Progressive Conservative Party Candidate
On January 26, GuidingStar.ca met with
candidates in the Markham provincial by-election,
scheduled for February 8. Today we present the third of our
Alex Yuan is the candidate of the Ontario Progressive Conservative
Party. Mr. Yuan is the founder of a leading medical software
development company. He has been active in the community and is the
founder and director of the S’port for Kids Foundation. He has received
a number of community and professional awards, including “Entrepreneur of the Year” in 1998
from the Association of Chinese Canadians Entrepreneurs and the
“Award of Excellence” from the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, also in
Here are the highlights of our interview with Alex Yuan.
You have quite an interesting resumé.
You have been involved in the community a great deal. How do feel
that will qualify you to represent Markham in the Legislature?
Well, in the past fifteen or sixteen years, being involved in
different sectors---like youth, seniors, education, board of
governors, including the O.M.A., Ontario Job Investment
Board---literally extended to me the chance to help and work in the
community, and now, by being a politician and serving at Queen’s
Park, I have the chance to serve the community in a bigger way.
Have you been involved in electoral politics before?
No, I have never been officially involved in any politics but over
the last number of years I was fortunate enough to work with former
(Richmond Hill) Mayor Bill Bell, former Mayor Don Cousens and former premier Mike
Harris and a number of different ministers, MPP’s and so forth ...
I have never worn any political banner, stripe at
all until mid-November. But over the last twenty-five years, in
business, I served the community. I understand the community’s
needs in different areas. And for me, being in business ... gave me
an understanding of how business and government have ... a number of
parallels. A government needs to be competitive, accountable and
responsible. For example, why would one company or organization
want to build a business or invest in Ontario? Because they have
certain advantages .... So, we are not really looking within our own
little domain. We have to compete with the outside world.
.... Voters or citizens in general are looking to
and expecting the government to create an environment for them so
they will live and work happy, so that they will have a better
life. I don’t think the voter is looking for the government to give
out free handouts but rather to look after education, health care,
and also spend the tax dollar properly and effectively.
GuidingStar: ... At the provincial level, what can be done to
encourage this economic development in Markham, bearing in mind that
a lot of our international trade, for example, is the jurisdiction
of the federal government?
Right, well, Markham is a unique
area. First I will speak of the diversity of cultures. As you
appreciate, almost one third of our people are of Chinese ethnic
groups, and twenty some percent are South Asian and the rest is, you
know, the mainstream folks and so forth. It is a very unique
Mr. Yuan believes that the provincial government
is underfunding York Region, both in terms of assistance for
integration of immigrants, and funding of the school system.
... So, in other words, what I am trying to say, is that York
Region has been short changed dramatically. By understanding these
figures, the social services, they are literally running on a
shoestring .... And not too long ago, as we saw in the Toronto
Star, our school board is forced to charge 190 dollars to grade 4 to
6 students for tutoring in the basic essentials like reading and
writing and mathematics.... We are talking about those youths who
need the fundamentals and basics. That is another example of how
the McGuinty government is punishing the organizations, like the
school boards which are trying to run efficiently and effectively,
and not giving them adequate resources to do the job. The funding
formula has never been revised and changed since they’ve been in
power for three years.
Alex Yuan with former Richmond Hill
Mayor Bill Bell
The issue of traffic gridlock was a topic Mr. Yuan was keen to
The other infrastructure problem is the gridlock. Everybody sits in
traffic. Residents spend too much time on the road when they go to
work and too much time when they go shopping. We need time for our
So, how can the provincial government help to relieve the traffic
problems in Markham?
Before the McGuinty government came to power, Frank Klees, who was
the previous minister of transportation, started VIVA Phase One
which created HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes, initiated the VIVA
bus system and so on. No question, that concept has to be revised
and also enhanced ...Three years ago, when the McGuinty government
came to power, the town of Markham reminded them we need to have
Phase Two and Phase Three implemented which will then give us a
seamless transit system, which will then provide more bypass and
more HOV lanes, and dedicated lanes for buses. Otherwise the buses
will be sitting in the gridlock as everyone else does.
So, these are the partnerships with the
provincial, the municipal and the federal needed to make this whole
thing work. This is just one of the examples where McGuinty says
‘we need to do more study’, and now three years later---I think
because of the general election coming---they say, okay, we will be
pushing or we will be doing something down the road. But the bottom
line is: we need the shovel in the ground now. We need things
happening now, not telling me another six months later, another
three years later.
Yuan believes there needs to be changes to the way the health care
system is funded and was particularly critical of the health care
... I’ll give you an example, the health tax premium implemented
when (Mr. McGuinty) came to power. I personally have helped get
over a thousand signatures on petitions, and to have them passed
along to Frank Klees, to say to the McGuinty government: this health
tax premium is an unfair tax, you are taxing folks who cannot afford
it. And on top of that, now we have seen them collect it for three
years, the health tax. They spend less than half of that money on
health care, half of that money. So, where does all that money go?
It goes to a general envelope. They put in a fancy label, ‘health
Well, everybody cares about health care. Everybody
understands when they need to find a family doctor, many family
doctors are no longer taking new patients. They understand
when they want to find a specialist they have to wait for months
before they get the first consultation. They understand when
they go to the emergency room they have to wait for many hours
before they are even treated. So this fancy label called
health premium, it sounds good, but did they really spend the money
on health care? As I say, less than half of the money which was
collected is spent on health care.
This health premium ... John Tory spoke on this a
few weeks ago ... he said that with an efficient, effective,
responsible government these health premiums literally don’t have to
be there. And just like running a business---there are many ways
for you to run a business---if you run your business a little more
efficiently, and remove the waste, you can actually alleviate some
of those taxations which add to the burden of residents.
We asked Mr. Yuan his position on the issue of
the minimum wage. He linked the issue to that of the health
Another issue that has come up in the last couple of weeks is the
issue of the minimum wage. What is the Progressive Conservatives'
position on raising or not raising the minimum wage?
Very good question. ... The minimum wage needs to be competitive.
Otherwise a lot of companies, especially the foreign investment
companies, (will) feel, ‘my God, running a business in Ontario, here in
Canada, is costing me a fortune. I’m going to move away from Canada’
. But, on the other hand, let’s focus one step back. Every
employee wants a salary increase, no one wants to have a salary
decrease. When the health premium came, the McGuinty government
literally said to all employees in Ontario ‘I am going to take 300
or up to 900 dollars out of your wallet’. That is the health
premium everyone is now stuck with. So, if we have a government
running more efficiently and effectively, that health tax, or those
other taxes will not be there....
... The citizen is asked to pay more health
premium but gets less. For example, you and I wear glasses. If I
need an eye examination, I have to pay for it out of my own pocket.
If I need physio, or a chiropractor, I have to pay out of my own
pocket. For those folks who earn twenty thousand or less they will
be dinged out of their wallet to pay additional money. They will be
the people who will not be able to afford to pay for those services,
like chiropractor, physio, or eye examinations. They are the people
who are the most vulnerable. So, the government, as I said earlier,
needs to build an environment for the citizens to live and work
comfortably. So, it is not by squeezing more taxes or increasing
salary in order to compensate for the difference.
So, you basically feel (the minimum wage) shouldn’t be raised, or it
shouldn’t be raised beyond what it is scheduled to go up to anyway.
It should be raised but it should be raised at a moderate rate. If
we raise it in an exponential way, we will scare off folks
who want to invest in Ontario. They will say ‘I cannot afford to’.
I think the bottom line is: all businesses want to find a reason why
they want to build a business here, so, (we must) give them a reason
why here is a good choice for them to do it.
But the kind of investment that we want would surely be businesses
that are going to be looking for skilled workers, and for them, the
minimum wage is probably not an issue. Do you really think that
raising the minimum wage would scare away foreign investment?
It is basically the signature .... Just like our hydro and gasoline
prices have shot up, fifty, sixty, seventy per cent.
Mr Yuan was very critical of the Liberal government’s handling of
the property tax assessment.
The property tax assessment is an answer to the taxpayer as to what
the government has in mind ... (but) it is ridiculous for a
government to tell the residents, the Ontarians, to say to them ‘I
am not going to tell you what I have in mind until after the general
elections’.... There are a number of areas in this property tax
assessment, a number of folks getting very nervous, for example, in
terms of folks who own a cottage. And I spoke to a number of
seniors who complained about the property tax. They heard it might
be going up as much as twenty, forty or fifty per cent. It’s
literally the uncertainty, the huge uncertainty ... that drives
Markham residents, that drives Ontarians, absolutely insane.
Former Federal MP
and Cabinet Minister
Will it be the policy of the Ontario Progressives Conservatives to
continue transferring responsibilities to the municipalities (as
under the Harris/Eves governments)?
First and foremost we need to look at what was done. And
subsequently we need to evaluate how the property tax assessment is
done and to create a fair formula and to make it fundamentally make
sense to Markham residents and Ontarians in general. ... The
McGuinty government has been in power for three years and they have
to say ‘okay fine, this is right, this is wrong’ and they have to
respond and answer. They can’t just dig a hole in the sand and hide
and say ‘I am not going to tell you, I’m not going to do anything
for you until a year and a half later’. ... If the government
continues to punish us as a voter, as a taxpayer, as a business
owner, that type of government should not be rewarded. That type of
government should be given a strong message, saying ‘we don’t need
you, and we want you to make changes in due course’.
Mr. Yuan feels that Markham voters
should use the by-election to send a message to the government of
Dalton McGuinty. He has also been assured of an important role
representing Markham in a future PC government.
You mentioned... that Tony Wong left provincial politics because he
didn’t feel that he had a voice within the McGuinty government....
Do you think that as an opposition member, speaking for Markham, you
will be able to have an impact on the provincial government?
Good question. I will say two things. Number one, is to send a
strong message to McGuinty. Markham residents are not happy, are
angry with what the McGuinty government is doing. If the Markham
residents continue to vote Liberal, it is kind of like endorsing.
‘What you do with our healthcare is okay with me’. ‘You create
gridlock, that’s okay with me’. ‘What you do, in not giving me a
response on the property tax assessment, is okay with me’, and so on
and so forth. If Markham residents are sending that kind of
message, of course, that, to me, is a wrong message to McGuinty.
So, if Markham residents say ‘that’s not right,
I need doctors’, ‘whenever I get sick I need to be cured in a
reasonable time so I don’t have too much suffering’, ‘I want to have
the traffic congestion resolved’, ‘I need someone to plan for today
and tomorrow’, and a number of other issues. Those are strong
messages to McGuinty, that say ‘You have a few more months before
the general election happens, you should pay attention now. If you
want to be re-elected again, you better pay attention, serious
attention, to Markham residents today....
Number two, when we win the general election,
when John Tory becomes the next Premier of Ontario, John Tory has
said a number of times to the media and to the public that I will be
the voice for Markham. I will be given the opportunity and the
flexibility to speak on behalf of Markham even though there might be
slight deviations from the party line. Tony Wong ...needed to do
things for Markham, he needed to speak up for Markham. The McGuinty
Liberals did not give him that opportunity, so what could he
possibly do? So, I want to make sure that I will not be Tony Wong
number two. I want to make sure that the Markham residents have a
strong message and I can represent them ... at Queen’s Park, be a
voice for Markham residents.
Well, politics can be pretty demanding ...
Well, I have been warned by a number of folks and so forth.
Well, yes, I have put myself forward to work in public life and for
the last month or so it is getting more exciting. When I talk to
the residents, of course, many of them do not differentiate in terms
of different levels of politics, raising issues that could be
municipal, provincial or even federal. I am excited to speak with
them and to interact with them ... and I will be prepared to work
And, more specifically, over the past number of
years I have worked in different areas in terms of health care,
education, seniors, governance, including the Ontario Medical
Association, have worked with cabinet members. I am prepared to
work with all different groups and specifically different ethnic
groups. That’s a difference between me as a candidate and the
Liberal. And I insist on working and speaking with all the
different ethnic groups. I believe the Liberal candidate is
spending most of his time, unfortunately for Markham residents,
focusing just on the Chinese community. I believe that is wrong
Well, Markham certainly is a
multicultural community. It has the dynamic new, and the historic
old. It is quite an interesting city. How do you feel toward
It’s exciting. It’s absolutely exciting ... Markham is a window of
the future, and again it is fundamental, that to make a community
work you have to make sure that all the ethnic groups are not like
islands unto each other, for that is wrong. We have to get all
ethnic groups working in unity and that is the only way to make it
work. Canada is a gorgeous place to live. Everybody comes here
because it is multicultural but, in order to make the whole
community work, we have to bring everybody together and that is also
part of my campaign. .... yes, I am of Chinese origin ... but I
want to spend adequate time in all ethnic cultures because I do not
represent only the Chinese community. I represent all ethnic groups
and I made that very clear even in the very beginning of November.
You see yourself as someone who can represent the whole community of
And I believe every candidate should believe in that.
You can read more about Alex Yuan and the Progressive Conservative
for the highlights of our interview with
here for the highlights of
our interview with NDP
Candidate Janice Hagan.
the highlights of our interview with
candidate Bernadette Manning.