By Thaksha Kaneshapillai and Dharsan Siriskantharajan
During the holiday season of 2015, the Monsoon Journal Team Members sat down with Patrick Brown, the current leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, to gain insight on the party’s direction in advance of the Ontario general election in 2018. Formerly the federal Member of Parliament for the electoral riding of Barrie, the leader has received particular attention for his solution regarding the deteriorating fiscal situation in Ontario. The full text of the interview is as follows along with the video, courtesy of ekuruvi:
Question: Could you summarize the Ontario Conservatives election platform?
I think that it is important that it’s not just a few people in the backroom creating a platform. The platform that we are going to have in two years and six months in the next provincial election will be one that is created by the grassroots. It is important to have a grassroots party. And there are general themes that the Conservative will make general priorities such as healthcare and education, how we treat our seniors is a priority, that government is transparent; it should be open, that we need to end the endless corruption scandals that the government is plagued with. But in terms of the specific details of the platform, it will be constructed closer to the election and will be built by the stakeholders, and by thousands and thousands of people. And if anyone reading Monsoon Journal has any ideas on how to make Ontario stronger, more vibrant and more dynamic, please let me know, I would love to hear those suggestions. I, for one, believe that you need to listen. And too many people lecture you and they don’t listen to ideas. And a good friend of mine once said, god gave you two ears and one mouth, and politicians should remember that. Don’t just preach.
Question: As you already know, Ontario is now the world’s most indebted sub-sovereign borrower with $307 billion dollars worth of underperforming bonds. This province has twice the debt of California, but only a third of its population. How would a Conservative government work to reduce this burden for future generations?
That’s a great question. This government has been mired; Kathleen Wynne and Dalton McGuinty have been plagued with scandal, which has involved waste. The auditor general has said that the energy contracts alone are 9.2 billion dollars in waste, the gas plants $1 billion dollars, the smart meters $2 billion, eHealth $1 billion, Ornge $1 billion dollars. To be honest, we wouldn’t be in this debt if it weren’t for corruption and scandal. But moving beyond that, we can’t simply and solely point to the Liberals incompetence, we have to talk about what we are going to do as progressive conservatives to create prosperity in Ontario, and I have outlined cutting red tape, having competitive energy prices and investing in infrastructure to get product to marketplace as ingredients on how to get Ontario back on track, so we are creating jobs. One of many opportunities to create jobs is by resolving the skills mismatch. According to the Conference Board of Canada, we lose $3.7 billion a year in provincial income tax for jobs that are available in Ontario that we are not filling. For example, last year we graduated 9000 teachers for 5000 teaching positions. We are graduating people for jobs that don’t exist. Let’s graduate people for jobs that our market actually needs, and that’s something that I put a lot of emphasis on.
Question: Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk recently brought to light the Ontario Liberals expensive attempt to promote green energy in the province. The mismanagement of energy resulted in a cost of $37 billion to Ontario electricity users between 2006 and 2014. What do you think of the Ontario Liberals plan to impose a cap and trade system in order to curb greenhouse gas emissions? What would a Conservative government do about climate change?
Well, there is a few points in there, to start with energy, the Auditor General’s report exposed the Liberals on their energy policy. They ignored the recommendations of experts, and it cost everyone more. So to break down the $37 billion, it’s a $12,000 cost per person in this province, because of their incompetence. Thanks to Kathleen Wynne and Dalton McGuinty’s incompetence, you are going to pay $12,000 more than you should have for electricity. We can’t have that. It is absolutely unacceptable and we continue to have mass of surplus of electricity, so we are actually selling energy for less than the cost to produce. You can’t even comprehend that. In terms of climate change, I’m not really a climate skeptic, I believe climate change is a real concern and that government needs to work together to combat it, but what my worry with Kathleen Wynne’s plan [with regards to the carbon tax] is there are no details, it just appears to be a revenue grab. I challenge the Premier to make it revenue neutral. Instead, work to help industries, fight greenhouse gas growth, curb climate change. The government had evaded this challenge. So I want to see us tackle climate change, but in a real and tangible fashion. Climate change is important for the Conservative Party.
Question: In 2007, John Tory supported the funding of all faith-based schools in the province, which arguably led to his defeat in the election that year. If you were asked to speak on this issue, what solution would you propose?
I don’t support faith based funding. I thought that was a mistake that John Tory ran on. I think he recognized that afterwards and said so. It would not be part of my platform, I have ideas on the education system and not be related to a faith based funding model. It would have more to do with skills engagement in high school, it would be about making financial literacy mandatory, and gearing education to employment, but it would not be about school based on religion.
Question: If elected, how would your government work with the Federal Liberals to ensure the prosperity of Ontario?
Well for me it doesn’t matter who is in power, I’m willing to work with anyone. I don’t care if it’s a Green party, the Liberals, the Conservatives, anyone who is willing to benefit Ontario, I will work with. Sometimes we get too hung up on parties and politics. I think outside of the bubble of the House of Commons, outside Queens Park, the average family only really cares about results. Work together, put your differences aside, and understand that it’s about moving the province forward, and moving the country forward, and I would certainly put parties and politics secondary to the best interest of the province I love.
The above news item is published in January 2016 print issue of Monsoon Journal.