 1.5 million homes over the next 10 years,” Clark said.

Another issue facing Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes is the accessibility of high-speed internet.

A large portion of the riding is rural, leaving many households without access to broadband internet.

“Our Minister of Infrastructure, the Honourable Kinga Surma, has really made a commitment on improving broadband in every corner of Ontario by 2025. It’s the largest investment by any level of government, either provincial or territorial, in Canada,” Clark said.

“As soon as COVID hit, it was a real problem in my household, and it’s a problem across the riding. We don’t have reliable internet at our homes, and even when I was here in Brockville on Main Street, I couldn’t even get 4G cellphone access,” Wilson said.

“Even a mile north of Highway 2, there’s no internet. It’s tower to tower, it’s slow, it’s over the phone lines. This hurts our ability to grow. It hurts our ability to attract new industry. It hurts our ability to attract people to live here and work from home,” Bennett said.

“People have been reliant on internet in order to do their basic activities of daily living, whether it’s engaging in classes as a student or a teacher, or attending meetings or doing their work, or it’s children attending school. People really rely on reliable, affordable internet,” Jager said.

Also running in the riding are Stephen Ireland of the Ontario People’s Front, Daniel Kitsch of the New Blue party, Glenn L. Malcolm of the Ontario Party, Dave Senger of Populist Ontario, and Mark Snow of the Libertarian party.

Candidates in Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes will have a lot of ground to cover on the campaign trail until Election Day, on June 2.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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