Ontario NDP leader Marit Stiles talks housing, transit and the possibility of an early election with Beach Metro News

Ontario NDP leader Marit Stiles met with Beach Metro Community News to talk about provincial and city issues during an interview last week at Ethio Natural Coffee on Danforth Avenue in southwest Scarborough. Photo by Alan Shackleton.

By ALAN SHACKLETON

If Ontario Premier Doug Ford decides to call an early election, then provincial NDP leader Marit Stiles is just fine with that.

“Bring it,” she said in an interview last Friday, June 14, afternoon with Beach Metro Community News in southwest Scarborough.

“Look, life under Ford’s government the past six years is not better. It’s gotten worse for a lot of people. People are struggling to afford rent, to find a family doctor. In many parts of our province emergency rooms are closing down… and life is just more expensive,” she said regarding some of the reasons why many voters in the province would welcome an election and the NDP feels it can be successful.

“Doug Ford has been scandal after scandal, and schemes that seem designed to benefit his friends,” said Stiles. “People are tired of it. If he’s going to be arrogant enough to think he can bring people to the polls two years early, then I say ‘Bring it.’”

Stiles was in the East Toronto area in advance of the NDP’s Provincial Council meeting which took place last Saturday in Toronto. She’s also a Toronto-based MPP, representing the riding of Davenport.

She was in the Danforth and Victoria Park avenues area visiting local businesses including those in the Bangladeshi community last Friday and took time to meet with Beach Metro Community News at the Ethio Natural Coffee shop on Danforth Avenue in Scarborough for an interview. Topics discussed in the approximately 30-minute interview included the possibility of an early election, a New Deal for Toronto, and the importance of all East Toronto ridings to the NDP.

It would be a bit of a gamble by Ford to call an early election since his second majority government was only re-elected in June of 2022, meaning he could potentially be calling a provincial election well before his government’s mandate is over.

“People will see through what he’s doing,” said Stiles whose Ontario NDP is the Official Opposition at Queen’s Park.

“This is a government that’s not in it for regular people. I really think we need a government that’s in it for the many, not the money,” she said.

“I don’t care how people voted in the past, or if they voted in the past, I think now is the time to stand up for regular people. People are tired of having a government that doesn’t make their lives easier, but only helps its friends.”

Stiles pointed to the recently expanded cabinet that Ford announced earlier this month, after MPPs at Queen’s Park went on break for the next three months, as an example of how helping friends seems to be the Premier’s priority. The cabinet is the largest in Ontario history and will add costs by increasing the salaries of so many Progressive Conservative MPPs who have been given jobs as ministers or ministerial assistants.

“I think he made a big mistake with his $10-million cabinet,” said Stiles.

While it does seem a bit perplexing as to why Ford would call another election so soon, Stiles said many Progressive Conservatives in Ontario are worried they would have no chance of being re-elected in 2026 if federal Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre is elected Canada’s next Prime Minister in 2025.

“They’re worried Poilievre will start cutting funding and people will see through the Conservative schemes,” she said of Ford’s provincial government.

Stiles expects an early election call by Ford would backfire on him and the Progressive Conservatives. She cited the experience of the Ontario Liberal government of David Peterson in 1990 that decided to call an early election while still holding a majority. The Ontario Liberals were trounced at the polls as angry voters turned to the NDP and gave the province its one and only NDP government ever – electing Bob Rae to a majority government that served from 1990 to 1995.

“What happened there? People saw through that arrogance,” said Stiles of the 1990 Ontario election call.

She said Ford is betting on Ontario voters being too busy trying to survive and that they won’t pay much attention if he calls an early election, but that would be a mistake.

“He seems to think he can buy them off with some cheap tactics like the Beer Store thing, but people really can see through it,” said Stiles. “That’s money that people know is their money, and it should be spent wisely.”

But beyond offering voters a place to vent their anger at the Ford government, what will the NDP offer Ontario voters and especially Toronto voters?

Stiles said the first thing they will be doing is bringing back some hope for voters that life can indeed be better with a government that works for them.

“The problems that we’re facing, they do have solutions. The sense of hope and optimism for the future is something that’s been really lacking.”

But what can Stiles and the Ontario NDP offer Toronto residents to help address the city’s many challenges?

Specifically she talked about the possibility of a New Deal for Toronto when it comes to how it is funded by the province and how much power the city can actually have and use when it comes to governing itself.

“What Toronto needs is a real partner. I’ve watched Conservative and Liberal governments for years now refuse to back away from the downloading that we saw under (former Ontario Progressive Conservative Premier) Mike Harris.  We’ve got to start paying our share,” she said of the provincial government’s responsibilities to Ontario’s largest city and fourth largest government in the country.

“We need a new deal for Toronto,” said Stiles. “And to be fair to other municipalities, they deserve it too.”

Stiles said the NDP would be willing to look at making changes to the City of Toronto Act to give the municipality more control and power without having to get provincial approval for every decision. She also stressed that a lot of Toronto challenges over the past decades are a result of the downloading that took place in the late 1990s from the provincial government.

“There needs to be a shift in how we (the provincial government) treat municipalities,” and that the NDP would be a partner for them, she said.

On transit challenges facing the city, including the still yet to be opened Crosstown LRT along Eglinton Avenue, Stiles said the province needs to “re-think” the way Ontario’s transit agency operates and is led.

“That’s supposed to be an organization that was set up to take the partisan politics out of transit planning and instead it has what…86 vice-presidents and a million-dollar a year CEO,” she said.

Calling Metrolinx a “disaster” as it currently operates, Stiles said Ontario needs to get back into the business of building transit in a more “effective and efficient” way. She said transit building in Ontario is still “beholden” to the partisan political ideologies of whatever government happens to be in power and that must be changed.

“We have to have the guts to say when something isn’t working and have greater scrutinity,” on transit plans and projects across the province to ensure they are being built properly, on time and on budget, she said.

“What’s missing there,” she said of Metrolinx is “transparency, oversight and accountability.”

On the issues of affordable housing and affordability in Toronto and the province, Stiles said the NDP would create an organization called Homes Ontario that would get the provincial government back into the business of building “truly” affordable housing.

“When I look at what’s happening here in Toronto and across the province, I see municipalities that actually have good plans, solid ideas and want to move forward. What I don’t see, over and over again, is the provincial government at the table providing the funding,” she said.

“There should be a one-stop shop for non-profits that want to build truly affordable housing, co-op housing, non-market housing. Right now you have to go through a whole bunch of hoops, and at the end of the day the province is never really there at the table. We’ve got to make it easier and we’ve got to move faster. I don’t think you can rely on the market alone or private developers alone to build the affordable, non-market housing we need.”

Speaking specifically about Beaches-East York, which is now held by Liberal MPP Mary-Margaret McMahon who was elected in the 2022 provincial election, Stiles said it was important to get the riding back to what she considers its NDP roots. Historically, going all the way back to the 1960s when a good part of the area was the riding of Beaches -Woodbine, it has been an NDP stronghold. Since 1967, the riding has been NDP with the exception of Progressive Conservative Tom Wardle from 1971 to 1975, Liberal Arthur Potts from 2014 to 2018 and now Liberal McMahon.

The ridings directly to the west and east of Beaches-East York — Toronto-Danforth and Scarborough Southwest are both currently NDP ridings. Toronto-Danforth has been an NDP stronghold for decades, while Scarborough Southwest has had the Ontario NDP’s deputy leader Doly Begum as its MPP since 2018. Prior to that, Scarborough Southwest was held by Liberal MPP Lorenzo Berardinetti from 2003 to 2018.

“My priority is hold on to the seats we have, win back some of the seats we’ve lost in more recent years and then take seats where we’ve come a close second,” said Stiles of the Ontario NDP’s plan for the next provincial election.

She said a lot of ridings are changing and there would be great opportunity for the NDP to win seats in Ontario ridings that it has not traditionally done so if a provincial election were called this year or next.

“My aim here is to build a broader movement of people that want to replace Doug Ford with a more progressive vision,” she said.

Though the Ontario Liberal Party selected a new leader late last year in former Mississauga mayor Bonnie Crombie, Stiles said the Liberals are not the party that can beat Ford in the next provincial election.

“I’m saying to Liberals, I’m saying to Greens, even to Conservatives who didn’t think they were voting for what Doug Ford is offering, to join us. We have a great shot at forming the government in the next election,” she said.

“Those votes and that seat like Beaches-East York, we’re going to need them. And likewise in Scarborough, we’re going to need seats there.”

Of Scarborough’s six provincial ridings, one is NDP (Scarborough Southwest); one is Liberal (Scarborough-Guildwood); and four are Progressive Conservative (Scarborough Centre, Scarborough North, Scarborough-Rouge River and Scarborough-Agincourt).

The Ontario Liberals challenge is far different from the NDP’s come the next provincial election, said Stiles. With nine elected MPPs, the Liberals do not have official party status at Queen’s Park. (A party needs 12 seats at Queen’s Park to have official party status.)  “They have to get party status back,” she said of the Liberals. “They don’t even qualify as a party in the Legislature.”

If a provincial election were called now, the NDP would head into it with 28 seats at Queen’s Park compared to the majority government of the Progressive Conservatives who have 80 seats. There are two Green Party MPPs at Queen’s Park and five independent MPPs.


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