Six questions with Eric DePoe of the Ontario New Democratic Party

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.

The electoral district map for Hastings—Lennox and Addington (H-L&A). Map via Elections Ontario.

Eric DePoe is the New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate for Hastings—Lennox and Addington. DePoe has always been an activist. He worked as a mail sorter at Canada Post for 28 years, where he defended the rights of Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) employees as a union activist and as an officer of CUPW. He founded and successfully ran The Waterfall Café in Yarker for 17 years; it was declared “Business of the Year” in 2013 by the Napanee and District Chamber of Commerce. He became a paralegal, licensed by the Law Society of Ontario, in 2008. He continues his practice in Napanee, representing both union and non-union workers with their claims at the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. DePoe and his wife, Barb, now live in Napanee. They are the proud parents of a blended family of three adult children, and the grandparents of a six-year-old grandson.

Eric DePoe is the New Democratic Party candidate for Hastings—Lennox and Addington. Submitted photo.

What made you decide to run in this provincial election?

I had to because I can’t sit by anymore and watch the Liberals and the Conservatives turn this province into a worse place for the average person to live – which they are both very good at doing and have done extensively over the last 20 years. 

Everything is getting worse, and now we can see an acceleration of that. The climate is getting worse. The Liberals didn’t do nearly enough on climate, and Ford eliminated a number of the things that they did do, like tearing out already existing charging stations for electric cars at GO Stations, things like that. They’re just ideologically driven, and it is costing the province a lot of money. Scrapping the cap and trade system cost the province a great deal of money – $230 million, I think – so the record on climate in both parties is abysmal. 

I’m running for a whole number of reasons. The overarching one is the climate, but there are many, many other reasons. I mean, the way we treat people who are unable to work for many reasons, people with disabilities who can’t work — we keep them in abject poverty, which is just another disgusting thing. You know, Martin Luther King said, “A great nation is a compassionate nation. No individual or nation can be great if it does not have a concern for ‘the least of these.’” And I think if we use that standard, which I think is the best standard we can apply, both Liberals and Conservatives failed miserably.

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

Climate is the most important issue, and then the rising cost of living, which I think is due mostly to corporate gouging of various kinds. For example, the rising food prices: that’s just corporate gouging. There’s no excuse for corporations that are already really profitable raising prices again and again. You know, everybody has to eat. If a grocery store wants to make a reasonable profit on stocking the foods that people need and selling them, I’ve got no problem with that. But if they start gouging people and raising prices for no other reason than their fat shareholders want to get fatter? I think that’s disgusting.

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

Prices. Gas prices are another one that has absolutely nothing to do with how much it costs to get oil from the ground; it only has to do with how much they can fleece the driving public. In a riding like this, where there is no practical public transit of any kind, people have to drive — and the cost of that has gone through the roof for no good reason at all, other than the international petroleum market is gouging people, because that’s what it’s designed to do. The NDP wants to regulate gas prices. We want to give the Ontario Energy Board the power to do that. So, one of our MPPs, Gilles Bisson, has repeatedly tabled a bill for a Fairness in Petroleum Products Pricing Act to enable the Ontario Energy Board to monitor and regulate gas prices. And of course the Conservatives and the Liberals have voted it down repeatedly. So, they’re responsible for not regulating the ridiculously high prices.

Is there one particular issue you would like to champion if elected to represent Hastings—Lennox and Addington?

Housing. I think people think of housing as a big-city problem, but housing in rural areas is also a big problem. This is predominantly a rural riding, so people who don’t have housing gravitate towards places like Napanee or Bancroft in the north where there are some services available. They’re underfunded services, and services that are kind of hit-and-miss, but services nonetheless. And again, the affordability crisis hits there, too. If you’re on ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program), for example, … you can rent a single room. They just renovated a motel in Napanee, and the cost to rent a room there is $1,092 a month — and ODSP is $1,100 and change. So you’ll have, like, $20 a month left over for food, for clothing, for every other thing that you might need. That’s all you’ll have, and that’s shameful.

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

Electoral reform is something that has to come. We need a system that’s democratic, where every vote counts. The Tories will not introduce any electoral reform because they benefit from this: you know, they get 100 per cent of the power with 40 per cent of the vote. So, we’ve got to change that. Because that means 60 per cent of the people are not heard from, their voting means nothing, they don’t count. So, we want to introduce a mixed-member proportional voting system, a made-in-Ontario solution. We want to convene a group of independent citizens who will design the defined points. The Liberal solution is to have a ranked ballot system: what it would do is it would build the Liberal Party at the expense of both the other major parties and all the smaller parties, and it would create a two-party system, in effect. We want everybody’s opinion to matter. So, if people want to vote NDP or they want to vote Green, and we regularly get 25 to 30 per cent of the vote, we want that to matter. It would also shift the power away from the Premier’s office and spread it out more into the hands of each individual elected member, which I think is important, as well. So, I think electoral reform is really important.

What do you feel is one of the most overlooked issues in the riding?

The homeless and rural poverty. In Stone Mills, they’re building eight units, which is a step in the right direction; I’m not criticizing that. But it’s only a drop in the bucket for what’s needed… The way things are currently done, they don’t focus on needs. For example, the needs of kids with autism are not met because there’s a huge waiting list. I have a grandson who has autism. He’s a wonderful young man, but his parents were forced to move out of the province because they couldn’t get services, so that broke up our family. This is the personal effect of these policies. I’m sure this has happened to many families. I wrote quite a passionate letter to our current [Conservative] MPP, Daryl Kramp, where I talked about what effect their cuts to the autism program had on our family, and I didn’t even get a “Thank you for your letter. We’ll look at this issue.” It’s disgusting how unresponsive they are. 

If you could share one message with your voters and H—L&A, what would it be?

The NDP is the only party that will fix what the Conservatives and the Liberals have broken and help the people that they’ve cast aside in our riding and throughout Ontario. The NDP is poised to take power. In this riding, we got 14,000 votes in the last election, and the Liberals got 5,100. The Liberals are not poised; they’re trying to rebuild. And they’re part of the problem, not part of the solution. A vote for the NDP is a vote for progress and a vote for the future.

You can find out more about DePoe by visiting his website.

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