Main-Danforth transit hub a priority: Arthur Potts

Liberal MPP looks to retain seat in NDP stronghold

Making Main Street and Danforth Avenue a transit and tourism hub for the region is a priority, says Liberal MPP Arthur Potts as he runs to keep his Beaches-East York seat in Ontario’s elections next June.

“We have some interesting opportunities for development, we’ve got the new Stouffville line coming through there and the line from Lakeshore East,” Potts said. “We’re going to have trains every three and a half minutes passing that main intersection.”

Creating the hub will be the main issue in the coming campaign for him, says Potts.

Sarah Mallo, who has been nominated to run for the Progressive Conservatives, said she doesn’t know Potts personally and couldn’t comment on his record at Queen’s Park, but she has heard from others that he wasn’t an approachable person.

Aware of the progressive leanings of the constituents in the district, Mallo cited her party’s move away from the right under provincial leader Patrick Brown, saying the Ontario Conservatives even had “socialist policies.”

The NDP isn’t nominating a candidate in the riding until the new year but Jeremy Johnston-Kaye, an executive in the Beaches-East York riding association, pointed to growing income inequality and precarious work as major concerns.

“We are looking for [a candidate] who ideally embodies the values that the NDP are trying to convey, which is somebody who is truly progressive, who believes in social justice, who believes in anti-racism work that we’ve been doing in this riding,” he said.

The NDP have had a stronghold in Beaches-East York for five decades, having lost only two provincial elections in the riding: in 1975 and in 2014 when Potts won for the Liberals.

Potts said the Liberals would continue with their long-term plan of investing in transit and hospitals, while implementing their climate change action plan.

“We’re bringing $1.9 billion per year in revenues from our cap and trade program that we are then directing towards people getting subsidies for ground-sources heat pumps,” he said.

As a party, the Liberals are campaigning on the promise of a “fairer, better Ontario,” alluding to the popular support of Bill 148, which increases minimum wage to $15 by January 2019.

Johnston-Kaye said it was hypocritical the Liberals were now campaigning on the quest for fairness, since they had resisted the urge to substantively increase the minimum wage until the labour movement compelled them to do so.

“Fifteen and Fairness really came from people who were making minimum wage because those part-time workers organized and had strikes and things like that and the Liberals were really the last ones to the party, but because they have power, they were able to eventually pass it,” he said.

Kathleen Wynne announced her support for a $15 minimum wage in May 2017, while NDP leader Andrea Howarth professed her support for it in April 2016.  NDP had earlier called to raise minimum wage to $12 by 2016.

Conservative candidate Sarah Mallo said she “agreed 100 per cent” the minimum wage should go up, but echoed her party’s line that it should be raised incrementally over several years.

Mallo said that she had contacts with business owners who had deep concerns about being unable to absorb rising costs related to rising wages and hydro rates.

“And if they were to do it in increments over a few years, businesses would be able to absorb those costs. And they wouldn’t have to go out of business or wouldn’t result in lay-offs, people wouldn’t have their hours cut,” Mallo added.

Mallo said the Conservatives still believe in being fiscal conservatives in terms of “lowering the deficit, cut taxes and create jobs” but they have changed their direction under Patrick Brown.

“I find that it’s not the party from the past where we only focus on that old boys’ club,” she said. “So if you look at Patrick, he’s not like those leaders that we’ve had in the past. He was the first Conservative leader to walk in the Pride parade.

She cited Brown’s commitment to increased spending on mental health, long-term-care beds and public transit as an indication of the Conservatives’ evolution.

Like Johnston-Kaye, Mallo also criticized the Liberals for reducing healthcare spending.

Other issues on the NDP’s radar are privatization, rising hydro prices and affordable housing, according to Anthony Schein, vice president of NDP’s Beaches-East York riding association.

“If we don’t deal with the affordable housing crisis, we are going to be a city where if you’re not a homeowner or mega-rich, you cannot afford to stay here,” he said. “And that’s going to be the reality if we don’t make a change.”

Also nominated to run in Beaches-East York is Green Party candidate  Debra Scott.