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Marc Laferriere (Brantford-Brant Federal NDP Candidate) and other declared candidates spent some time recently answering questions posed to us by The Sputnik – Laurier Brantford’s official student newspaper.  You can see and contrast edited answers from all the candidates here.

The answers edited for space of each candidate appeared in the Sept 9, 2015 edition of The Sputnik.  Here are Laferriere’s answers in full to help voters as they decide who they will be supporting locally on October 19th.

1)     What made you decide to run?

When I was 14 I first got involved in politics at the local level.  I was involved in student leadership at my highschool in Brantford.  We didn’t have any city bus access while all the other highschools in the city did.  It prevented students from being able to access co-ops and be involved in extra curricular activity.  I made a petition, got signatures, mobilized friends and went to city hall with several of them.  We filled the chamber and got every recommendation we had put into practice.  That route is still one of the most used bus routes in the municipality.  I guess you could say that’s when I got the political bug.

2)     Where do you think you stand in this election/competition?

I think this election locally is between myself and the local Conservative candidate Phil McColeman.  Last election I worked hard and learned a lot. I came in second with more votes than all the Liberal, Green and Independent candidates combined.  Since then I have been at doors every month, hosted dozens of events, been to hundreds of community gatherings, been a guest speaker at countless classrooms and community events, started a small business, sat on charity boards and not for profits and got to know the needs of our community even more intimately.  This riding was NDP for over 20 years and I think it is ready to go back to those roots because successive Liberal and Conservative governments haven’t been the right fit for our riding on the federal scene.

3)     Who are your biggest supporters?

The support is very broadly based.  I’m seeing great response in most corners of the community.  Over 700 people attended a recent rally with myself and NDP Leader Tom Mulcair in Brantford.  To put that in perspective my first NDP meeting in Brantford had 6 people attending, my first rally had maybe 30, my first nomination meeting had 120 in 2009 and we thought we were doing really well then.  Even when I had Jack Layton come to town between 2009 – 2011 we had about 300 attend at our peak events.  I try to be the least partisan-partisan politician that I know and I have been very lucky to gain support from voters who traditionally vote Liberal, Green and even Conservative.  Each party has progressives and I am seeing a lot of support from across political lines that I am really thankful for.

4)     What major changes do you intend to bring to Brantford?

I think it is frankly time for some new voices to be heard more often.  I started running when I was just 28 and am now 34 and this riding has an incredible number of people that have excellent ideas but don’t feel heard.  It’s not just time for a new leader but a new style of leadership locally too – a little younger, hungrier and more focused on the next 40 years instead of the next 4.

I was lucky enough to have my political work endorsed by Harvard professor Marshall Ganz who has worked with Barack Obama, Robert Kennedy and many others.  I don’t focus on big spending and flashy advertising when I run but instead on community development priniciples.  Let’s pick up garbage as we go knock on doors, let’s hold free or inexpensive events while the traditional parties hold expensive dinners and galas.  When Justin Trudeau came to town to have one of several $90 a-plate dinners I had a 90c dinner with Jack Layton and another later with Deputy Leader Megan Leslie.

Politics in Canada needs to change.  And in order for other politicians to begin to make those changes they need to see it can work.  I hope that doing things differently, more accessibly and community focused could be a lasting legacy that catches on across the country.

My specific work as MP would be geared towards tangible things like increasing transit links in the community, working to make housing and renting more affordable and doing the best constituency work this riding has ever seen using my background in social work and community development to make those things happen.

5)     What are your top priorities?

My personal priorities are family, community and country in that order.  I’ve been blessed to have an incredible wife and family that has stuck with me through all these years trying to do political and community work.  We live in this amazing part of the country in Brantford-Brant with the riding being urban, rural, first nations and multicultural.  We live in a country that as Jack Layton once wrote is “one of the great hopes of the world”.

In terms of issues there are so many.  Quality and quantity of jobs, health care and affordability are three of the top issues I hear about so often at the doors.  We can do better in this regard.  Jobs have been stagnating and we can invest instead in training, innovation and helping small business hire.  The health care system needs fixing to make sure that it is the best it can be.  We should be working with the provinces on a pharmacare program that will save money and cover people’s medicine.  We pay so much for medicine right now and if we bought in bulk we could put the billions we save back into health care.  The other parties have poked fun at me on affordability issues but I see the cost of housing, heat, hydro, food, child-care, ATM as well as banking and credit card fees and we can make the changes needed to make life more affordable.

One of my top priorities will be to utilize my social work, community building and work ethic to be the best constituency MP this riding has ever had.

6)     What is being done specifically for unemployment?

I understand why this issue is top of mind for so many.  The latest studies in Brantford have our unemployment rate at 7% which is just the percent of people who are looking and have no work.  That number doesn’t account for people who are underemployed, who are on social assistance or disability who are no longer looking and have given up and it doesn’t include those who had to take early retirement after being laid off.

The plan of Conservatives and Liberals to just give blanket no-strings-attached corporate tax cutes to the biggest corporations and hope they spend that money on job creation hasn’t worked.  We’ve lost 400,000 manufacturing jobs – including nearly 4000 here in Brantford.  A recent study from the CIBC said job quality in Canada is the worst it has been in at least 25 years.  There are still 200,000 fewer Canadians working than before the last recession and we are in recession again.

So what can we do?  We need to invest in education including skills training, help small businesses who hire more often by lowering their taxes from 9-11%, cap credit card swipe fees that take a lot from businesses to pay for perks and point systems and instead encourage hiring with an innovation tax credit.  We’re also proposing a $15 minimum wage for workers in federally regulated industries, which will help over 100,000 Canadians and help send a signal to the provinces who create the minimum wages for everyone else that someone who works full time shouldn’t live in poverty.

I also personally believe that the issue of temp work in our community needs to be addressed by government.  The provincial Liberals have fumbled on the regulation of temp agencies and it hurts so many in our community.  I believe we can reduce the Federal HR burden for companies so that hiring temps is less desirable and we should have any company applying for federal grants and loans disclose if they use temp workers and what their ratio of temp-to-permanent workers is before handing them any federal funds.

7)     What is being done specifically for housing?

I was proud to be one of the members of the local committee that helped to write Brantford-Brant’s 10 year affordable housing program.  It becomes very apparent to anyone working on projects like that how important and needed federal leadership is on that issue.  I happen to know this personally as I was raised in public housing as a young person.  It was a rough experience that also taught me at a very young age to not be judgemental.  A lot of the young people I grew up with are dead or in jail and I might have been too if it wasn’t for my grandparents finding a way to move us out.

Housing is a right and affordable housing is one of the few ways that governments can help their communities while also having a physical property asset as well. It is a win-win morally and economically.  As a former National Director of Canada Without Poverty and the former Coordinator of the Brantford-Brant Roundtable on Poverty I’ve seen study-after-study showing that when we invest in affordable housing we lower costs in the health care, mental health and justice systems.

New Democrats have the strongest record of advocacy on affordable housing and this election alone we have proposed a tax break to encourage the construction of 10,000 affordable rental units in the next 10 years, $5 billion by 2019 to help cities fund infrastructure like affordable housing and transit, continue the $440 million Ottawa invests currently, invest in shelters for survivors of domestic abuse to help create and renovate hundred of shelter spaces and help housing cooperatives by renewing operating agreements as some examples.

8)   What is your campaign theme?

I launched my campaign officially in January with an event called simply I’m Ready 2015. I learned such a great deal between this election and the last and the community leadership and community experience I have been able to bring to the campaign is something I am very proud of.  I’m excited about the prospects of change in this riding.  On social media your readers can go on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and use the #MarcYourVote and #OrangeIsTheNewBrant hashtags to see wha we’ve been up to in the community as well.

9)  Do you have any plans supporting the first nations people in the area?

Absolutely.  I’ve been involved as the local lead on the Shannen’s Dream project for many years which pushes for equal funding for education for first nations children.  Currently its about 30 cents less per dollar than kids in the provincial system and that’s just wrong ethically and economically.

I’ve also been happy to support the Save The Evidence campaign as someone involved in politics and also as a community member through other organizations.  The program is one that will turn one of the last standing residential schools in Canada into a museum of conscience to that horrible time in our history and help to heal our relationships.

No party has sent as many MP’s to Six Nations over the last 6 years as the NDP and we’ve also been able to hold meetings with leadership from Six Nations, Brantford and the County of Brant with Tom Mulcair, several MPs and myself in Ottawa on issues such as outstanding Six Nations Land Claims, Education, the Environment and self-governance.  There is a way through these issues but we have to develop a nation-to-nation relationship with trust and mutual understanding and that hasn’t happened over the last 10 years with the Harper government.

We have made firm committments to:

– Create a cabinet-level committee chaired by Tom Mulcair as Prime Minister to ensure that all government decisions respect treaty rights, inherent rights and Canada’s international obligations

– Call a national inquiry into the issue of the 1,200 missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls within our first 100 days in office.

– Fix our country’s broken treaty process and deal with unresolved land claims.

– Implement the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

– Reverse the dangerous damage done by Stephen Harper with bills like C-38 and C-45 by putting teeth back into the environmental assessment process, working to protect our lakes and rivers and repealing Bill C-51.

– Take action on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations on a priority basis established in consultation with Indigenous communities.

– Improve essential physical infrastructure such as housing, roads and drinking water facilities.

10) Do you have any Laurier specific plans?

I love Laurier.  I had the pleasure of being one of the student leaders who helped transition Laurier into Brantford when I was a local high school student.  I also worked for Laurier Brantford just last year in the department of social work.  As someone who grew up in poverty I was blown away by the idea that our city would have a university – let alone that I’d one day get the opportunity to work there.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with faculty and students there for years (many of whom volunteer on my campaign) and know its positive economic and social impacts on the community.  I look forward to working with Laurier on smart expansion and on ways we can help federally to increase the variety and depth of the programs here.

I also fully support my friend and NDP MP Rathika Sitsabaiesan’s Post Secondary Education Act which will help to protect principles of free and independent academic inquiry, autonomy and access and affordability for Canadians to be a part of our post-secondary education.

11) How do you expect to get Laurier students excited about voting?

Students anywhere just want politicians to be real with them.  They are critical of our systems and know we can all do better.  I find by being frank, not just saying what I think they want to hear and by listening students get excited.  I’ve worked at Laurier, I teach at Mohawk College now and I’ve always found that post-secondary students simply want a seat at the table.  They want to be heard and they have great ideas and deserve to be at that table.

Every year I hold a free youth leadership conference in the community to remind people young and old how important student voice is in our community.  We have one of the most active youth teams in Canada here in Brantford and I was so excited when we elected the youngest riding association president in history here just a few years ago.  This campaign we’ve worked with youth to create videos with and for them on voting topics and will be holding a youth ideas incubator night led by young people in the community for young people.  Anyone looking to be a part of that should email me anytime at marc@marcyourvote.ca

There isn’t anything special you do to get younger people excited about politics.  Be straight with them.  Offer them meaningful opportunities to develop and share.  Talk with them and not at them.  Listen and be real with them.  Same as any other voter. There is a democratic deficit in this country and I’m part of the generation under 35 guaranteed to do less well than their parents unless we change things.  I have very high hopes that this election we will see exactly that and that my generation and the next generation coming will be the ones to push this through.  We have to unless we want more of the same.