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Six questions with Drew Cumpson, NDP candidate for Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston

Editorial note: As Ontarians head to the polls for the Thursday, Jun. 2, 2022 provincial election, we want to be your one-stop home base for everything you need to know in the Kingston area ridings. As part of this coverage, we’ve created profiles for each candidate (pending candidate availability) in Kingston and the Islands, Hastings—Lennox and Addington, and Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston. For these profiles, each candidate was asked the same list of questions, the responses to which we’ve compiled into an easy-to-read Q&A format, with additional links for more information. To view all of the profiles and additional election coverage, visit Kingstonist’s Provincial Election 2022 page.

Map of the Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston (L-F-K) electoral district. Graphic via Elections Ontario.

Drew Cumpson is the New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate for Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston. Running under the campaign platform “I’ve fought to be alive today, I’ll fight for you at Queen’s Park,” Cumpson carries with him the experience of leading a full and fulfilling life as a quadriplegic after a tragic accident. This led him to becoming a strong advocate for those living with disabilities and gave him a perspective on accessibility issues that many never have. Cumpson currently works to help businesses become accessible and compliant with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). Additionally, Cumpson, a member of the LGBTQ2S+ community, “is determined to bring equity and accessibility lenses to his work at Queen’s Park,” according to his website.

Drew Cumpson, NDP candidate for Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston. Submitted photo.

What made you decide to run in this provincial election?

I have lived in both worlds, basically. I spent the first 20 years of my life able-bodied, and the last 11 disabled. It was a big eye-opener to me how people with disabilities have been treated by not only the province of Ontario, but Canada as a whole. So, I had decided that I would get into politics to make the changes that are necessary to support people with disabilities. Also, I decided to run because my riding, Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston, is my home. It has not had representation… for a number of years. It is time that we have a dignified representative represent the riding and fight for the people of Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston.

In your opinion, what is the most important issue being discussed during this election?

The biggest thing right now is definitely health care, and health care is definitely my bread and butter. I spent 51 months in the hospital after I suffered a spinal cord injury on May 10, 2011, that left me a ventilator-dependent quadriplegic. I have learned how to navigate our health care system inside and out. From hospital to hospital, to long-term care, to home care, and everything in between… I learned how broken the system was. As an everyday person who utilizes the health care system, I have a unique perspective because I am able to give everyone an insight into health care that not everyone has experienced… We have seen so many issues throughout the pandemic, which was a big eye-opener for the rest of Ontarians who have not had to utilize the health care system, and it really showed everyone how broken our health care system is… [the NDP] are planning to hire 22,000 nurses, and we are trying to make sure that we invest in our home care, and we invest in long-term care as a publicly funded option and get rid of for-profit long-term care, because that is where we solve the most issues. I’ve faced the health care system for 11 years now and, since the pandemic, the rest of Ontario and the rest of Canada has really seen where the pitfalls in our health care system lie.

What is the single most common thing constituents bring up when you’re going door-to-door?

I think one of the main things, other than health care, is affordability,… whether that is affordable rent, affordable gas prices, affordable food prices, these are all things that have come up. We have had so much in terms of increases, the highest inflation rate in over 30 years, and… we have really learned that people are not able to get by on what they would normally be able to. Prices are through the roof, they have become unattainable for a lot of people, especially in housing. Rent is ridiculously priced, and so is purchasing a home… That has been something that has come up from our constituents a lot. What’s been happening in our riding is that people are either moving from Toronto or Ottawa or Kingston into the riding and purchasing homes well above the asking rates of what people in our riding are able to afford, which has been really a struggle for people who want to stay in their community. So… the biggest thing I’ve heard is how to make things more affordable. The NDP has a plan for that, and that is what we are focused on… making sure that we bring down prices in every area, whether that is car insurance, or freezing rent prices and introducing rent control, [or] helping first-time home buyers… right now the affordability issue is the biggest issue.

Is there one particular issue you would like to champion if elected to represent Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston?

As the first quadriplegic person running for MPP, I have been given an opportunity to represent the disabled community… We have been neglected forever, especially when it comes to ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program) and OW (Ontario Works), in terms of social assistance. As someone who has fought to make sure we can make social assistance work in this province, that is one of the biggest things I am championing for in this election… The NDP had released their platform, and it gave a 20 per cent increase to ODSP immediately after [we are elected]… As someone who lives on ODSP, 20 per cent is definitely not enough. That was where myself, along with a number of advocates and allies within the disabled community, as well as the NDP disciplinary committee, focused on trying to push the party to do more and make a better commitment to people with disabilities and people on social assistance… Now it is still 20 per cent immediately… and then during our second year in office, we will make sure that everyone has got doubled ODSP and OW and [is] brought out of legislated poverty.

In your opinion, what is the biggest issue with the current makeup of the provincial government?

There has been no real accountability held on the government when it comes to the issues that have been portrayed… People are not being held accountable for what they have said they were going to do, and what they have actually done. That’s where we have seen a lot of issues come forward, and we have lost a lot of the things that were promised to people… No one is holding the government accountable for their actions. As someone who is not a politician, but more of just an everyday human, that is something I plan to bring to government when I get elected… the accountability aspect and holding parties accountable for the commitments they’ve made to people.

If you could share one message with voters in Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston, what would it be?

I have had to fight for my life, and now I am going to fight for everyone in your lives, to make sure that it is affordable, that it is accessible, that you have proper access to healthcare, that you have proper access to housing. I will make sure we work on bringing everyone’s issues in this riding to Queen’s Park that have been neglected for a number of years by our previous MPP.

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