Ontario Votes 2007: Interview with Progressive Conservative candidate John O'Toole, Durham
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
John O'Toole is running for the Progressive Conservative in the Ontario provincial election, in the Durham riding. Wikinews 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 originally become involved in politics when members of the community suggested I stand for election as a local school trustee. As a parent, I was naturally interested in school board issues. This later led to my involvement as an elected municipal councillor for Clarington. One of my responsibilities on Council was as Chair of the local budget process. I was first elected to the Ontario Legislature in 1995.
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?
- I have experience at both the local and provincial level. In addition, my 30 years with General Motors has given me a strong background in the business sector, especially within the auto industry and related manufacturing enterprises that are so important to Durham Riding.
Which of your competitors do you expect to pose the biggest challenge to your candidacy? Why?
- In my most recent campaigns, the Liberal Party candidate has placed second and the New Democratic Party candidate third. However, when I first ran for office in 1995, the incumbent MPP was a New Democrat. I try to learn from previous campaigns, but take nothing for granted and try to treat each campaign like it’s a new beginning – a new opportunity to win the support of local citizens.
What makes you the most desirable of all candidates running in the riding?
- I have direct experience in the Ontario Legislature for three terms, and have a solid background in ensuring constituents get the help they need when dealing with provincial issues. Given the fact that I have over 25 years of elected experience, I also have the advantage of many contacts within community organizations and local government. In other words, I understand the community and work hard to ensure Durham Riding has the best possible representation at Queen’s Park.
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?
- Healthcare is at the top of the list of provincial and local issues. There are still an estimated one million Ontarians without a doctor, and my riding is no exception. We have also suffered from chronic under-funding for healthcare. A PC government would ensure there is catch-up funding for Durham and other GTA-905 communities as well as any other areas of rapid growth. This will allow local hospitals to continue to provide the outstanding care Durham residents depend upon.
- The local economy is foremost in the minds of Durham residents. Ontario has been hit hard by the loss of an estimated 140,000 good jobs in the manufacturing sector. The Oshawa / Durham area is no exception. All levels of government along with unions, business, education, and individuals citizens must work together to build a strong local economy based on energy, manufacturing and agriculture.
- Durham Riding also faces quality of life issues that include gridlock and the need for improved public transit, support for agriculture/rural communities, and protection of our environment.
What should be the first order of business in the 39th Legislative Assembly?
- Restoring trust and confidence in government. The past four years have been marred by dozens of broken promises from a government that promised not to raise taxes on the campaign trail and then introduced the $2.6 billion-per-year health tax. Other broken promises range from tackling gridlock on our highways to closing the coal-powered generating stations.
Are the property taxes in your riding at a fair level for the amount of services received in the municipality?
- When property assessment rises suddenly over a few years, it puts pressure on retirees and persons on modest incomes who own a house. I fully support a five per cent cap on the annual assessment increase for as long as an individual owns his or her home. In addition, the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation should be required to justify higher assessment instead of demanding that homeowners prove why their assessment is too high.
- Ontario can do better in forging a new partnership between the provincial government and municipalities. Local taxes should be used primarily for local needs and not to pay for provincial programs unfairly imposed on a community. There should be long-term, multi-year funding arrangements for municipalities. A PC government under John Tory is committed to speed up the municipal review process so that we can start the reforms before the next provincial budget.
- How can the province lead the way in stimulating job creation?
By reducing the burden of red tape on small business, reducing inter-provincial trade barriers, helping to create a skilled workforce, lowering taxes for individuals as well as lowering the business capital tax, providing a stable, affordable supply of electricity and by encouraging innovations.
What are your views on the mixed member proportional representation (MMP) referendum?
- I am surprised how few people are familiar with this important matter. It is important that voters learn all they can about the concept and cast an informed vote on October 10. MMP would give seats in the House to smaller parties that collect a considerable number of votes province-wide, but never enough votes to win an actual riding and a seat in the House. MMP may help ensure the percentage of popular vote is recognized when issues are brought to the Legislature.
- The drawback to MMP is that it would make it very difficult for any one party to gain a majority. It is actually quite rare for parties to get more than 50 per cent of the popular vote. In addition, I have concerns that members appointed from a party list would not be directly accountable to the communities in the ridings where they got elected. The process seems flawed.
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?
- The new media is playing a larger role in the 2007 election campaign, especially among younger voters. I hope the new media encourages younger people to get involved in the political process. My one reservation is that there is not always the same level of accountability that is found in the traditional media. There tends to be anonymity in the new media, whereas traditional media is filled with so-called “gatekeepers” who are clearly identified and who serve as editors, publishers, reporters, photographers, videographers etc. There is the potential for material to be posted online that is in error or is deliberately false. If this happens, it may be difficult to set the record straight.
Of the decisions made by Ontario's 38th Legislative Assembly, which was the most beneficial to your electoral district? To the province as a whole? Which was least beneficial, or even harmful, to your/this riding? To the province as a whole?
- I don’t feel decisions made by Ontario’s 38th Parliament have benefited our Electoral District. For example, Durham is not receiving its fair share of health funding, transportation funding and public transit. This must change if Durham is to maintain the high standard of living that has been established through the hard work of many generations. Too often, funding promises have long implementation time limits.