A conversation with Mary Slade, Green Party federal candidate for Leeds-Grenville

April 4, 2011

What are the key issues locally in this campaign?

From 1996 to 2006 the total population of Leeds-Grenville grew by 3,000.  The number of fifty-and-older residents grew by 8,000 and the group twenty-to-fifty lost 4000. Leeds-Grenville is aging.  We have to provide jobs in the county to attract the young.  That’s why the Green Party is for local, sustainable agriculture to begin with, so that people can live in the area.  Otherwise everyone is just commuting.

When I look at a 40 year-old I don’t see him or her having as secure a future as my generation had.  I really believe that I am of the last generation of Canadians to have a better life than their parents.  We seem to have lost our social conscience.

I can remember when the Progressive Conservatives stood for fiscal responsibility, and responsible expenditures for the common good such as education, hospitals, health care, infrastructure.  Universally accessible programs benefitted everybody.   Harper’s “boutique tax relief” such as the $500 for children’s arts programs, it’s blatant bribery to a targeted group and doesn’t benefit those who couldn’t afford the $500 in the first place.  The break for volunteer fire fighters, on the other hand, makes sense.

A local issue?

While there was a groundswell of objections to the closure of the prison farms at Joyceville and in Pittsburgh Township, the Harper Government went ahead and closed them anyway and disbanded a world-class milking herd that had been developed over forty years by Agriculture Canada.  That was a very valuable herd, and they put it up for auction.  That was our money going down the tubes.

I have read about the Ottawa consensus on big items such as the war in Afghanistan, the economic stimulus package during the recession, and support for Alberta and the oil sands.  What’s wrong with this approach to government?

We’re supposed to be a free market economy, but we’re not.  Why are we subsidizing big oil?  Why are we cutting corporate taxes to banks?  Come on.  None of them are looking at poverty.  They’re not programmed for Canadians.  Harper’s an economist and the bailouts and the oil sands support are keeping him popular with the business community.

Adam Smith, the father of modern capitalism, would be shocked by the greed ethic of Canada’s business/government coalition.

So what are the old gray men in Ottawa missing?

-Conrad Black rifled the pensions of Dominion store employees.  Then came the Nortel pension fiasco.  Where was the legislation to protect those pensions?

-We’re going to be facing serious mental health problems as boomers grow older and face dementia and we have no plan to deal with it.  Look at the demographics.  1966 was the highest number of births in Canada.  They’re growing old and we’re not doing any planning for a known health crisis.  Instead they’re planning prisons for criminals who don’t exist.

-My problem with all of these guys is that they’re not looking at what is out there, the concerns which are out there.  They’re living in a fantasy world of jets and megaprisons.

-There are 34 cities in Canada needing infrastructure expenditures for sewage, Ottawa amongst them.   Getting water from upstream is no longer a viable policy.

-We have the highest cost of telecommunications worldwide. Everyone uses cell phones but they cost way too much.

The G8/G20 extravaganza last summer.  Any comment?

The police in Egypt treated their protesters better than the police treated our protesters in downtown Toronto.

When we last spoke you were keen on proportional representation.

The countries which have no form of proportional representation are Britain, The United States, and Canada.  What I hear as a candidate is that a vote doesn’t count unless it is for one of the major parties.  Proportional representation provides the mechanism for all votes to count.

Canada has slipped in engaging the electorate in exercising their right to vote.

By world standards, Canada is a conservative backwater because the first-past-the-post system automatically renders invalid about sixty percent of the votes.

We have people elected who are not there representing the majority of the electorate; they are representing only their own group.

In Canada you can be elected with twenty percent of the vote.  The other guys can get 80% of the vote, but if your 20% is the biggest chunk, the other 80% don’t count.

Thus our government doesn’t reflect a consensus of Canadians, and that’s why the Parliament has been so dysfunctional.

Carbon tax?

We have to start somewhere.  We are definitely experiencing global warming.  This area has four more growing days now than forty years ago.  Over 100 years our growing season will increase by thirty days.

Your campaign signs went up quickly in prominent locations in Brockville.

That’s because my campaign manager,  eighteen-year-old Matt Casselman, had us well prepared.  He did a great job of driving the stakes and posting the signs.

NDP candidate Steve Armstrong passed away since the last campaign.  Steve will be missed from the local scene for his humour and sincerity.

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