Our ongoing series of feature interviews with local candidates continues today with the Liberal Party’s nominee, Sophie Kiwala. With responses from four of the five candidates now published on Kingstonist, there’s ample time to compare the below with those of Mark Bain (PC), Robert Kiley (Green) and Mary Rita Holland (NDP) before voting on the 12th. Each candidate provides insight regarding their priorities for Kingston and the Islands, their stance pertaining to the relocation of a gaming facility to city, as well as their positions on the recommended closure of KCVI and QECVI. Read on, get informed and make your vote count tomorrow!
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?
The last seven years, I had the pleasure of working for Peter Milliken and Ted Hsu at our Federal constituency office, helping to resolve some of the many issues facing Kingstonians, and helping to connect our community with government services. This experience has given me a deep understanding of this community and a great respect for public service. Moreover, I know exactly what the job entails, and the enormous time commitment that’s required to do the job well. I love this work.
My motto is: Integrity. Hard Work. Results.
‘Integrity’ is about being truthful and transparent. It is also about providing the highest possible level of service – serving others as I would like to be served myself. My focus will always be on the best interests of Kingston and the Islands.
‘Hard work’. I will constantly work to improve our community. I will work to bring jobs here, to better our education system and improve our health care.
‘Results’ I’ve worked in government and in business for most of my life and I’ve raised three incredible young women. I know how to get things done.
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?
Personally-speaking, if there’s one thing I’ve already learned at the federal level that is even more acute at the provincial level, it is that poverty is not just a social welfare issue or an employment issue. It’s a housing issue, an education issue, a justice issue, and its a health issue — all of which make it a budget issue! When Kathleen Wynne speaks of a Fair and Just Ontario, she’s acknowledging these thoughts and the need to address them.
On the ground, we’re proving support services for the most vulnerable families. These initiatives include:
- Raising the minimum wage to $11, and indexing it to inflation
- Increase the Ontario child benefit, and also indexing it to inflation
- Increasing Ontario Works and ODSP rates for people with disabilities
- Elimination the debt retirement charge off of electricity bills
- Lower car insurance rates
- Invest $810 million over three years to help those with developmental disabilities, and their families
- Committing $50 million in partnerships with community groups that fight poverty
- Committing $30 million to create job opportunities for people with disabilities
- Expanding dental benefits to an additional 70,000 children
Locally, I keep myself up-to-date and engaged on a whole range of local social issues, including the food insecurity networks, and on the social determinants of health care.
In this election, a Liberal vote is a vote for a balanced, realistic approach that will create jobs and nurture the economic recovery without leaving anyone behind. We are and I am highly committed to poverty reduction.
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 was always against the closure of KCVI and QECVI. I advocated on behalf of saving the school and I made call after call to Queens Park to see what could be done.
Our current legislation states that decisions on school closures are made by local school boards, specifically by the elected school board trustees. That’s their role, and they are elected by you and I to make those decisions.
If the legislation is not working for certain communities then it needs to be examined and I will do that if I am elected as MPP.
If and when a new location is chosen, I will work hard with parents, students, the school board, and residents here in Kingston to make sure that the new school is the best possible learning environment for our children and that it contributes to making our community even more vibrant.
The Liberal Party has a strong track record when it comes to education. Student test scores have gone up by 17% since the Liberals took office in 2003, and graduation rates went up by 15%. We brought in full-day kindergarten and provided good nutritional food for students who were otherwise going hungry. I’m proud of our continued commitment. The Ontario Liberals do recognise the immense importance of education.
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?)
The question of whether there is a casino in Kingston should be left to the citizens of this community to decide. I applaud City Council for holding a referendum on the casino issue and allowing Kingstonians to have their voice heard. The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission has made it clear that a casino will NOT be placed in any municipality that does not want one. In that respect, the decision is completely up to the locally elected city council and the residents of Kingston.
Having said that, I am aware that the Downtown Business Improvement Area have been highly critical of such a move. I am obviously aware and very concerned about the social implications of having a gambling facility in the city. But as I mentioned above, my priority is to make sure that the voices of Kingstonians are respected via the referendum.
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?
It is first important to note that the Liberal Party attempted to bring in electoral reform in 2007, and held a referendum on the issue. However, it did not pass.
I think there are strong benefits to a preferential voting system, as it allows a person’s vote to count even if their first choice doesn’t win. It gives more legitimacy, as no one can win until they receive 50% of the vote, and it forces parties to be more collegial, and less likely to engage in negative and divisive politics.
The most important thing is that Ontarians have their say in electoral reform. Before making fundamental changes to our democratic system, we need to consult with the people. This is why I’m excited about our plan to allow municipalities to use a preferential voting system for municipal elections. This will give people a choice on democratic reform on a local level, and tell us what they think of that system.
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?
I don’t have a single priority. Infrastructure, jobs, health care, mental health, our youth, our seniors — I will be vigilant and committed to all of these issues.
Infrastructure is how the great community of Kingston was built – using local materials and local labour. Investing in infrastructure is absolutely essential to the stability and smooth-running of our economy.
For example, we’ve spent years talking about the ‘third crossing’ in Kingston. This will not be built without all three levels of government coming together. The Ontario Liberal plan to provide $14B for roads and bridges outside of the GTA is a golden opportunity.
Another of my priorities is people and jobs.
In Kingston, Tim Hudak’s plans would be devastating, with some predicting the loss of over 3,000 full-time public service jobs.
As your MPP, I would help to create local jobs, particularly for our youth. They deserve home-grown jobs. Our Youth Jobs Strategy and the Eastern Ontario Development Fund have been highly successful in helping manufacturing businesses to grow and create 1000’s of opportunities.
Many more jobs will be created in the green energy economy. Kingston is exceptionally well-placed to play a major role. Local clean energy technology projects are creating 100’s of new positions. Very soon we’ll be producing 80% of our energy needs right here in our back yard! That’s something that we can be proud of.
On a related note, the Liberals just completed the largest climate-change initiative in North America by eliminating coal-power – equivalent to taking 7 million cars off our roads! By eliminating a massive source of smog-creating pollutants, we will save $4.4B in health and environmental costs.
Finally, seniors and health care.
Health care excellence is part of a long-established tradition of Liberal values. When I nursed my late mother while looking after my two very young daughters, I was enormously grateful for the in-home help I received. We are 100% committed to our wonderful nurses and personal support workers.
In Kingston, John Gerretsen worked extremely hard to secure funding that resulted in many more hospital beds, improved access to cancer care and kidney dialysis, as well as many other service upgrades. The new Providence Care Hospital will provide us with superb facilities & health services, and well-paid construction jobs for the next three years.
The Liberals have a comprehensive Mental Health Strategy that is well on its way to being fully implemented. Amongst other things, it focuses on the critical early years in children.
Our seniors deserve respect and support. Real choice is so important — whether it’s a well-funded retirement home, a long-term care facility, or being able to stay at home. For example, 226,000 more seniors receive at-home care than in 2003. That includes 76,000 more in the last two years! I’m proud of that record but I’d still like to build on it.
Those are just a few of my priorities for Kingston. I really do believe that politics is about helping people.