Guidingstar.ca Interviews Green
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
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.
What motivates you to keep running?
Manning: Sustainability. I have four
children and itís all about their future.
So, how do you think the Green Party is going to do in the
by-election? Are you getting a good response?
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.
And the environment does tie in with a lot of local issues.
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.
What personal qualifications do you have in terms of...
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.
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.
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.
In terms of resolving the issue of gridlock in Markham-Unionville,
what measures can be taken?
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.
You live almost literally in the
shadow of the 407.
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
When you say that they tried to
silence you, what do you mean?
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.
When you say you were evicted, you
mean they tried to evict you?
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.
Did you ever actually have to move?
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
So, you donít own the house...
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
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 ....
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
But increasing rail transportation, are the lines available that
could be used, or does that involve putting in new lines?
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
What about the other issues that you
mention, such as health care?
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
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
So, youíre mainly concerned about
the economic impediments to somebody getting to attend university.
Manning: ... There should be more
grants for students that are from low income families.
On issues, like class size, has the
Green Party elaborated a policy?
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.
There was an article in the paper the other day that York Region is
now charging for tutoring.
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
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
asked Ms. Manning about the perception the public may have about the
Green Partyís chances of electoral success.
What do you say to people who might say, well, I am wasting my vote
if I vote for the Green Party?
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.
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?
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
here for the highlights of
our interview with NDP
Candidate Janice Hagan.
for the highlights of our interview with
for the highlights of our interview with
Candidate Alex Yuan.