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An interview with Brant MPP Dave Levac (Part 2 – Issues/Campaign)

Here is Part 2 of my conversation with Brant MPP and Speaker of the House Dave Levac I had with on Victoria Day Monday, dealing with the election campaign and issues. Part 1 of that conversation which dealt with him being Speaker and what that entails and his reflections on the past session can be found here. (As an aside, I was impressed he said at the end that he had made it a point to read my blog and found it had good material. Bonus marks for him. And no, that didnt make it into the transcript.. but yes, I have it on audio recording if anyone wants proof 🙂 )

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Scott:We’re getting into the mid-stage point of the election campaign; how do you feel its been going so far, both in general for the OLP and for your campaign here in Brant?

Dave Levac: Well, 1st of all, I congratulate Kathleen Wynne’s team; they came out of the gate quite prepared and organized; quite prepared to defend the Budget that was presented; quite prepared in the new way the Liberal government is going to move itself – which direction they want to go, taking responsibility for mistakes made, and acknowledging them, and correcting them and making things better. So, I think overall, it was a good kickoff, and a good strong strategy to lay  into the setup for the election. As we know, It takes a little time for those that are on the ground that didn’t have that background preparedness. The team was ready – we decided to go a little slower out the gate this time, to allow the Premier to set the stage for us…and then take that and move that up into high gear a little later. So, we went a little slower at the beginning, and now we’re into full election mode.

Scott: Regarding election issues, there are general ones province wide that the Liberals and other opposition parties will spend time on. I’m wondering if any of the province wide themes you’re finding more talked about then others in Brant, and as a followup to that, are there any issues unique to the Brant riding that may play a part in this election.

Dave:There are 2 levels; the first level is on the provincial one: jobs. The economy and jobs are key issues for us. Our unemployment rate has recovered quite a bit. We were pretty high at one time. We’re now down under the provincial average.  At one time, we really lowered it, but I think that was mostly people had given up looking for jobs. As the municipality had started to restructure itself on the type of people they were trying to encourage, government programs were helping us kind of stabilize the decision on how we want to see ourselves, using post-secondary education, IT, high end job creation, a highly educated workforce, we started to recover, and I think we’re on the verge of recovering. I see the glass half-full, and some see it half-empty. In other cases some people see it a quarter empty, and I see it three-quarters full! That said, there is still work to be done on the jobs and the economy front, and I believe the Liberal plan is balanced and  mature and thoughtful, and a little bit different then a typical response; austerity programs that just slash and burn and throwing people out of work because they blame the public service for being in a bad economy. I totally and emphatically reject that. I think six people – greedy rich people who wanted to become richer – in the United States should be in prison and the key been thrown away for causing the meltdown in our economy and the world economy. For anyone to say a government of any one stripe other then those six people caused all of this – they’re living in Technicolor , and they’re playing nothing it more then hate politics, and I disagree with it vehemently.

On the local front, it is still jobs, but there are some identified issues. One that I identified in the last election that wasn’t on anyone’s radar was a detox rehabilitation centre to be built in our community. We’ve now got one on the way. GO Service: I’ve been setting up links for a long time with Metrolynx, GO, the city, and they’ve received a proposal from the city, and we’ve gotten word from the Minister of Transportation that it will be a high priority if and when we’re elected, and we can put that on the map and we will get GO Service. I think collectively we’re all working together on that, but I fear with a slash and burn austerity budget, those things go down the tube. So, I’m cautioning people of making sure you’re getting honest commitments from the opposition that they will support that for our community.
The next issue is our seniors. I’m proposing a community summit series to take what’s been done in our community through the Aging Committee – that’s been studying seniors and aging in our community – and I want to turn that into a summit as a series of summits bringing all the stakeholders that help our seniors, and turn it into an actionable plan. How do we fill the gaps that are there, how do we improve housing and health-care, how do we tie it all together with all of the agencies and the organizations that are working together, so if we have this summit series, we’ll then be able to come out with an action plan that says this is a community that’s healthy for aging.

S:Is there a rural/urban divide in Brant with voters? Different issues?

D:There are specific things when we peel it back and drill down. I want to make sure people distinguish between rural and farm, because they are two different things. To do that, we have to make sure that we understand those issues, and I’ve taken a lot of time to try and understand, because my riding is one of the most diverse in the province. I have two First Nations territories, I have a large city and a small city. I have rural areas, and I have farmland. There are specific issues: like broadband and IT services – internet for rural Ontario. From my perspective, the price for gas in terms of delivery for farmers; the cost of electricity. Those things are being offset by proposals by all three parties. I happen to think that the Liberal proposal is a lot more stable and a lot more long-lasting. In the future, that’s the problem that they’re going to have, because quite frankly their quick fix is basically just give you a subsidization and not fix it.
In my case, you turn around and say “now what does the city need?”. So the city is saying, “Go Transit”. That’s going to be beneficial to the urban area and the rural area as well, so there’s a mix between the two, and as Kathleen Wynne has said, we are one Ontario, but we have to have an understanding of what that balance means to offset, to make sure that everybody has the same opportunity for healthcare, education,transportation and infrastructure.

S: As a followup, what has been the general reaction to Kathleen Wynne in Brant?

D:We’re finding that she’s well received at the door. When we go around and sit down with focus groups, and meet with people in different organizations, and go to the door, there’s a very high trust level with her. There’s a genuine belief that this is an honest genuine person who wants to fix things, who wants to lead, and be given an opportunity to do so. I think if she’s given that opportunity, she’s going to show to be a very thoughtful smart intelligent woman who has the pulse of the people, and who understand what good policy is, as opposed to knee-jerk reaction policy that looks like wedge politics…that was tried in 3 different countries and it fell apart in all three. It’s time to stop doing that.

S: My last question: What would you say to those folks out there in the riding who may be undecided who to vote for in Brant about why they should vote for you and vote Liberal?

D: First and foremost, if this was being portrayed as a job appraisal… I would put out there that I’ve dedicated my life not just since 1999 when I was first elected, but even before that as a kid, that I found giving back to my community gave me such strength and power that I was able to help people… I believed in giving and working with my community. My parents gave me this unbelievable trust in respect for your elders, property, environment, each other. The second component is, you’ve been blessed with something, make sure you pass that blessing on. I’ve done that since 1999 as the elected politician. I think I’ve been able to show the people that I care deeply about my community. I told this to Dalton (Mcguinty) when he was first leader; if you ask me to choose between the party and my community, I’m choosing my community. If the community asks me to choose between it and my family, I’ll choose my family. At times, I’ve been known to speak against what my party has done, and in this case what the government has done. I’ve wrote letters, and I’ve changed and voted in different ways because I believed it was beneficial for my community to say so.

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