New Pathway – Ukrainian News.
In the June 7 provincial elections, MPP Yvan Baker will represent the Liberal Party of Ontario in the Etobicoke Centre riding. On the verge of the election, the NP-UN interviewed Mr. Baker about his achievements and platform.
What are the major things you have delivered for the community of Etobicoke Centre in the past four years since you were elected MPP in 2014?
There are several things that have been achieved and I would first single out saving the Silver Creek Public School for children with special needs. This is a school that was going to be sold by the Toronto District School Board and if it had been sold, the services in the school for children with special needs and autism would then have been displaced or lost. I was able to save the school by convincing the province of Ontario to buy it from the School Board. Another thing that I’m proud of is the work that I’ve done on the tunneling on the Eglinton LRT (Light Rail Transit). For two and a half years Mayor John Tory has been planning Light Rail Transit along Eglinton Avenue in Etobicoke and he’s been planning for it to be on the street down in the middle of the road like on Sinclair Avenue. I’ve been fighting to make sure that it will be built underground. In December, I was able to convince Mary Tory to study the tunneling of the LRT and I was also able to secure commitment from the premier that the Province of Ontario would help the city to pay for the tunneling of the LRT. The tunneling study has already begun – the city of Toronto is leading this work and they’re doing the study on the tunneling option as well as the street-level option. This project would be an extension of the Eglinton Crosstown, which is currently under construction, and would go from Black Creek and Eglinton all the way across Eglinton to Renforth and then north to the Pearson Airport. This transit would allow the connection between the corporate centre around the Airport and the transit grid in the city. That corporate centre is the second largest business hub outside of downtown Toronto in Canada. This transit would also allow the city of Toronto to connect its transit with the Mississauga transit where a rapid bus service along Eglinton from Renforth West was recently built. Another thing that I’m very proud of is having persuaded the Greater Toronto Airport Authority not to permanently divert flights which would be landing over our community in Etobicoke. There was no need for this, no benefit to the operation of the Airport, but they were undertaking this plan. I, along with a number of others in the community, fought very hard and we were able to stop them from doing this. I told the GTAA that I would fight against them receiving funds that they wanted for Transit from the province of Ontario if they continued with that plan. The airport was looking at increasing the number of flights over the community by three to four times. That would have impacted people’s quality of lives and their property values. We also worked very hard to expand healthcare locally in the community. I was able to secure funding to expand Etobicoke General Hospital, located on Highway 27. That expansion is currently being constructed. I was also able to secure an expansion of 150 beds at the Trillium Queensway Health Centre. That will help shorten wait times and will provide access to healthcare for people closer to home in our community.
What has been your involvement in the Ukrainian community?
There are a few things that I’m very proud of. First of all, ensuring that the Government of Ontario has included the Holodomor in the Ontario curriculum so that every young person of Ontario can learn in school about the Holodomor. I was able to secure two separate grants of $750,000 each, one a few years ago and one just recently, from the government of Ontario for the Holodomor mobile classroom. Recently I participated in a mission by the Ontario Minister of Health to Ukraine to help support acting Minister of Health Ulyana Suprun as she undertakes reforms of the Ukrainian healthcare system. This includes reforms in telehealth and telemedicine, emergency medicine, mental health training of doctors and nurses and in a few other areas as well. Also, recently the Ukrainian Canadian Congress Toronto branch asked for my help for funding the Holodomor Memorial on the CNE grounds. I was able to secure commitment that should the Liberal government be elected, we will provide $600,000 of funding that was requested by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress Toronto branch. I would also like to mention that I have been an advocate to make sure that Canada does everything it can to support Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion. A number of years ago I was the first politician to go on the record to call on the federal government to provide defensive weapons to Ukraine. I work very closely with the premier of Ontario and as a result on several occasions she has been using very strong language to condemn Russia’s occupation of Ukraine.
It is known that you are a descendant of a Holodomor survivor.
That’s right, yes. My did Ivan and baba Olena immigrated to Canada after World War II and my baba was a survivor of Holodomor. She often said that it was really important that we not only remember the victims of the Holodomor and that we would commemorate the victims, but that we also honor them. For her that meant that we also took steps to make sure that a crime like this doesn’t happen again in Ukraine or anywhere else around the world. That has been a major motivation for me to work on the Holodomor Bus and to make sure that Holodomor is in the curriculum or making sure that we pledge to provide funding to the Holodomor Memorial.
Tell us a bit more about the Ontario’s economy in the light of recent discussions on the federal level that the growth will be slowing down in the future.
The Canadian economy and specifically the Ontario economy has been performing well over the last number of years. Right now, Ontario’s unemployment rate is around 5.6%, which is the lowest it’s been in almost 20 years. The economic growth over the past number of years has been stronger than in any other province in Canada and any other G7 country. We continue to be the leading jurisdiction for foreign direct investment. But not everyone is sharing in that growth and we have a lot more work to do to make sure that everyone does. That can happen through strong investments in education and infrastructure and those are the things that we’ve been doing over the past number of years and that helped grow the economy. Going forward, even the more conservative projections by private sector economists call for a continued steady growth in the Ontario economy. The growth will be largely driven by some of our core sectors, but also by some of our newer sectors, like IT, technology, artificial intelligence, which are growing very rapidly. In some of those areas, like AI, Ontario is one of the leaders in North America, if not the world. We are competitive leaders or working to become leaders in those sectors that will continue to grow in the years to come, and that means more employment opportunity and obviously greater prosperity.
What about Ontario’s manufacturing sector? There is a widespread perception that manufacturing is suffering in Ontario.
I would counter that. If you look at the number of jobs that have been created since the recession, which ended in 2009, the Ontario economy has created over 900,000 jobs, and the vast majority of these is private sector. A big part of that is manufacturing. So, I think the manufacturing sector continues to grow, there are certainly elements of the manufacturing sector that are struggling, but I would argue that that’s not just in Ontario, that’s in jurisdictions around North America and Europe. If we look at out neighbours in New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, their manufacturing sectors have really struggled, more than those sectors have here in Ontario. Those struggles are driven by economic factors, where we have seen a lot of manufacturing move to Asia, changes in how manufacturing is done. But at the end of the day the key to prosperity in any economy will be to make sure that we are creating an environment where the traditional manufacturers are able to succeed, and also where the new manufacturing is able to succeed too. We have been doing that by providing incentives, by trying to keep our corporate tax rate low, by building roads and infrastructure that makes manufacturing business want to invest in Ontario. I think we’ve done a very good job given the global macroeconomic challenges in manufacturing. But there’s more work to do and we’ve got to keep at it.
What is the Liberal party’s mood before the election given that the Party’s current ratings are behind the major competitor’s ratings? What are the major ideas that you think may help counter that situation?
I think that here in my riding in Etobicoke Centre I’m very optimistic about the outcome of the election because I have worked very hard over the past four years and have delivered the results to my community. It’s your local MPP who makes the biggest difference on the issues that matter in your community: on your hospitals, roads, schools, transit. In terms of the general election outcome, I think that there are two very distinct options for people. What the Liberal government has proposed is about investing in the infrastructure and services – in transit, roads, hospitals and schools, and about making sure that those services are available to people. I think especially about the fact that we have many seniors in our Ukrainian Canadian community who need that healthcare. Doug Ford is proposing a platform of cuts. He said he will cut $6B a year in spending and now in addition to that he’s promised a lot of tax cuts, which means he will have less money to spend on those services like healthcare and education. He’s promising a lot of cuts and we’re promising to continue to invest in people and build the economy for the future. I think that is the choice that is before the people of Ontario. And I am optimistic that as we get closer to the election day, people will choose investment over cuts.