Sitting down with the MPP hopefuls

The questions

  1. What, in simple terms, sets you apart from the other candidates?
  2. What convinced you to run for MPP?
  3. Name one key issue that you feel hasn’t been addressed during this campaign that pertains to this riding. What is your position on it?
  4. As MPP, how would you ensure representation of the citizens of Kitchener-
    Waterloo at Queen’s Park?
  5. What have you done to encourage students to turn out and vote on Oct. 6?
  6. With regards to post-secondary education, what sets your party’s platform apart and how is it of most benefit to students?
  7. What about your party’s platform do you not agree with and why?

Isabel Cisterna, NDP Ontario

1) For one thing this is my lifestyle, I work every day changing perceptions and trying to make life more inclusive for everybody. As a new Canadian I started with that single issue of being a new Canadian and trying to find a voice, a common thread and trying to find where my place was. In the last ten years I’ve realized that there is a lot more than meets the eye with people’s perceptions.

I came at this from a different level than the others, and until running I really didn’t like politicians a whole lot because my experience with them has been very detached, cold and uninterested. I didn’t have a lot of respect for them. It took a while for me to accept that I could be one of them too, and people put you in the same light.

2) I thought that I could be effective and create the kind of change I wanted in the periphery and being unattached from a party would make me more progressive. I realized you’re constantly facing the same barriers so I decided to join because I wanted to bring issues up. In the beginning when I considered this I needed to look at why I was doing this, who I was doing this for. Why would anyone put themselves in this situation? I tell you, [campaigning] is very ungrateful of a job and there’s a lot of sacrifice involved.

Let’s face it: I was way more fun when I was an artistic director.

3) We tend to beat on the same subjects over and over again. For me, it would have been great to see more in terms of alternative medicine for instance. We haven’t talked about midwives for instance. We’re not keeping up with the funding we give and the support that they need. Alternative medicine to me also has to do with prevention. We spend so little of our health budget on prevention […] we need to create those opportunities for people to get the care in a different way.

4) We’re all applying for this job, and no one outside of Elizabeth Witmer knows what they’re getting into. For me, in the beginning, it would be all about listening. One of the biggest frustrations for me before I became involved, and a concern that many people have, is that not being listened to. People pay lip service but you know that nothing is going to happen. I think in order for me to get that broader view, I need to listen what people have to say and then take action.

5) I adore students, but right now I want to grab them and shake them because I don’t think they realize how much power they hold and how much of what we’re advocating for and working on is going to affect them directly. In 25 years when I’m a senior and decisions are going to need to be made about how to pay for medicare and other things, if we don’t make the proper decisions now, it could mean that the quality of life could change significantly. I wish students understood beyond the context of Kitchener-Waterloo, how many students around the world are involved in politics and how much they fight and are willing to sacrifice in order to vote and create changes that are good for them.

6) We’re going to freeze tuition for four years. If you look at Manitoba, which has an NDP government, tuition fees are half what they are here in Ontario. They started with a freeze and then began to roll back tuition. We need to make sure they don’t increase, because just because we give out grants as the Liberals are, it doesn’t mean tuition won’t go up. We want to make sure that the fees remain frozen for four years and then we can start rolling them back.

7) That’s an easy one for me, the platform mentions that we will scrap the LHINs, the local health integration networks. My position on that is that, yes the bureaucracy and administration costs are through the roof, but what I would like if I had my say on it, would be that we should assess one-by-one. You can’t compare urban centres to rural areas in these terms, in some rural areas LHINs are doing really well.

J.D. McGuire, Green Party of Ontario

1) I think […] the reason I ran and the reason I ran for the Green party are the same thing. What sets me apart is that I’m more positive – I carry more of a positive message. I’ll talk about someone else’s policies if it’s something I feel is worthwhile to talk about, but generally I try to stick to talking about what myself and the party can do for the future.

2) I guess just the want to not be told what I wanted to think about this election. I ran previously in 2007 as an independent and that was a completely different experience and I thought I’d gotten it out of my system and then it rolled around again and I decided that I really wanted to get involved in the biggest way I could.

3) The biggest thing to me is good government, it’s not specific to the riding but then in a way it really is. We’re represented by someone here who has been in that position for over 20 years and if she’s re-elected, it’s very likely that she will be in a senior post within the party and that’s going to make her have a bigger voice at the table for the Kitchener-Waterloo area, but then when it comes to vote on something good for the party but not good for the riding, her allegiance is going to have to fall with the party. I really think that’s something that could possibly become an issue.

4) The party and myself […] are very much into the idea of community decision-making. I’d want to talk to those in the community affected by a particular issue if a specific issue was raised. Knowing what was important to them would be what I’d look for — and I think that sometimes gets lost.

5) I’ve tried to just talk to students as best as possible, I have a small campaign and haven’t done a lot of canvassing but any events I can attend in and around the schools — I’ve been working full-time along with the campaign so I haven’t been able to do everything, but as much as possible. I think the Green message resonates with younger people a bit too, so part of it is doing what I can to get our message out there.

6) The main point that is across all parties has to do with tuition fees and the Green party’s platform is different in that we want to freeze tuition fees for one year and then tie them to inflation thereafter. That policy extends as far as 2015 in print but to me what sets it apart is that it’s the most sustainable policy beyond that time.

7) There is very little, and that sounds like a cop-out answer, but I’m all about honesty. The only thing I’ve seen may be a thing about corporate taxation but really in the platform we’re proposing freezing the corporate rollbacks until the budget is balanced. I agree that that should happen, I just think that should extend beyond that a little bit. There isn’t a plan laid out exactly as to how those tax cuts will work once the budget is balanced. The Green party platform doesn’t have a lot of big policies, no big sweeping promises.

Eric Davis, Liberal Party of Ontario

1) Obviously each of the different candidates values different things, I feel that my values and those of the Liberal party are far more in line with Kitchener-Waterloo than the other parties, especially the Conservatives. I do not believe that their agenda, in my opinion, is the right one for Kitchener-Waterloo.

Secondly I think it is time for new blood in Queen’s Park. Absolutely no offense to my Conservative opponent, she’s been in for 21 long years and that’s great. I’ve said only respectful things about her and would never personally attack her, but I think it’s time for a generational change.

2)It was a number of different factors, but what encouraged me to run this time was seeing over the last eight years what the Liberal government has done, both provincially and locally in health care, education and the environment. I have really shared the vision of where they want to take the province.

No government is perfect, but I think that what they’re doing and focusing on the long-term best interests of Ontario has really inspired me and I wanted to get involved.

3)One issue that has been raised but in my opinion not enough is the importance of post-secondary education. Obviously each of the parties have talked about how they plan on making post-secondary education more accessible or, in the Tory case, they haven’t really talked much at all when it comes to post-secondary education. I just think that, especially in this riding, we really need to make sure we’re setting up students and institutions for success.

The key for Waterloo’s long-term success is going to be its universities — and I think it has been.

4) What I would do would be listen to what our constituents have to say and also try and help them out. People don’t know that when you’re dealing with an MPP or any political representative, one of the biggest areas of their job is to help their constituents. I really want to make sure that my office is open and accessible.

Also, as a lawyer, one of the things I have to do every day is advocate and I plan to advocate for this community. We’ve been fortunate that the Liberals have seen how important this region is and made significant investments in it. I want to make sure those investments continue.

5) We’ve worked very closely with the Young Liberals at both campuses to help encourage that. My firm belief is that, regardless of what party they support, young people need to get out to vote.

I’m one of the youngest Liberal candidates in the entire province and I really want to see an increase in youth turnout, especially at the universities.

6) Fundamentally, what sets our party apart is that the Tories don’t discuss post-secondary education much at all in their platform. The NDP are proposing a tuition freeze. What we’re saying is that we want to make university more accessible right now, so starting in January we’re offering a 30 per cent tuition grant.

What we’re also trying to do is make sure people aren’t graduating with a mountain of debt — which is why we’re capping the maximum debt you can incur from OSAP.

7) To be honest, there’s nothing I disagree with in the current Liberal platform, they’re not making over 200 commitments like the Progressive Conservative party or over 100 like the NDP, we just have 45 new commitments that are meant to address specific challenges and I’m honestly saying that there’s not a single commitment in there that I disagree with.

Elizabeth Witmer, PC Party of Ontario

1) I have a simple motto, I entered politics in order to improve the quality of life for people, every day I get up, I’m happy and my goal is to help at least one person— hopefully more — feel better about government and hopefully help them overcome a barrier or challenge.

I’m able to work with whoever has been elected. I’ve worked well with the other candidates and we all work on behalf of the people we serve. I think that’s the difference, it doesn’t matter who’s in office. I managed to get my last private member’s bill passed which is very unusual. That’s how I like to do my work, when there are issues, I work with everybody to improve things.

There’s so much more I want to do for this community.

2) When I was 18 and the local member for whatever reason invited me to go to a local rally. When I came home, I thought to myself that I’d like to be a member of provincial parliament.

3) I truly am concerned about the issue of unemployment. I’m really concerned about the fact that our province is in the dire state that it is.

We need to have an emphasis on creating the environment where the private sector can create jobs, and I know the parties have some positions, but we’re not going to be able to have funding for health and education if we don’t expand our tax base and have people working and paying taxes. The whole quality of life issue I’m concerned about if we don’t see some improvement in the economy.

4) Part of the reason I knock on doors — and I do it faithfully and I’ve been doing it since June — is to enable people to meet with me and share with me their concerns. I feel that makes them more comfortable about contacting me.

People don’t hesitate, believe me, people are quite willing to stop me in the grocery store and I’m glad they feel that I am approachable. I want them to make sure that if they have a concern, I’m there to listen.

5) Obviously we’ve been on campus and participated in debates and advertised. I actually have a lot of students working on my campaign, in fact I have post-secondary students at Laurier, UW and Conestoga, but also I have elementary and high school students. That’s something I’ve never quite experienced before.

I have people assigned at each of the campuses trying to encourage greater voter turnout. I’m afraid we might have the lowest voter turnout ever. A lot of people are fatigued.

6) It doesn’t matter who you are, people are finding it more difficult every day to make ends meet. [When] we talk about taxes it really applies to students as well.
We have expanded the OSAP program and it would raise the income level whereby we would make OSAP available.

7) I would say that in this community I hear about health and education and the economy. In this community we don’t hear a lot about some of the law and order issues in the platform. It doesn’t seem as relevant in this community as the other issues.

Peter Davis, Independent

1) I’m completely different from any candidate. I think that’s pretty obvious. Given the fact that I’m not running on any policy, I’m trying to suggest that people should look beyond policy and at the larger part of what an MPP does in the community as a role model inspiring people to become more involved and engaged.

2) The biggest problem is so many people just stay at home and feel as though they’re completely unattached from society, that there’s no community. I see politics and politicians as people who are able to break down that boundary and ask people to volunteer. I can go to a person’s door as a politician and say I need people to help.

Something that isn’t offered by any of the candidates is someone who says what’s right rather than what people want to hear.

3) The issue that I’m focusing on is cynicism and the process so it’s almost like we never talk about how to do things. The Liberal party does the same thing as the Conservative party in the election and the NDP does pretty much the same.
I think that policy is well covered. The other candidates have platforms that are diverse. It’s very difficult for me to answer this question, but if there is one policy issue that I would like to see people talk about more, it’s poverty. We live in a wealthy society […] many of us are already quite comfortable. I think the more comfortable people are, the less they’ll be involved in politics and the more we’ll be groveling blindly towards oblivion.

4) If you’re an independent you can’t go in and pass a whole bunch of legislation, but I think with a minority government, an independent could have a lot of sway. So much of this and everyone’s questions are really geared toward self-interest. How am I going to protect people’s interests? I think we would do much better as a city and much better as a province and as a country if we’re not voting thinking about self-interest, but thinking about something broader like the common good.

5) I’ve been coming out every night from 10 p.m. to after midnight sometimes or when the bars close. I tried to organize student vote campaigns in the municipal and federal election and I don’t think the turnout was much better among students. In this election I wanted to try something different.

Students spend a lot of time in bars and socializing and that’s fine and I did that myself but you can still vote. You don’t necessarily need to be an expert, you have the ability to take that time to cast a vote — even if you don’t really know exactly what you’re voting for or why it makes a difference.

6) I’m campaigning to students the same as I am to retirement communities and on the street to anyone. I tell them I want to run, I’m an honest person, a good person, I’m running on a campaign that I believe is right and then you make the decision. I’m trying to appeal to a central humanity that is in all persons regardless of age. The universities are elitist institutions.

I did the academic route and I chose to leave it and now I’m working as a dishwasher and in my spare time I’m doing politics, it’s a different model. Dishwashing I enjoy, it gives me enough to survive. Don’t be more ambitious that that.

7) I’m trying to say what is right, not necessarily what people want to hear. For me the hardest thing, and I think that this is true for any politician, is striking a balance between ambition and principle. It’s easier for me because I’m running as an independent and not risking anyone else’s resources. Saying what I’m saying is exhausting, especially when I do have a lot of knowledge about things like energy policy and health care policy. I have knowledge about these things, and it’s really exhausting for me to say I don’t want to talk about that.