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GuidingStar.ca Interviews
Progressive Conservative Party Candidate
Alex Yuan

    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 reports.

    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 1998.

    Here are the highlights of our interview with Alex Yuan.

GuidingStar:  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?

Alex Yuan:  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.

GuidingStar:  Have you been involved in electoral politics before?

Alex Yuan:  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?

Alex Yuan:  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 place.... 

  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.

Alex Yuan:  ...  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 discuss.

Alex Yuan: 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 families.

GuidingStar:  So, how can the provincial government help to relieve the traffic problems in Markham?

Alex Yuan:  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.

     Mr. Yuan believes there needs to be changes to the way the health care system is funded and was particularly critical of the health care premium.

Alex Yuan:  ... 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 premium’.

    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 premium.

GuidingStar: 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?

Alex Yuan:  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.

GuidingStar:  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.

Alex Yuan:  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.

GuidingStar:  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?

Alex Yuan: 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.

Alex Yuan:  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. 

Campaign Manager
 Pauline Browes,
Former Federal MP
 and Cabinet Minister

GuidingStar:  Will it be the policy of the Ontario Progressives Conservatives to continue transferring responsibilities to the municipalities (as under the Harris/Eves governments)?

Alex Yuan:  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.

GuidingStar:  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?

Alex Yuan:  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. 

GuidingStar:  Well, politics can be pretty demanding ...

Alex Yuan: 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 for them. 

    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

GuidingStar:  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 Markham?

Alex Yuan:  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.

GuidingStar:  You see yourself as someone who can represent the whole community of Markham.

Alex Yuan: And I believe every candidate should believe in that.

    You can read more about Alex Yuan and the Progressive Conservative Party at www.alexyuan.ca.


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

    
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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