I received these answers from Eric and his campaign staff this afternoon to the questions I submittted to him and the other candidates (you can see Kathleen Wynne’s and Sandra Pupatello’s for comparing answers). As with the others, I’ve reposted these answers verbatim as I received them, and will be withholding comment on these and the others till all answers are received (or when I decide I’m not getting any from the other candidates)
I thank Eric and his campaign for taking the time to answer these questions
(1) There are many candidates running to be the Ontario Liberal Party leader. What do you feel makes you best qualified to be the leader/Premier?
I believe that experience both inside and outside politics is important, and my experience will help me re-connect and re-engage with Ontarians and win back their trust when I am leader of the Ontario Liberal Party. As a family doctor, I know the importance of listening. And as the co-founder and Chief Financial Officer of a multi-million dollar organization that helps children in war zones around the world, I know how to stretch every dollar and to do more with less. I know how to make tough decisions even in the most difficult circumstances
My experience makes me who I am. It makes me a leader who represents a break from politics as usual, and the candidate best suited to bring renewal to the Ontario Liberal Party and our government.
(2) What would be your first priority upon being elected Ontario Liberal leader and Premier?
Ontario is recovering from the global economic downturn, but that revitalization is not being felt equally across the province. My first priority as Premier will be to create the conditions that support job creation and economic growth – in all areas of the province and for all Ontarians. That means a focus on helping our rural communities grow economically through a Rural Jobs Strategy and additional supports for small- and medium-sized businesses as well as entrepreneurs who are creating jobs in rural communities.
As Premier, I will also make youth employment a top priority. When youth unemployment is over 17 per cent (compared to the overall unemployment rate of 8 per cent), that means we’ve got a youth employment crisis. Too many young people entering the workforce can’t find jobs, or have to take jobs that don’t match their skills or career path. And that has serious effects on the long-term sustainability of our workforce.
I will develop a youth employment strategy that offers incentives for companies to hire young workers and that provides greater support to young entrepreneurs who will become our future job creators.
(3) What policy(s) or changes in style would you bring to the Ontario Liberal Party that differ from the current government (if any?)
As a Party and as a government, we have to re-connect with Ontarians. And that starts with listening. We need to do politics differently. If, with this leadership race, all we offer Ontarians are status quo pronouncements and platitudes, we will have squandered a very important opportunity to renew the way we do politics.
For example, we all agree that it is essential to address the fiscal reality that our province faces, but we must do so in a way that is consistent with the compassionate values we share. Those are the values that got many of us into politics in the first place. And we can’t abandon those values. The challenges we face demand greater openness and better collaboration with our labour partners, especially teachers. Over the past year, decisions have been taken that had the regrettable effect of disrespecting teachers – teachers who have been our partners in creating the best education system in the OECD. As Premier, I’m confident we can rebuild those relationships. I will never disrespect teachers.
(4) It is said that the Ontario Liberal Party has become increasingly an urban party. Is there anything you would or could do to make the party more attractive to rural Ontario?
On November 30th, I released my ambitious rural platform, called Respect for Rural Ontario. Your readers can check it out here.
I called my rural platform Respect for Rural Ontario because I believe that we need do a better job of listening to rural Ontarians and that we must be a bridge between urban and rural Ontarians. It is a plan to support a stronger rural voice, stronger rural communities, and a stronger rural economy. That means that every decision at Queen’s Park must be viewed through a rural lens – how will our decisions affect rural Ontarians and their communities?
Some of the things I’ve proposed include:
– The creation of a Rural Jobs and Economic Development Strategy which will include supports for small- and medium-sized companies and entrepreneurs who are creating jobs in rural communities.
– A strategy to deliver high speed internet throughout rural Ontario. If rural communities are going to create jobs, they need to be connected to the 21st century economy.
– Sharing gas tax revenues with rural municipalities so that they can invest in better transportation infrastructure. I will also develop a Rural Transit Strategy.
(5)You face a minority legislature very hostile to your government right now.. Is there anything specific you would do to try and work with one or both parties?
When the people of Ontario gave us a minority government, they said “work together.” We have to take that to heart. All parties must better recognize the need for cooperation and consensus. And that’s something that I’ve shown throughout my career including during my time as an advisor to Minister of Foreign Affairs Lloyd Axworthy, where I saw the importance of consensus building and diplomacy every single day.
Specifically, as Premier, I think there is room to work with both parties to eliminate the deficit, create jobs and protect the most vulnerable through social assistance reform and poverty reduction.
When MPPs of opposition parties have good ideas I think we should support them.