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GuidingStar.ca Interviews
New Democratic Party Candidate
Janice Hagan

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 interview.

GuidingStar:  Janice, youíve run for elected office before.  What keeps you going?

Janice Hagan:  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.

GuidingStar:  To start, in terms of your own personal involvement, you work at a community college ...

Janice Hagan:  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.

GuidingStar:  With respect to the environment, what can the provincial government do?

Janice Hagan:  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:  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 ...

Janice Hagan:  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.

Janice Hagan:  (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.

GuidingStar:  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?

Janice Hagan:  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.

GuidingStar:  Higher densities...

Janice Hagan: 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.... 

GuidingStar: Yes, definitely.  Healthcare ...

Janice Hagan:  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 acceptable.

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 Canadian experience? 

Ms. Hagan wants to see changes in the way social services are funded.

Janice Hagan: 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.

GuidingStar:  People move across municipal borders ...

Janice Hagan:  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. 

We are 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.

GuidingStar:  What about the issue of public transportation and traffic gridlock?

Janice Hagan:  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 ... 

GuidingStar:  You mean in addition to the routes that go along the main arteries like Highway 7 ?

Janice 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.

GuidingStar:  How to bring that about though?

Janice Hagan:  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.

I would 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 .... 

GuidingStar:  A lot people respond to the problem of gridlock by saying we need more roads, more lanes.

Janice Hagan:  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 ...

GuidingStar:  And even the issue of gridlock, I suppose, and other issues, could be related to each other ....

Janice Hagan:  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 through.

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.

Janice 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 www.janicehagan.ca.



    
For the highlights of our interview with Green Party candidate Bernadette Manning, click here.

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

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

 


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