One of the first questions raised was the issue of short-term rentals (STR), a topic that had not been raised by the press gallery during their election coverage thus far. With the increase in housing prices and shortage of homes available, along with issues from STR companies (e.g. AirBnb, VRBO), municipalities have been introducing short-term rental bans. Both Mike Schreiner of the Greens, and NDP leader, Andrea Horwarth, welcomed the idea of licensing and registration requirements for all STR properties and even called for STR companies them to be banned by municipalities, including those that operate via water lodging (i.e. house boats).
Given that NOMA was hosting the first leaders’ debate during their annual conference, the questions surrounding municipalities, their ability to raise revenue and funding in place if these lack of tools were of importance. It became evident that northern communities are interested in acquiring similar revenue capabilities as the City of Toronto, which falls under separate legislation than Ontario’s other 439 municipalities. Although Ford was unable to give a clear response on giving NOMA members the same deal as Toronto, he diverted to discuss mining, manufacturing jobs, and their recently announced Critical Mineral Strategy, a key part of North Bay PC candidate and current Minister Vic Fedeli’s, plan to make Ontario a key player in electric vehicle (EV) and EV battery production. The opposition leaders all committed to giving municipalities similar treatment to Toronto if elected, although to varying degrees of clarity.
The debate highlighted the health, mental health and addictions issues that are exacerbated in Northern Ontario. With a growing shortage of health care workers, proper infrastructure and beds needed, this was a harrowing discussion. Doug Ford commended his Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Michael Tibollo, for his work providing increased mental health funding over the past few years; Tibollo is currently running for re-election, against Steven Del Duca in Vaughn-Woodbridge.