Yesterday our 2014 Provincial Election coverage continued with the kickoff of a five-part interview series featuring all of the candidates vying for the seat in Kingston and the Islands. After hearing from the Progressive Conservative’s local representative, Mark Bain, today we’re shifting our gaze to the Green Party’s candidate, Robert Kiley. As previously stated, each candidate was presented with the same set of questions concerning key local issues, while these were created in consultation with our thoughtful readers.
1. For the first time in 19 years, Kingston and the Islands will have a new voice representing them at Queen’s Park. Why do you think you are the best candidate for job? What unique experience and insight sets you apart from other candidates and makes you the best choice for voters?
I have had the privilege of serving with and for diverse groups as an educator, facilitator and executive. These roles have given me the experience and insight to work with various demographics in a meaningful and helpful way.
From First Nations youth living on reserve (in Northern Quebec); senior citizens residing in rural and urban areas (in Ontario); small businesses and government ministries delivering French language services (in the Kingston-region); and international students and youth-at-risk (in Eastern Ontario) I have sharpened my ability to help build healthy communities across ages and -cultural/linguistic/economic- backgrounds.
Couple this with my political experience (I ran in the 2011 election and have worked as a campaign manager and federal party staffer); my academic abilities (evidenced as a research assistant and graduate student in policy); and compassionate worldview (influenced by my faith); and I believe I have a combination of scholastic and relational know how to clearly articulate various policies that will benefit our riding.
I hope to bring these skills to Queen’s Park to foster strong local representation for Kingston and The Islands. Indeed, despite the (economic and educational) disparities in our region and the different perspectives of the electorate, I believe I can act as a mediator to encourage honest conversation for our shared social, environmental and economic-well being. And I trust my perspective will help end the cynicism of provincial politics and help put constituents, not political parties, first.
2. Middle and lower-income families throughout Ontario have been under increasing financial pressures due to the high cost of living, including utilities and basic food costs. What relief, if any, can you promise to provide those who are experiencing difficulty making ends meet?
I believe that providing for the most vulnerable is one of the most important roles for government. I believe such provision needs to occur directly and indirectly.
Directly, government should promote and implement progressive policies. In other words, social programming ought to benefit low-income residents more than high-income residents: i.e. more assistance for the materially disadvantaged. That’s why I am committed to redirecting the Liberal 30% tuition credit (which currently applies to any student whose parents make up to $160,000) to bursaries and scholarships for families who are in the bottom two quartiles of income, for example. In other words, if someone’s guardians are making less than the upper 50% of our society the money will go to that student. To be sure, this figure is not hard and fast, but rather exemplifies the principle of progressive social policy that I am committed to.
This same principle applies to costs controls on electricity. The NDP and Conservatives proposal to eliminate HST on this product may sound nice but the savings it represents disproportionately benefit the rich. Likewise, the Clean Energy Benefit is a rebate that treats all electricity users the same by subsidizing rich and poor equally at 10%. In lieu of this regressive policy, Greens propose to cancel the Clean Energy Benefit and use the money to pay down the deficit and provide a grant for low-income households.
I also propose indexation of ODSP/OWs to inflation and, in days to come, the creation of a Basic Income Gaurantee (a policy that has been on the Green Party books for some time) that will help transition Ontarians out of poverty. Necessities of life should not be a burden to pay for: no one should have to choose between food, shelter or electricity!
Indirectly, government should work to create the conditions for reliable, well-paying employment by supporting small businesses and encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation. This is why Greens want to raise the employer tax exemption, for instance, and provide strategic support for new emerging sectors (like clean technology) and also incentivize the formation of more local venture capital funding sources.
Government should also prioritize policies which ensure costs of living remain reasonable. By support local farmers through by local first policies which help stabilize production in regional food markets, for example, more people should have access to inexpensive and nutritious food.
A similar indirect approach ought to be take with housing. While facilitating affordable housing is a direct approach articulated elsewhere in my policy, indirect measures of keeping housing costs low include setting more rigorous standards that address the potential impact of public institutions on the housing market. For instance, local vacancy rates are affected (they usually go up) when universities and colleges accept more students without being accountable for providing space for them to live in first year and beyond. Having a better student to space ratio promises to keep costs low for most residents.
3. What is your position and rationale for/against the recommended closure of KCVI and QECVI respectively. If elected, how do plan to support local students and respect the educational needs of Kingston’s neighbourhoods?
I had the pleasure of helping the QECVI community write their community profile for the PARC process: the process intended to deal with the aging infrastructure and declining enrollment of neighbourhood schools in central Kingston: the process which led to the school closure recommendations.
Indeed, I followed PARC fairly intently; attending working-group meetings, presenting to the Board, and writing multiple Letters to the Editor about the subject.
It was clear to me that we need a cooperative mechanism that asks community members to define what we value in educational institutes and how that may play out in regards to schools (Contrast my proposal to the provincial policy which asked individual schools to – essentially – defend their territory in relation to the other schools). This is why I authored proposals internally with the Green Party and spoke to trustees and community members about such a change.
Process aside, ultimately, I would encourage the following: that all schools remain open and that the money slated to build a new school be redirected to retrofitting the old schools. I would encourage centres of excellence where the programming each school excels at already would be further augmented across a dynamic campus system. Said differently, let’s let students travel to and from QE, KC, and LC to take various courses and programs by way of a special transit line connecting the three sites.
This position acknowledges that the schools in question are integral to the future vitality of their neighbourhoods (we need a downtown school as much as we need a school in the north end and as much as we need a school in central). This position champions the benefit of environmental stewardship and job creation through energy conservation that is a product of retrofits. This position works to bring the community together across Princess Street so students can participate in the programming they so desire regardless of the location of the school or their socio-economic status. And this position capitalizes on the value of having the option (and using it when possible) of walking to school and of small school sizes (600-800 being ideal) for the betterment of students – now and in the future.
4. Many local constituents are concerned about the possible relocation of a gaming facility from Gananoque to Kingston? While it is acknowledged that this issue is the subject of a referendum during the next municipal election, what is your position regarding this transformative issue? (Do you believe the benefits outweigh the concerns or vice versa?)
I am a founding signatory of the No Casino Kingston Group and believe that all Ontario Licence Gaming (OLG) expansion plans transgress the boundaries of good public policy. We should stop “modernization” of gambling as it exploits the most vulnerable, including youth and seniors (populations of which Kingston is brimming as a university down that is paradoxically the second oldest per capita in the country). Simply stated, government should not deepen its involvement in gambling.
In fact, I regret that the Liberals want to increase “gaming” opportunities around the province; and that the Conservatives did the same; and that the NDP introduced casinos in the first place.
I studied the impact of casino gambling on seniors as a grad school student; and attend public lectures, townhall meetings, and council deliberations on the issue (in addition to writing to the Whig about my feelings on many occasions).
Perhaps the most disturbing statistic presented during my research is that 40% of OLG revenues are derived from the losings of problem or pathological gamblers who only account for 1-3%. This is a despicable desperation tax; a tax that may not even garner revenue for the government or host communities as the corresponding social costs associated with addicted gamblers and the co-morbid behaviours (from relational breakdown to substance problems) may outpace any revenue they provide the system.
The above realities are not only attested to academically but by numerous health practitioners in our community.
One ought to also factor in the impact on small and local businesses to see the depravity of the Liberals’ plan. Most merchants and restauranteers decry casinos because they, like a vortex, suck disposable income of residents and visitors into itself instead of encouraging them to purchase more diversely.
Add to this laundry list of wrongs the sedentary, screen-based lifestyle perpetuated by casinos and the vast energy expenditures to light up, heat and other wise power such facilities and we have the trifecta of poor public policy: casinos hurt people (social health), profit (economic potential) and planet (environmental well-being). And they are increasingly privatized. Indeed, under the so called modernization operators get a third of the profits – profits they have no obligation to reinvest in the community: shame!
In short, I oppose a casino in Kingston.
PS: There is also an interesting case to be made that – for the reasons above – a casino is not compatible with the City’s Master Plan.
5. Do you (and your party) support improving democracy by allowing Citizens to use the preferential voting system that provincial political parties use to democratically choose a winner? Is this sort of electoral reform something you would consider addressing before the next election?
I am happy to look into preferential voting in more detail. However, I have and will continue to, at this time, advocate for Mixed-Member-Proporational representation similar to the 2007 Citizen’s Coalition recommendation that:
Half the Legislature to be strictly proportional to parties who gained over 3% of the popular vote (seats to be filled by a vetted list put forward by the party before the election) and the other Half of the Legislature to be filled by riding based representatives.
6. If you are elected the next Member of Provincial Parliament for Kingston and the Islands, what immediate challenges will you focus your attention on? Further, what do you assess as being your top local priority, and how you propose to ensure it is successfully realized/managed?
My first priority would be working to get fresh drinking water for our all our neighbours on Tyendinega as soon as possible in consultation with the band, local council, community members, and all levels of government. I would take a 15% pay cut if this goal was not met in the first 24 months of my mandate. And again, if not in the next 2 years.
Three immediate challenges provincially:
1) income inequality (by way of the many policies noted above re: direct and indirect means of government supported affordability);
2) climate change (through implementation of a carbon pollution price similar to BC starting at $12 and moving to $40/ton over 5 years – to be revenue neutral when the deficit is eliminated),
3) deficit reduction (via $6 Billion in efficiencies and $5 Billion in revenue generationas outlined on www.robertkiley.ca). This is extremely important as we currently spend $30 Million more a day than we have – which leaves us with $1M in annual deficit interest rate payments alone which jeopardizes the future public programming in Ontario.
Three immediate challenges locally:
1) education (re: PARC and neighbourhood school. In addition to freezing fees for university and college students; spurring endowment investments in post-secondary institutes by tax incentives;getting trade journeyperson to apprentice ratios right; and promoting community based learning and inter-institutional flexibility whereby college and university students can work towards joint degrees)
2) seniors’ issues (working with City Council to continue work of the World Health Organization’s age-friendly communities initiative; creating a senior’s hub with shopping, services, and social space)
3) job creation (capitalizing on opportunities in our communities for new renewable technologies; promoting entrepreneurship and innovation with Queen’s, St Lawrence, and RMC as noted above; and encouraging venture capital for start ups)