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Guidingstar.ca Interviews Green Party Candidate
Bernadette Manning

 

     On January 26, GuidingStar.ca met with candidates in the Markham provincial by-election scheduled for February 8.  Today we offer the first of our reports. 

     Bernadette Manning is running for the Green Party.  Ms. Manning has been a provincial candidate on two previous occasions, and has also run federally twice.  In  2003 she ran for Mayor of Markham against Don Cousens and gained 15 percent of the vote. Here are the highlights of our interview.

 

GuidingStar:  What motivates you to keep running?

Bernadette Manning:  Sustainability.  I have four children and itís all about their future.

GuidingStar: So, how do you think the Green Party is going to do in the by-election?  Are you getting a good response?

Bernadette Manning: Yes, I am.  I am running to win this time.  We desperately need change.  All the other parties are talking about the environment now because you canít ignore it.  Itís been so warm in January.  Over in Europe, in the Ukraine for example, the grass is growing where they would normally be in a deep freeze by now.  I donít think itís something you can ignore anymore and push aside.  The Green Party was developed about sustainability.  When I first started running people used to say ĎOh, youíre a one issue candidateí.  But I always say ĎItís not one issue, itís a priorityí.  I really feel that the Green Party is the only party that is working toward a sustainable future.  And thatís very important to me.

GuidingStar:  And the environment does tie in with a lot of local issues.

Bernadette Manning:  Yes, like the gridlock.  Itís adding smog to our air. Health care, the costs will continue to rise and wait lines will continue to grow because childhood asthma, cancers, theyíre all on the rise. And they are all environmentally linked.  A couple of years ago I went to Burlington to hear Dr. David Suzuki speak.  He said, ĎWe are not separate from the environment, we are the environment because we take from the air, water and soil and we put back into ití. So it is not a separate issue.  Itís us.

GuidingStar: What personal qualifications do you have in terms of...

Bernadette Manning:  ... I am a homemaker.  I have four children.  And itís their future that keeps driving me forward.  Because I desperately care about what is going to happen to them .... We have such drastic climate change that is happening and that is leading to the global warming.  ... Voter apathy is pathetic.  People think, ĎOh I am not going to vote Green, I canít change thingsí.  But if I could reach a majority of the people who think their vote canít make a difference I would be a shoo-in.  Thatís who I would like to reach and I would especially like to reach first time voters, the young people, because itís all going to be left up to them down the road.

GuidingStar: This issue of the environment is a terribleóI think one commentator used the termóintergenerational transfer: our generation has made the mess and the young people will have to clean it up or deal with it.  So, to be responsible, we have to deal with it now.

Bernadette Manning: A lot of the problem is, and I believe this firmly, governments are elected by the people but their campaigns are paid by large corporations.  And then, in return, instead of representing the people, they donít, they represent the large corporations.  They give them cuts and they subsidize them and then, when there is an environmental disaster, the taxpayer pays for the clean up.  Itís unfair.  Governments are supposed to lead by example and they donít.

GuidingStar:  In terms of resolving the issue of gridlock in Markham-Unionville, what measures can be taken?

Bernadette Manning:  I think we need to start moving back to rail.  We have rail lines in place. Rail pays municipal taxes. We should start building communities that are self-sufficient, with bicycle and walking paths, and are linked by rail.  And we canít just think of Markham as one separate municipality because we have to start linking all the municipalities together and look at the global picture.  We canít just say Ďwe are going to do this hereí, and Ďthey are going to that thereí because they are all intertwined.

    Ms Manningís home is immediately south of Highway 407, the building of which played a big role in getting her involved in politics.   We asked her to tell us more about that.

GuidingStar: You live almost literally in the shadow of the 407.

Bernadette Manning:  I was evicted six times in three years for the 407 and it wasnít because I was going to be just impacted: they told me it was coming right through my house.  Thatís what got me first started in politics.  I thought, ĎHow can you treat people like that?í  It was because I was talking about the environmental impact that that highway was going to have on the area.  And that was the provincial government that tried to get rid of me, tried to silence me, and it just made me more determined. My father brought us up to believe, if you believe in something, stand up for it and I strongly believe we have to have more respect for the environment

GuidingStar:  When you say that they tried to silence you, what do you mean?

Bernadette Manning:  I was going to protests with my daughter.  We had large groups of people, such as Friends of the Rouge Watershed, people trying to stop clearcuttings.  I was creating a problem for them.  Together with the about thirty people that we had we delayed construction of the highway for nine months.  It cost millions of dollars.

     They were bulldozing all the waterways.  They werenít bridging them because that was too expensive.  And they donít go around wetlands they go through them.  Because the fastest cheapest route is the way theyíre going to take.  They can study it to death and tell you they have eighteen different routes but in the end the ultimate is the fastest cheapest route.

GuidingStar:  When you say you were evicted, you mean they tried to evict you?

Bernadette Manning:  I had to go to court.  Three times I went to court and they finally realized I had more of a leg to stand on than they did and they settled out of court.  But, yes, for three years I fought six evictions.  It was like getting evicted every six months.

GuidingStar:  Did you ever actually have to move?

Bernadette Manning:   No .... but you see, they said they were going to demolish the house.  But this is a heritage house, it was built in 1853, and, thank God, Markham does protect their heritage.  So I went to the Markham Heritage Committee and told them what was going on.  I had talked to the surveyors and knew exactly where the highway was going, before it went in.  The committee got heritage status put on the house and thatís what saved it.

GuidingStar:  So, you donít own the house...

Bernadette Manning:  No, I donít.  I rent from the Ontario Government, the Ontario Rental Corporation. (Bernadette had explained that the land had been expropriated in 1975 for the planned Pickering airport)  I would love to buy it, we were all promised we would have the right to purchase it back.  But that was another right that we were denied ... the people who were promised the first right of refusal have been denied that right, over and over again.  I mean, this is a snowball effect, how government does not represent the people.

     We returned to one of the pressing issues facing Markham residents.

GuidingStar:  One of the issues is gridlock and that is an issue in the campaign that all the candidates talk about.  Some do talk about expanding the roads, to make more room for the cars ....

B.M. And they think that is going to solve it.  Roads donít solve traffic problems, they create them.  I mean, if you never had a road, you wouldnít have gridlock.  You wouldnít have a traffic problem.  I mean, there is the Havelock line right out back there.  It used to run Go Trains years ago, from the city right up to Havelock, an hour and a half north.  Now, very few use it, a couple of freight trains every now and then.  Instead of trucking goods, we should be moving them by rail.  It makes sense, but government doesnít do things that make sense.

G.W.  But increasing rail transportation, are the lines available that could be used, or does that involve putting in new lines?

B.M.  I think the lines are available but they are starting to rip up lines.  Instead of utilizing them they are tearing them up, which is absolutely ridiculous.  I canít see expanding any more roads.  They talk about, okay: this is part of the Rouge Park and the green belt (and create) bicycle paths.  But you get on a bicycle path and it goes so far, and then it stops.  What are you supposed to do?  Get off and turn around?  Bicycle paths have got to be interlinked so that you can get everywhere.  Wherever you want to go, you should be able to walk, bicycle, whatever.  You shouldnít have to drive the car.  But they are making us car dependent.

      When we came back to the issue of health care, it was clear that this issue also had become a very personal one for Ms. Manning

GuidingStar:  What about the other issues that you mention, such as health care?

Bernadette Manning:  Well, as far as I am concerned, health care is an environmental issue too.  Childhood asthma is on the rise.  Cancers are on the rise.  Our health care line ups are going to continue to grow unless we clean up the environment.  My brother-in-law passed away January 10 from an asthma attack, 56 years old.  That is definitely related to the environment.  Iíve always heard the numbers, 1600 people die in this province alone every year from smog related illnesses.  But when it hits home, those numbers mean a lot more.  And the line ups will be right out the door and down the halls, in hospitals.  They are now.  And why are people lining up?  A lot of it is cancer care.  There are more cancers now.  My father died of a brain tumour.  It was six awful months of watching him deteriorate.  And he worked at the sewage treatment plant, down on Beachgrove.  He was around toxins and all kinds of stuff all his life down there. 

     Itís the air we breath, the water we drink, pesticides on the food, spraying our lawns.

    Education is a big concern to many people in Markham-Unionville.  We asked Ms. Manning about her views, and those of her party, in this area.

Bernadette Manning:  I believe, and the Green Party believes, that every child should have the benefit of post-secondary education, regardless of the funds being available through the family.  It is selfish to deny a child an education.  We need an educated society to have a strong economy, to have a good environment.  People need to be educated, to know the difference.  It is ridiculous to go through college or university and have a loan the size of a mortgage when you come out.  How do you get ahead?  You donít.  And itís creating a gap.  The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.  And it is a vicious cycle unless we change the ways. 

GuidingStar:   So, youíre mainly concerned about the economic impediments to somebody getting to attend university.

Bernadette Manning: ... There should be more grants for students that are from low income families.

GuidingStar:  On issues, like class size, has the Green Party elaborated a policy?

Bernadette Manning:  I would rather see a smaller class size, for obvious reasons.  But there are also a lot of kids who have learning disabilities.  These kids are not getting the support they need.  I just got a call from a mother the other day whose child has been diagnosed as LD.  And they are telling her she can have core resource, which used to be twenty minutes a day, now itís forty minutes a day.  But the problem is, if the core resource teacher isnít there, and there are so many kids that need that help, they are not getting it.  So, I think, more important than class size is the support for children with learning disabilities, or different forms of autism, or ADHD, or ADD, to get those children more support.  Because the children in the regular classroom that are doing just fine will continue to do just fine.

GuidingStar:  There was an article in the paper the other day that York Region is now charging for tutoring.

Bernadette Manning:  That is just disgusting.  I mean, we are letting them fall through the gap again.

    There has been a great deal of debate recently about raising the minimum wage.  Ms. Manningís position was very clear on this question.

Bernadette Manning:  Ten dollars an hours is not that much money to support yourself on.  The Green Party has always said ten dollars minimum wage, right from Ď99 when I first ran, that was always in the platform.  I mean, what is the big deal?  They give themselves a twenty-five per cent raise, and then tell the working poor you canít have a ten dollar an hour minimum wage.  Itís selfish. 

We asked Ms. Manning about the perception the public may have about the Green Partyís chances of electoral success.

GuidingStar:  What do you say to people who might say, well, I am wasting my vote if I vote for the Green Party?

Bernadette Manning:  I say, you are wasting your vote if you donít vote for the Green Party because the future is too valuable to just keep neglecting, thinking that, Ďwell, weíll get these guys back in, maybe they will change their tune and start doing somethingí.  The Green Party was formed for sustainability and, Iíve been running for eight years now, and it may take me another eight.  But I will continue, because I believe in it.  I strongly believe that we have to make the world a better place.  Itís selfish not to.  Itís unethical.

GuidingStar:  There will be a provincial election in October.  If you are elected in this by-election, do you that this might spur the Green Party to do well in the next election?

Bernadette Manning:  I think we just need to get one person elected from the Green Party and then we will be invited to the televised leadersí debate which is something weíve been denied. (She spoke of the difficulties in running for a party that has not been electorally successful yet.)  Apparently Rogers Cable had a debate this past Wednesday and I wasnít invited.  Iíve always been invited before.  I donít know why I wasnít invited.  But they said ĎWeíre doing another one this coming Wednesday and we are going to have the Green Party, the Libertarian Party and the Freedom Partyí.  But, I mean, an all-candidates debate should include all candidates.  Thatís democracy ... I mean, why would they exclude anybody?  And Iíve battled before.  When the Board of Trade did their debate the first time I ran they told me there wasnít enough room on stage, at the Crystal Fountain Ball Room!  ... But I shouldnít have to do that.  I have put my money forward.  Iíve put myself forward ... I deserve to be heard, like everybody else who is running. 

    You can read more about the Green Party of Ontario on their website www.gpo.ca.


 
    Click here for the highlights of our interview with
NDP Candidate Janice Hagan.

    Click here for the highlights of our interview with
Liberal Candidate Michael Chan.

    Click here for the highlights of our interview with
PC Candidate Alex Yuan.



 


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