Steve Clark MPP, P.C. Candidate for Leeds-Grenville, would like to have lunch with Margaret Atwood… as long as Rob Ford is invited too

September 12, 2011

Steve, this is the first time we have talked since your election to the Ontario Legislature in 2010.  Do you have any anecdotes about getting to and from your new job at Queen’s Park?

I told this one last week at a fish fry in Elgin:  With my hairline in winter I have a collection of about five toques and I alternate them at random.  It’s an eight-minute walk to the Legislature.   One day an elderly woman commented that she liked my toque.  Not remembering which one I was wearing, I pulled it off and saw the square yellow Farmers-feed-cities logo and pointed it out to her.  But she gazed upward at the smooth dome which the toque had revealed.  “Maybe you could talk to the hair farmers and they could help you out,” she suggested.  It was an interesting comment at 7:30 in the morning a block away from Queen’s Park.

I wrote a column last winter about how Mike Harris eliminated the pension plan for MPPs.  Have the Queen’s Park Caucus found a replacement for it yet?

I read that column.  I was surprised, because most people you talk to think that MPPs have a gold-plated pension plan.  But at the provincial level we don’t.  We have an RSP which is just a 10% salary holdback.  I knew when I ran for the office that a pension wasn’t there and it didn’t influence me in running.  It’s just a fact of the job.

Whom would you like to have lunch with, Margaret Atwood or Rob Ford? 

I think a more interesting lunch would be with Margaret Atwood AND Rob Ford.  It would be a lively session with a lot to talk about.

A Toronto Star colleague from Renfrew County recently commented upon how the Eastern Ontario ridings are gradually falling to the Hillier faction of the Ontario PC Party, with Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke, Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington, Carleton-Mississippi Mills, turning dark Blue.  How about Leeds-Grenville?  Are you a red Tory or a blue Tory?

I don’t think of myself as red or blue.  I represent people.  But if I have to paint myself, the colour is blue.

Fresh out of Queen’s I ran against a sitting mayor to give the people of Brockville choice.  Then I ran against Bob Runciman in 1987 for the P.C. nomination when the riding of Leeds-Grenville was created.  Some years later I went to work for him as his executive assistant.  Then when Bob was appointed to the Senate I was part of the contested nomination to fill his seat, and I won.

Some of the talk in this election has to do with the contested nomination in Carleton-Mississippi Mills.  I have run against an incumbent mayor, and against a sitting MPP, and I think part of our democracy is that that option is available for candidates and citizens.

Tim Hudak has gone negative on a small program to help doctors, accountants and architects get their non-Canadian qualifications upgraded so they can practice here.  His attack ad makes Ontario sound like one of the American hate states.  What’s your take on this?

I’ve been asked this lots of times in the last week.  First of all, the Liberals keep changing their explanation on this subject.  I’m not running away from the fact that we called it an affirmative action plan for foreign workers.  But we still believe even today that it is unfair and unequal.  It shouldn’t matter whether you are here in Canada for one year or twenty years, you have to have a program which is fair and equal for all.

But there’s a doctor shortage.

Yes, there is a doctor shortage.  The two pillars of our program are health and education.  And I think from my experience in the last 18 months we should put as many dollars as possible into front-line health care, including funds to support doctors and nurses.

The Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) is a health bureaucracy which has been set up by the McGuinty Government  to act as a political cover for the Minister of Health.   Under a Tim Hudak Ontario PC government, the LHINs would be abolished, and all of those dollars put into front-line health care.  Physicians are agreeing with me that our position is the right way to go.

In the Legislature I have said many times that these unelected, unaccountable, and largely anonymous bodies aren’t meeting our communities’ needs.

Solar panels are a big deal here.

In the House I have talked about the solar operations in Rideau Lakes Township, but the McGuinty Green Energy Act takes planning authority for solar projects away from local  government.  We believe there should be respect for local decision-making on renewable energy projects.  If local council can approve or deny an application for a subdivision, there should be the same respect regarding a solar farm.

For people with existing contracts under MICROFIT the burning question is whether we are going to honour those contracts.  Yes, we are.  If you have a signed agreement in place, we are going to honour it.  In some cases across other parts of Ontario there are larger, controversial plans for wind and solar installations which we may have to review.  We’ll have to deal with those on a case-by case basis.

We refer to the Green Energy Act as the failed energy experiment.  The rate has to become more sustainable.  People in the solar industry tell me that the rates come down as the projects move forward.

Then you see solar farms as here to stay. 

No party is against renewable energy.  It is here to stay.  The issue is sustainability and affordability.  Moving forward we have to have an open, fair and transparent process for pricing.

Anything to say to the readers?

Over the last year and a half I have tried to be an extremely active MPP.  I have attended as many community events as possible.  I like to talk about Leeds-Grenville in the House.  I like to talk about the people, the activities, and the communities which make up my riding. It is a beautiful corner of Ontario and it would be an honour for me to continue to represent the people of Leeds-Grenville at Queen’s Park after October 6th.

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