Federal candidates face off over issues

Signs hung outside a Beach café encourage people to vote in the Oct. 19 federal election. PHOTO: Andrew Hudson
Signs hung outside a Beach café encourage people to vote in the Oct. 19 federal election.
PHOTO: Andrew Hudson

It comes with one say in parliament and 107,000 people to speak for.

Whoever is elected Member of Parliament for Beaches-East York on Oct. 19 has plenty of voters to convince.

Beach Metro News spoke with four candidates to hear what they believe are key issues for the riding, and what makes them best choice for MP.

In 2011, New Democrat Matthew Kellway won Beaches-East York with 42 per cent of the vote, unseating a six-term Liberal first elected in 1993.

Matthew Kellway
Matthew Kellway

As he campaigns for a second term, Kellway says residents are talking most about childcare, the environment, or jobs.

On that last issue, jobs, Kellway said that if re-elected, he will continue to push for a new hiring agency at Danforth and Victoria Park Avenues, near Crescent Town.

“We can’t live in a community where we’ve got 45 per cent of kids living below the poverty line,” he said.

“If governments aren’t going to put in place the kinds of programs that allow communities to pursue local economic development, then I as a member of parliament will try and organize the community so that we can help ourselves.”

At 50, Kellway has lived half his life in the Upper Beach. Before his first run for MP, he had a 20-year career as a union rep, handling grievances and doing policy research for energy-sector professionals.

As MP, Kellway started as an NDP critic for military procurement, speaking early and often in the House about problems with the Harper government’s plans to buy F-35 fighter jets.

“It was, frankly, a fairly easy file,” he said.

“The costs for the F-35 were upwards of $40 billion, not the $15 billion the government said it was during the election campaign.”

From military procurement, Kellway moved to urban affairs – a new NDP portfolio he helped create.

A white paper he published last year laid the ground for much of what the NDP is now promising for cities if it forms government, including a dedicated public transit fund with national planning standards.

Judging by riding history and the race for lawn signs, Liberal candidate Nathaniel Erskine-Smith may be Kellway’s lead challenger.

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith
Nathaniel Erskine-Smith

Beach born and raised, the 31 year-old commercial litigator got an early start to his first run for public office –he started knocking on doors in December.

Besides his work for a downtown law firm, Erskine-Smith has taken on pro bono cases for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

One of those cases made headlines last year, when he helped a Brantford father secure the right to exempt his son from religious events at a publicly funded Catholic high school.

“I’ve been lucky to have the opportunity to help a couple of people in circumstances like that, where there isn’t a great deal of money at stake, but there are rights at stake,” said Erskine-Smith.

“It’s public interest advocacy, and I see politics as the same thing.”

At the door, Erskine-Smith said many residents share an “anybody but Harper” attitude, concerned by a perceived lack of evidence in the Harper government’s environmental and justice policies, and by a governing style Erskine-Smith called “autocratic.”

“Bottom-up democracy and a focus on community advocacy is something that people are hungry for, I think,” he said.

Erskine-Smith said local residents also want to see more federal investment for public infrastructure, including transit.

“When traffic congestion costs us billons of dollars a year in the GTA economy, it’s the right thing to do from an investment perspective,” he said.

Similarly, Erskine-Smith said, Liberal policies such as removing subsidies for the fossil-fuel industry or targeting child tax benefits only to families that need them are not only fair, but fiscally prudent.

Heading into his second federal campaign, Conservative candidate Bill Burrows said his interest in national politics started at the grass roots.

Bill Burrows
Bill Burrows

A Beach resident for 16 years, the 47-year-old tech sales consultant is a co-founder of the Kew Beach Neighbourhood Association, and has also served as a board member for Kew Beach Daycare and the Flemingdon Health Centre in North York.

Started by residents concerned about a condo project on Kippendavie Avenue, Burrows said the KBNA drew 400 members in its first year and has since inspired several other local residents’ associations.

“We all worked really well together,” said Burrows, noting that the KBNA group was started by people from across the political spectrum.

“All of them have worked with me, and told me they felt my ability to work together with them was the main reason they encouraged me to run,” he said.

Burrows said job security and the economy are leading issues when he goes door-to-door, adding that the riding has more conservative voters than people might expect from its Liberal and NDP history.

Interest also seems to have grown since his 2011 campaign, said Burrows, when he won 23 per cent of the vote. Burrows said a big focus of his campaign will be a get-out-the-vote drive, showing supporters that their votes matter.

“We’ve had Liberal representation for a long time, we’ve also had NDP representation provincially and federally,” he said. “A lot of the folks I’ve been talking to have said they haven’t seen much benefit from that over the years.”

“They’re looking for a change in the community, and they’re looking for somebody who can work inclusively.”

Green Party candidate Randall Sach was a world away, working in Hanoi, Vietnam, when he first grew seriously concerned for Canada’s future in a way that led him to enter party politics.

Randall Sach
Randall Sach

At 58, Sach has worked for 30 years in international development, a career that has taken him from Mexico to Mozambique, the Philippines to Afghanistan.

In 2006, Sach was in Hanoi as director of program support for the Canadian International Development Agency, which has since been merged with Canada’s foreign affairs and trade department.

“Shortly after the Conservatives were elected, we had some people from CIDA headquarters come and have a very strange meeting with my staff,” he said.

“They said, ‘We’ve been told to tell you that this government, the new government, is not interested in environment or gender issues,” he said, adding that it was strange because both were listed then and now as “cross-cutting themes” for all Canada’s aid work abroad.

It was a red flag, said Sach, and his concerns grew in the years after the CIDA merger.

On its face, he said, the reorganization had merit. But in the process CIDA seemed to lose the goal of alleviating poverty.

“That was the whole reason CIDA was set up in the first place,” he said. “This Canada was becoming a country I didn’t recognize anymore.”

Sach said international work is what he hopes will set him apart from other candidates, but he also hopes to raise the profile of environmental issues.

Sach criticized the Harper government for recently pushing back a G7 pledge to phase out fossil-fuel power from 2050 to 2100, and for continuing to subsidize Canada’s oil and gas industry by some $34 billion a year, according to figures from the International Monetary Fund.

“The whole argument that the Conservatives have made for years, that it’s either the environment or the economy, well that’s a false choice,” he said. “There are a lot of jobs in renewable energy. We just need the political will to do it, and to stop subsidizing polluters – they can stand or fall on their own, paying the full cost of what they do to the environment.”

Besides election day on Monday, Oct. 19, voters can cast a ballot at advanced polls on Oct. 9 to 12, or by special ballot from now until Oct. 13 at an Elections Canada office. Visit elections.ca or call 1-800-463-6868 for more information on how and where to vote.

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Kellway says he’s concerned about jobs, transit and children living below the poverty line.

But the reality is that Mulcair and the NDP have NO answers on the economy, irresponsibly support Harper’s plan to give more money to millionaires, and will cut billions of dollars in public investments.

The Liberal Party will make the most significant infrastructure investment in Canadian history – $125 billion – almost double current federal funding levels.

That’s what we need to grow the economy, create jobs, strengthen the middle class, transform our transit and transportation system, provide more affordable housing and childcare, and lift children out of poverty.

What we DON’T need are empty promises from the NDP. We’ve heard enough of those from Harper over the last decade.

All we hear from smiling Tom Mulcair and money bags Trudeau is peace and love, hope and change, when all they mean is tax and spend.

It will be David Miller and Bob Rae all over again.

Liberals are the only one with a true and strong vision for prosperity. Best the NDP can provide is a bandaid but more likely empty rhetoric.

Ben, running massive deficits to jump start the economy was the approach that Bob Rae and ‘Pink’ Floyd Laughren took with the Ontario economy during Rae’s run as Premier. How much prosperity did this drive?

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