Liberal Party Candidate
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
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.
the highlights of that interview and some of the points made.
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
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....
How important do you think this by-election is to Markham?
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.
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
What do you think you, as a provincial MPP, can do for the issue of
gridlock in Markham?
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
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.
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?
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.
Will the provincial Liberals look to increase funding for VIVA,
perhaps to increase the service, and attract more riders?
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
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.
On education, you spoke on your website about how the Liberal
government has reduced class sizes in the lower grades.
Chan: Oh, so you had some homework
Yes. So, do you think the Liberals will be able to decrease class
sizes further up the age groups?
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
We asked him about the importance of the environment.
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?
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
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
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.