The whistlestop tour is a time honoured tradition in politics, especially for the new leader of a political party trying to develop relationships and name recognition. Steven Del Duca is no exception, but he’s trying whistlestop his way through a pandemic, and an increasingly perilous situation where the number of new COVID-19 cases is on a definite increase. So what does Del Duca have to add to the situation?
“I believe it’s never too late to do the right thing in life, generally speaking,” Del Duca said in a media scrum on the patio of the Wooly Pub on Thursday. “There’s tons of confusion in the system, and the reason I point out the confusion is because the confusion is what leads to chaos, which is what leads to panic and it’s because Doug Ford has lost all control.”
Del Duca was speaking from somewhat personal experience explaining that his nephew was having to quarantine at home after another student in his cohort had tested positive for coronavirus. Del Duca accused the current Provincial government for “cheaping out” on school funding by not following recommendations to limit class sizes to 15 students.
“This is seven months in so there’s no excuse for needing to scramble at this point in time unless you’re not competent, unless you don’t actually believe that government has a positive role to play in the midst of a crisis, and unless you’re prepared to make the kind of investment that’s necessary, but Doug Ford is not,” Del Duca said.
In an alternative universe where Del Duca was managing Ontario through the crisis, the Liberal leader said he would help protect the economy by focusing on getting businesses more personal protective equipment (PPE), and more relief like a six-month abatement on WSIB premiums. Most importantly though, Del Duca said he would get businesses the rent relief they need.
“I’ve heard from a lot of folks about their dealings with their landlords and how unclear the programs for that landlord-tenant relationship have been,” Del Duca said. “I think more work needs to be done to provide direct relief for tenants on the commercial side, and on the residential side as well, but in particular for the commercial side.”
Business was front of mind because Del Duca was meeting with the President of the Guelph Chamber of Commerce Shakiba Shayani, and a few members of the local business community on the back patio of the Wooly. Del Duca said that he tries to set a meeting with the local business leaders wherever he goes.
“Almost everywhere I go, we reach out to the chambers or to the boards of trade because we know that if there’s one particular segment of the economy that’s really been battered badly, it’s small business entrepreneurs,” Del Duca explained. “I like to hear from entrepreneurs themselves about how it’s gone so far, and what kind of direct and tangible relief they need.”
After his meeting at the Wooly with the Chamber, Del Duco will visit Escarpment Labs on Hanlon Road, and take a meeting with Guelph’s Smart Cities office.
In terms of the political picture, Del Duca said he looks forward to seeing who the local riding association ends up nominating to carry the Liberal flag in the next Provincial Election in less than two years. Across the road from the constituency office of the current Guelph MPP, Green Party of Ontario leader Mike Schreiner, Del Duca laid down the gauntlet.
“I’m hoping for a spirited contest here in Guelph, and ultimately – no disrespect to Mike Schreiner – we are going to win this riding back in 2022,” Del Duca added.