Collingwood Today sat down with David Matthews, NDP candidate for Simcoe-Grey. This will be Matthews' third provincial election running for the NDP party. He also ran in one federal election for the NDP party.
CT: What is main factor setting this election apart from previous ones?
DM: I would say that the biggest factor in this election is that we have a political party that has been in office for 15 years and the quality of life has not improved. A lot more people are below the poverty line, even middle income people are living paycheque to paycheque. The government has cut services like health care and education, it’s all a factor on everyday life.
Our party wants to change that around, we want to govern differently.
CT: Polls are showing the issues Ontarians are most concerned about this election are health care and lower costs/ balanced budgets. Why do you think those have risen to the top as the main issues?
DM: Healthcare services have been cut so much you have hallway medicine now. I was talking to a senior the other day who has been waiting one year for a hip replacement. The Liberal government short-funded the healthcare system by $700 million. They’ve short-funded the education system so much that teachers are spending their own money on classroom supplies.
My wife is a tutor, in the last three years, her business has tripled. She’s getting kids who are in higher grades who can’t read. The whole system has to be changed.
CT: Health care: What is the biggest challenge facing the Ontario health care system and what needs to be done about it, particularly in Simcoe-Grey?
DM: I think the biggest challenge today is hallway medicine. And the fact too that people who get prescriptions, they aren’t picking them up because they can’t afford them. They get sicker and they end up in the hospitals. That’s why one of our programs is pharmacare for everyone. Before health care in Ontario, you took care of yourself because you couldn’t afford the hospital. People practiced preventative health care. You have to go back to getting people to practice preventative medicine, stop the hallway medicine and get people on track.
You go into any hospital and you see people on hospital gurneys getting treatment in the hallways. You see it all over, including in Collingwood. We have to get beds in the hospitals so people who are sick can get treated properly.
Healthcare goes from eating healthy, which a lot of people can’t afford to do anymore. From there to not being able to get prescriptions because they can’t afford them. Even to kids not being able to play sports now because they can’t afford it. These are all factors that need to be addressed. We have to have a health care plan that addresses all those factors.
CT: So what is the health care plan that addresses all those issues?
DM: Well, for starters, we have to have pharmacare for everyone so everybody will be able to take their prescriptions and stay a little bit healthier. Investing in hospitals so we have more beds for those who need them. Investing in doctors, we’ve got to get funding to get the doctors in internships, because we have a doctor shortage.
Investing in nurses, I live next to a nurse who is exhausted at the end of a shift because she has too many people to take care of.
The other thing is we have to start opening a medical centre in all these communities.
CT: Education: What is the biggest problem with the Ontario education system right now and what needs to be done with it?
DM: There’s no accountability.
DM: Like I was saying before, they pass everybody. If a child is having problems, they don’t solve the problem. They say they’re a slow learner. They stream them. You can’t do that. Most of these kids can’t read.
CT: Where do you see that?
From tutoring. I know from firsthand experience about a kid who graduated Grade 12 and couldn’t read the headlines of the paper. When the family confronted the school board about it, the board said he fell through the cracks. Well, in education, there shouldn’t be any cracks. Everybody should be able to read when they get out of high school and comprehend what they are reading. And that’s not happening.
CT: What is fairness and what role do you think the provincial government should play in establishing and enforcing fairness? Ie: Andrea Horwath cites fairness as the reason for a gas price hold for long weekends
DM: I think we should have regulations on gas prices. I think the prices should change once a week.
CT: Why do you think the government should be handling that?
DM:Because the gas companies will not do it. The insurance industry is a primary example of that. The Wynne government said they lowered insurance prices, but insurance companies have also reduced the coverage.
We want prices stabilized, right now they are gouging us.
CT: What is fairness?
DM: Fairness to the consumer. They’re going to know when there’s going to be a gas increase or a decrease, so they can plan around that.
CT: What about fairness to the companies who are selling the product?
DM: They’re making billion dollar profits, I think they can bend a little bit.
The rich should be paying more in taxes. Back in the 50s the rich were paying 79 per cent in taxes and they never complained about it. We have the lowest corporate taxes in North America. I don’t think it’s going to hurt to raise the corporate tax rate by one-and-a-half per cent.
CT: Affordable housing is a huge issue in Simcoe-Grey and especially Collingwood. Local municipalities have spent thousands on studies to come up with ideas for attainable housing. It’s impacting the availability of the workforce for every type of industry in Collingwood. What can be done?
DM: I would like to see legislation passed for all these housing developments stating 10 per cent of new developments have to be affordable.
CT: How do you put affordable units next to luxury homes?
DM: It’s working in Toronto. Just go to Cabbagetown. They put affordable condos next to million-dollar units. It’s working, it’s been proven to work. The other thing I’d like to see is more co-ops.
I shouldn’t say this, but I’m against Ontario Housing Corporation, because they don’t manage their properties properly. A lot of people have seen how these people have not taken care of their units, because Ontario Housing Corporation hasn’t controlled it.
I’m more for co-op housing, because you have to participate in the upkeep of the building to stay there.
I’d like to see them start developing areas where a person can buy a small house, not one of these elaborate homes, that you can rent, rent-to-own, or buy. And if you live in it for ten years you can only sell it for ten per cent more than you bought it for.
CT: Outside of affordable housing: How will you make everyday life more affordable for Ontarians?
DM: With gas price regulation. We’re going to clamp down on insurance and lower the premiums by 50 per cent.
We’re going to lower the taxes for people who make less than $40,000 and we’re going to increase the tax on the rich. We want to bring in an Ontario Food Program where people can buy food grown in Ontario at lower prices. I think they’re going to look at a co-op program for that.
Unlike the Liberals and Conservatives, we don’t get our friends to come up with a system. We get professionals to come up with our system. Which is a big difference. Our platform was costed out by a budget manager from previous government so we know we’re in range of what we want to do. Most of our policy and our programs are done on really heavy studies. All our policies come from the ground floor up. Working people make these policies for us.
CT: How long before your party plans a balanced budget?
DM: Within four to five years. By the time five years is up we’ll have what we want as far as services and everything else.
CT: You need more than one term?
DM: Every party needs more than one term. This is the thing that people should realize. You can’t fix what’s broken in four years. Unless you want massive tax increases. The thing is, the government has to show they are doing it.
CT: Where do you find common ground with the other party platforms?
DM: We find no common ground with the Conservatives. I’m not in favour of selling crown corporations. I would like to buy hydro back. We only have to buy back four per cent of shares.
CT:Colours and parties aside, what are the three things Ontario needs most in a government right now?
DM: Accountability and transparency are the two big things. There’s no accountability in government. The Freedom of Information act has got to be revised so you can get information pretty well on demand. I believe the citizens of this province have a right to know what is going on in government. And right now, they don’t get that.
I also think that as a province we have to start doing things on our own without assistance from the federal government.
CT: What first motivated you toward politics?
DM: Katy Austin. I think everybody up here has heard of Katy Austin (former candidate for the NDP party). Had a meaningful conversation. She liked what I thought the government should do. I am by no stretch of the imaginations a politician. I don’t play politics, I just call it the way it is. And I think that’s the way all politicians should be. I will not follow policy line if it hurts people. I’m fighting for people in poverty and people below the poverty line. They have to have a better quality of life.
We’re all in this together. And the people who are living in poverty, even though middle income people don’t realize it, that’s where our tax dollars are going. If we get them out of poverty, our taxes are going to go down. Our economy is based on how much money we have to spend.
I came out of semi-poverty. I know what it’s like to have hand-me-down clothes, and eat whatever was cheapest that day. If you have to decide between paying your hydro bill and feeding your kids, it’s not a good situation. That’s where we have to change things.