Ontario Votes 2007: Interview with Green Party candidate Russell Korus, Vaughan
Sunday, October 7, 2007
Russell Korus is running for the Green Party of Ontario in the Ontario provincial election, in the Vaughan riding. Wikinews' Nick Moreau interviewed him regarding his values, his experience, and his campaign.
Stay tuned for further interviews; every candidate from every party is eligible, and will be contacted. Expect interviews from Liberals, Progressive Conservatives, New Democratic Party members, Ontario Greens, as well as members from the Family Coalition, Freedom, Communist, Libertarian, and Confederation of Regions parties, as well as independents.
Why have you chosen to involve yourself in the political process? Why did you choose to run in this constituency?
- I came to politics at age 30, with the birth of my first son. Prior to that I was never even remotely interested in politics or government, but when I became a father I began thinking of what my son's quality of life will be like when he is my age in 30 years time, and three realizations hit home very quickly.
- First, that we are literally destroying the life support systems on Earth that sustain human life; second that government, by virtue of developing public policy, is the most effective avenue of change; and third, that the Green Party is the only party that is actually committed to change and is taking this issue seriously.
What prior political experience do you have? What skills and insight can you bring to office, from other non-political positions you may have held?
- This is my third campaign representing the Green Party, having run federally in 2006 and 2004. I graduated from Queen's University in 1994 with a degree in philosophy, and am currently studying law while working in the IT industry.
Which of your competitors do you expect to pose the biggest challenge to your candidacy? Why? What makes you the most desirable of all candidates running in the riding?
- The reality is that in Vaughan, Greg Sorbara, being a Liberal, cannot lose. The riding has gone Liberal, by a wide margin, both federally and provincially, since time began. So this is more about raising awareness of issues and more specifically campaigning for MMP.
- [ed: Note that the Liberals didn't hold the riding from 22 May 1979-21 November 1988, as it was held twice by a Conservative, then once by an independent.]
What do you feel are the three most important issues to voters in your riding? Are these the same top three issues that are most important to you? What would you do to address these issues?
- The three most important issues I feel are the environment, health care and of course the referendum on electoral reform. The Green Party has the most sustainable policies and is actively advocating for MMP.
What should be the first order of business in the 39th Legislative Assembly?
- Introduce a true Accountability Act, something with teeth, so that politicians understand that there are real consequences to breaking the public trust or defrauding taxpayers.
Are the property taxes in your riding at a fair level for the amount of services received in the municipality?
- The current form of property tax is a combined tax on land and buildings - in urban areas, mostly on buildings. That causes a problem in that when you improve your property, your tax cost goes up, which discourages investment.
- Shifting to a land-only tax would solve this. There would no longer be any disincentive to improve your property, as your tax would be based solely on the land value. (Of course, as building tax is reduced, land tax is increased to keep pace).
- Most cities have lots of un- or under-utilized land in their downtown cores which is currently paying very little tax. By taxing this vacant land at the full rate, cities would be able to increase revenues without raising overall tax rates - and owners would have a strong reason to either develop or sell to someone who would. This push for downtown, brownfield development would reduce pressures for sprawl and greenfield development, which would help keep municipal costs down (sprawl is expensive to service).
- Our position is not to raise or lower the property tax rate, but to transform how it is calculated to use market forces to improve our cities - make them more compact, walkable, and green.
How can the province lead the way in stimulating job creation?
- By shifting investment to a green economy we could create thousands and thousands of green jobs. The next major economic revolution, which is still in its infancy, and which is following the IT revolution, is the Green revolution, and if government would promote green research and development, then the next wave of economic power could come from Ontario.
What are your views on the mixed member proportional representation (MMP) referendum?
- This election is the most important election of our lifetime because of the chance to implement MMP. If MMP passes, we would finally be able to correct many of the democratic deficits that we face today.
- For example, under MMP every vote will count. Seems simple enough, until you realize that under our current system, unless you vote for the winner in your riding, your vote doesn’t count at all.
- MMP would also eliminate the artificial majorities that we are stuck with today, whereby a party that gets less than 40% of the vote effectively has a stranglehold on power and is able to pass whatever legislation they want.
- Common sense alone dictates that the percentage of votes that a party receives should be roughly equal to the percentage of seats that they get.
- MMP may not be perfect, and I doubt that a perfect system even exists, but MMP is so much better then our current system, and for so many reasons.
- I truly hope it passes.
What role, if any, does “new media” play in your campaign, and the campaign of your party? (websites, blogs, Facebook, YouTube videos, etc) Do you view it as beneficial, or a challenge?
- I am on facebook, and my campaign website, www.pass-it-on.ca is essentially just a blog. This is obviously critical to success, and I see the Internet in general as democracy’s last hope, since all mainstream media is now completely corporate owned and controlled.