New Democratic Party Candidate
On January 26,
GuidingStar.ca met with candidates in the Markham
provincial by-election scheduled for February 8. Today we present
the second of our reports.
Janice Hagan is running for the New Democratic Party. She is a
long-time activist, having represented the party in three federal
and two provincial elections. She works in student services at
Seneca College and is active in her union where she represents the
interests of a diverse membership. Here are the highlights of our
Janice, youíve run for elected office before. What keeps you going?
The strength of our message and the need for our message at
this time, with the environment in the situation itís in. We have to
keep going till people are ready to listen and theyíre moving
forward and I think this is the time. The mild winter really has
people thinking about the environment ... Plus itís a by-election
so, you know, Markham doesnít have to worry about who is going to
rule the province. Thatís already settled. Itís eight months and I
am going to do such a good job that they will see that in October
they should vote me back again.
To start, in terms of your own personal involvement, you work at a
community college ...
Yes, I work at Seneca College, helping students stay in school,
either if they need English tutoring or study skills. I work with
challenged students. I work with students who havenít finished high
school and need a bit of help with their language skills before
getting into college. I work with New Canadians.
Iím working at the York University site ...I am
also a union rep there so I have represented 700 workers at Seneca
College for about fifteen years now. We have underwater welders and
airplane mechanics and clerks and computer programmers. Itís an
extremely diverse union ... Iíve done a lot of human rights cases.
I have represented support staff from all the
colleges across Ontario for seven years as chair of that division as
well. So I have a lot of understanding of post-secondary education
issues. In the union, I specialize in health related benefits,
appeals and accommodation issues, human rights again with the
disability and accommodation issues. I also have a good
understanding of the health care system and the barriers for people,
how long it takes to get tests that you need.
And I have also three kids in the public school
system so I know a lot about the public school system ...
And I work hard. Iím going to school full time.
I work full time. And I raise my own three kids and my niece as
well, with my husbandís help a lot. I am studying environmental
studies, including ecology, and global warming. I am almost
finished that, should be finished this summer.
With respect to the environment, what can the provincial government
A lot ... The provincial government does a lot of the permissions to
build on land, the environmental assessments, for things like the
Big Pipe, like the extension of the 407 which the Conservatives want
to rush through across extremely sensitive land. We canít be
building the 407 any further. We need to stop putting money into
the highways, obviously fixing potholes, but not expanding these
highways any more. Because that will not reduce gridlock. It will
make more cars and more development. We need to expand the public
transit and the region has a plan. The province needs to fund it.
Because that is good for all of Ontario ....
GuidingStar.ca went on January 7 to Rouge Park on their annual
winter bird count. The park runs through a significant part of the
riding and extends out to the Durham line ...
Yes, and that is another provincial jurisdiction as well, the
parklands and to make sure that they are maintained, not as
recreation spaces for picnics but as habitats for the rare birds and
the plants. My husband is actually on the native plant society and
is working through the wetlands around Markham to store seeds of
indigenous plants and I have to help him store them and shelter them
We discussed the diverse character of the riding,
containing both highly urban areas and farms. Ms Hagan believes
that development should be contained as much as possible within the
already urbanized areas.
(we need to) further intensify the downtown and maintain all the
green spaces. I am much more in favour of pulling down useless
wasted urban space and building that up than bulldozing over more
forests or parklands and then putting more houses and townhouses
there. We need some highrises and we need the infrastructure to be
able to support that. And because of the growth of Markham they are
going to need provincial help with that.
So, as a provincial member will you have significant input into
zoning procedures in Markham that will keep rural areas designated
that way, and wild areas designated?
I think there are two things. We need to educate as we are working
with the regional government about what the sensitive lands are. So
far as I can tell the region seems to have a good idea of that
already but is not often supported by the province, as the Ontario
Municipal Board rules against land that they want to preserve, maybe
forces an airport over here at Pickering which will devastate us
environmentally, forces through a plan like the 407. The city
doesnít have a lot of choices there and the province should be
working with the city to support what they know are sensitive
lands. So long as the city stays with a green space focus I will
support the city (but) I am not going to support the city no matter
what it does. But as far as I know (Mayor) Frank Scarpitti is very
supportive of the Oak Ridges Moraine and keeping the green spaces
.... We have to prepare for almost double our growth in the next
couple of decades. And that canít be done by expanding. It has to
be done through intensification.
And I am sure all three governments are going to have to work
together to get that done. Because the Oak Ridges Moraine supplies
the Rouge River and supplies hundreds of rivers through this area
that go out throughout all of this part of Ontario and we all have
to work together....
Yes, definitely. Healthcare ...
Keep it public. That is really important. McGuinty is going
further down the privatization road than even Mike Harris did. Just
changing the names, keeping it quiet. But our hospital must be
expanded with public dollars not private partnerships, I donít care
what he calls them. There is no room for profit in health care. We
can barely afford it now. You are going to add another fifty
percent so that different for-profit companies associated with our
healthcare system can get their reward. We wonít be able to afford
it at all. So that is the first thing.
We have to keep thinking long term. They are
constantly trying to sell off the future to make a little bit of
extra money today. Yet, a private partnership might look good for
the short term but in the long term we arenít going to own our
hospitals anymore. And we are going to be paying out a lot of
dollars that arenít going to nurses and doctors and the equipment
needed for tests and for moving people through the hospital. So, it
might give us a little extra today to expand a couple of rooms but
in the long run itís going to really increase the cost of public
health care so that it may not be able to be public anymore
Our Markham-Stouffville Hospital needs an
emergency room that is big enough for a city this size. So, that is
something I would be fighting for immediately .... For a city
growing this big, we have a small town emergency room. Itís not
Also, fixing some of the delays and the
unnecessary barriers for health care workers from overseas would
assist us in staffing our hospitals better ... We ought to have
courses here at our colleges and universities that link what theyíve
learned already to what they need to know to practise here. Like a
fast track, instead of treating them like children and making them
start all over again. Because they are not going to do that. I
work with a lot of nursing students with ten or fifteen years
experience as a nurse already. How is that not translatable to the
Ms. Hagan wants to see changes in the way social
services are funded.
We need to take things like social service spending that were
downloaded to the communities and we need to upload that back to the
province .... Because things like social problems are not one
communityís problem, they are a wider community problem, a
multi-community problem. (Look at) the things that Mike Harris
downloaded to the cities that are making it impossible for them to
fund (other) things. Letís face it, if I were poverty stricken Iím
not going to stay in Markham, I am going to move to Toronto, because
there are more services there, there are more food banks, thereís
cheaper housing. So it is not fair that Markham would not
have to pay for that, that that would have to be Torontoís. We need
to do that provincially because people move around to escape
economic problems. So we all need to be doing that provincially,
not at the community level.
People move across municipal borders ...
Especially for economic reasons. ... If you are homeless you are not
going to live here. Like, what street grate are you going to
sleep on? You are going to go to Toronto. So blaming all that on
Toronto is ridiculous.
getting more and more homeless people in Markham. I donít know if
you have noticed. But it is getting scary. You are seeing people
outside of malls, outside of shopping plazas, with signs .... The
homeless problem in Markham is basically hidden because a lot of it
is people sleeping on peopleís couches and young people sleeping
with friends. Itís not always on the street and visible. But the
difference between the rich and the poor is growing in this
community and thatís a problem. Especially if we want to keep it a
nice, safe and productive community.
What about the issue of public transportation and traffic gridlock?
The first thing that I did was I got out of my car and I take the
bus to work every day and thatís what everybody has to do. This is
something that politicians cannot fix alone but we need to set
examples as leaders. I think I am the one only running who takes
public transit ... But we need more people using our transit
system. I like the Viva buses, theyíre nice, you know, theyíre
comfortable but theyíre standing room only right now at rush hour
... We need more (buses) on the road, more frequent. We need to
expand them farther east toward Cornell because we have huge
populations that are east of McCowan. Right now they only go as far
as McCowan. We need to get them to Cornell fast. Because if the
infrastructure is there, people start to use it. ...
We need more local transit too. We need to
support a woman who needs to get to a day care, drop off some kids,
get back on the bus and get to work. And thatís not really supported
now. There just isnít the local transportation, say, between here
and getting to the mall. Other communities a quarter this size have
way more bus routes than Markham does, I mean locally just going
around the streets ...
You mean in addition to the routes that go along the main arteries
like Highway 7 ?
Hagan: Yes, because what good is it
if you drive your car to the bus station to take the bus? You are
still causing a problem, you are still causing gridlock.
How to bring that about though?
We need to take the funding we are throwing away right now on
building new lanes for the 400 series highways which is almost as
much as the province is putting into public transit. We need to put
that into public transit. Yes, we have to fix potholes. We need to
keep our roads in good repair but we should not be expanding them
... to create more air pollution, more traffic, more urban sprawl.
Roads bring traffic. Buses reduce traffic. We need to go with
public transportation. We need to get the subway up to York
University, to Vaughan, up this way. I know Iím not going to
do that in the next eight months! But we need to start looking at
rail transit as a big part of the plan. I like the multi-service
approach of York Region, how we have the GO, we have the York Region
Transit, we have the VIVA, we have the trains as well. We need lots
of choices like that.
like to do some more stuff with bicyclists. Itís not a friendly
town for bikes at all. ... Itís an entire city built around the
automobile and we need some infrastructure money to fix that ....
lot people respond to the problem of gridlock by saying we need more
roads, more lanes.
I have been here for eighteen years. Iíve seen more lanes. Iíve
seen more roads. Gridlock is growing, not shrinking. That is not
helping. The only thing that will help is to get more people onto
mass transit. Thatís the only thing that is going to keep our air
clean enough, you know, so that our kids are not all getting
asthma. I mean, as we double in population we canít just keeping
thinking in the same ways. Thereís no way ...We need to see that
now and have a vision for the future and move toward it or pay a lot
of money twenty years from now to try and fix it.
Itís like the power. McGuinty did nothing about
conservation for four years. We are so behind now that we may not be
able to do what we could have done four years ago if we had worked
on conservation, like California did, like Michigan did. There are
examples in Europe and across the United States, of all places,
where people are doing a lot more to conserve energy than we have
here. So what does McGuinty do? Heís going to maintain the coal
burning plants for a couple more decades. We are going to build
more nuclear plants. This is backwards, archaic thinking. This is
not the way of the future ...
And even the issue of gridlock, I suppose, and other issues, could
be related to each other ....
Itís related to the environment. If they doubled the 407 size and
put more lanes, can you imagine what the air of Markham would be
like? And all that soot ...
The 407 goes
right through the Rouge Valley. All the major arteries are cutting
Every time they
talk abut expanding youíre talking about doing more damage to that
system. We are against the Big Pipe too and draining all that
ground water. You canít replace these things.
I raised the issue of the minimum wage. The NDP supports an
increase to ten dollars an hour. Some maintain it is not good for
business but Ms. Haganís response was immediate.
Hagan: There are many households
where parents are working two or three jobs because the wage they
are paid is not a living wage.
You can read more about
Janice Hagan and the New Democratic Party at
For the highlights of our
interview with Green Party candidate
Bernadette Manning, click
for the highlights of our interview with
Candidate Alex Yuan.
for the highlights of our interview with