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GuidingStar.ca Interviews
Liberal Party Candidate
Michael Chan

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

   Michael Chan is the candidate of the Liberal Party.  He founded and runs an insurance brokerage in Markham.  Long active in the party, he has been President of the Markham-Unionville Federal Liberal Association since 2000.  He is a current member of the Markham Board of Trade.

   We had the opportunity to sit down with Mr. Chan following his participation in an event attended by Ontario Health and Long-Term Care Minister George Smitherman, announcing the new chair of Cancer Care Ontario.

      Here are the highlights of that interview and some of the points made.

GuidingStar:  So, this is a big day, a visit from the minister of health to the riding during the campaign.

Health Minister George Smitherman
 and Michael Chan

Michael Chan:  Yes, since the election was called some ministers have come in and also, I think the same applies to my opponent.  Their party leader came in and other MPPs came in supporting him....This is the general nature of a campaign, especially in a by-election.... 

GuidingStar:  How important do you think this by-election is to Markham?

Michael Chan: Oh, itís important, of course.  The people of Markham have to be represented and I think there are issues there...  the hospital is an issue ... education.  The Liberals have been doing a great job.  There is always room for improvement and if I am elected I want to make sure that progress continues.

            Mr. Chan spelled out the steps that the Liberal government have taken, or are planning, to deal with the issue of traffic gridlock.

Michael Chan:  Of course traffic is always a challenge here.  Our new mayor Frank Scarpitti, mentioned that everywhere he went during his election campaign he had so many people talking to him about traffic.  (Itís the same for me), when I am talking to people, knocking on doors, this issue comes out quite frequently.

GuidingStar:  What do you think you, as a provincial MPP, can do for the issue of gridlock in Markham?

Michael Chan:  I think that what the Liberal government inherited was a gross neglect by the previous government, not that they didnít want to do anything, but they cut taxes so deep that I believe that they didnít really have that much money to address other issues.  And I understand they even downloaded the building of roads and bridges to the municipalities.  So it was a tremendous loading unto the municipalities. 

Since the Liberals took over, we are addressing the situation.  We have the HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes in action.  The Markham bypass is half completed, which is very, very essential, (completing) this truck route so that the trucks will not go through these peaceful and great communities of Cornell and Box Grove.  And as you see they are building roads and bridges at Highway 7 and Warden, four lanes now expanded to six lanes.  Rodick is open now leading into the light industrial area so that some gridlock on Woodbine and Warden has been relieved a little bit there.  So we are building that but, look, roads cannot be built in one day.  Bridges cannot be built in one day.  So it takes time to get the whole thing going.  I think we are on the right track and we need more to be done, definitely

      Mr. Chan told us about his own research into the role of public transit in relieving traffic congestion.

GuidingStar: What do you think is the role of public transit in relieving the situation?  Is there any emphasis on getting people out of their cars and onto public transit?

Michael Chan: Definitely, and as a matter of fact this is a very timely question.

I was riding on the VIVA yesterday.  I went from Richmond Hill station right down to Finch ... And I was quite amazed that the ridership actually is quite good. I was told that on theYonge line, up to Newmarket, the ridership is 12,000 and so it is actually more than I was expecting.  I think a lot of people are starting to use the VIVA, you know, in conjunction with YRT and, of course, in concert with the subway system. I think the public transit will, with more promotion, more awareness, with more people using it, also help to ease the gridlock caused by (so many) people driving their cars.

GuidingStar:  Will the provincial Liberals look to increase funding for VIVA, perhaps to increase the service, and attract more riders?

Michael Chan: Definitely.  I was talking to the person who took me around yesterday and I understand they have 85 VIVA buses and right now all the buses are being used every day.  And they need to have five kept in so that when one needs repairs you have another one there.  Definitely, I think the system is good, the buses are beautiful and eventually they are going to have this wireless feature, to create more benefits, so that there will be more incentive to use the bus. If I get elected, I will relay this message to the government:  ĎYou know what? this is a beautiful transit system and the growth is coming in, more people are moving in here, we should support the VIVAí. 

    The Liberals invested 50 million dollars, and on Phase 2 seven million dollars, and there will be more money.  And I think that Phase 2, in relationship to the express lanes for the buses, that must be constructed as soon as possible too, because without that, the buses cannot move quickly (and people could say) ĎI am caught in traffic, why should I take this bus?  I am going to drive myself, or use some other form of transportationí.  Yes, I would like to fight for more funding.

      Mr. Chan praised the Liberal government for re-establishing labour peace in the education sector.

GuidingStar:  On education, you spoke on your website about how the Liberal government has reduced class sizes in the lower grades.

Michael Chan:  Oh, so you had some homework too ...good.

GuidingStar:  Yes.  So, do you think the Liberals will be able to decrease class sizes further up the age groups?

Michael Chan: Well, you just mentioned that we have been getting more students to graduate.  Their marks are better and class size is down.  Well, there should be a limit, you just cannot decrease the size from 15, to 10 , to 5.  There has to be a reasonable limit.    It will be up to the board to decide whether the class size should be smaller.

     But I think the whole thing is funding to the education system.  The previous Tory government.... Oh God, the main thing I donít want to see is having teacher strikes every other month, when students cannot go to class.  We settled those labour disputes quite nicely.  Right now the time is to work on the teaching, to make sure (the students) get good grades, that they are learning better and there is a better environment for them to learn, better equipment, and accessories for them to learn.  I think that also is the key factor.

     I am proud of the Liberals, how, after forming the government in 2003, on education we have quite excelled in repairing the damage that was done previously.

     On the issue of the minimum wage, Mr. Chan was non-committal about what it should be set at but pointed out that the Liberal government has already increased the minimum once during their term whereas during the entire previous PC government the minimum wage was never increased.

     We asked him about the importance of the environment.

GuidingStar:  The environment is on peoplesí minds--we have had this strange mild winter--and of course the federal government has a lot of responsibilities there, but what can the provincial government do to protect the environment?  Perhaps I am thinking especially of gridlock creating smog and therefore some health issues.  So, is the issue of gridlock, the reduction of car traffic, perhaps tied in with the issue of the environment?

Michael Chan:  Of course, if you have less chemicals bunged into the environment it will make for a better environment.  I think the environment issue will be more and more important nowadays.  The people of Markham want to live in a clean and green environment.

   As you know, the Liberals have increased the green belt, from 800,000 acres of green spaces to 1.8 million acres, this green belt which stretches from the Golden Horseshoe to the Oak Ridges Moraine.  The government has donated the Bob Hunter Park to Markham and I hope that will be preserved.

   The government is very serious about the whole thing.  As you know we have increased the HOV lanes, and carpooling, more people carpooling, meaning less people on the road and therefore helping the environment.

   Also, in terms of the energy sector, as concerns the coal fired generators, since the Liberals formed the government in 2003, the emissions from coal fired generators has been reduced by 70 percent.  This also helps the environment.  We also passed the Clean Water Act which is also helping as well.

   But I would like to see the provincial government put more emphasis into the environment

    Mr. Chan praised the diversity of Markham and spoke of his own experience in managing a large staff in his insurance business, a staff that reflects the diversity of the city.  He referred also to his experience immigrating from Hong Kong at the age of 18 and settling in a new country.  He wants more to be done to remove the obstacles that prevent immigrants from practising their professions in Canada.

   He told us that, if elected, his main priorities will be health, education and traffic.


   You can read more about Michael Chan and the Liberal Party of Ontario at www.votemichaelchan.ca.

   

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

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

    Click here for the highlights of our interview with
Green Party candidate Bernadette Manning.


 


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