On May 27, 2014 the Millstone sent out these questions in an e-interview to our provincial election candidates. Provincial NDP candidate John Hansen provided these answers. Questions are in bold.
- The recent performance of the rural Ontario economy in terms of job growth has been poorer than in urban places. What is your proposed approach to support the development of job opportunities in rural Ontario and small towns?
The Ontario NDP has put forward a plan that will create jobs here in Ontario. We will introduce a Job Creator Tax Credit that will encourage businesses to hire new employees by providing them a refundable tax credit for every new hire; creating up to 170,000 jobs. We will also encourage companies to expand their investment in Ontario, through a Manufacturer Investment Tax Credit. In addition, we’ll help small businesses grow by lowering the small business tax rate from 4.5% to 3%. To strengthen rural economies we are also committed to 60km of highway expansion each year. Our plan will create jobs here in Ontario in a way that makes sense.
Our candidate, John Hansen, who has 35 years of experience in the technology industry has a pledge to help local companies be successful and create jobs in this riding. John wants to see new ventures be successful. John will work with the over 2,000 local companies in riding to help them grow and be more successful.
- Rural Ontario stakeholders are concerned about youth employment/underemployment in their communities. How does your party’s platform respond to these concerns?
In the 2013 budget the Ontario NDP forced the Liberals to implement Ontario’s Youth Jobs Strategy with $295 million over two years. It helps young people get co-op placements and apprenticeships, summer work experience, funds hiring incentives for businesses and more. We look forward to continuing this commitment. In addition, young families need assurances that they will have services in rural communities. That’s why we’re investing in an Open School fund, new 24 hour family health clinic in under serviced areas, and widening highways.
- Fiscal stability at the municipal level concerns many rural citizens. How would your government deal with cost-sharing between levels of government? What transfers/investment programs do you believe require change or continued support in the coming years?
The Ontario NDP understands the pressures that rural municipalities are under particularly in light of Liberal cutbacks to the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund. We understand that it is important to get the OMPF formula right. We will work with municipalities to make sure that we find the right funding level.
- Skills training and access to post-secondary programs affects both the future incomes of young people as well as the ability of employers to find the talent they need. What would your government do to ensure rural youth have appropriate skills and that they can access relevant programs locally and affordably?
In addition to the Youth Jobs Strategy mentioned before, the NDP is proposing to freeze tuition for post-secondary education and to eliminate interest on student loans.
- Property taxes have no relationship to ability to pay. Income tax is progressive. Municipalities large and small have funding problems. Shouldn’t the provincial government play a far larger role in funding municipal services through income and consumption taxes?
Property taxes should have a relationship to municipal benefits received. All the infrastructure, government services, proximity to jobs and amenities, the presence of communities and natural endowments – these are all benefits that increase the value of property and therefore we believe that property taxes are an important part of the mix of taxes used to fund government. In circumstances where someone is in hardship we support the various assistance programs available in Ontario, like the property tax deferment program.
- How will you reduce Ontario’s debt, and enable our province to live within its means? What is your time frame?
The Ontario NDP will balance the budget by 2017 to start paying down the debt. The best way to do this is to spur economic growth in the province, but the NDP also plans to raise the corporate income tax by 1% and clamp down on corporate tax loopholes that go to the most profitable corporations.
- What is your position on ensuring that all employees receive, at the very least, a decent wage (i.e. a wage that covers basic living expenses) for a regular day’s work?
The Ontario NDP will increase the minimum wage to $12 per hour by 2016 and index it to inflation.
Health Care and an Aging Population
- What is your party’s platform with respect to the accessibility of health care and quality medical services near to rural and small town residents? Is the current situation satisfactory? What would you improve? What is your plan to reduce waiting lists and limits to the health care that is available in the home?
The Ontario NDP plans to make some strategic investments to tackle the most pressing needs in the health care system. We’ll attract doctors to underserviced communities by forgiving student debt; we will build 50 new 24-hour family health clinics to help take the pressure off overcrowded hospitals and deliver services closer to home; we will eliminate the crisis wait list for long-term care beds; we’ll guarantee home care service within 5 days of being approved; and we’ll offer a Caregiver Tax Credit to provide relief to Ontarians caring for the ill or elderly at home.
- Rural and small town Ontario has an older demographic than urban places, making services for aging population a priority for many rural stakeholders. Does your party have an aging strategy or set of programs or policies that it would implement specific to a rural/small town context?
We’ll attract doctors to underserviced communities by forgiving student debt; we will build 50 new 24-hour family health clinics to help take the pressure off overcrowded hospitals and deliver services closer to home; we will eliminate the crisis waitlist for long-term care beds; we’ll guarantee home care service within 5 days of being approved; and we’ll offer a caregiver tax credit to provide relief to Ontarians caring for the ill or elderly at home
- If you were to win the election how would your government’s strategy affect the cost of electric power? What steps would your government take to deal with the generation and distribution of energy in the province? What is the plan to bring Ontario One under control?
Hydro rates are sky-high under the Liberals and are set to increase by 42 percent over the next five years. The Ontario NDP will start by taking the HST off hydro bills, which will save families nearly $200 per year. Under our plan we’ll cut down on waste and duplication by merging the IESO, OPG, Hydro One and the Ontario Power Authority and pass the savings on to consumers; we’ll crack down on executive compensation by capping CEO salaries at twice the Premier’s pay; we’ll keep hydro assets public and find efficiencies to drive down costs; get the best deal on our electricity exports by creating a direct trading agency like ones used in Quebec and Manitoba; and look into reducing hydro costs for mineral processing in order to keep those jobs here.
- A company called Enerdu proposes to significantly expand a hydro power generating plant on the river in central Almonte. Local citizens oppose this plan as it will change the aesthetics of the Mississippi River and falls, a central element in the beauty of the town and a tourist attraction. There is also concern that the hydro plant as now operated and as proposed is contributing to the death of a wetland forest at Appleton. The project will offer jobs during construction of the power plant, but at most, one permanent job thereafter. Enerdu will sell the power generated to the Ontario grid. No financial benefit will accrue to the town. What is your position on this project? What action will you take as our MPP if you are elected?
On green energy, the Ontario NDP is supportive of renewable power but believe that the Liberals have made a mess of the process. They’ve signed backroom contracts with private companies and imposed large projects without adequate consultation and without ensuring that local communities benefit.
We would honour existing contracts but would make major changes to how the Green energy program works. We should meet regional needs and rationalize transmission capacity. We would give priority to small, community-based energy projects developed by and for local communities and would ensure that larger projects have greater transparency and accountability and more meaningful public input.
Our candidate, John Hansen, is against the Enerdu project since it creates only a small amount of electricity at a high cost to the environment and the local community. John firmly believes that views of the local community must be respected. Any project must include proper consultation with the public.
Nature and the environment
- What would your party do to protect the quality of water in Ontario lakes, streams and rivers?
The Ontario NDP supports and would implement the Great Lakes Strategy with its goal to protect and restore the ecological health of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River basin, and to create opportunities for individuals and communities to become involved.
- What actions will you take to protect our natural habitat and promote a sustainable economy?
The Ontario NDP supports the province’s Biodiversity Strategy and we are committed to reaching our environmental protection targets.
- Does your party think the current policy regime surrounding farmland loss and farmland protection is adequate? What policy changes or initiatives would your government take to respond to this concern?
The Ontario NDP believes that farmland preservation is becoming an increasingly important issue in Ontario. We have a record of standing up to protect farmland and we are committed to working with stakeholders to accomplish this if we are elected. We have argued for stronger protections in the Lake Simcoe Act. We pushed for a review of the Aggregate Resource Act and passed motions for recommendations on farmland protection during the review. We raised concerns about planned highway expansions that threatened the Greenbelt. Only the NDP can be trusted to stand up for farmland protection.
- What actions would your government take to support the development of local food systems?
The Ontario NDP would improve Local Food Legislation to establish a steady and predictable increase in local food procurement over 5 years, will invest $15 million per year in student nutrition and local food initiatives, and review agricultural regulations to ensure our farmers can compete on a level playing field.
- Where do you stand on amalgamating Public and Catholic School Boards?
We have no plans to change the current system.
- Where do you stand on alcohol being available in convenience stores?
The Ontario NDP does not want to see an erosion of the LCBO system that provides a significant revenue stream to the Ontario Treasury, in addition to the excise taxes. We do believe that the LCBO system can improve efficiencies, selection, convenience and promote local, small producers for example through express kiosk or improving the ability of local producers to get shelf space.