An interview with Steve Clark, Progressive Conservative Candidate for Leeds-Grenville

February 22, 2010

How would you describe the northern part of your riding to an MPP newly arrived in Toronto from Thunder Bay?

Westport is a tremendously unique municipality in Leeds and Grenville. We all covet its waterfront. North Leeds also has a unique commercial component with the high-end shops in Westport and Newboro. When our friends from all over Ontario come to visit, they often drive up to Westport and Newboro for the shopping experience.

But to explain anything about North Leeds you must begin with the people. Last week I walked into Kudrinko’s Grocery Store, and whether they were going to vote for me or not, they welcomed me with a smile. Friday night I dropped in at the Junior B hockey game at the Arena. Westport and Gananoque were in this fiercely competitive game, but the fans were just so nice to me. It was one of the highlights of last week’s campaign, going to Westport and spending an hour or two watching the game. It doesn’t matter whether people are supporting you or not, people in North Leeds are very welcoming. Visitors here can’t help but appreciate this.

In North Leeds you still have this tremendous rural component. I have fond memories of the plowing match. I have advocated for the municipality with regard to the illegal fishing issue. I have worked with Rideau Lakes on some police budget issues. Demographically, forecasts show an aging population in all corners of Leeds-Grenville. I’m committed to work with staff to provide more effective services for our community as needs increase.

Sawmill owner Kris Heideman recently told us at the Kemptville Woodlot Conference that some American mills are dumping red pine on the Toronto market for less than Ontario landowners get for their timber. From your point of view as an aspiring MPP, what are the issues here?

Here is how I would attack the issue:

1. I would meet with the local folks to get the details of this incident.
2. We would use our office as an opportunity to talk to the Minister of Economic Development and Trade to find out what Ontario Government policies are in place which have allowed this to happen.
3. Because it is an American company which is dumping the product, I want to sit down with Gord Brown to see what Federal Government policies are in place that allow this to happen.

In a recent article Senator Runciman ripped Premier McGuinty for his green plan, claiming that Hydro will have to pay out “outrageous” amounts to homeowners with solar panels. He described Mr. McGuinty’s pricing as “the stuff of fantasy”. Are you prepared to stand by Runciman’s hyperbole, or would you care to offer a more balanced view?

I think Mr. Runciman does make a good point. As someone who is CAO of a municipality, I have received information from the Provincial Government promoting the installation of solar panels on our buildings at a rate of return far exceeding market value. The bigger concern that I am hearing at the doors is from seniors and working families regarding the impact on energy costs of the HST and the installation of smart meters.

Your opponent Steve Armstrong claims that manufacturing is doomed in Leeds-Grenville. Care to comment on that?

We have lost a lot of manufacturing jobs in Leeds-Grenville, no question, and I think in the future we need to be aggressive in promoting the idea that Leeds and Grenville is open for business. We need to work together at the municipal level to realize that not every municipality is going to build an industrial park and become a manufacturing hub. We need to find what works, and then promote the daylights out of it.

What I mean by that is that the tourist sector may continue to carry some communities. Others may find growth around cultural pursuits. The Biosphere Project has possibilities. We need to look at more than the traditional manufacturing model to spirit us out of the current downturn.

What issues do you see emerging in Leeds-Grenville over the next ten years (and how are you uniquely suited to face them as our representative in the Ontario Legislature)?

In the next ten years Leeds-Grenville will have to be innovative in the way we run our municipalities and economic development. We need a representative who can forge alliances between groups who may never have worked together before. My example is the International Plowing Match at Crosby in 2007. When I first made the pitch to host it in North Leeds, people told me that it would be tough to get groups who did not know each other to work together on a project of that size. If successful on March 4th, I think I will be able to bring all corners of Leeds-Grenville together to work on projects which will sustain us in the future.

When as a 22 year old I first knocked on doors in Brockville in the mayoral race, people told me I would have to attend the school of hard knocks before I would be ready. But I won. Now at 49 I have the same way of thinking in this campaign that I had 27 years ago. The number one thing I do at the door is I listen. I hear some really innovative ideas. I am excited by the energy I see in our community and I hope I can be the advocate of those big dreams after March 4th.

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