An interview with Neil Kudrinko, Leeds-Grenville Green Party Candidate

February 6, 2010

Westport grocer Neil Kudrinko has earned the Green Party nomination to run in the March 4th by-election to replace Leeds-Grenville MPP Bob Runciman.

Property values in Westport are higher than in Smiths Falls. What’s going on in North Leeds?

Let’s face it. North Leeds is a great place to live. An increasing number of retirees look to the area around Westport, so increased demand has driven up the value of property.

As a business owner what concerns me about rising market values is the increased assessment which can lead to higher property taxes.

We need to ensure that people who have lived in the community all their lives don’t suddenly find themselves unable to afford their homes. We need also to be careful not to penalize owners for making improvements to the energy efficiency and comfort of their homes.

For example, in order to reduce the environmental impact of our grocery store we have recently spent a half million renovating and retrofitting to reduce the carbon footprint of our business by 26%. This was a long-term investment in local jobs and our ability to service the community. A tax increase because of the improvements would hurt.

We shouldn’t penalize businesses and homeowners through property taxes for making good decisions.

Mr. Harper and Mr. McGuinty have jointly created the 13% Harmonized Sales Tax. Its implementation weighs heavily on voters’ minds. What’s your take on this tax reform?

Quebec and the Maritimes have the HST now. Under its rules businesses can claim exemptions on investments on equipment and supplies that we can’t in Ontario. Ontario Farmers are exempt from the 8% PST but other businesses are not. This puts Ontario businesses at an 8% disadvantage right off the top, so the business community in general is very excited about the HST because it will reduce in some cases their cost of operation.

However, as a small business owner I don’t think the HST will create day-to-day savings that we will be able to pass along to the consumer.

For most people in Ontario the greater concern is the extra 8% on their heating oil bills and services from electricians and contractors. The Green Party position on the HST is that it cedes the province’s power of taxation and puts it into the control of the federal government. We feel as a party that is too important a role to leave up to another level of government.

What are the implications down the road? If we are so tightly integrated with the federal government that we have no leeway, we won’t be able to make changes in how we collect sales taxes without the approval of Ottawa.

Mr. McGuinty’s 50 Million Trees Program sponsors the planting of trees on privately owned land in Ontario. From your perspective as a candidate to represent Leeds-Grenville in the Legislature, what do you think of the plan?

We need to make reforestation of marginal land a priority in this province, but we need to avoid monoculture, the planting of a single species in a field, because we need the mix.

You’ll soon hear more about ALUS, or the Alternative Land Use Services Program in Norfolk County. This new program compensates farmers for taking marginal land out of production so that it can be replanted to extend the Carolinian forest in the area to widen woodlots and improve setbacks along river banks to create natural filtration systems.

It’s important that we make landowners partners in the process, and that we get the mix right.

Should there be a bounty on coyotes?

I like to eat wild game and I help my friends cut up their deer, but I wouldn’t personally go out and participate in a cull of a species I couldn’t eat. The coyote population is currently high, but nature has an interesting way of keeping itself in balance. We’ve all been concerned about fishers over the last few years. The coyote population will correct itself. There’d have to be a lot of science behind a large-scale cull of the coyote population. We shouldn’t leave this one to anecdotal evidence. That said, we must recognize and keep in mind the need for farmers to protect their livestock from predators.

What issues do you see emerging in Leeds-Grenville over the next ten years?

A continuing issue is energy costs and other costs of operating businesses in small towns. We need to make sure that we as a community — that includes municipalities, businesses, and home owners — are making the investments that are going to ensure that we can compete with larger centers in years to come.

All too often a small business ends up subject to regulations that were originally intended for big corporations. We need smart regulations that will differentiate between the two and not unnecessarily penalize small operators who were never the intended target of a regulation like the Nutrient Management Act. Take the example of Forfar Dairy. It had to stop cheese production because it could not comply with the Nutrient Act. And yet the true target of that regulation was not the small producer, but the large industrial scale producer like Parmalat or Kraft. The loss of Forfar cheese production has resulted in one less source of production for local dairy farmers.

The problem with the McGuinty Government’s approach to regulation is that it is focused solely on standardization. It fails to take into account the needs of individual producers.

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