Candidate profiles for University–Rosedale

Meet your candidates for UTSG’s MP

Candidate profiles for University–Rosedale

On the final day of voting, here are the federal candidates for UTSG’s riding of University–Rosedale.

Chrystia Freeland, Liberal MP candidate 

Chrystia Freeland is the Liberal candidate running for re-election as MP for the University–Rosedale riding, where the UTSG campus is located. She is the current minister of foreign affairs and is the former minister of international trade. Following a career in journalism, Freeland began pursuing politics in 2013.

“We are seeing in too many countries — where you have a group of people in the country who are left behind — that that creates an opportunity for irresponsible politicians to whip up a sort of angry nativist sentiment,” Freeland said in a recent interview with the CBC.

In recent years, students and young people have emerged as a significant force in advocating for the environment. U of T students have been critical of the government’s decision to purchase the Trans Mountain pipeline.

In response to such criticism, Freeland said, “We need to be a combination of ambitious about our goals, [and] pragmatic about how we’re going to get there.” She further noted that “unless a person is prepared to say we can stop using fossil fuel tomorrow, there is absolutely no reason to say we should not be using fossil fuels that come from Canada.”

The Varsity has reached out to Freeland for comment.

Helen-Claire Tingling, Conservative Party MP candidate

Helen-Claire Tingling is the Conservative MP candidate for the University–Rosedale riding, where the UTSG campus is located. She has experience in both the private and public sectors, including as a consultant for the Ontario government. Tingling was slated to attend an all-candidates debate for the riding, but cancelled due to an illness.

In a self-published article, Tingling wrote, “I chose the [Conservative Party] because it recognizes that if we work hard, we should be able to buy a home, save for retirement, and care for our children and parents as they age.”

The Varsity has reached out to Tingling for comment.

Melissa Jean-Baptiste Vajda, New Democratic Party MP candidate

Melissa Jean-Baptiste Vajda is the New Democratic Party (NDP) MP candidate for the University–Rosedale riding, where  the UTSG campus is located. Her background is in law, and she currently works at a legal clinic focusing on housing and worker’s rights.

At a debate earlier this month, Vajda said that her motivation for running in the election derives, in part, from her work at a legal clinic dealing with housing issues.

“The housing crisis is really affecting our community. Young people are having a hard time starting out and it’s not getting any better. We’re spending less and less on a national housing strategy.” To combat the housing crisis, the NDP’s plan involves building 500,000 rental units across Canada.

Vajda wrote to The Varsity, speaking on mental health at U of T: “I support students organizing for mental health support in recognition of the university-wide mental health crisis, and especially in light of the recent tragic death at the U of T campus. I support the call for accessible 24-hour counseling and a commitment to include students in all potential reforms around these issues.”

Repeating her party’s stance on cuts to postsecondary education, Vajda wrote, “[The NDP is] committed to working with our partners at the provincial level to expand access to grants and stabilize funding for internal college and university clubs and media.”

Tim Grant, Green Party MP candidate

Tim Grant is the Green Party MP candidate for the University–Rosedale riding, where the UTSG campus is located. Grant also ran as an MPP candidate in the 2018 provincial election for the same riding. The former chair of the Harbord Village Residents Association (HVRA) runs his campaign out of his office tucked away in the Korean Senior Citizens Society on Grace Street.

Grant’s priority for students is addressing housing affordability. “The students face the same problem that everyone faces, which is the lack of affordable housing anywhere in the city,” he said. He cited his time on the HVRA, where he regularly interacted with students.

In an interview with The Varsity, Grant also expressed concern about landlords taking advantage of student renters.

He also talked at length about his party’s universal basic income plan, as well its intention to make postsecondary education free.

“Providing universities with the support that compensates them for the loss of tuition income [from free tuition] also helps them become more independent institutions and not dependant on corporate dollars,” said Grant, who also condemned the Ford government’s postsecondary education reforms.

On the Green Party’s postsecondary education platform, Grant described the plan to incentivize universities and colleges to increase professor-student ratios, and reduce contract positions in favour of tenure positions.

 

U of T students, city advocates call on federal parties to invest in Toronto’s mental health

Advocates call for $300 million yearly investment in Toronto’s mental health services

U of T students, city advocates call on federal parties to invest in Toronto’s mental health

Content warning: Discussions of suicide.

Advocates from across Toronto, including executives of the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU), called on the federal parties to commit to expanding the city’s funding for mental health and addiction services.

At an October 10 press conference at City Hall, they specifically asked for $300 million per year in mental health service investments in Toronto. The community members included city councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, as well as representatives of Gerstein’s Crisis Centre and the Canadian Mental Health Association Toronto.

“We know that 20 per cent of Canadians experience mental health and addiction issues,” said Wong-Tam at the conference. She remarked that the city needs the federal government’s support to expand its mental health services in order to better care for its growing population.

Joshua Bowman, UTSU President, further underscored the impact of the mental health crisis at U of T. He noted that 46 per cent of postsecondary students have reported feeling too depressed to function, and 65 per cent reporting persisting overwhelming anxiety.

“These aren’t just statistics — these are friends, these are family members. These are our classmates,” he said. “This is a reality that students at the University of Toronto have grown all too accustomed to.”

In an interview with The Varsity, Bowman recalled that Wong-Tam invited UTSU representatives to speak at the conference, as part of her call was for expanded mental health funding specifically at postsecondary institutions.

Mayor John Tory endorsed the advocacy efforts later that day, writing that he joins them in “calling on the federal parties to commit to meaningful investments… to address [the] growing mental health and addictions crises.”

Responses from federal parties

A Green Party spokesperson wrote to The Varsity that the Greens would commit $1 billion annually to community treatment programs for mental health, addiction, and autism in Canada.

The Greens would also mark $100 million for suicide prevention, and $100 million to address the opioid crisis, according to the spokesperson. It is further committed to providing pharma care.

A Liberal Party spokesperson wrote to The Varsity that it will “begin negotiations with the provinces and territories to establish clear national standards for access to mental health services.”

The New Democratic Party and the Conservatives did not respond to The Varsity’s requests for comment.

Op-ed: Green Party policy is shaped by commitments to equity and sustainability

Young Greens at UTM on challenging the status quo, meaningful environmental and social change

Op-ed: Green Party policy is shaped by commitments to equity and sustainability

The federal elections are an opportunity for Canadians to shape a government that is able to make substantive changes in order to tackle the climate crisis.

The rise of movements like Fridays for the Future is a response to government inaction in regards to the climate crisis, the severity of which was brought to light by the United Nations’ (UN) 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

To keep global warming levels below 1.5 degrees celsius, we must reduce our net carbon emissions to zero by 2050 — a monumental task. Avoidance is not an option if we want to achieve this goal.

The Green Party is the only party that has a plan to address climate change in a meaningful way. The Green Party would ensure emission reductions of 60 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. The NDP does not give an official estimate, but when the math is done, it comes to around 38 per cent below 2005 levels, which is almost at the 40 per cent requirement if we want to be on track to hit net zero by 2050. The Conservatives and Liberals both have the same target of 30 per cent below 2005 levels. However, the Conservatives have little chance of reaching these levels with their current policy proposals.

A strong environmental platform is not the only reason to consider voting Green. The Greens have a plan for pretty much anything you can think of. Here are a few reasons I decided to get involved and start the Young Greens at UTM.

Access to education is still impeded by the price of postsecondary education. The financial burden of accumulating student debt affects postsecondary academic choices, but it does not have to be this way. Elizabeth May and the Green Party would work toward solving this problem by eliminating tuition fees for Canadian students and forgiving federal student debt.

A national pharma care plan is an essential part of any health care system. Being unable to afford medication leads to hundreds of preventable deaths each year. Last year over 700,000 Canadians borrowed money to cover their prescription drug costs.

Not only would national pharma care lift a burden off numerous families in Canada, but it could also save the government money. By renegotiating and using our combined buying power as a country, we can obtain medication at a fraction of its current cost.

As a settler-colonial state, Canada has a lot to dismantle regarding the colonial policies and structures which remain present in policy, infrastructure, education, and amongst many inadequate social systems. With legislation such as the Indian Act, geographic barriers to education, access to clean water, inadequate housing and higher incarceration rates, working toward truth and reconciliation is an effort that must continue in earnest.

The Green Party of Canada would re-introduce legislation to embed the UN Declaration of Indigenous Rights into the law. The party plans to work in partnership with First Nations groups to dismantle the Indian Act by establishing self-governance — but only with freely given and informed consent. Bringing an end to boil water advisories, and respecting court’s rulings on matters such as compensation due to child welfare disparities are key aspects of the Greens’ vision and understanding of reconciliation.

The Green Party will redirect funding for these social projects by closing loopholes that allow Canadians to operate offshore bank accounts in tax havens. In addition, we the Greens will ask virtual giants like Netflix and Amazon to pay their fair share of taxes, and will end fossil fuel subsidies and corporate tax breaks. There are means of funding available; it’s just a matter of where we direct it.

In the fight against climate change, the transition to a green economy is essential. This plan must include everyone, from First Nations peoples to oil and gas workers. Canada’s economy must adopt fair and sustainable practices. Transitioning our economy toward sustainable energy must take into consideration workers who will be affected by these job changes. The Green Party hopes to work closely to create jobs in the renewable energy sector and to help workers transition into these new roles.

Young voters make up the largest voting bloc in Canada. If you do not know where to start, CBC’s Vote Compass gives a good overview of the party platforms. There, you can take a quiz that aligns your beliefs with the party that most closely shares your positions. To check for your voter registration status, consult the Elections Canada website.

Our future, whatever you want it to look like, depends heavily on the outcome of this election. We have 11 years to take meaningful action on climate change and for that to happen, we must implement measures immediately. No other party is as dedicated to confronting the climate crisis as we are. Students, voters, keep this in mind when you cast your vote. The Greens are not afraid to make unprecedented strides toward meaningful change.

Katya Godwin is a first-year Life Sciences student at UTM. She is the president of the Young Greens at UTM.

What students need to know before the 2019 federal election

Breaking down policy platforms for the four major parties

What students need to know before the 2019 federal election

As young people are part of the biggest voting bloc in the country, each of the major parties have platform proposals made with students in mind. With the final voting day quickly approaching, The Varsity looks into all four major party platforms on the biggest issues for students.

Cost of university

Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau has vowed to increase Canada student grants and provide a two-year grace period after graduation before individuals need to begin paying off their student loans. Additionally, graduates will not be obliged to begin loan payments until they reach an income of $35,000 per year. 

Andrew Scheer’s Conservative Party platform does not specifically address tuition; however, it does promise to increase government contributions to Registered Education Savings Plans, from 20 per cent to 30 per cent for every dollar instead. Also, in order for colleges and universities to be eligible for research grants, they must meet a “commitment to free speech and academic freedom” requirement. 

Jagmeet Singh promises that the New Democratic Party (NDP) would work with the provinces to move toward making “post-secondary education part of [the] public education system.” The NDP also pledges to increase student grants and end interest on federal student loans.  

For the Green Party, Elizabeth May would make “college and university tuition free for all Canadian students.” The Greens also noted that postsecondary education access for Indigenous Peoples is a key part of treaty obligations. 

No party mentions plans specifically for international student tuition in their platform.

Repatriation of Indigenous artifacts and remains

All four major parties affirmed their commitment to reconciliation. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission emphasizes, among other things, the importance of returning Indigenous artifacts and remains to their communities upon their demands. The Liberals specifically highlighted repatriation of Indigenous cultural property in their platform.

According to a 2017 investigation by the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, out of the 12 universities contacted, U of T “has the highest number of Indigenous human remains, with 550 individuals, all of which are bone fragments.”

Transit 

The Liberal platform pledges to make federal funding for public transit permanent and predictable to keep up with rising costs of construction. 

Scheer would implement a “Green Public Transit Tax Credit” which promises a credit for transit passes that allow unlimited travel on subways and busses. The Conservatives would also prioritize infrastructure projects, including the expansion of TTC services. 

The NDP committed to working with provinces and municipalities to move toward fare-free public transit. In addition, they would “modernize and expand” transit with a focus on low carbon projects. 

The Green Party would develop a national transportation strategy with the goal of reaching net zero carbon for on-ground public transportation by 2040. This would focus on developing rail services and building high-speed rail connecting Toronto, Ottawa, and Quebec City. 

Housing and health care

Trudeau’s platform notes the National Housing Strategy the Liberals implemented which built affordable housing. In addition, they promise to reduce cell phone bills by 25 per cent, and implement universal pharma care. 

The Conservative housing policies relate specifically to homeowners and buyers. Scheer says widespread tax cuts would increase the money in Canadian pockets. Their platform makes no mention of universal pharma care, but they promise to “improve access to medications.”

Singh promises to create 500,000 affordable housing units over the next ten years. The NDP would cap cell phone bills to align with the global average. It would also implement universal pharma care and take steps toward providing more accessible mental health care. 

May’s platform pledges to make housing “a legally protected fundamental human right for all Canadians and permanent residents.” The Green platform supports universal pharma care and would also see the implementation of a “Guaranteed Liveable Income,” a “negative income tax” to replace other federal transfers such as social assistance, disability support, and child tax benefits.

Employment and wages

The Liberals vow to take a more “intersectional” approach to job initiatives, such as making the Youth Employment Strategy further consider racialized and Indigenous youth. Additionally, Trudeau’s party would create a federal minimum wage of $15, rising with inflation, per hour starting in 2020.   

The Conservative platform includes a promise to work with colleges and universities to ensure that their curricula prepare students for the demands of today’s job market. 

As well as implementing a $15 federal minimum wage covering 900,000 workers, the NDP would ban unpaid internships that are not part of education programs. The platform also vows to add gender identity and expression, and sexual orientation to the Employment Equity Act.

The Greens would also implement a $15 federal minimum wage. Their main focus is creating new jobs in a “green economy” and allowing for a “just transition” for workers in fossil fuel sectors. 

Immigration

The Liberals commits to making the citizenship application free for permanent residents.  

The Conservative Party states that international students educated in Canada “are ideal candidates” for economic immigration and it would work to keep them here after graduation.  

The NDP prioritizes family reunification and promises to end the cap on applications to sponsor parents and grandparents. Earlier this year, the cap was reached in less than 11 minutes.  

The Green Party vows to speed the family reunification process, and ameliorate the pathway for international students to apply for permanent residency and citizenship.

The Varsity endorses a Liberal minority government — with an NDP-Green balance of power

A progressive partnership will best serve students, youth, democracy

<i>The Varsity</i> endorses a Liberal minority government — with an NDP-Green balance of power

Ahead of the 2015 federal election, our editorial board asked students to vote strategically for progressive candidates and kick Stephen Harper out of office. The Conservatives did not stand for students four years ago and certainly do not now.

From billions in tax cuts that would inevitably jeopardize programs and services that youth and vulnerable communities rely on; to inadequate action on the climate crisis; to tying postsecondary research grants to ‘free speech’ which we know in Ontario is a “dog whistle for far-right voters it is clear that we cannot afford another Conservative government. 

That being said, the Liberals have failed to live up to progressive expectations. They do not deserve a second majority mandate. 

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau broke his cornerstone promise on electoral reform. He broke ethical rules in the SNC-Lavalin scandal, and he expelled two women cabinet ministers from his caucus for publicly standing up against conduct. He nationalized a major oil pipeline despite Indigenous resistance. And he is challenging a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling that calls for federal compensation to First Nations children who were separated from their families by child welfare services.

We should not have to settle for another Liberal or Conservative majority that governs with a blank cheque. While the two are in a close race for first place, fortunately, neither is projected to approximate the required 170 seats for a majority. Instead, we must embrace the increasingly likely outcome of a minority government this election. 

Under this hung Parliament scenario, a dominant party would have to solicit the confidence of one or more of the smaller parties in order to govern. Although minority governments are criticized for instability and gridlock, they provide an opportunity for true democracy: parties must compromise, collaborate, and build consensus. 

We should not have to settle for another Liberal or Conservative majority that governs with a blank cheque.

Ideal for youth who want positive reform is a Liberal minority government that partners with other forward-looking national parties — namely the New Democratic Party (NDP) and the Green Party. If the NDP and the Greens win enough seats to hold the balance of power in Parliament, they can hold the Liberal Party to account for its claim to progressivism and demand more action on key issues that youth care about. 

That could mean a bolder climate plan that does not contradictorily commit to oil pipelines, meaningful reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, electoral reform, and student debt relief. 

To make this a reality, we must vote strategically once again. Vote for the Liberals if you live in a Liberal-Conservative battleground riding. Vote for the NDP, Green, or a progressive Independent candidate if they have strong support in your riding, instead of the Liberal or Conservative. Reviewing comprehensive, riding-specific polls — such as the 338Canada project — can help you make your decision. 

Youth have more power than ever this election. For the first time, voters aged 18–38 will constitute the largest voting demographic — so let’s make the most of it. Below, you can find our review of six key issues that matter to youth voters. We hope it will convince you to make a progressive choice on October 21.

 

Education

The cost of education is the one topic that concerns all students. An ideal education platform would ease financial burdens, especially through free tuition and student debt forgiveness. 

Parties should especially dedicate resources toward Indigenous students, who have historically seen lower educational attainment due to the many institutionalized barriers set against them.

The party that comes closest to this ideal are the Greens, who have promised to tackle all of the above. It has committed to abolishing tuition, forgiving existing federal student debt, and increasing support for Indigenous students.

The NDP promises to eliminate federal interest on student loans while working toward free tuition by capping and reducing costs in conjunction with the provinces and territories.

Instead of lowering tuition, the Liberals and Conservatives opt to use band-aid solutions, such as increasing grants and support for the Registered Education Savings Plan, respectively. While helpful, neither plans would tackle the root issue of rising costs.

Ultimately, only the Greens and NDP are addressing the rising costs of education with plans to lower overall cost and provide real relief for students.

 

Climate crisis

The climate crisis is our generation’s greatest challenge. In order to bring us closer to a sustainable future, we must take immediate and bold action to reduce carbon emissions in line with Canada’s Paris Accord targets. 

Given their loyalty to oil and gas development, the Conservatives naturally lack any real climate plan. They oppose the Liberals’ federal carbon tax, even though it is a centrist, market-based strategy that mainstream economists claim is an effective strategy to reduce emissions. 

However, both parties agree on building the controversial Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion (TMX). This will only amplify Canada’s emissions problem and delay the necessary transition away from fossil fuels. 

The NDP and the Greens intend to do more to tackle emissions. Both oppose the TMX and support stronger versions of the carbon tax.

The NDP is committed to ending fossil fuel subsidies and investing in the transition to renewable energy and hundreds of thousands of new, green jobs. The Greens have promised millions of green jobs and have, by far, the boldest climate strategy, which includes an end to all new fossil fuel projects. They intend to double Canada’s Paris Accord targets, which is more than any other party. 

The Liberals, NDP, and Greens all agree, to varying degrees, to incentivize or invest in zero-emission or electric vehicles and transit. 

 

Reconciliation

The next government must do more for meaningful reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

Conservative Andrew Scheer is the only main party leader not in support of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP), in part to move forward with his proposed energy corridor. He has expressed disagreement with the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) inquiry’s final report, which found that genocide was committed against Indigenous women and girls.

While the Liberals have plans to implement UNDRIP and have published the MMIWG inquiry’s report, the Trudeau government’s record is questionable. Despite many promises, key Liberal decisions — such as the purchase of the TMX and failure to efficiently eliminate all long-term boil water advisories — have been disappointing. 

The NDP plans to eliminate all drinking water advisories for First Nations communities and issue a taskforce on mould in reserve housing. It intends to implement UNDRIP and address systemic violence against Indigenous women and girls. 

The Green Party also plans to implement the recommendations of UNDRIP, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the MMIWG inquiry’s report.

 

Health care

Given U of T’s mental health crisis, students are acutely aware of the need for institutional support. Canada boasts free doctor and hospital visits, but citizens without insurance are still largely left to pay out-of-pocket for prescriptions and other services, including psychiatric ones.  

We do not have time to wait for ‘gaps’ to be evaluated — we need a commitment to broader coverage, and we need it as soon as possible.

Many young people face challenges when paying for much-needed medications. When an estimated 700,000 Canadians skip food purchases to pay for prescriptions, the need for health care improvement is clear.  

The Conservatives have expressed a desire to dismiss pharma care plans and instead address the existing ‘gaps’ in coverage.  

Both the Liberal and NDP parties support improving pharma care, with the NDP including coverage for mental health services, dental, and vision care. The Greens plan to extend health care coverage to include universal pharma care, as well as implement dental care for low-income Canadians.

We do not have time to wait for ‘gaps’ to be evaluated — we need a commitment to broader coverage, and we need it as soon as possible.

 

Employment

Finding employment with decent compensation is essential for students who need to finance their education and living expenses.

In 2018, 43 per cent of minimum-wage workers were under the age of 25. Youth need the minimum wage, which varies across provinces, to compensate for their cost of living.  

Accordingly, the Liberals, NDP, and Greens have all committed to raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. A research review by the current federal government has concluded that minimum wage increases would increase job stability and reduce wage inequality. 

The Conservatives have no plans to implement a federal minimum wage.

The Liberals also promise to pass federal legislation for those employed by ride-sharing acts, as well to as establish reliable benefits for seasonal workers, which could improve the quality of life for students in these fields. The NDP and Greens also aim to ban unpaid internships if they do not count for school credit, which could better help students support their studies.

 

Housing

For student renters and new graduates seeking homes, affordable housing remains a major dilemma. 35 per cent of Toronto residents aged 15–29 spend over 50 per cent of their income on rent.

The NDP and Greens have both proposed the construction of new affordable housing units over the next decade, with the NDP’s plan being most ambitious at 500,000 units and the Greens at 25,000 new rental homes and 15,000 rehabilitated homes in the next decade.

The Greens have proposed changes to legislation that protect housing as a fundamental human right and amend laws that prevent Indigenous organizations from accessing Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation financing. The Liberals have proposed a number of financial incentives for retrofitting or constructing homes to meet certified zero-emission status.

The Greens and NDP have made efforts toward alleviating financial barriers for low-income buyers and renters, policies which will have direct benefits for low- and middle-income student renters and first-time home buyers. With a significantly weaker housing policy, the Liberals plan to move forward with their First-Time Home Buyer Incentive.

The Conservatives are alone in providing no means to alleviate financially-burdened low-income renters.

This election, youth have the power to choose a government that actually works for them. On October 21, make your voice heard and vote for the party that has your best interests in mind.

The Varsity’s editorial board is elected by the masthead at the beginning of each semester. For more information about the editorial policy, email editorial@thevarsity.ca.

Green idealism praiseworthy, but ultimately falls short of political reality

Re: “In conversation with Tim Grant, Green Party candidate for University—Rosedale”

Green idealism praiseworthy, but ultimately falls short of political reality

The main takeaway from Tim Grant’s interview is his encouragement of voting for the Green Party, despite the apparent reality that they will not form government. Voting for parties whose agendas align with your concerns as students, particularly transit and affordable housing, allows for a per-vote subsidy. Funds are then allotted to parties to carry out their agendas over the next four years.

The Green Party’s central platform is to build a green middle class by further tolling highways to reduce traffic congestion, incentivizing use of subway transit, and increasing affordable housing within the downtown core. Given that gentrification is increasing the cost of living for students and youth, the party’s position on a guaranteed minimum income would prove beneficial. The party’s support for a Deputy Minister for mental health to coordinate between provincial agencies allows for further access to and funding for mental health services, which are lacking at U of T.

Although Grant argues that students in the riding would not benefit in the long term by voting strategically, the issue remains that the Green Party’s idealism is ill-suited for a political race driven by economics. Environmental laws, while of utmost importance, also stagnate development as projects become more cumbersome and more expensive. Tolling highways can only be effective if there is a substitute for those who depend on them. Secured annual income will only work if voters understand and accept that their taxes will increase.

By no means is this an attempt to discourage voting Green, for their values reflect my own, but these are just a few of the Green Party’s ideas, and, while commendable, they are unfeasible for an overtaxed and weary public. However, if you are willing to wait years to see tangible results from this party, vote Tim Grant.

Amaial Mullick is a third-year student at St. Michael’s College studying Political Science. 

In conversation with Tim Grant, Green Party candidate for University—Rosedale

MPP candidate discusses transportation, affordable housing, mental health

In conversation with Tim Grant, Green Party candidate for University—Rosedale

Ahead of the Ontario provincial elections on June 7, The Varsity sat down with the MPP candidates for UTSG’s riding, University—Rosedale. In the first part of this series, The Varsity spoke with Tim Grant, the candidate for the Green Party of Ontario. Grant discussed important topics affecting students, including transportation, affordable housing, and mental health services.

Grant supports his party’s platform to toll the Don Valley Parkway (DVP) and the Gardiner Expressway, implement a guaranteed annual income, and establish a Deputy Minister for mental health to coordinate all 14 provincial agencies providing mental health services.

Grant ended by addressing why students should vote Green, despite the unlikelihood of the party forming a government. According to him, casting a ballot for the Green Party sends a message to other parties that these are the issues you care about. He points toward the per-vote subsidy as an incentive to vote for the party that “supports your values,” instead of voting strategically.


The Varsity: Let’s start with a conversation about your involvement in politics. Please introduce yourself.
Tim Grant: I’ve been in the neighbourhood for a long time. I was a U of T graduate from [the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education], and taught for some years. I’ve been the chair of the most active residents’ association in the city, just on the other side of Spadina [Avenue], for many years. And I’ve been the candidate twice in the old riding, called Trinity—Spadina. So I’ve been involved in political advocacy, especially environmental issues over the years, with social justice issues too. And international development has always been a big focus.


TV: What has been your involvement in the Green Party?
TG: When I started shifting from the [New Democratic Party] to the Greens about 10 years ago, I realized the Greens had a much stronger anti-poverty platform, and that’s actually what caught my attention. But I’ve also always had an interest in transportation, so I was relatively quickly asked to be the Transport Critic, and I’ve served in that role for about six or seven years now.


TV: The Green Party would like to toll the DVP and the Gardiner. How do you see that helping the TTC?
TG: The important thing is that the Toronto City Council voted for road tolls on the DVP and the Gardiner. These were two highways that Mike Harris, [a former Ontario premier], had downloaded onto Toronto 20 years ago. We’ve been paying $100 million a year — more than any other city has to pay for provincial highways. The relatively modest tolls that Toronto is looking at would’ve raised $350 million for the TTC.  I felt that, as Transport Critic, road tolls work. They reduce traffic congestion. Generally, better transit is funded in those areas where you have tolls. Then 20–30 per cent of drivers will switch, because they didn’t want to drive anyway. They would get to take better transit. Eventually, we’ll all breathe cleaner air. But it’s a small example for us on finding new sources of revenue.


TV: Students at U of T are heavily influenced by transit, as we have a large commuter population. As transportation critic, and as the candidate in our riding, what do you think is good reform of the transit system overall?
TG: Toronto has great transit. The problem is that people outside of downtown don’t have great transit. We have to have an adult conversation with the other parties about pricing, and restricting car use, especially in transit corridors. But that’s a conversation that the other parties unfortunately aren’t interested in. You won’t see anything in their platforms about traffic congestion, and yet most people take buses and streetcars, not subways. And they’re stuck in traffic because of all the single occupancy cars clogging the roads.

 

TV: How do you think government can reconcile the divide between the transit needs of people inside and outside of the downtown core?
TG: We are opposed to the one stop Scarborough subway. We think that two [light rail] lines would have been better. It is an injustice to the people of Scarborough to have Rob Ford, the former mayor, and Kathleen Wynne railroad this through. Transit funding has been a political football. And when you have Doug Ford saying “Subway! Subway! Subway!”, it doesn’t make any sense. You have to have a downtown level of density for subways to work, you have to build up transit use. You don’t go from zero to a hundred in one breath.


TV: Let’s dive into the affordable housing crisis. As students in the downtown area, we especially feel the heat. Rent has increased rapidly. How would you address this?
TG: We’ve argued that 20 per cent of all new units have to be affordable, and available for people with special needs. The 20 per cent is important because it would bring 30,000 new units every year. The question is who is going to pay? Is it going to be Toronto community housing, is it going to be co-op housing? We think it’s time to have the rich and poor in the same elevators. Let’s not build public housing for the poor over here and warehouse them in substandard building, which is what we generally do. Let’s in fact have mixed communities. We advocate for people to have break up houses, and basement apartments.


TV: What I understand about affordable housing is that it’s available for people of certain income levels. As students, would we benefit?
TG: In downtown communities, we have a mix of needs. Students make up one group. We advocate that development represents communities. If you’re going to build student housing, you should have grad housing too. Part of our conditions are insisting that new developments have an affordable component. But, more importantly, we, both federally and provincially, have been advocating for a guaranteed minimum income… This is especially important for young people who face precarious job markets. Without guaranteed annual income people don’t have the supports needed to go to school, or to start a business. We think its critical to provide social stability.


TV: Your conservative opponents might say that guaranteed annual income is not feasible, or that it does not align with the economic prospects of the province.
TG: The irony is, that both left and right economists have been saying that this would replace 80 per cent of federal and provincial social assistance. Most economists say it’s probably not going to cost any more. You don’t want to force people onto social assistance. Guaranteed income removes the social stigma, and encourages people to get into the job market. This makes a better social fabric where we don’t ghettoize the poor.


TV: Let’s move on to mental health and services. The Greens want to increase funding for services, so in places where the system does not work, how do you think increasing funding as a blanket solution is going to work?
TG: The problem is that there are 14 different provincial agencies who have a piece of the mental health pie, and no one is coordinating. So we’ve been arguing for a Deputy Minister for mental health in order to create the coordination so we don’t have all these overlapping services that cost more than they should. Funding mental health services across the board gives people more access to mental health services. The more access they have, the more they function within society. Less often they are going to show up in hospitals in crisis. Funding mental health for all manners of people will cost more, but it’s about a more healthy society.


TV: Why should students in our riding vote for you?
TG: Whether it’s merging school boards, or stopping funding of the discriminatory system, or whether it’s that you think we need new sources of revenue for transit, voting Green even if you’re not sure that we would win is doing two things. Firstly, you are sending a message to the other parties that they need to focus on these issues as well. Secondly, there’s a per-vote subsidy now, which means the party you vote for gets money. It follows your party for the next four years, now that corporations and unions can’t donate. Voting strategically does not help you support your values.

 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.