Ontario Votes 2007: Interview with Green candidate Russ Aegard, Thunder Bay-Atikokan
Monday, September 24, 2007
Russ Aegard is running for the Green Party of Ontario in the Ontario provincial election, in the Thunder Bay-Atikokan riding. Wikinews' Nick Moreau interviewed him regarding his values, his experience, and his campaign.
Stay tuned for further interviews; every candidate from every party is eligible, and will be contacted. Expect interviews from Liberals, Progressive Conservatives, New Democratic Party members, Ontario Greens, as well as members from the Family Coalition, Freedom, Communist, Libertarian, and Confederation of Regions parties, as well as independents.
Why have you chosen to involve yourself in the political process? Why did you choose to run in this constituency?
- The main reason I have chosen to involve myself in the political process is my daughter. She is now 3 years old, and the world is becoming more polarized, more dangerous and more unhealthy. This pattern of human behaviour has got to cease. We are destroying the environment on which we depend upon to maintain a standard of living. We are exploiting other cultures in order to receive cheap goods. I want a better world for my daughter, and I figure the best way to do that is to make the changes myself. I have ran in this constituency because I have lived in Northwestern Ontario all of my life.
What prior political experience do you have? What skills and insight can you bring to office, from other non-political positions you may have held?
- I have run federally twice in my riding for the Green Party. I have sat on a few boards of various operations to assist in the management of the organizations. As a teacher, I can draw upon a variety of skills in order to be an effective politician. Having excellent listening skills is imperative in the role of a MPP. Working cooperatively in a professional setting is another skill that makes an effective MPP. Seeing first-hand how the policies of today's governments has affected children provides me with the insight that change is needed and is needed quickly.
Which of your competitors do you expect to pose the biggest challenge to your candidacy? Why? What makes you the most desirable of all candidates running in the riding?
- All three of my competitors are going to have the challenge of being elected. As someone who is new to the race, and the Green Party being relatively new, my goal is to spread the Green message. In my riding though, the seat will be hotly contested by the three other parties. I feel that my youth, honesty and reliability makes me the most desirable of the candidates. Our platform has a vision for the future; not just to get elected for the short term.
What do you feel are the three most important issues to voters in your riding? Are these the same top three issues that are most important to you? What would you do to address these issues?
- The three most important issues for our riding are the forestry industry, relations between Aboriginal peoples and the government and health care. All issues are important to me; however, every issue stems from a very important centralizing idea: the environment. For forestry, I would encourage the development of wood bio-mass electricity, value-added products and local ownership of the forestry industry. I would encourage the transition for Aboriginal peoples to fulfill their destiny of a right to self-government.
- For health, I would lay out our plan that is entirely different than the three major parties stances. Their solutions usually include the promising of millions and millions of dollars to hire more doctors, more nurses and more drugs. However, the reason our health care system is burdened right now is due to the poisoning of our environment and lifestyle choices. We would clean up our air, water and food systems and encourage people to become active again.
- We would help working families find more time with their family instead of the constant dredge of working two jobs in order to make ends meet. Once our society becomes healthier, we will not need the health care system as much.
What should be the first order of business in the 39th Legislative Assembly?
- Good question. The environment needs to be fixed up now. Once we address the problems with our environment, everything else will heal itself.
Are the property taxes in your riding at a fair level for the amount of services received in the municipality?
- In a simple answer, yes. A tax question always seems to pop up at election time. Here is an abnormal statement; I love paying my taxes. I was born into a life of privilege, being a white, male. I have had many more opportunities in life than the average Ontarian, and therefore, I have a social responsibility to make sure that ALL Ontarians enjoy a respectable standard of living. Right now, that is not happening. The only problem I have is when the government misuse my taxes (pay raises, cricket club donations, etc.) We live in a society with free health care (although the last two governments are trying their best to privatize our system) and free education. I do not want to trade that in for anything.
How can the province lead the way in stimulating job creation?
- Be more innovative. Reform immigration laws that inhibit trained professionals from being able to enter the workplace immediately. Ensuring that meaningful jobs are created. Invest in local economies, instead of giving corporate welfare to industries that take our resources and export our money.
What are your views on the mixed member proportional representation (MMP) referendum?
- We need to have a fair and representative parliament. Not a false majority where 10% of the population can actually vote in 100% of our MPPs. This is not a typo. It is improbably, but possible. The fact that it is possible that 10% of Ontarians could conceivably be pushing their agenda through easily is a travesty of justice. So many groups are not represented in Parliament, especially Aboriginal groups. The Green Party is polling at 10% currently. Therefore, about 800000 people will not have their voice heard in Parliament. The Liberals and Conservatives do not want this to pass. It would severely disrupt the power base that they have enjoyed for the last 150 years. This is the reason for the corruptness and antagonistic policies that we have seen over the last 13 years or so. Canada, the U.S. and England are the last developed countries to maintain this unfair system of voting, and understandably so. They do not want the people to have the power in their countries. They want the power to be maintained by the affluent citizens. It's time for a change; it's time for every Ontarian to be heard, whether it is someone who is living in the suburbs of Toronto or living on the streets of Ottawa.
What role, if any, does "new media" play in your campaign, and the campaign of your party? (websites, blogs, Facebook, YouTube videos, etc) Do you view it as beneficial, or a challenge?
- Honestly, not much. As a full time teacher, I have not had the time to engage in a lot of the campaigning strategies of my peers. I really can't answer if it's beneficial or a challenge.
Of the decisions made by Ontario's 38th Legislative Assembly, which was the most beneficial to your this electoral district? To the province as a whole? Which was least beneficial, or even harmful, to your this riding? To the province as a whole?
- I think that the investments that they have made at our local hospital has been the most beneficial. For the province, instituting a rebate for the purchase of fuel-efficient cars was a tiny step in the right direction.
- The least beneficial to this riding was the millions of dollars they provided to corporations that have control of the forestry industry. We need to get control of the industry put back into local interests. Local ownership encourages better forest stewardship and economic practices as they have a long-term vested interest in making sure that they have a sustainable business for many many years.
- To the province as a whole, the decision to give themselves a 40000 dollar a year raise was the biggest slap in our collective faces. I was physically ill when I heard of this decision. So many people are struggling in our province, yet they decide to make themselves richer. Their argument that you need to attract good people for the job does not hold any water. I am happily willing to serve my government for any price. I am a good person and am responsible and hard-working. I must commend Howard Hampton on donating his 40000 dollars back to charity. I'm not sure if he is going to continue to do that, but his effort this year does not go unnoticed. Again, this is the arrogance of our current system. I'm not sure how they can justify to anyone that they are worth twice, three times, even as high as ten times more than the full-time workers of this province. I am responsible for the instruction and guiding of 25+ young minds every year, yet make half as much as someone who behaves like a child in parliament. I guess when you're out of touch with reality, you make decisions such as those.