Sitting down with the candidates

Reading Time: 12 minutes

(Photo by Kate Turner).

The Questions

1) Why are you the best choice to represent this community?

2) What convinced you to run?

3) What’s the most important issue facing this community and why?

4)  Historically, students from WLU and UW have been disengaged from politics. In a community like this, do you think the student vote is significant?

5) Considering the implications of this byelection, how have you ensured that your campaign has focused on this community, and not your party’s larger aspirations?

6) This riding has been labeled as “Elizabeth Witmer’s” riding. Are you worried at all about taking over from such a big name in this community?

7) Candidate-specific.

Stacey Danckert Green Party of Ontario

1. For one thing, if any of the other candidates are elected, they’d essentially become back-benchers and fit right in with the system that we’ve had over the past number of years that hasn’t been working in my opinion. The Green Party philosophy is that we govern at the most local level possible. So that means that we actually would be listening to the people of Kitchener-Waterloo and addressing their needs. Assuming that Vaughan continues to be a Liberal riding, which all accounts suggest it will, one vote will swing Queen’s Park. So to have one voice that would be the swing vote that’s first and foremost representing Kitchener-Waterloo, that would be a very unique opportunity.

2. I’ve been really frustrating with politics and the way they’ve going in general. I think too often the people we elect to represent us, don’t represent and that’s really frustrating to me. I think that if you’re here to represent a community of voices, you should speak loudly and clearly for those people.

3. That is quite a challenge. It’s very hard to narrow it down to just one issue, but what I’m hearing a lot about is education. People are really concerned by the types of battles that the teachers are having with the government and I think that goes back to the bigger issue of listening to your constituency. You need to listen to your community members and represent what they want, rather than look for a popularity contest or for “just to be elected” type ideas.
I think people ready for longer-term thinking. Not just, ‘how do I get elected?’ but what is the best way that we can govern so that we’er thinking long-term. We need to think about sustainable education and sustainable health care.

4. I think if [the student vote] were truly valued, the election wouldn’t have been called on Sept. 6. What I see is a group of people who are tomorrow’s leaders and I want to give them every chance possible so they can have their say about how the world will look in 20 or 30 years. We need to be helping and educating our students, trying to get them engaged, because maybe we’re just not engaging in the right way.
I think it’s such a shame that students have been basically neglected from this election. For one thing, that’s 40,000 people who live here over the year, who are not engaged in the process at all. And two, it’s an education experience that they’re missing out on. By seeing how engaged all the other members of the community are, I think that the students would’ve had that much more of a chance to see and understand the process.

5. Obviously not every issue I’m going to address is going to be relevant only in K-W, some of these issues are relevant everywhere. But an issue like local farming is something that we’d like a lot more focus on. Education is of course a big issue everywhere, but I don’t think we need to singularly focus on it in that way.

6. Obviously she’s done an outstainding job representing this community for over two decades. Following in her footsteps would be quite a challenge. But I think the things that we should be learning from her are the things that made her such a strong community representative. She fought for this community, even when it didn’t alighn perfectly with her typical partisan values. I think that’s what we need, someone who’s looking to put the interests of this community first and foremost and not necessarily stick to party lines.

7. The Green Party currently doesn’t have a seat in Queen’s Park, how do you plan on raising the profile of your party on a provincial level?
What Elizabeth May, with one seat in a majority government has been really impressive. She’s been able to raise issues, get things noticed, I’ve been very impressed by her as the leader of that party. I look to her as a great example of what one person can accomplish. I think of what one person could accomplish in a minortity government, with how significant one vote can be, if we had a Green voice in Queen’s Park, what we could see finally is the plethora of ideas that we are about and fight for the ideas important to this community.

Eric Davis Ontario Liberal Party

1. I’ve grown up in this community, I understand this community, I’ve seen where it’s been and I can see where it’s going. I’ve also been very involved in the community. My volunteerism actually started really when I was at Laurier, I got involved a lot of campus clubs, maybe not surprisingly I was part of the Laurier young Liberals, I was involved in a lot of different clubs. I was the president and chair of the board for the Canadian Mental Health Association, I’m the vice-chair of the United Way of Kitchener-Waterloo, I’m involved with the federal/provincial affairs committee for the Waterloo Chamber of Commerce and then I’ve volunteered for a variety of organizations, organizations like Sustainable Waterloo, the Canadian Diabetes Association, I was an alumni senator for Wilfrid Laurier. I really want to give back to the community and to do the best job I can to serve its people.

2. The reason I ran in 2011 has not changed. I decided to run because I fundamentally believe in the Liberal vision for this province. I vehemently disagree with Tim Hudak’s vision for this province and I think the NDP approach is completely irresponsible and they don’t have a plan.
I looked at my daughter and thought, ‘what kind of province is she going to grow up in.’ I decided it was time to put my name forward and run. I knew I was in for a tough race last time against Elizabeth Witmer, I respected and do respect her dedication and commitment to the community however I fundamentally disagreed with her political views.

3. There’s a lot of important issues that are going to be discussed. I’d say that the most important issue that is coming up right now is stability in our schools. Right now our schools are the best in the English-speaking world and in order to make sure that they stay that way, we need to invest in education, however we also need to make sure that we balance the budget. We need to make sure that our children are getting the best education possible, that they’re set up for success. Making sure that we protect education is extremely important but it’s important to balance that with stability. That’s why we’re asking for the two-year wage freeze, to balance the budget by 2017-2018.

4. Last election, I actually spent almost all of election day going from Wilfrid Laurier to the University of Waterloo. I’m not that far removed from being a student myself, and I believed even when I was younger that it’s so important to get involved in the political process. I’m not saying everyone has to become a Liberal, but it’s so important to get involved and take an interest in your local community. Even though some students may only be living here for a relatively short itme, I still feel like it’s important for them to get out and vote.

5. We’ve always focused on providing strong local representation. I’m from this community, I’ve grown up here and I strongly believe that first and foremost, this byelection is about providing that strong local reperesentation. This riding has a tradition of strong local representatives. Herb Epp, Andrew Telegdi, Elizabeth Witmer, strong local leaders. I intend to continue that tradition. I want to ensure that the moderate values of this riding are represented at Queen’s Park. I think the McGuinty government has done a tremendous amount to invest in this community, to use a post-secondary education example: the Global Innovation Exchange at Laurier, the Centre for Internationa Governance Innovation, the Balsillie School of International Affairs, the Institue for Quantam Computing, The Perimeter Instuitue, these things all came about largely thanks to investments by the McGuinty government.

6. Everyone starts somewhere. I respect Ms. Witmer’s dedication to our community and I intend to continue that tradition of being a strong local representative. I’ve shown my commitment to this community having grown up here and returning here, having volunteered here, running in the last election and now running again. Elizabeth Witmer worked incredibly hard to represent this community and I plan to do the exact same. Even in the last election, I indicated my respect for even though I disagreed with her political viewpoints. I do not believe that this riding will benefit from Tim Hudak or Andrea Horwath, I don’t believe that either the Tories or the NDP represent the values of this riding.

7. How have you distanced yourselves from the numerous criticisms your party has received in recent months?  
No government is perfect, but what you expect form you government is to identify problems and come up with the solutions and the McGuinty government has done that. Dalton McGuinty would likely tell you himself that no government is perfect but if you look at all of the key issues, look at what underlies them. 9-million more Ontarians now have electronic health records than in 2003, that’s a major accomplishment. The key issues that I’m hearing about are none of those issues.

Catherine Fife Ontario New Democratic Party

1. I’ve been serving the community almost for a full decade on the school board, I’ve served on several committees, so I know this community very well.  And in actual fact, this community has taught me about the kind of leadership they value and I know they are looking for a strong champion and advocate and I have that experience. I’m ready to get to work at Queen’s Park if elected on Sept. 6.

2. There’s a number of factors. Timing, experience, a lot of had to do with the direction that Andrea Horwath is taking the NDP in. She knows certainly the NDP has connected the economy to social policy in a very responsible way. And that aligns with my values as an advocate in the community. I know the education portfolio extremely well, it’s on the agenda. But also education connects the health of the community, the economy of the community, and I believe it’s the exactly kind of training that has taught me about what kind of leadership people want in the community.

3. You know, what I’m hearing at the doorstep, is jobs. And I’m hearing it from a whole spectrum of citizens. People are definitely worried about the economy, they’ve seen the cost of their living increase, and they’re looking for work and the jobs are just not there. The McGuinty government has not put a plan in place to actually create real jobs. We do have a strategy, it’s the job creator tax credit, it’s a strategic focus onsmall and medium sized businesses. That’s very simple, small business creates the job, they get a tax credit.

4. I think that student vote would have been significant if it not would have been called for the first week of essentially classes. And I think that’s really unfortunate. The student voice needs to be stronger on issues like tuition and debt and jobs. That feedback needs to inform government policy. Traditionally those student votes from the universities have not come out in full force. But there is an undercurrent of anger at the student level around continuing rising of tuition rates and a fear about when you graduate. Where are the jobs after post-secondary education? That would have been our key questions that we would have posed to students and obviously we have plan to put those jobs into action, so really the timing is most unfortunate and one would expect intentional.

5. When you know the community as well as I do, and if you’ve worked for the community for the decade, those are values and directions are actually connected. So what I’ve heard from the community for a number of years are concerns around healthcare so I’ve been serving school board. Not only have I been meeting with parents but children around childcare as well. The key to serving a community like K-W is to remain engaged and to reach out and I already of strong connections from across the spectrum from childcare to senior care, and businesses as well. I don’t think it will be difficult for me to translate the needs of the community to Queen’s Park. I think that I’m the best candidate to do that.

6. I do have a lot of respect for the constituency work that Elizabeth Witmer completed for the riding. That said, we’re different people. But our values about serving the community are similar and our work ethic are also very similar. Our values and work ethic certainly, those are commonalities with Ms. Witmer. I think you try and forge your own territory, you forge your own ground. I guess I can say I’m not concerned about that. I already have a proven track record in the community of community engagement, of listening and consulting and putting that information into action.

7. You ran in 2007, but not in 2011, what made you decide to seek the MPP seat this time around?  
We had great momentum in 2007, we increased our vote by 60 per cent, there was, people were receptive to our ideas at the time. But the momentum that we have provincially and federally is inspirational for me as a community advocate and hopefully as a representative of the riding. It’s a very different time, you know the economy has not been addressed, healthcare is still in a state of crisis, and this riding deserves the kind of representation that understands the community. Partly timing but partly because I’m ready.

Tracey Weiler Ontario Progressive Conservative Party

1. I think that overall I have 15 years of business experience both at RIM and PriceWater House Coopers, so I consider myself an experienced business leader. I’m also a mom with two young girls. And I also do a lot of community work, so I’m on a lot of boards locally. And that I also teach part-time at the MBA program at Laurier. So when I look at all the things that I do, I really have a good understanding of the community, whether it be an academic perspective, business perspective, community perspective, so when you only look at one side of a community, you only see one side.

2. I think from my education and experience — I have an MBA in finance — and I’m just finishing, just waiting for my letter, my CMA, mangerial account designation.     From the volunteer work that I do, I have a good understanding with what I think we have to do. When my family immigrated to Canada, Ontario was the best place to live in the world,. We said, “where do we go? “ and they said ‘Ontario’ and I moved to southern Ontario. And then I look at where we are today. And I think we’re just in a hole in Ontario. We’re not in a good place and no one recognizes that except the PC party.

3. When I’m hearing at the doors — again at the thousands of doors I’ve knocked on — hearing it everyday, on the TV and the radio, is that people are nervous about where our economy is going and a focus on jobs. People are a little bit nervous, they’re holding back on spending, because they are nervous for the future, for jobs, whether their jobs are going to be safe. They’ve seen a lot of people, their friends, lose their jobs. We lost 2,800 [jobs] in what is defined as Waterloo Region last month. And that is only going to be expected to continue over the next couple of months. So I think that the economy and jobs would be first and foremost but along with that is the overspending and waste that people that I’m talking with at the doors feel like is happening today.

4. I think that we have some amazing schools here in Waterloo Region. My husband went to the University of Waterloo and I went to Laurier for my own MBA program, and I think we have some of the smartest, most intelligent people in the world that go to those schools.  And I think that, given that, it is important for them to share their education, their experience, their knowledge for what like they see in the future. For me, one of the opportunies that I’ve had as an instructor is to be able to listen and learn from students about what they like to see. Even as a teacher that’s an important part of our learning in the classroom. I think that listening and learning for they want to say is important.

5. How you do that, is that you listen and learn to people in the riding. I really think that if you’re going to take a role to service a community, it’s the community that you need to represent. And how I do that is through the boards that I’m on I learned at the grassroots level of what people need and want. When I’m at the doors, knocking at doors, having meetings on my spare time — that’s how you listen and learn. And so, when you’re able to do that, that’s how you represent your community. If you get disconnected than that, you’re unable to represent the community in the way that this role is critical to do so. We are constituents’ advocates and the ability to advocate for those needs at Queen’s park is the responbility — and it’s a big responsibility — and I think you can only do that if you’re listening and learning from your constituents.

6. Well Elizabeth Witmer is my hero, really, in the way she has represented the community and I would be proud and honoured to follow in her footsteps, if I should have the honour of winning this byelection. And I think that what she was able is to represent the needs of the community, and building on that, what I feel what the needs of community are today, is really have someone understand fiscal challenges that we have in Ontario. The fact that the economy is not going in a very good place and that the PC party is the only party that has a plan to change that. And this is where my background and experience comes important because with an MBA in finance and 15 years of business experience. I understand when you’re in a bit of a place where change is needed, where change is critical, you need to have a plan to do that.

7. How have you compensated for your lack of political experience?  
I think politics, when you run to be candidate in any election, I think that’s one piece of understanding what politics is. So I’ve had the opportunity through a number of boards. For example I was the board chair of Ontario Early Years in Kitchener. So when you look at early education in Ontario, you’re often learning and giving feedback on different policy elements. On the other side of that, I’ve sat and do sit on Peter Braid’s board on his electoral district association as his communications chair and on his executive team. And so although I haven’t been front and centre in the media in politics, in the background, participating in Elizabeth Witmer’s and Peter Braid’s campaigns in the past, really understand what politics is all about.

-Interviews conducted by Justin Fauteux and Justin Smirlies

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