PC MPP candidate sits down with ‘The Journal’

Gary Bennett to focus on healthcare, student mental health, and housing

Provincial election to take place in June.
Gary Bennett is running to be Kingston and the Island’s Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) under the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario (PC). Bennett sat down with The Journal to discuss how his role on City Council and his time as mayor will inform a potential MPP tenure. 
“I’ve served a little more than a decade on Kingston City Council, both as a member of City Council and as Mayor.
I found the experience of public service and representing people very rewarding,” Bennett said in an interview with The Journal.
Affordability, homelessness, and accessibility to healthcare resources are among Bennett’s top priorities if elected. 
“When you go door-to-door, I’m hearing issues that are revolving around affordability. Homelessness seems to be something that people want to talk about at the door, and obviously the issues arising out of that, such as mental illness and addictions,” Bennett said. 
Bennett supports integrated care models when it comes to tackling homelessness.
When discussing healthcare, Bennett said he’s concerned by the lack of family doctors available for Kingston residents. 
“I’ve had a couple of people raise the issue of trying to get a family doctor [...] We quite simply just don’t have enough family doctors in this region. It’s very pleasing to see that the party [PCs] came forward. We’ve created 50 new admissions positions at the Queen’s School of Medicine.” 
On the topic of student mental health, Bennett said it’s often not at the forefront of conversation and remains an invisible disease. 
“People often suffer in silence. I’m pleased to see the Progressive Conservative Party have come up with what they call a roadmap to wellness. It’s almost a $4 billion investment in mental health,” he said.
Bennett wants to work with Queen’s to ensure more university graduates stay in the Kingston area. 
“I think there’s less than five or 10 per cent of graduates at Queen’s who decide to stay in Kingston [...] I want to ensure that we’re working in partnership—the Government of Ontario with the City, and Queen’s University, to see if we can create more opportunities to retain students.”
Bennett also spoke about the government’s current initiatives aiming to identify issues related to racialization
and Indigeneity. 
“We’ve already put in place programs that really identify minority groups, particularly within our Indigenous communities. I think as Canadians we recognize that we have an ongoing responsibility to ensure that there are no barriers to education, whether it’s in our Indigenous communities or in other minority communities,” Bennett said. 
When asked about the Ford government’s OSAP cuts and reliance on the Student Choice Initiative—which has now been struck down in court—Bennett said the PC government is willing to learn and demonstrate more “care.” 
“[Sometimes] you need to stand up from time to time and say, ‘You know, we might not have gotten it right the first time, and we need to rethink our policies,’” Bennett said. 
Bennett reaffirmed his commitment to Queen’s and its students, mentioning his desire to create an advisory board with students if elected. 
“The idea of forming a community advisory group is something that I would encourage the participation of students on. I would even hold meetings on the Queen’s campus,” Bennett said. 
Bennett believes he’s the best candidate because of his experience and willingness to listen to all sides of an issue. 
“When you belong to a political party, you’re going to have partisan views. Politics should only divide us during an election. Once the election is behind us, we’re all members of the same community, and we need to come back together.”
The provincial election is scheduled to take place Jun. 2. 

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