Homelessness Debate

Night Out in the Cold will test candidates

PAULA TERRY-LANCASTER
SPECIAL TO THE BARRIE EXAMINER

Another autumn, another election.

And, in the Barrie tradition, on Friday, Sept. 16, the Simcoe County Alliance to End Homelessness is hosting its popular Night Out in the Cold, letting marginalized people directly access candidates.

This unique event yanks candidates from their comfort zones, depriving them of the kind of ergonomic chairs they’d enjoy at a city hall debate.

Instead, they must sit outside, no matter the weather — which in past years has featured wind, rain and even snow — a concept intended to give all candidates, including the eventual winner, a better sense of what the homeless must endure.

One hopes this will foster empathy amongst politicians who make so many decisions affecting all our lives.

This is a hotly contested election. After wresting the Barrie seat last time from 12-year Progressive Conservative veteran Joe Tascona, Liberal MPP Aileen Carroll is retiring, opening the race.

Five parties have represented Barrie at both provincial and federal levels over the past 16 years, from NDP on the left to Reform on the right. No one can claim a lock on Barrie voters.

So, come out and size up your candidates. Should Liberal Karl Walsh inherit Aileen’s mantle? Quick with a cheque from Toronto, Carroll also worked the back rooms through a deep list of inside contacts. Is Karl’s Rolodex up to the task? With the ink on his platform still wet, he’ll be in the hot seat to explain how a renewed Dalton McGuinty government can pay for this week’s shiny new promises.

How about local PC candidate Rod Jackson? Despite glowing testimonials from local supporters, his own Ward 3 constituents rejected him after a single term less than a year ago.

Meanwhile, his party leader, Tim Hudak, has been around so often one might be forgiven for thinking his tour bus was on loan to Barrie Transit.

The NDP has drafted a familiar face, Myrna Clark, fresh from a second-place finish in the recent federal election. Can NDP leader Andrea Horwath channel the Orange Wave to provincial politics, and will it be enough to beat the stress of two elections within six months?

It seems fitting the youngest party is offering the youngest candidate: Andrew Miller of the Green Party. New to politics, this local entrepreneur, with several successful projects under his belt, is keen to share innovative ideas, including those in the platform of provincial leader Mike Schreiner.

This year’s Night Out in the Cold takes place at the usual downtown Barrie location, at Memorial Square on Fred Grant Street.

Anti-poverty advocates will march in solidarity from Queen’s Park to Memorial Square, where everyone is welcome to a free dinner served at 5:45 p.m.

At 6:30 p.m., candidates will take audience questions.

So, bring your concerns and have them addressed.

For more information, visit www.endhomelessness.ca.

Paula Terry-Lancaster is the owner of Write First Time, a Barrie-based consultancy, and a former board member of the David Busby Street Centre.