Six Questions for Mark Gerretsen

Mark Gerretsen, federal election, Kingston and the IslandsBorn and raised in Kingston, Mark Gerretsen first entered municipal politics in 2006 and has served the citizens of Kingston for nearly a decade – most notably as Mayor from 2010 to 2014. As Mayor, Mark oversaw a number of key initiatives, including the creation of the Mayor’s Task Force on Development to improve customer service for residents, businesses and developers, and the development of an Age-Friendly Plan to focus on making Kingston livable for seniors in the community.

A tireless advocate of a strong, thriving local community, Mark is committed to Kingston becoming Canada’s most sustainable city. In 2012 Mark was elected to represent the City of Kingston on the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) Board of Directors. As a member of Large Urban Mayor’s Caucus of Ontario (LUMCO), he worked with municipal leaders across Ontario advancing such issues as payments in lieu of taxes, the integration of social services and increased investment in local infrastructure and affordable housing.

Mark holds an Economics degree from Queen’s University and also attended St. Lawrence College for Computer Engineering. He currently lives in the Calvin Park area with his wife and son.

1. What unique experience and insight sets you apart from other local party candidates? Why do you believe that you are the best person for the job, and most importantly, the best choice for voters in Kingston?

Having been mayor of Kingston I understand how cities in Ontario work and more importantly how they interacted with the Federal Government. If elected, I know that my knowledge and experience of Kingston and the Islands will play a key role in allowing me to hit the ground running.

2. Kingston has two big ticket public transit and infrastructure projects in the works, namely the third crossing and the expansion of Norman Rogers airport. Do you support these projects, and if elected, how would you work to obtain much needed federal funding to enable their realization?

The current government has allowed an infrastructure deficit to accumulate, leaving municipalities and provinces to shoulder the costs. The Liberal party has announced that if elected we will double our infrastructure investment throughout the country to nearly $125 billion – from $65 billion – over ten years, which will be the largest new investment in infrastructure in Canadian history.

I am fully committed to working with the City of Kingston on these projects as well as with the Frontenac Islands on issues of importance to them. While I was mayor we set in motion the purchasing of the land required for the third crossing as well as approved the environmental assessment of the project. If elected, one of my first visits will be to the new minister responsible for infrastructure to discuss this project.

Likewise, if Kingston City Council chooses to proceed with federal funding requests for the expansion of the Kingston Airport, I will also work with them on this important project.

3. The government recently passed Bill C-51 expanding upon Canada’s anti-terror legislation. Do you support Bill C-51? More importantly, do you believe this legislation will make Canadian communities safer than they were before the bill was passed?

The Liberal Party belives that there are measures in Bill C-51 that make Canadians safer. Specifically, we support measures that will lower the threshold for preventative arrests, expand the no-fly list, and allow for greater and more coordinated information sharing between government departments and agencies involved in security matters.

We recognize however, that increasing the powers of our security services, must be accompanied by additional oversight. That is why, if elected a Liberal Government will increase oversight by:

  • Establish a national security oversight committee of Parliamentarians, similar to our allies in the Five Eyes Alliance. Based on two Liberal Private Members’ Bills, this would provide regular, ongoing oversight of our national security agencies;
  • Ensure that the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) annually reviews all – as opposed to only some – operations performed by CSIS; and
  • Require the Privacy Commissioner to provide the government with an annual report on information sharing between departments and agencies, the result of which would then be made public.

We will also establish mandatory review by:

  • Instituting a mandatory statutory review of the full Anti-Terrorism Act, after three years, similar to what a Liberal government brought in following 9/11; and
  • Instituting a sunset clause on certain provisions of both the act itself and the Criminal Code after three years.

Finally C-51 contains vague and potentially overly broad definitions, we will:

  • Remove the notion of “lawful” protest, so that legitimate forms of demonstration would not be captured under this legislation;
  • Limit information sharing done on the basis of national security in order to prevent the inappropriate disclosure of information about Canadians, as occurred in cases like Maher Arar’s;
  • Put the legal onus on the government to review any appeals by Canadians on the no-fly list; and
  • Remove the measures that permit judges to provide CSIS with warrants that violate Canadians’ Charter rights.

Additionally, we have reserved the right to present further amendments on Bill C-51.

We understand that our response to terrorism cannot be confined to legislative measures alone. It must also include a robust plan to prevent radicalization before it takes root, and it must ensure that our security agencies have the resources they need to carry out the tasks required of them.

Our leader, Justin Trudeau, has been very clear: if the current government does not accept that Canadians want greater oversight and accountability on Bill C-51, the Liberal Party of Canada is committed to presenting these proposals as part of its platform in the upcoming federal election.

4. Regarding the necessity of electoral reform, are you in favour of amending Canada’s electoral system to ensure that Members of Parliament are more representative of the popular vote? What is your stance concerning the current “first-past-the-post” system?

We are committed to ensuring that 2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system. As part of a national engagement process, we will ensure that electoral reform measures – such as ranked ballots, proportional representation, mandatory voting, and online voting – are fully and fairly studied and considered. This will be carried out by a special all-party parliamentary committee, which will bring recommendations to Parliament on the way forward, to allow for action before the succeeding federal election. Within 18 months of forming government, we will bring forward legislation to enact electoral reform.

5. Communities throughout Canada have been hit hard by global economic uncertainty, resulting in job loss and increased risk of poverty. If elected, how would your party stimulate the economy and encourage the creation new jobs? What spinoffs or specific programs do you envision Kingston benefiting from?

Unlike the other major parties, the Liberal Party has recognized that now is the time to invest in infrastructure in order to create growth and employment. As previously mention we will double current infrastructure spending. Our plan will includes investments in public transit, social infrastructure like retirement homes, affordable housing, and childcare spaces, and in green infrastructure like local wastewater treatment facilities and climate resistant roads and bridges.

For the first time in more than a decade, this mean that projects like the Third Crossing of the Cataraqui River will have an opportunity to be funded in part by the federal government.

We are committed to strengthening the middle class since when middle class Canadians have more money in their pockets to save, invest, and grow the economy, we all benefit. We will cut taxes for Canadians with taxable annual income between $44,700 and $89,401 will see their income tax rate fall. This tax relief is worth up to $670 per person, per year – or $1,340 for a two income household. To pay for this tax cut, we will ask the wealthiest one percent of Canadians to give a little more. We will introduce a new tax bracket of 33 percent for individuals earning more than $200,000 each year.

We will give families more money to help with the high cost of raising their kids. We will cancel tax breaks and benefits for the wealthy – including the Universal Child Care Benefit – and introduce a new Canada Child Benefit to give Canadian families more money to raise their kids.

With the Canada Child Benefit, nine out of ten Canadian families will receive more than under Stephen Harper’s confusing collection of child benefit programs. For the typical family of four, that means an additional $2,500 in help, tax-free, every year.

A new Liberal government will invest $1.3 billion over three to create jobs and opportunity for young Canadians so they can get a strong start in life. A Trudeau-led Liberal government will create 40,000 youth jobs each year for the next three years through a new, annual investment of $300 million into the renewed Youth Employment Strategy. We will use this funding to:

  • increase the number of jobs funded by the Canada Summer Jobs program by 35,000 each year.
  • We will create 5,000 youth green jobs. This will be accomplished by hiring more guides, interpreters, and other staff at Parks Canada, so that more Canadians can experience the beauty of our National Parks and learn about our environment.
  • We will invest $40 million annually to create more co-op placements for students in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and business programs to help employers create new placement opportunities for students. We will pay 25 percent of a co-op placement salary, up to a maximum of $5,000, to an employer that creates a new co-operative placement.
  • Give companies incentive to hire young workers by waiving employment insurance premiums when hiring full time youth employees

We will make it easier and more rewarding for Canadian Business to create clean jobs. We will invest $100 million more each year in clean technology producers so they can address pressing environmental challenges, and create more opportunities for Canadian workers.

6. What do see as the biggest challenge facing residents of Kingston and the Islands over the next five years? Further, if you are elected as our Member of Parliament, how do you propose to address this issue through government?

One of the biggest challenges in Kingston is insuring that we have affordable housing throughout our community. Affordable housing ranges from social housing to affordable mortgages. We have seen in recent years the rising costs of housing are making it much more difficult for many people in our community to find quality housing at prices within their means.

I am committed to working toward a National Housing Strategy as this problem exists throughout our country. The Liberal Party has committed, as part of our social infrastructure investment, to facilitating the construction of affordable housing throughout our country.

In addition to this, I am committed to following through with the Liberal Party’s promise to reopen the Collins Bay Prison Farm as a form of productive rehabilitation.

Harvey Kirkpatrick

Harvey Kirkpatrick is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. His features curiously explore urban planning, what if scenarios, the local food scene and notable Kingstonians. Loves playing tourist and listening to rap music. Learn more about Harvey...

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