Ontario Votes 2007: Interview with NDP candidate Felicite Stairs, Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke
Monday, September 24, 2007
Felicite Stairs is running for the Ontario NDP in the Ontario provincial election, in the Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke riding. Wikinews' Nick Moreau interviewed her regarding her values, her experience, and her 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?
- I became involved because through my work as a legal clinic lawyer, I came into contact with many people with problems either deliberately created or inadvertently worsened by bad public policy. I chose to run here because I live here and love the strong characters and families I meet here.
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 ran for the first time in the 2003 provincial election and have been involved in NDP politics for about 15 years. I have worked with and, in several cases, helped found a range of non-profit community organizations, as well as others working at the provincial and national levels. As a lawyer and full-time volunteer I have a good sense of how to work with people, how things get done and how to make things happen.
Which of your competitors do you expect to pose the biggest challenge to your candidacy? Why?
- John Yakabuski, as incumbent and as the capital-C conservative in a riding that is in many ways conservative-minded, has a large advantage, especially due to the loyalty his late father, the former MPP Paul Yakabuski, commanded.
What makes you the most desirable of all candidates running in the riding?
- Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke is economically disadvantaged. People here need an advocate who takes up the case of ordinary people and families. The Conservatives and Liberals are the voices of big business and the well-off. Their policies do not represent the best interests of the kind of lower- and middle-income families who live here. The NDP's policies and commitments do.
What do you feel are the three most important issues to voters in your riding?
- It is hard to settle on just three, but broadly, we might say
- poverty and cuts to public services
- rural decline and the lack of positive response to change in the rural economy
- the needs of an aging society
Are these the same top three issues that are most important to you? What would you do to address these issues?
- These are some of the issues on which my campaign is focusing. The points in my campaign literature summarize our key pledges to voters:
- Increasing the minimum wage to $10 per hour. NOW.
- Fixing the Harris/McGuinty school funding formula and putting money back into our kids' education.
- Protecting our children's health and environment with a right-to-know law, and fighting climate change
- a Heath Tax Rebate for working families and shorter health care wait times
- Guaranteed minimum standards of care for seniors
- Removing barriers to university, college and apprenticeship training, and rolling back tuition fees, eliminating them for apprenticeship.
What should be the first order of business in the 39th Legislative Assembly?
- Increasing the minimum wage to CA$10 per hour would be a good and easy place to start.
Are the property taxes in your riding at a fair level for the amount of services received in the municipality?
- No. The assessment formula brought in by the Conservatives and never fixed by the Liberals has combined with provincial downloading to place an unfair burden on local ratepayers.
How can the province lead the way in stimulating job creation?
- An NDP government would invest in green industries, from the construction of public transportation to the installation of insulation and the production of energy-saving appliances. This could produce new jobs and place Ontario at the forefront of a worldwide movement to fight global warming.
What are your views on the mixed member proportional representation (MMP) referendum?
- I support it. The current system is antiquated. It does not fairly reflect the views of the public and frequently results in skewed electoral results. I believe the referendum proposal is a good step toward correcting these problems.
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?
- We use our website and email extensively in our campaign. They have completely changed how we run campaigns. Because there are so few opportunities for young people in this area, many leave. We wish we had more young people involved to further promote the use of new technologies. Technology, however, will never replace human contact, and it should not be allowed to do so.
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 am glad the Liberal government stopped vilifying public servants in the way their predecessor did. What bothers me is that, beside the famous broken promises, so much of what the Liberals did in government has perpetuated the damage and problems created by the Conservatives. The funding formula continues to inadequately fund schools. Public service cuts from natural resources to agriculture to court houses make life harder and harder for rural communities. Unfair tax assessment continues. Public housing programs and social assistance policies remain inadequate and punitive. There is a lengthy list of problems for our rural communities created or worsened by the Conservatives and left to fester by the McGuinty Liberals.