toban-leckie-1
Pictured: Toban Leckie of the Strength in Democracy Party

 

Arthur: I don’t think a lot of people know about your party, so can you give us some context to what you’re all about?

Leckie: It was started in late October of last year when two MPs left their parties. One left the Bloc Quebecois and one left the NDP. They both left for more or less the same reason. They felt as though the large party line and party interests were a variety of portfolios. The fact that it was absolutely necessary for them to vote along those party lines made it impossible for them to represent their ridings. For instance, with the NDP candidate Jean-Francois Larose, there was a trade deal that Mulcair was in favour of, and I believe the NDP voted in the favour of this trade deal, and it was going to ultimately result in job losses and manufacturing sectors in his riding. So, naturally, his riding was like, “What are you doing? You have to speak to this.” He was continually told by the NDP headquarters that he couldn’t say a word. You know, it sounds bad on the NDP but it’s how all the parties function. It’s party discipline. And so, at a certain point, [Larose] said, “I was elected to be the voice of this riding.” So, Francois left and started his own party. They also brought another candidate, Manon, from the NDP party.

The basic premise of our party is that it’s a regional focus and it’s looking at a type of federalism. Instead of seeking a national vision on all the party platforms, we’re looking instead to community organizations and municipal leadership to come up with policy options for specific regions. So, you strengthen the regions and in so doing, strengthen the country. What that looks like is free voting on all issues by the MP’s as well as the space to organize with community leadership in development of policy specific to riding’s. It’s a more participatory democratic process and in terms of where we fit on the spectrum, I think you’ll find some MP’s will be more centrists; I’ve met everyone who is running except Manon, no one is right of centre.

 

Arthur: I don’t think a lot of people know about your party, so can you give us some context to what you’re all about?

Leckie: It was started in late October of last year when two MP’s left their parties. One left the Bloc Quebecois and one left the NDP. They both left for more or less the same reason. They felt as though the large party line and party interests were a variety of portfolios. The fact that it was absolutely necessary for them to vote along those party lines made it impossible for them to represent their ridings. For instance, with the NDP candidate Jean-Francois Larose, there was a trade deal that Mulcair was in favour of, and I believe the NDP voted in the favour of this trade deal, and it was going to ultimately result in job losses and manufacturing sectors in his riding. So, naturally, his riding was like, “What are you doing? You have to speak to this.” He was continually told by the NDP headquarters that he couldn’t say a word. You know, it sounds bad on the NDP but it’s how all the parties function. It’s party discipline. And so, at a certain point, [Larose] said, “I was elected to be the voice of this riding.” So, Francois left and started his own party. They also brought another candidate, Manon, from the NDP party.

The basic premise of our party is that it’s a regional focus and it’s looking at a type of federalism. Instead of seeking a national vision on all the party platforms, we’re looking instead to community organizations and municipal leadership to come up with policy options for specific regions. So, you strengthen the regions and in so doing, strengthen the country. What that looks like is free voting on all issues by the MPs as well as the space to organize with community leadership in development of policy specific to riding’s. It’s a more participatory democratic process and in terms of where we fit on the spectrum, I think you’ll find some MPs will be more centrists; I’ve met everyone who is running except Manon, no one is right of centre.

Arthur: I was at the Social Issues Debate on Tuesday at Market Hall. I noticed that in comparison to the other candidates, you were quite candid. Would you say that this reflects your party approach?

Leckie: Yeah, absolutely. Part of the reason our politics are broken is because politicians lack certain principles around issues. They instead look for ways to appeal to as many voters as possible. At the environmental issues debate, I talked about the need to raise taxes. Parties know that that doesn’t generally sell well to their voter base, so they rarely would admit that they’d raise taxes. So, with concerns about the environment, concerns around the crisis that we’re facing around healthcare with the baby boomers aging, it’s all going to cost something and people have to be willing to pay for it. To my mind, we do need to raise taxes. Certainly, we should be strategic about corporate taxation so that people bringing in a ton of money, who aren’t paying much in terms of taxes, get taxed. We need to change the spirit of our taxation. Skinner will say, “Well, if you increase corporate taxes, they will bring down the wages of their employees or fire them.” That’s not realism. It’s a conservative neo-liberal approach to how an economy works. We just have a different approach.

Arthur: How does your party plan on responding to the crippling student debt in Ontario?

Leckie: Governments should not be making profits off of student loans. Student loans are in place to allow people who don’t have the means […] to gain from the advantages of a strong education system. Even matching interest with inflation is fine but my provincial rate for OSAP is 9%, and that’s half of what a credit card is. Say, I take 10 years to pay my student debt, which is not abnormal for some people, they’ll end up making somewhere around $6,500 overall. In terms of debt itself, I think there should be more in place for students to have a flexible schedule. Right now, you can only receive these loan agreements if you’re a full-time student and what that means is that it’s all or nothing. You’re on a loan cycle. If that was changed so you could take three courses so you’re working part time, then perhaps you wouldn’t need as much in terms of a loan. I believe that the profit motive for the provincial and federal government around loans is that they want students to take more money. The ethic around what students are getting out of university and college, or rather what they’re putting into their own education, needs to change. I think that subsidies to tuition would also go along with this. The only reason that education is so much cheaper in Quebec is that it’s so much more subsidized by the province. If we were to value education to the extent that the Quebecois do, our students would be in much better shape.

Arthur: There has been a lot of discussion on how Canada will take the necessary step in terms of National Security, specifically in regards to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, and the whole atmosphere surrounding Bill C-51. What steps does your party plan to take in terms of National Security?

Leckie: I don’t think we have a security issue in terms of terrorism whatsoever. I think that lots of places in the world do, but not in Canada. I find Harper’s emphasis on security around bringing Syrian refugees into Canada is a moral one and demonstrates the institutional racism in play in the federal government right now. I think it lacks humanity, and the fact that Canada is more outraged by his approach to the immigrant and refugee crisis in Syria and Iraq demonstrates how deep seeded his Islamophobia is and frankly, the whole narrative of Islam as being an enemy […] they can’t really get away with saying that anymore, but ultimately the way everything is situated in the media is the West against Islam.

Harper recently announced a $1.9 million research project to look into the causes of terrorism and yet is unwilling to look into murdered and missing indigenous women. The reasons for this, he claims, is that we have all of this security to contend with the issue. What I would contend is that no, we don’t. Those policing forces themselves are locked within a patriarchal and racist foundation in the first place so it’s not being addressed. On the other hand, if he’s right, why do we need to launch an inquiry into the causes of terrorism and launch Bill C-51 when our police and CSIS agencies have been able to manage thus far? Our politics are broken and I think the Conservative government is just pandering to a subset of society that is racist. They’re fear-mongering, there are no principles intact. I don’t think Harper actually believes that there is a terrorist issue at all. Frankly, I think that Trudeau’s endorsement of Bill-C51 (with amendments) was because he was looking like a weak, bleeding heart Liberal to everybody so he had to come down firm on security.

Arthur: So, your party would revoke Bill C51?

Leckie: Absolutely. The risk of Bill C-51 on our Indigenous protesters is pretty terrifying. There’s a subtle link between missing and murdered indigenous women and this position of indigenous communities and the terrorism question.They do come together in Bill C-51. The bill is so vague that writing in the phrase “economic terrorist” or “treason” is subject to the question, “What does this mean?” It would be anyone working against the best interest of the Canadian economy and that would mean unions. Unions and labour rights organizations are not good for profit and are bad for the economy from a Conservative perspective. It’s nonsense.

Arthur: What does the environment mean to your party, and how do you feel about the massive revocation of protected lakes and rivers in Canada?

Leckie: It all ties into an attack on information and knowledge that Harper’s Conservative government has been engaging in over the past nine years; closing down the experimental lakes project, declassifying 2.5 million protected lakes and rivers to 159. That is expressly for the interest of resource development. They’ll say it’s because that program of monitoring was too costly but then what about the long-form census? Was that too costly? Everywhere you look, cuts are being made: CBC, the muzzling of scientists, government scientists not being able to go to conferences to actually discuss science. It’s all connected. Harper has done so much to erode our civil liberties and our democracy that when you talk about all the things he’s doing, you end up sounding like a conspiracy theorist. But it’s really true!

We need to heavily de-fund the tar sands, first and foremost. Whether or not the government is willing to admit it, none of them are coming out strong in this way. The NDP and the Liberals certainly aren’t, and the Greens aren’t even as much as they should, in my opinion.

At some point in the next 40 years, there will be a massive transition away from oil and gas. It’s inevitable. We can either plan for it and move towards it with excitement, enthusiasm, vision, and be global leaders in sustainable energy technologies, or we can be dragged along trying to continue as a resource colony. It will be absolutely to the detriment to our kids, to our environment, and to our economy. This is specifically important to Peterborough-Kawartha. We’ve got all of these manufacturing spaces and when the NDP, Conservatives, and Liberals met with the Chamber of Commerce with some interest groups in Peterborough to discuss some economic development, they talked about revitalizing manufacturing. They don’t want to discuss regional numbers – they immediately jump to the National level. They don’t know what they’re going to bring here and with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), we’re going to be losing more manufacturing jobs. What we would like to see is an increase in research and investment around sustainable energy. This could be an incredible base for employment. All of the old manufacturing spaces are sitting and ready to be used.

Arthur: Peterborough has one of the highest unemployment rates in all of Canada. What does your party have planned to eradicate the unemployment rate and get jobs back?

Leckie: Social issues are interconnected and speak to each other. You can’t just put this much money into pension, and this much money into something else, and hope for it to work. In terms of employment, around 41% of jobs in Peterborough-Kawartha are service industry jobs, so largely impermanent, short-term positions. We would encourage, through tax incentives, small businesses, which are basically the backbone of the economy. Small businesses can find stable, salaried positions. For instance, if a place like Hot Belly Mama’s has a manager who’s been there for three years, we would want to create a salaried full-time position, and in doing so, you’re creating many permanent jobs with total diversity. Instead of having a plan for bringing in 400 manufacturing jobs, you’ve diversified your base.

There are two main industries that we see as being critically important, and one is healthcare. We don’t have enough long-term healthcare spaces, and the baby boomers aging hasn’t even started yet. Provincially, if not nationally, we need to get ahead in that wave by rezoning and renovating or creating new centers for long-term healthcare, which would in turn create many job opportunities. It would also lead to more healthcare positions such as nursing. Childcare, which is a major concern in Canada, can be integrated into the framework for long-term care. In the Netherlands, they have a program where the ground floor has childcare for 80 kids and the rest of the space is for senior citizens. It also closes the gap between the younger generation and elders. It’s important that we have a vision like this. All of this can create employment opportunities.
Also, if we created a climate of sustainable energy technologies, we could bring companies here. We have got the willingness, industrial space, and the vision. We would work with Fleming, Trent, and the rest of the community to create hubs.

Arthur: I was at the Social Issues Debate on Tuesday at Market Hall. I noticed that in comparison to the other candidates, you were quite candid. Would you say that this reflects your party approach?

Leckie: Yeah, absolutely. Part of the reason our politics are broken is because politicians lack certain principles around issues. They instead look for ways to appeal to as many voters as possible. At the environmental issues debate, I talked about the need to raise taxes. Parties know that that doesn’t generally sell well to their voter base, so they rarely would admit that they’d raise taxes. So, with concerns about the environment, concerns around the crisis that we’re facing around healthcare with the baby boomers aging, it’s all going to cost something and people have to be willing to pay for it. To my mind, we do need to raise taxes. Certainly, we should be strategic about corporate taxation so that people bringing in a ton of money, who aren’t paying much in terms of taxes, get taxed. We need to change the spirit of our taxation. Skinner will say, “Well, if you increase corporate taxes, they will bring down the wages of their employees or fire them.” That’s not realism. It’s a conservative neo-liberal approach to how an economy works. We just have a different approach.

Arthur: How does your party plan on responding to the crippling student debt in Ontario?

Leckie: Governments should not be making profits off of student loans. Student loans are in place to allow people who don’t have the means […] to gain from the advantages of a strong education system. Even matching interest with inflation is fine but my provincial rate for OSAP is 9%, and that’s half of what a credit card is. Say, I take 10 years to pay my student debt, which is not abnormal for some people, they’ll end up making somewhere around $6,500 overall. In terms of debt itself, I think there should be more in place for students to have a flexible schedule. Right now, you can only receive these loan agreements if you’re a full-time student and what that means is that it’s all or nothing. You’re on a loan cycle. If that was changed so you could take three courses so you’re working part time, then perhaps you wouldn’t need as much in terms of a loan. I believe that the profit motive for the provincial and federal government around loans is that they want students to take more money. The ethic around what students are getting out of university and college, or rather what they’re putting into their own education, needs to change. I think that subsidies to tuition would also go along with this. The only reason that education is so much cheaper in Quebec is that it’s so much more subsidized by the province. If we were to value education to the extent that the Quebecois do, our students would be in much better shape.

Arthur: There has been a lot of discussion on how Canada will take the necessary step in terms of National Security, specifically in regards to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, and the whole atmosphere surrounding Bill C-51. What steps does your party plan to take in terms of National Security?

Leckie: I don’t think we have a security issue in terms of terrorism whatsoever. I think that lots of places in the world do, but not in Canada. I find Harper’s emphasis on security around bringing Syrian refugees into Canada is a moral one and demonstrates the institutional racism in play in the federal government right now. I think it lacks humanity, and the fact that Canada is more outraged by his approach to the immigrant and refugee crisis in Syria and Iraq demonstrates how deep seeded his Islamophobia is and frankly, the whole narrative of Islam as being an enemy […] they can’t really get away with saying that anymore, but ultimately the way everything is situated in the media is the West against Islam.

Harper recently announced a $1.9 million research project to look into the causes of terrorism and yet is unwilling to look into murdered and missing indigenous women. The reasons for this, he claims, is that we have all of this security to contend with the issue. What I would contend is that no, we don’t. Those policing forces themselves are locked within a patriarchal and racist foundation in the first place so it’s not being addressed. On the other hand, if he’s right, why do we need to launch an inquiry into the causes of terrorism and launch Bill C-51 when our police and CSIS agencies have been able to manage thus far? Our politics are broken and I think the Conservative government is just pandering to a subset of society that is racist. They’re fear-mongering, there are no principles intact. I don’t think Harper actually believes that there is a terrorist issue at all. Frankly, I think that Trudeau’s endorsement of Bill-C51 (with amendments) was because he was looking like a weak, bleeding heart Liberal to everybody so he had to come down firm on security.

Arthur: So, your party would revoke Bill C51?

Leckie: Absolutely. The risk of Bill C-51 on our Indigenous protesters is pretty terrifying. There’s a subtle link between missing and murdered indigenous women and this position of indigenous communities and the terrorism question.They do come together in Bill C-51. The bill is so vague that writing in the phrase “economic terrorist” or “treason” is subject to the question, “What does this mean?” It would be anyone working against the best interest of the Canadian economy and that would mean unions. Unions and labour rights organizations are not good for profit and are bad for the economy from a Conservative perspective. It’s nonsense.

Arthur: What does the environment mean to your party, and how do you feel about the massive revocation of protected lakes and rivers in Canada?

Leckie: It all ties into an attack on information and knowledge that Harpers Conservative government has been engaging in over the past nine years; closing down the experimental lakes project, declassifying 2.5 million protected lakes and rivers to 159. That is expressly for the interest of resource development. They’ll say it’s because that program of monitoring was too costly but then what about the long-form census? Was that too costly? Everywhere you look, cuts are being made: CBC, the muzzling of scientists, government scientists not being able to go to conferences to actually discuss science. It’s all connected. Harper has done so much to erode our civil liberties and our democracy that when you talk about all the things he’s doing, you end up sounding like a conspiracy theorist. But it’s really true!

We need to heavily defund the tar sands, first and foremost. Whether or not the government is willing to admit it, none of them are coming out strong in this way. The NDP and the Liberals certainly aren’t, and the Greens aren’t even as much as they should, in my opinion.

At some point in the next 40 years, there will be a massive transition away from oil and gas. It’s inevitable. We can either plan for it and move towards it with excitement, enthusiasm, vision, and be global leaders in sustainable energy technologies, or we can be dragged along trying to continue as a resource colony. It will be absolutely to the detriment to our kids, to our environment, and to our economy. This is specifically important to Peterborough-Kawartha. We’ve got all of these manufacturing spaces and when the NDP, Conservatives, and Liberals met with the Chamber of Commerce with some interest groups in Peterborough to discuss some economic development, they talked about revitalizing manufacturing. They don’t want to discuss regional numbers – they immediately jump to the National level. They don’t know what they’re going to bring here and with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), we’re going to be losing more manufacturing jobs. What we would like to see is an increase in research and investment around sustainable energy. This could be an incredible base for employment. All of the old manufacturing spaces are sitting and ready to be used.

Arthur: Peterborough has one of the highest unemployment rates in all of Canada. What does your party have planned to eradicate the unemployment rate and get jobs back?

Leckie: Social issues are interconnected and speak to each other. You can’t just put this much money into pension, and this much money into something else, and hope for it to work. In terms of employment, around 41% of jobs in Peterborough-Kawartha are service industry jobs, so largely impermanent, short-term positions. We would encourage, through tax incentives, small businesses, which are basically the backbone of the economy. Small businesses can find stable, salaried positions. For instance, if a place like Hot Belly Mama’s has a manager who’s been there for three years, we would want to create a salaried full-time position, and in doing so, you’re creating many permanent jobs with total diversity. Instead of having a plan for bringing in 400 manufacturing jobs, you’ve diversified your base.

There are two main industries that we see as being critically important, and one is healthcare. We don’t have enough long-term healthcare spaces, and the baby boomers aging hasn’t even started yet. Provincially, if not nationally, we need to get ahead in that wave by rezoning and renovating or creating new centers for long-term healthcare, which would in turn create many job opportunities. It would also lead to more healthcare positions such as nursing. Childcare, which is a major concern in Canada, can be integrated into the framework for – care. In the Netherlands, they have a program where the ground floor has childcare for 80 kids and the rest of the space is for senior citizens. It also closes the gap between the younger generation and elders. It’s important that we have a vision like this. All of this can create employment opportunities.

Also, if we created a climate of sustainable energy technologies, we could bring companies here. We have got the willingness, industrial space, and the vision. We would work with Fleming, Trent, and the rest of the community to create hubs.

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I am currently co-editor along with the fabulous Zara Syed. I’m a Peterborough hobbit, and often find myself writing too much poetry and struggling to be a proper adult. Just kidding, there is no such thing as too much poetry. I spent two years as a reporter before being lucky enough to become co-editor of Arthur. I love journalism of all sorts, but generally focus on music journalism and politics. As a History and English major, I tend to over-analyze everything. Luckily, the journalism world is the one place where that is accepted-one would hope. You can probably find me tucked away in a corner of Peterborough somewhere, scribbling in a notebook frantically over my fourth cup of coffee.