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What kind of country do we want?

August 28th, 2015 · No Comments

Do voters want another four years of Stephen Harper?

By Jennifer Hollett

This year is a critical year for Canada. With an early federal election call, we are now in an 11-week campaign, one of the longest (and most expensive to taxpayers) in our country’s history.

There are 30 new federal ridings across the country, including University-Rosedale here in the Annex. It is a new riding, with new possibilities. The ballot box question on October 19 is centred around change; do voters want another four years of Stephen Harper or a change in our country’s leadership? While many voters are clear they’re voting against Harper, the question that begs our attention is what are we voting for.

Toronto is Canada’s largest and most important city. Repeating this outside of the GTA is usually met with eye rolls and comedic jabs, but our city is home to 90,000 businesses and produces over 15 per cent of Canada’s GDP. Each year, 80,000 new immigrants come to Toronto in search of opportunity.

Yet Toronto struggles to keep up with this growth. While not a particularly sexy topic, infrastructure is one of the most vital issues at play in our city this federal election. At the Federation of Canadian Municipalities meeting in Edmonton this year, there was a lot of discussion around the need for a forward-thinking federal partner with a long-term commitment to infrastructure. In last year’s municipal election the top issue was public transit. Our buses make sardine cans look spacious, street cars are in constant disrepair, and subway routes haven’t kept up with our city’s population. This has led to congestion, gridlock, and delays becoming a daily norm. The average commute time in Toronto is now over 80 minutes per day, which is longer than New York, Los Angeles, and London.

With the weak Canadian dollar and several economists now pointing to a recession, many Torontonians are struggling to find work. The youth unemployment rate in Toronto is a whopping 17 per cent (compared to the national average of 6.8 per cent). Despite having one or two degrees, when youth do find work, the jobs are often part-time, contract, and precarious. Since 2008, two-thirds of all jobs created in Ontario have been part-time, temporary, or in self-employment. Canada needs to diversify its economy so that it can absorb the shock of falling commodity prices and welcome investment to kick-start new opportunities and create full-time work. We should compete as an innovative, energy-efficient, high tech economy that is a magnet for investment, globally and domestically.

This December in Paris, more than 190 countries will convene at the COP 21: UN climate change conference to explore a new international agreement on climate change. These talks are focused on reducing global greenhouse gas emissions in order to tackle the growing threat of climate change. Canada has won the dubious distinction of the international Fossil award five years in a row. The Climate Action Network hands out this infamous, satirical award to a country doing the most damage to climate talks in a given year. Who our prime minister is will likely determine if we’re on our way to our sixth award.

Locally, in our own community, we remain at risk of another Lac-Mégantic rail disaster. The Canadian Pacific rail line, which runs along Dupont Street, transports dangerous goods through our neighbourhoods every day. Local activists have been advocating for safe, transparent, and regulated rail to prevent such rail accidents by calling on much needed government regulation, enforcement, and transparency for Canadian rail safety.

The two questions we must ask ourselves this election are what kind of Canada do we want to live in? And what kind of Toronto do we want to live in? That’s ultimately what the federal election is about. It’s time to commit to building a strong, healthy, livable city for everyone.

Jennifer Hollett is the federal New Democractic Party candidate for University-Rosedale.

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