Interview with all candidates for Peterborough in the 2003 Ontario provincial election

Nathaniel Christopher Arthur [Peterborough, Ont.] Volume 38 Issue 3

On October 2, Peterborough residents will cast their ballots in the provincial election to determine who will represent them as the Peterborough Member of Provincial Parliament. Nathaniel Christopher interviews all the candidates for the position.

NC: In the last decade, tuition rates have risen at an exponential rate. Do you see a link between rising student debt, rising tuition, and the increase of Ontarian youth living below the poverty line?

Bob Bowers (Independent)

Bob Bowers (Independent candidate):
Yes there is a link. First of all, nobody is guaranteed a proper job even though they have the education. They have to go into the competitive work world without experience and people are not willing to give them the experience even though they have an education, and because of this people have to get out of their profession and go into other trades according to what they can get a hold of and there are only a few people who can break the mold. I feel that once you’ve reached the post-secondary level you should be getting a wage – you shouldn’t be paying your own education. That’s a job and I know because I did it and my daughter’s doing it right now and she’s in debt up to her ears.

Tim Holland (Green)

Tim Holland (Green Party candidate)
Yah, for sure. It’s simple to see. The Green Party wishes to change that by putting a cap on tuition and lowering tuition. Our whole approach is based on the holistic idea that education is an investment in the future – not a business today. The more opportunity we give students, the better society is for all of us. Education is the number one thing that’s going to break the cycle of poverty, so making it accessible is incredibly important for having an egalitarian society.

Jeff Leal (Liberal)

Jeff Leal (Liberal Party candidate)
Well indeed, and one of the key planks we have in our platform as a result of Mr. Kennedy’s [Gerard Kennedy, the Liberal education critic] talking to people in the universities and colleges across Ontario is our concept that we want to freeze (tuition) for the next two years, and during that freeze period we want to go out and really examine various support system funding formulas for students in other jurisdictions in North America, Europe or around the world to really come up with a system that provides incentives for our young people, no matter what economic strata you come from, to have an opportunity to pursue post-secondary education either at the college or university level.

Max Murray (Family Coalition)

Max Murray (Family Coalition Party candidate)
Yes, I definitely do see a link because in order to pay the high cost of tuition, I’m not sure the exact percentage rate–it’s gone up in the last ten years–but I do know that it’s not manageable. That’s the best way I can put it. I was elected to the Board of Directors at Humber Students Federation at Humber College so therefore I’ve had a chance to see how it really affects the students. Do I believe there is a reason for that? I believe there’s a bigger plan in place where there is trying to be a separation in classes and then that’s to leave the younger, less wealthy people lower than the top five or ten percent brackets.

Dave Nickle (NDP)

Dave Nickle (New Democratic Party–NDP candidate)
There’s no doubt about that. Back in the 70’s when I graduated from university by working part time through the school year and working full time in the summers I was lucky enough to graduate with no debt whatsoever. Students know going into it that by the time they graduate they can work full time hours and many are working almost full time hours through the school year as well as the summer and they are still coming out with the equivalent of a small or a not so small mortgage. We know that there’s a huge correlation between rising tuition rates and stagnant minimum wage that has been in that state for the last eight years.

Gary Stewart (PC)

Gary Stewart (Progressive Conservative Party–PC candidate and current MPP)
Tuition rates at Ontario Universities are capped at 2 percent per annum and 3 percent of this increase is mandated for student aid. This increase is optional and is a decision made by the University.

NC: Do you believe that Social Assistance and Disability pensions should allow recipients to live above the poverty line?

Bob Bowers
I say as being one of those recipients we shouldn’t get it for nothing. It’s a two bladed sword- if we’re given money we should be given the chance to work, the chance to get a proper education so that we can get some self-esteem and credibility and work on our own. By doing this we are a benefit to society rather than unemployed. We don’t need the kind of treatment we’ve got in the past where they don’t give us enough money to live off of. The only reason we can’t conform to a normal life is because we don’t have the government policies to back us up.

Tim Holland
Certainly. People in Ontario have a right to clean water, clean air and the right to a living wage. The Green Party advocates the Guaranteed Income Supplement, this is a welfare system that goes beyond the present social assistance in that it addresses the issues of unpaid labour in our society. A really common Green thinker is Marilyn Wearing who did the CBC documentary “If women counted”- she really did an amazing job at illustrating at how women’s work is so common that it is not seen as work and yet it totally contributes to society. mothers staying at home and raising, there are people looking after the elderly and not moving them into homes – they need tax supplements. The Guaranteed Income Supplement would try and work to give these people opportunities to do what they are doing and recognise that they are contributing to society in a way that is good for all of us

Jeff Leal
Well one of the things we certainly are committed to is providing a cost of living increase for the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). Those levels of ODSP have been frozen since 1993 so we see it is as a basic start to provide a cost of living increase. Our critic for disabled issues Ernie Parsons from Prince Edward-Hastings certainly has also indicated that it’s time to look at the component parts that make up the ODSP benefit in terms of shelter and the remaining funds to buy groceries and other things that you and I need every day. We also want to provide a cost of living increase for recipients on Ontario Works.

Max Murray
First of all I’m disabled. I have cerebral palsy and am on ODSP, so if I said that I don’t think it should be raised I’d probably be considered looney. Do I believe it should be raised? Most definitely. I don’t understand how we can possibly live 32% below the poverty line, which we are right now. Also there seems to be some leaked news recently about the Progressive Conservative government raising the ODSP pensions to $1200 a month. I am highly suspect of that because I was in the house the last time the NDP government put a bill before the house, Bill 118, to raise the cost of ODSP to 12.6% above its rates right now. The Tory government voted it down. Among those that voted it down was the current incumbent here Gary Stewart who has said publicly that he supports raising ODSP. IF he supports it why did he vote down the last two bills that have come forward to raise ODSP rates?

Dave Nickle
I have a hard time with what the poverty line is but let me just say that I think that both ODSP payments and social assistance payments are way too low. Neither of these groups have had a raise in eight years and that’s unconscionable. I don’t know whether if we can afford to bring people above the poverty line depending on how you measure it. We should be able to but I don’t know if we can or not but we have to give really significant increases. One of the ways we’re talking about giving that increase is to increase the housing allowance in both these allowances.

Gary Stewart
In order to improve the financial position of those on disability pensions, the current government will immediately increase their pensions by 5 percent. Further, on May of 2002 the current government signed the Federal/Provincial Affordable Housing Agreement, which will stimulate the construction of 10,500 units of affordable housing in Ontario. I believe this is another step in improving the availability of affordable housing for recipients of social assistance.

NC: What is a reasonable living minimum wage?

Bob Bowers
I talk about maximum wage. We have to stop the growing inflation rate, we have to stop the growing costs of living expenses. The only way you are going to do that is by having the maximum wage on goods and services across the board. The price should be determined by the quality of workmanship. If it’s a shitty job it doesn’t get paid much. That goes for the workers as well. If they do a shitty job they only get so much. We would have a better economy because of it. People love competition. People would have an incentive to do work easier and better. It would be a different work environment altogether.

Tim Holland
The Green Party believes in reducing our consumption. We believe that everyone has a right to living wages as I said before. We want to raise the minimum wage to $8.80, which is the highest (I think) across the board. We want to do this over two years, which is a less dramatic jump than the other parties are proposing. The reason we want to do that is so we can give subsidies to small businesses so they don’t lose out because they might get hit the hardest and we are very much in support of small businesses because they have more of an investment in small communities.

Jeff Leal
Our platform advocates increasing the minimum wage which has been frozen for many years at $6.85. We want to move it up to $8.00 over a four year period which would be incremental increases of 35¢ a year up to $8.00. We realise this is [only] a start but I think you also have to bear in mind the business sector over that four year period has to absorb those increases into their product or service costs.

Max Murray
The party has a policy where we would change the provincial portion of the taxation, which I believe is $7660 for your basic exemption. We would change that to $14000, which is your average minimum wage salary of forty hours a week at $6.85 an hour. That would immediately put $200 a month in our lowest wage earners pockets which in turn would put money into the food budget, which in turn would put food into children’s mouths. That would immediately increase minimum wage without putting a burden on the small businessman.

Dave Nickle
$12.00, $14.00, $15.00 an hour something like that. It’s $6.85 an hour right now we’ve proposed immediately moving it to $8.00 an hour. We don’t think that $8.00 an hour constitutes a minimum wage – we just think it’s a step that you can take instantly to get things going but nobody can live on $8.00 an hour. That’s not a living minimum wage – it’s something higher than that.

Gary Stewart
Minimum wage is one item under the Employment Standards Act. A reasonable living minimum wage is $6.85 per hour at this time. Our economy is somewhat fragile at this time, and anything that disturbs it in the short term is not economically viable.

NC: What are your feelings on same-sex marriage?

Bob Bowers
I’m bisexual and I don’t mind saying so. The institution of marriage itself I do not support. If two people of the same gender want to get married that’s fine but it’s not my bag of tea.

Tim Holland
The Green Party has always been for inclusion across the board of people and approaching everyone as unique and having an important place in society – not having any prejudices against them on any ground. So we are completely for same-sex marriage.

Jeff Leal
Same-sex marriage clearly is a federal responsibility and it’s not a responsibility that’s in the provincial jurisdiction. It is an issue that has to be resolved and will be resolved by the Parliament of Canada after the bill … is referred to the Supreme Court of Canada and it will be worked out in the federal parliament.

Max Murray
The Family Coalition Party of Ontario does not agree with same sex marriage based on the fact that it causes an undue taxation claim on heterosexual couples and singles. Same sex marriage is apparently about equal rights. However, by claiming tax credits from being in a same sex-marriage it actually takes away the rights of the heterosexual because I have to pay for it as a heterosexual man in my tax dollars.

Dave Nickle
I’m in favour of it. It’s a right of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community.

Gary Stewart
Same sex union, same sex partnership. The Oxford describes marriage as a union between a man and a woman. I have difficulty calling a same sex union a marriage.

[Editors Note: The 2004 edition of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary removes any reference to sex from its definition of “marriage.” This story was featured on the September 15 edition of “As it Happens” on CBC Radio 1. http://www.cbc.ca/asithappens/]

I am a resident of Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada, who has been blogging here for nearly 25 years. I enjoy sharing my thoughts and feelings on my own online platform. From 1998 until 2017, I worked as a journalist, and I have posted most of my articles in the 'News' section of this website.