Compiled by Emina Gamulin, Perry King, Beth Macdonell, Rebecca Payne and Lindsay Tsuji
Parkdale-High Park is one of the most diverse ridings in Canada in terms of income and ethnicity. It is slightly higher than the national average in terms of unemployment, and significantly higher in number of seniors, immigrants, and renters. The riding has been Liberal since 1988, except between 2006 and 2008, when the NDP upset the Liberal winning streak. The last time a conservative candidate won was in 1984. The Gleaner covers the Parkdale portion of the riding, which also includes Roncesvalles, Bloor West, the Junction, Swansea, High Park, and parts of Brockton.
Immigrant population: 39 %
Median age of population: 38.1 years
Median income: $49,127
2008 Election: Liberal
2006 Election: New Democrat
2004 Election: Liberal
Source: Statistics Canada
Elected in 2008 as the MP for Parkdale-High Park, Liberal candidate Gerard Kennedy is the Critic for the Environment. Kennedy has regular local meetings and initiatives on mental health, the arts, Metrolinx, and seniors. As the Ontario Minister of Education, Kenendy led a province-wide turnaround in public-funded education. His public service began with the first Canadian food bank in Edmonton and then Toronto’s Daily Bread Food Bank. He has been a part of the riding since 1986 and lives with his wife and two children in west Toronto.
Raised in Rexdale, and an alumnus of the University of Toronto, Peggy Nash was the NDP Member of Parliament for Parkdale–High Park from 2006 to 2008. Prior to that, as a senior Canadian Auto Workers negotiator, Nash was the first woman union representative responsible for major auto negotiations in North America. Nash has received two awards from the Sierra Club of Canada for the NDP Green Car Strategy with Greenpeace and the CAW. In 2009, Nash received the 2009 YWCA Woman of Distinction Award. She currently sits on the board of directors for Invest Toronto.
Green candidate Sarah Newton has lived in the GTA for ten years. She is a research assistant, an executive assistant, a server at Annapurna (1085 Bathurst St.), and a belly dance teacher. She has an Honours BA in Humanities and Communications, and an Associate Degree of Arts and Science. Newton takes part in many organizations including debating for the model UN and Model Pugwash. She also supports the Lake Ontario Waterkeepers and is a member of the Council for Canadians. She is an advocate of yoga and veganism.
Terry Parker has run as the Parkdale-High Park representative for the Marijuana Party since 2000. Parker credits marijuana as the substance that changed his life for the better. According to an article in Cannabis Culture magazine, Parker, a patient of severe epilepsy, was on a steady diet of pills, before a fellow patient introduced him to marijuana. In 1987, an Ontario Court found him not guilty of possession, citing that the drug did in fact help Parker’s disability. In 1980, Parker was elected assistant national executive director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (N.O.R.M.L.) in Canada.
Conservative Party candidate Taylor Train has lived in Parkdale-High Park for 15 years. After graduating from Queen’s University, Train served in the Canadian Armed Forces Primary Reserve. His work in the financial services sector has led him to work in communities across North America and the British Isles. Taylor has both his Elder Planning Counsellor designation and Instructing Adults Certificate. He has held a number of senior executive positions with major Canadian financial institutions, and is currently a director and lecturer of Seneca College’s Centre for Financial Services.
Also running in the riding are Andrew Borkowski of the Christian Heritage Party and Lorne Gershundy for the Marxist-Leninists. The Gleaner was unable to contact these candidates in time for the story.
The Questions and Answers
1. Recently there were a string of attacks against people with mental illness in Parkdale, with the last attack resulting in the death of George Wass. At the same time, a small percentage of people who suffer from mental illnesses commit violent crimes due to their illness. How should the federal government deal with these complex health and crime issues? If elected, how will you advocate for mental health services and people with mental health issues in our riding?
—Beth Macdonell, Contributing editor, Gleaner Community Press
Kennedy: The last six months we’ve been trying to make Parkdale-High Park a mental health stigma-free zone. Fourteen hundred different people have made the pledge in our area, and part of the pledge is a role for the federal government to equalize funding. The problem with the Canada Health Act is that it doesn’t recognize the way we need to treat mental health now. We need people to deal with their stigma, but we also need funding in the community. The Canada Health Act only funds hospitals of a kind that we used to use as the main treatment for mental health, which have now closed down.
The federal government is really not that involved. They pay for doctors, but they don’t pay for a whole range of community care that people need to have good lives and participate more fully in society. We’ve worked a lot, most closely with a group called the Dream Team. They are people who are living with mental illness and they’ve come out to every meeting that I’ve held where we’ve signed people up. The idea is that Parkdale-High Park will become the country’s first mental health stigma-free zone. So the Federal government’s role is important, but the community’s role is just as important. My basic approach would be to continue to do that and to bring it to fruition. It’s a yearlong process. We want to sign up 10,000 people from the area. We think there is a lot of empathy there and we hope that incidents don’t create fear. The only way you deal with violence is community resolve. Right after this interview I’m talking to the police, and they’ve asked me to send out another bulletin. We’ll be doing that even though it’s the middle of an election because we need to deal with this and get to the bottom of this. The community has a constructive role to play in supporting people, we don’t want to spread the fear that is out there for folks.
You mentioned equalized funding and you said the federal government funds hospitals, but not community care. By equalizing funding do you mean giving more money to community initiatives?
Mental health funding is about 60 per cent of what it needs to be. In other words, we don’t have a lot of primary mental health available. If you break your arm or leg you’re going to get treatment in a fairly short amount of time. If you need help with a mental health problem, you often end up on a waiting list. The funding should come from the federal government by expanding the Canada Health Act. It should start to cover community mental health. Most people who used to be treated in hospitals are now treated in the community. Yet those services are not paid for by the federal government. Every time someone signs the pledge, they are also signing a petition to parliament asking them for equality of funding. All we’re asking for is the same funding for mental health as well as physical health issues. There are very good indications that the health system in terms of emergency rooms and long term stays could be avoided if we just got people mental health treatment in the first place. Then we can focus our concern on the very small number of people who could be a danger. That’s also the thing that comes through having a better, more complete system for mental health. But it doesn’t mean we treat everybody as somebody to fear or someone to victimize because of a lack of understanding. That’s the theme of our [initiative]: time to change your mind about mental health.
Nash: First, let me say that I have worked very closely with the Parkdale Activity Recreation Centre and have been a big supporter of Edmond Place, which reaches out to people who are low income and suffering from mental health problems.
I think this government, both the provincial and federal governments, have done a very poor job in supporting people with mental health problems. The de-institutionalization of people with mental health [problems] was supposed to be combined with strong [levels] of support, and there are massive holes in any kind of safety net to protect people. I support Senator Michael Kirby’s recommendation for a national mental health strategy. I believe that our focus should be on outreach and prevention with strong community support for people with mental health problems. Many of the people who are living on the street or locked up in our jails have serious untreated mental health problems. I think our priority has to be on prevention, rather than dealing with the fallout from problems—whether it’s with the criminal justice system or all kinds of frictions in neighbourhoods.
It has to be multi-faceted. It has to deal with housing, counselling, and the ability for people to take control of their lives through community involvement. PARC is a great example of what can be achieved locally, but we need to expand that kind of approach nationwide, through community-based initiatives.
People are very worried in South Parkdale because of the George Wass murder. Police do have a role to play. But I believe we can do a better job with prevention, whether it’s mental health or job creation for young people—so they don’t feel isolated and alienated in society and fall into criminal activity. I think if people have a decent income, a place to live, and they can lead a normal life, most people would choose that, and that’s where we should be investing our money. Youth programs the federal government promised with these new criminal justice bills: we’re not seeing that.
Newton: First and foremost, by making government money available for programs again. I believe in the talent of people that work with people with mental health issues and I want to mobilize as many programs that are needed to make sure that people with mental health issues are treated to all of the opportunities they deserve. Having worked with people with mental health issues at Famous People Players, their plight has my heart.
Parker: Legalize marijuana, number one. If we didn’t have a prohibition we wouldn’t have problems with people with schizophrenia and ADHD and other mental illness. You could use marijuana as a resource. If you use it as a resource I have no doubt that people with mental illness will greatly benefit from marijuana consumption to control their anxiety; depression. Marijuana is wonderful.
Train: Millions of Canadians are affected by mental health and addictions issues and their families are affected by it. I know the cost both emotionally to the families and certainly to the victims themselves. These folks need our help. It’s obvious to me that any government has an accountability to lead, a responsibility to look after those that really have these challenges and to give them the type of services, help, and dignity that they are going to need to engage in society in the way that they can. My family has been touched with mental illness. I know how when you see someone you love very very much going missing in a lot of ways you feel very frustrated. I mean there are people with these issues all over Canada. I think one of the things the federal government should be doing—and I think Gerard is right on this—there is a certain stigmatization to folks with these types of challenges and we need to de-stigmatize society in that way. We have to educate that people with mental illnesses are people that need our help, not our approbation. We need to recognize what the challenges are and create an environment where people can have dignity and respect. As far as services are concerned, I know that there’s a huge amount of money that’s spent every year helping people like this and we have to make sure that those folks have access. This is where some of the problem may lie. That they are aware of the access they have and their care givers are aware of the access that they have to the existing capabilities that we have in the community and certainly to help them live well and healthy or hopefully get better or better enough that they can get back in to what’s going on.
2. I list among those who applied to migrate to Canada after Canadian consulate representatives campaigned in American Universities, to recruit new skilled immigrants. They also sold us on the fact that in Canada we can sponsor our parents. The backlog in processing parents sponsorship applications however ranges from 3 to 15 years. Where do the candidates stand on effective family re-unification?
—Hala Chaoui, Agricultural Engineer and entrepreneur
Kennedy: The conservatives have put a quota in this country on family reunification and it is bar none the most frustrating thing that exists in terms of the immigration system. We’ve announced in our platform that we would expand the resources, if available, and we would take the quotas off. The basic thing comes to this: with family reunification—especially the immediate family of parents and so on—people have to be successful, they have to be able to sponsor, there is no reason to have them wait five and six and seven years like this government has.
Because what [the Conservative government is] basically saying is, yes, we want you to come, but we’re not giving you the respect of being able to have access to your family. The government put their attentions on temporary immigrants, and now we have up to 200,000 temporary immigrants, people who work here but have no rights in Canada. Many of them end up going underground so we are building problems with the Conservative approach. We would much rather see something constructive that allows people to come forward. So we have set some very specific policies that will allow people to repatriate their parents within a certain number of months and we would increase the resources available for that. This government has shrunk it down so significantly that every part of the process takes enormous lengths of time. That’s probably as much of a disrespect as the policies themselves. They’re kind of officially misleading people about what they can expect, and we find out daily as MP’s, so it’s important that we get a different way of showing respect.
Nash: Our immigration critic, Olivia Chow, has been front and centre in advocating greater focus on family re-unification and a reduced emphasis on the temporary foreign worker program. It started under Mr. [Paul] Martin, and has been exploding under the Conservative government. Personally, I introduced a bill—called the “Once in a Lifetime” bill—which was designed to help with family reunification, especially for family members like adult children, adult brothers and sisters, to help families reunite. I have also worked extensively with the Filipino community to assist people working in the foreign caregiver program, who come here and face special restrictions. But this is work that is essential for Canadians: caring for children, seniors, for people with disabilities. Yet, we make foreign caregivers jump through special hoops. Ultimately, they can become citizens. The working conditions that they face are extremely difficult. They live in their employer’s home and there are terrible abuses in terms of pay and hours of work. We saw with Jocelyn Dulnuan, who was murdered in her employer’s home. I was with [the Filipino community], in fact, on Saturday to try and make the foreign caregiver program a safer program for people who work here on that.
You know, we place great emphasis on skilled immigrants. We accept people because of their qualifications, then in many cases they come here and they can’t use their qualifications. It’s complicated because there are professional associations and provincial governments that are involved—it’s not totally the federal government’s responsibility. But, we would reach out to the provinces and the professional associations to try and reduce the wait times and fast-track the recognition of foreign credentials. Also, because we appreciate that not every job here requires you to set up a small business or to have a PhD or a medical degree, that there are lots of jobs that require unskilled work. Right now, often, these are filled under the temporary workers program. We believe if we put greater emphasis on family reunification, especially through my bill—which would allow more adults to come in , not just seniors and children— they could take some of these less skilled jobs if they happen not to have higher qualifications. But, then they have the support of the family. They have a home, a community, a language, people they can rely on. We think it would make for stronger communities, and help people integrate better into Canadian society. They’re not just a disposable workforce that comes and leaves. As governments dictate, they actually have a commitment to this country and they’re going to stay here. They bring their families and their children grow up here.
Newton: Our campaign has never been about making false promises, and she seems to be the victim of false promises. That hurts me, that the Canadian reputation has been marred internationally by past candidates promises that they had no intention of following through on. There is obviously a backlog and by keeping tax dollars at home I’m confident we can reinstate social programs for our talented immigrants in the next five to ten years. Bare with us and accept our apologies.
Parker: I’m for family re-unification. My brother in law is from China and I have no objection to it. As long as they abide by our Charter rights and laws I have no objection.
Train: Well, obviously the Conservative party position and my position is that family reunification is essential. I believe the family unit is the mainstay of our society, whatever that family unit may be consisting of and I think we have to care for families no matter where they are. As far as family reunification goes, I think it makes us stronger and happier. I really think Canada is a nation of immigrants and we are building a nation that is even more deeply a mosaic. They bring wonderful cultures, experiences and they bring wonderful skills and We want those people to be secure.
We all know that immigration has to go through processes. But to reach the conclusion that we need to have and that’s the good conclusion that people get in here and live here and participate in Canada. But I also know, that as the member of parliament for Parkdale-High Park, I certainly will be spending time with the Minister of Immigration because when I am in government I will be able to wok with the Minister of Immigration. I certainly want to work with him and his department to ensure the immigration process for family reunification is efficient, effective and serves the people of our riding as much as possible.
3. Given the role of the Canadian Forces over the past decade, do you think that the Forces are currently over funded, underfunded or funded appropriately? Please offer at least one reason for your choice.
—Gordon Oliver, Parkdale Resident
Kennedy: I guess I would say that they are funded adequately in the sense that they’ve had the highest increase in spending of any federal department. They may be over funded if we change their mission—in other words, I look forward to them coming back from Afghanistan. There should be a peace dividend from that, if you ask me about their present situation I don’t know of any excess amount of money that we are spending to support them; we can’t put people in harms way. The future is different. The future is about making sure we question military expenditures just as much as any others. The number one thing we need is not more money, but a public debate on the role of the military going forward. These stealth planes, for example, are based on a role that traditionally Canada has not had, which is attack. You only have stealth jet fighters if you are attacking someone. That debate has to take place before we make any other major investments in the armed forces. If we were to go ahead with the jets that would be a case where it was over funded, because it’s not a prudent expenditure, there was no competition bid held. When you buy large very expensive military equipment—this could be in the order of 20 to 30 billion dollars—than you make sure there are benefits to the country.
You mentioned the Afghanistan mission. Do you have a position on what should happen with that mission going forward?
I agree the mission should wind up the military component completely. The follow-up role should be time limited as well and it shouldn’t be expandable. I don’t know what Mr. Harper would do if he were to gain a majority, but it’s clear now that we don’t have a plan for Afghanistan that requires us to be there for longer than what we’ve already committed to. The fundamental issues in Afghanistan are going to be fairly difficult because of the degree that they depend on opium in that economy. The fact that we didn’t get enough development going in that country in the beginning. Not just us, but all of the NATO allies. That’s a role that I would have liked to see Canada play but I don’t think its one that we can see Canada play given where they stand.
Nash: I think that when it comes to the treatment of our people in the military, they are underfunded. We made an announcement just this week to provide better support and benefits for military personnel who are surprisingly quite shabbily treated by our federal government. If people are willing to risk their lives for their country, they should be paid decent wages and benefits while they’re actively in service. When they’re in Canada, they should be offered strong support and settlement opportunities. Military personnel who have been injured, who face physical or mental barriers because of their service, are not getting the support they need, and we would beef that up significantly. Jack Layton was just in Halifax to make that announcement.
On the other hand, we are not in favour of a massive expansion of military hardware, like the F-35s. We would rather invest our money domestically—in terms of investing in the welfare of Canadians—and internationally, in aid programs and support for peace initiatives around the world. We support the 0.7 [per cent] GDP support that many countries have committed to but almost none have lived up to, in terms of foreign aid. I just spoke at an Oxfam hunger banquet, talking about the growing global hunger crisis that has been made worse by increasing wars, the number of people who are becoming refugees, but also by the increasing cost and treatment the food as a basic commodity. There’s a lot of speculation going on with the pricing of that, making food more costly and less accessible.
I don’t think Canadians want to see us as a growing military force in the world. I think we took pride in our ability to be an advocate for peace. I’m not saying we don’t need defence. We believe in having a military defence but I don’t think we see ourselves as a major aggressor in the world. A lot of people feel very uncomfortable with our continued presence in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the Liberals and Conservatives have now extended our mission in Afghanistan and we strongly oppose that.
Newton: I know that $21 billion has been allocated to the forces over the next ten years and that that money is never going to properly fund anything until we can reinstate our sense of traditional values, and recommit our forces to the act of peacekeeping.
Parker: I would imagine by reading the papers over the past few years that they are underfunded. The resolve there for the underfunding of the military is to legalize marijuana so we can use the money there to fund any necessary spending on jets or tanks or whatever it takes to protect our country. But if we were to legalize marijuana we could use the revenue from that to fund a number of different things
Train: Here we go, thanks for the gimme. I served my country in the Forces. I remember and during is during a little things called the Cold War. I remember I had went out with my first paycheque when I was 17 years old, and bought equipment because the government had not provided us with the proper web, hadn’t provided us with the proper combat gear, certainly not weapons obviously. We had to take out money out of our own pockets, because the government has not invested in the armed forces. I also remember that in 1973, I was firing 3.5 rocket launcher on a training exercise and when I fired the 3.5, the ammunition was faulty and the backblast wounded me in the face. The ammunition that we were firing that day had been built in 1951 and this was 1973, so you do the math. I believe in our armed forces. I’m very proud of our forces, that many of us would never ever consider in their lives doing. They represent Canada, they represent what we believe in, and they represent our responsibility to the international community who do a fantastic job. We have international commitments, we have a commitment to our own sovereignty, to protecting people who cannot protect themselves and I believe we need to have the right type of equipment and the right type of training, so when we take our young men and women, I want to make sure those folks, have the best stuff, for their own safety and they can do the job to the best of their ability for Canada. It’s not a matter of throwing more money at something, it’s matter of making sure we fund something for the needs that arise, but we anticipate those needs, that we know that what will happen, next week, 5 years from now, 10 years from now, you and I can never say. We have to anticipate investment in the types of equipment that makes the job safety for them and make it affective so we can protect ourselves so that we can live in this fantastic country.
You’re not going to pick one?
You can’t. That’s too simplistic, you know to say it’s either a, b, or c. In a world like this, over funding is stupid, the right type of funding is right.
4. Although the greatly expanded use of diesel trains is more a provincial issue, residents have looked to politicians at all levels of government for leadership in the fight for clean electric trains. Virtually all politicians say that they oppose more diesels—why should we believe that you will move beyond words and take concerted action on the issue?
—Rob Fairley, Brock Avenue resident, Clean Train Coalition supporter
Kennedy: We worked with residents in the Junction to stop the pile-driving. It was really disrupting their neighbourhood and it involved getting the Canadian transportation commission to exercise its authority. We also supported the group when Metrolinx appealed, winning that appeal, and setting precedent that communities have to be taken into account and I believe that that can also apply to health factors. In addition, I wrote to the Prime Minister and Premier McGuinty looking for cooperation in getting funding because there has to be funding to make electrification happen. I’ve been trying to engage other levels of government for the last two years on this because that was the foreseeable outcome of the review that Metrolinx was doing and I still think that was the preferred option. I know that they’ve contracted for diesel trains and I know for a million dollars each they can convert those trains. The bottom line is health. For some time electric has been a preferred way of moving people especially on short [distance] trains so in some ways this is just Metrolinx’s bad planning and in some way they should have taken this more into account from the beginning. We’re going to have to work together—three orders of government to have a transportation plan. I think Metrolinx had a different outcome it terms of electrification partially because of leadership from the Federal level about what we would like to see done. I think the point now is, is there any way to have electrification take place so that we don’t need to do this switch over from diesel trains? For me the key is funding so that’s what I’m working for. My pledge is this: I will ensure that there are no negative health impacts for our neighbourhood.
Nash: Rob’s right, that this is primarily a provincial decision. But what I have done is work very closely with the Clean Train Coalition, and I initiated a petition to the federal government, which many in the community have signed. The petition was introduced in the House of Commons, federally, and have taken it to the former transportation minister at the time. I believe we send a lot of our tax dollars to Ottawa, and we should be calling on them to help with the electrification of the lines, so we can actually get electric trains instead of diesel. I think that a lot of people are paying lip service to this. I have worked very closely with the community—literally have gone door-to-door for months getting people to sign this petition, pressuring the federal government on this. I think people do have to look at not just what people say but what they do. I have never stopped working with the community to try to get electric trains. We are not giving up, we’re in a federal election now, it is an issue. It will be an issue during the provincial election. We finally have Metrolinx to agree electrification is the better route, but they’re saying ‘we’ll do it down the road’ which no one believes. It’s a waste of money because it’s going to cost to buy diesel and then to convert them to electric. We say build it once, build it right, go electric, and the federal government should be apart of that.
As an MP, I had a bill on the national transportation policy. I’ve been given two awards from the Sierra Club on this, and Olivia Chow has now taken this [a national transportation policy] up. Toronto is an economic engine for Canada, and it shouldn’t just be the citizens of Toronto to pay for the TTC. It shouldn’t just be us to pay for inter-urban transportation. It is of national importance and I believe we need a national vision for transit in our major urban centres, and inter-urban transit. Our TTC is 30 years out of date. We should have a cutting-edge transit system, it should be one of the best in the world, with the geography as vast as Canada. Transportation used to be, and ought to be, one of our core strengths. I’m on the board of Invest Toronto, which is a Toronto agency designed to encourage business to invest in our city. I talk about our strengths, whether it is our diversity, social programs, education system. But, clearly, a major drawback in Toronto is our poor transportation system. Board of Trade is right on the money when they argue that it’s an economic drag on our city. Commute times, delivery times are among the worst on the continent. We’ve got to invest in transit both urban and inter-urban to really maximize and take advantage of Toronto as an economic hub, to make life livable for our community and improve the air we breathe.
Newton: The first reason I believe the Green Party is going to make effective change on this issue is our integrity. We will treat every offer for growth and expansion without an agenda. Elizabeth May’s program to use Canadian technology to develop a high-speed rail corridor between Montreal and Windsor is a good indication to our commitment to innovate at home, and it’s that commitment that will ensure that all these projects will come front and centre, as reflected in the hearts of Canadians, in the near future.
Parker: Why not hemp ethanol for our trains? If we legalize marijuana we could have hemp ethanol to create clean fuel.
Train: I lived in England a little over 3 years and British rail is predominantly electric. First of all, let me tell you… Most politicians tell you they are for electric. Of course they are for electric, because electric is fantastic. It’s just wonderful. You just can’t take a diesel locomotive and run her into a shop one day and suddenly convert it into electric. Just can’t be done. You can’t change a line suddenly that was designed for fossil burning fuels to electric overnight. There is a huge infrastructure issue. There is also an environmental issue and a lot of people don’t know this, in a lot of places you have to have a clearance on either side of an electric line and I quote you the exact distances, but electricity has a, can have a tendency to interfere with things when it is used, they have to be very careful, that pacemakers, electric appliances, anything electrical in the zone where the electric train is running won’t be impaired. So that’s an issue. It’s a huge huge thing. I know the provincial government is committed to going electric, so I believe the line that runs up the east end of our riding needs to be electric, it’s just good sense that that occurs. But we have to realize at the same time, it’s a matter of what’s it going to take to get this thing done as effectively as possible, in the shortest amount of time as possible. I’ll give you an example. Roncesvalles has been under construction for 3 years. Do I need to make my case further? What the government should be doing is ensuring that when a project goes forward, that it is watched, that it has oversight, that it has people looking at it to ensure that what is said is going to be done, is done. So that we have the situation that we can make sure as the process of electrification moves forward, that we’re not surprised by something, that there wasn’t something untoward that wasn’t thought of needs to occur, that it won’t have a negative impact rather than a positive impact on the neighbourhood, all of those things need to have that oversight. If I see something that going south, something that isn’t going right, something that is not going according to plan, you better believe I’ll be having a chat with whoever it is, whatever level of government it is. How come? Because the people that voted me in here are the people that I have to answer to, that I have to represent so that we make sure the things are done when they said they were going to get done, by who they said it was going to be done by, for the right results. That’s what I believe.
Kennedy: Eliminating poverty. We’re doing that way two ways in our platform. One is giving low-income kids a bigger boost to go to University so every year they graduate Grade 9 they get 1,500 dollars put aside to go to school. We’re also using the money that would otherwise go to prisons to build an income geared supplement of $1,500 for seniors because that’s a group we need to keep lifted out of poverty. There is no where else they can turn. Basic costs have gone up more than inflation, more than their pensions. The prisons thing plays to our fears, there’s no need for that policy. The California government is just about bankrupt by its fixation on three strikes and you’re out and filling the prisons with all kinds of people that don’t need to be there. They are not one iota safer. My crime policy is simple; we will prevent crime from happening in the first place. Poverty elimination is not a direct [correlation] because people who are poor are also decent, upstanding citizens, but it does help. We’ve got a national housing strategy that we’re bringing forward, and national housing platform that we are committed to. It’s one of the best ways to help people in our riding, and that is far more important than building prisons.
Nash: Eliminating poverty. Slam dunk. I think a measure of a strong society is the relative equality of its citizens—the less inequality, the healthier the society. In fact, there was a recent study in Britain that showed that more unequal societies are less healthy, even for those of higher income. The more cohesive a society, the more people feel that they’re working together. There are going to be income differences and differences in wealth, the less unequal societies are healthier. If we’re afraid to take the streetcar because we don’t like to be with poor people on the streetcar, how healthy is that?
The great social democratic initiatives in our country, whether it’s our Canada Pension Plan, our healthcare system, our transit systems, these are the things that bring people together. They get us working together as communities, that have us rely on each other. To me, that’s what strengthens society. In this election, I think people really have to ask themselves: who do they trust? Not just to say they support clean trains or making things more affordable for families or reduce poverty. Who do they actually trust to deliver for them in their everyday lives? People can say they support things, but it’s what they actually do that matters.
Jack Layton said that, the other day we were at an event, Liberals often in the election, they use an invention called a photocopier and they Xerox the NDP platform. After the election, they use another machine called the shredder and they shred the NDP platform. They go on and they become more like Conservatives. I think it really is important for people to think about their principles and who they trust to actually enact their principles. We’ve seen throughout our modern history as a country that social democratic vision has really relied on social democrats to implement it.
Newton: Eliminating poverty.
Parker: Eliminating poverty. And more advocacy for victims of crime. I would also like to say that if the Marijuana Party were to be voted in on a majority basis, I would give everybody a clean slate if you have been charged with marijuana and for those who have been wrongly convicted, they would somehow be compensated.
Train: Let me tell you about prisons. I get this a lot at the door. Have you been down to Kingston Penitentiary lately? Well when I went to Queen’s University, the women’s prison was right across from McArthur hall, the teaching college. That facility was built in the late 1800s. A large stock of prisons that we have are old, decrepit, unsafe, leaking, and it’s not right. It isn’t a matter of, ‘Oh we are building more prisons to throw more people in jail’— wrong. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about taking the existing prison stock that we have in this country, and ensuring that it’s upgraded so that they can get treatment. Where they can get safe and humane and secure. This is secure environments. I’m not talking about secure security; I’m taking about within the institution itself. So the prison talk is like anything else. The amount of money we spend on maintaining this stock can be used and applied effectively so that we have a modern, humane institution that we need within the context of our incarceration system.
Now as to poverty, I know, there is poverty in Canada. I know the problem of poverty in Canada. I know Parkdale. I know what goes on there. I know how poverty hurts people and how poverty takes people out of things. It debilitates people. I think our best weapon to fight poverty is education. I think education, as a teacher and with my business background, I know that when you take a person and invest in their education, you can give them skills. You can give them dignity, you can give them the types of things they want to have so they can engage in society, get back to society, and at the same time have pride in who they are and what they do. So I believe our investment in education at the provincial level, the money that the federal government invests in the provinces, need to be, needs to ensure we are reaching out with the proper type of program, with the proper type of access to information, that people need so that they can take themselves and bring themselves out of poverty, but we have to invest in that.
Can you say, is one more important than the other?
Both are things that confront all of Canada. It’s like saying is my left foot or my thumb more important, they both are. One is an institution and one is a social situation.