Ontario Votes 2007: Interview with Green Party candidate Brett McKenzie, London North Centre
Saturday, October 6, 2007
Brett McKenzie is running for the Green Party of Ontario in the Ontario provincial election, in the London North Centre 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 first time I was able to vote, in the fall of the year I turned eighteen, I read the platforms and policies of the various parties and I voted Green. After that, I started voting against people. For ten years, I inflicted my vote on the politician I thought was the worst, rather than awarding it to the best. I felt disenfranchised. I really had no voice in this democracy, except to complain. Finally, I had had enough, and voted the way I really wanted to. After that, I was happy about democracy again. I've been hooked ever since. This is where the future is decided. The exchange of ideas is vital to the process, and it's my favourite part. Some of the highlights of this campaign have been conversations with competing parties. I'm running in London North Centre because it's where I live, and I want to be able to shape the destiny of my neighbourhood, in my city, in my province.
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've been a member of the Green Party since 2004, shortly after the last election. I've been on the Constituency Association since shortly after I joined. This is my first run for public office. I have been involved politically with the Kinsmen and Kinettes of Canada: club executive, club president, district treasurer and secretary, and in a bid for national office, as well. I understand democracy, the history of Ontario, the issues at hand, and the steps required to address those issues. I understand other cultures and all faiths. I understand people from all backgrounds. I am intelligent. I am a problem-solver.
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?
- The incumbent is the biggest challenge, aside from the voters themselves. The incumbent has the immediate benefit of name recognition and a pretty good track record in office. She's done a pretty good job, just for the wrong party, in my opinion. The voters are a challenge because some of the policies that the Green Party are suggesting seem strange and radical. In some ways, they are: comprehensive, inclusive, and holistic. We don't compartmentalize policy. Transit=climate change=health=economy. They're all connected. And that's what makes any Green candidate the best option: we're thinking of the whole picture, now and tomorrow. I understand this city. I understand this province. I understand the challenges we will face, and I'm prepared to take step NOW to address them. I'm ready to educate the other politicians in Queen's Park, and tell them what I think needs to be done. I also know that there's no such thing as a free lunch, and we're going to have to pay up, sooner or later. i don't want my daughter to have to pick up the tab.
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?
- In London, as with most communities in Ontario, the three most important issues to voters will be health care, health care, and health care. I agree that health care is important, but it can't be addressed in isolation. We need to make sure we have enough doctors. We must also provide doctors with support from other health care professionals. We must address quality of life issues for health care workers, and the populace at large. We must clean up our air, water and soil. We must produce our food locally. We must plan our communities to encourage walking and transit use (more exercise means less obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and more transit means less air pollution and fewer respirator illnesses). We must discourage sprawl. We must address poverty. We must provide shelter. To look at any one issue in isolation misses the point: our society is interconnected, and our government policy should be, too.
- The main issues that concern me are sprawl, climate change, and peak oil. Once again, these issues are interconnected, they all feed one another, and we must address all of them together: better planned communities means less commuting, lower GHG emissions, and more time before we run out of fossil fuels. It also means a healthier community, and a closer, healthier food supply, etc.
What should be the first order of business in the 39th Legislative Assembly?
- Preparing for the coming energy crisis. Conservation must be our watchword.
Are the property taxes in your riding at a fair level for the amount of services received in the municipality?
- Currently, no, because existing taxpayers must not only pay for services, but must also subsidize new development, expanded infrastructure, and repairing our existing infrastructure, in addition to providing a whole host of services downloaded by the previous government and not yet uploaded. And since property taxes are really the only way municipalities can raise funds, they must continually increase to cover costs. However, uploading services in some way only reduces a municipal tax to replace it with a provincial one, so the taxpayer doesn't see it as plainly, but still pays it. We must allow municipalities to stop subsidizing new development, and develop new revenue streams ot cover costs, while we upload some services to give them a little wiggle room. Municipalities must be able to choose their destinies.
How can the province lead the way in stimulating job creation?
- What we do currently, propping up failing industries, is a short term solution. Investing in sustainable industries: green power, green manufacturing, manufacturing based on renewable resources, sustainable farming, will go much farther. So will encouraging more local economies. Our global economy is remarkable centralized. A part is made here, another in Kentucky, and another in Hokkaido. The whole thing is assembled in Michigan. This means fewer jobs. But if things were built locally, and designed locally, and sold locally, and repaired locally, and recycled locally, then we would have a much more vibrant, interesting, sustainable and flexible economy. That means more jobs.
What are your views on the mixed member proportional representation (MMP) referendum?
- Ontario must change the way we vote. FPTP works when there are two parties. We haven't had that for a long time. What we get now is artificial majorities, where as little as 38% of the vote gets a majority of the seats. MMP is not perfect. But it takes the best aspects of FPTP and PR, and combines them into a workable system that will better serve voters. Especially voters who aren't happy with traditional politicking in Ontario.
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?
- I had wanted to do more, but there is so much tradtional politics that new media got sidelined a little. I did get a couple of videos filmed, and they are posted. The GPO is aggressively pursuing new media exposure, because we are being largely ignored by big media. Local media is doing a much better job, but big papers and TV have left us out of the discussion. It is largely beneficial, since our focus as a party is on a sustainable future, and that appeals to younger demographics who are more likely to pay attention to new media. It is, however, a challenge. The Internet is a really big place, and you have to be loud, funny or interesting to be noticed. "Hipness" becomes an issue the way charisma did when TV got involved, and the well orchestrated soundbite can now when an election. I wish it was different, that ideas would carry the most weight, but ideas can be spread by YouTube and Facebook pretty well.
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?
- The best decision was to replace lost funding for health care and education. We've taken steps that will help repair these vital social services. More must be done, but immediate funding was desperately needed. This helped my riding and every other riding in Ontario. The worst decision was to not close the coal fired generating plants. They are responsible for about a quarter of Ontario's GHG emissions, and climate change is going to cost us a hell of a lot, and not just in economic terms. This costs all Ontarians, even those not born yet. If we had focussed on conservation, rather than nuclear, would have been able to get those plants shut down, and been well on our way to meeting our Kyoto targets.
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