With the 43rd federal election just weeks away, Global Kingston will be bringing you interviews with candidates from local ridings.
We begin with Kingston and the Islands, which was reshaped in 2013, removing a portion north of Highway 401 to include only the township of Frontenac Islands and the city of Kingston.
The Kingston region has been held by the Liberals since 1988.
In the last federal election, Liberal incumbent Mark Gerretsen won the riding with more than 36,000 votes, which represented about 55 per cent of the total vote. His closest competitor was then-Conservative candidate Andy Brooke, who brought in just shy of 15,000 votes, accounting for more than 22 per cent of the vote.
This year, Brooke and Gerretsen will once again face off in the race, but Brooke is no longer campaigning under the Conservative banner. Instead, he’s representing the brand-new People’s Party of Canada.
The Conservative party has put its confidence in Ruslan Yakoviychuk, a first-time political candidate, to run in Kingston and the Islands. He is joined by two other political newcomers, Barrington Walker, a history professor at Queen’s University who is running for the New Democratic Party, and Candice Christmas, a doctoral candidate in the field of health policy and equity who is representing the Green party.
Global News spoke to all of the candidates to see why they chose to run this year and what they would bring to the table if elected as MP for Kingston and the Islands.
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Mark Gerretsen — Liberal
WATCH: Talking with Kingston and the Islands Liberal candidate Mark Gerretsen
Mark Gerretsen was born and raised in Kingston. As the incumbent candidate, Gerretsen is not only a household name in the region but his father, John Gerretsen, was a Liberal MPP for Kingston and the Islands from 1995 to 2014.
The younger Gerretsen was elected to Parliament in 2015. Prior to that, he served as a Kingston city councillor from 2006 to 2010 and then as mayor of Kingston from 2010 to 2014. Gerretsen said he’s running again because he wants to continue the work he’s been doing for the last four years.
“I think about my kids, who are very young, and I think, ‘What kind of world will they live in 50 years from now?’ And I want to continue to help shape that,” Gerretsen told Global News.
The Liberal candidate said he’s been going door to door for the last several months, and he’s heard people wanting to continue down the track that Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have set.
“We can either continue moving forward with our progressive agenda or we can take a step back to the Harper years and start to see on a national level what we’re seeing with Doug Ford and conservatives provincially,” Gerretsen said, adding that most people he’s spoken to while canvassing said they want to continue down a “progressive” path.
Like most of the other local candidates, Gerretsen pointed to affordable housing as a pulse point in Kingston and the Islands, acknowledging the city’s extremely low vacancy rate.
“Affordable housing is something that’s extremely important in our riding. That’s everything between rent geared to income all the way up to affordable mortgages,” he said.
In order to fix the issue, Gerretsen said he wanted to tap into the Liberal party’s National Affordable Housing Strategy to bring money to the area for more affordable housing. He also said he wants to work with the city and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. to increase the supply of housing in the area and get in touch with the mayor’s task force on housing, which is co-chaired by former MP for the region and Gerretsen’s campaign manager, Ted Hsu.
Gerretsen also said he wants to put his political weight behind the fight for pharmacare.
“There are people that live in our community who are making a decision on a daily basis between: ‘Do I eat or do I take all of my medication?'” Gerretsen said.
“These aren’t decisions that people should be making in a country as rich and developed as Canada.”
Gerretsen’s two large accomplishments over the last four years were securing federal funding for Kingston’s third crossing and the reopening of the prison farms, but now that those two feats are accomplished, he wants to look ahead to the future.
“The two things that really come to mind for me are affordable housing and building on a national pharmacare plan.”
Ruslan Yakoviychuk — Conservative
WATCH: Talking with Kingston and the Islands Conservative candidate Ruslan Yakoviychuk
Ruslan Yakoviychuk emigrated from Ukraine to Portugal at age 23 and lived in Portugal for seven years before coming to Canada. After moving to Kingston, Yakoviychuk began a construction business, which he says has flourished into a successful small business.
Now a Canadian citizen, Yakoviychuk says he’s running in the federal election because of his civic pride.
“Canada gave me the opportunity and my family, and now I just want to give something back to this great community of this great country,” Yakoviychuk said.
As a builder, Yakoviychuk says he’s seen Canada’s housing crisis first-hand and, if elected MP, he would focus his efforts on bringing more affordable housing to Kingston and the Islands.
Going door to door, Yakoviychuk said he met a retired couple who have been waiting on a list for the past seven years for an affordable home, and things are simply not moving fast enough. This is something Yakoviychuk says he wants to change in Kingston and the Islands.
As for his stance on climate change, Yakoviychuk says his construction business is a net-zero company. He says he believes in climate change but agrees with the Conservative mandate to use “technology versus taxation” to fight rising carbon emissions.
“We will introduce back green rebates so people can improve their houses, encourage people to invest in their homes and invest in new houses,” Yakoviychuk said.
In the end, Yakoviychuk said the one thing he keeps hearing from people is that life in Canada is too expensive, and he’s running to try to save people money.
“I hear all these people complain, but nobody wants to put a name and fight. I make the decision to be a champion for the people and fight. I represent them and make life more affordable,” Yakoviychuk told Global News.
Barrington Walker — NDP
WATCH: Talking with Kingston and the Islands NDP candidate Barrington Walker
Barrington Walker is a Scarborough native but has lived in Kingston since 2002, when a professorship at Queen’s University brought him to the city. Walker is an associate professor in the university’s history department, where he focuses on black Canadian history, race and immigration.
Walker, a first-time candidate, said he decided to run this year after years of studying and lecturing about political issues in Canada, which made him aware of social issues being ignored.
“I decided that it was time to be more actively involved in trying to address some of those problems.”
The Kingston region has gone to the Liberals in every federal election since 1988, but in the most recent provincial election, residents chose NDP candidate Ian Arthur as their MPP. Walker called that a “great moment” for the area, saying that Kingston generally has “progressive values.”
Walker said if he were to be elected as MP, addressing climate change would be a driving force during his tenure.
“The NDP is really committed to addressing the climate change emergency with a really comprehensive program,” he said.
Walker explained that the NDP will be pushing for a “post-carbon economy” and making sure regular working Canadians are trained in green-sector jobs.
In fact, the NDP candidate says he’s been hearing an overall worry about the job market after going door to door to speak with voters.
“They’re worried that they’re not going to be able to have the same standard of living for their children that they’ve enjoyed themselves,” he said.
Walker said he and his party are committed to pushing back against “precarious, part-time, poorly compensated work,” and that he believes the best way to fight this decline into “casual work” is by investing in unions.
“I think we really need to fight hard — those of us inside and outside the union movement — to make sure that union jobs remain,” Walker said.
Walker also mentioned the shortage of housing and said the NDP is pledging 500,000 affordable housing units across the country, some of which he will push to bring to Kingston and the Islands.
Candice Christmas — Green
WATCH: Talking with Kingston and the Islands Green candidate Candice Christmas
Candice Christmas is originally from Montreal but now calls Kingston her home. She has an extensive educational background, including a bachelor’s degree in psychology and philosophy with a minor in political science, a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in health geography from Queen’s University. Christmas has also spent the last six years studying political economics as she pursues a doctorate.
Christmas says that when she thought about running, there was really one main issue on her mind — climate change.
“My reason for choosing the Greens was pretty straightforward. Elizabeth May is a climate scientist and so if the No. 1 priority right now is saving the planet, I can’t think of a better leader to be working with,” Christmas told Global News.
WATCH: Federal Green Party candidate for Kingston and the Islands, Candice Christmas visits Global News Morning
For Christmas, the Green party has evolved past a single issue, but the party understands that climate change touches different aspects of Canadians’ lives.
“We can’t decouple social safety nets without having a strong economy. We can’t have a strong economy if we’re dealing with a climate crisis,” she said.
Nevertheless, even though the Greens are branching out, Christmas was definite in saying climate change is at the top of her and the Green party’s platform priorities.
Some of the strategies from that platform include refusing to invest any new tax dollars in the fossil fuel industry, electrifying transportation and changing the agriculture sector.
“I’m looking out at Wolfe Island land and thinking we have a tremendous opportunity here in terms of looking at more traditional, family-farm types of farming that don’t produce methane, that don’t use massive amounts of pesticides,” Christmas explained.
She also pointed to retrofitting homes and older buildings in the area to make them more eco-friendly. Christmas says this will not only save people money on their heating bills but also create jobs, all while helping to reduce carbon emissions.
Christmas pointed to leveraging Kingston’s post-secondary institutions to help prepare young people for new green-sector jobs that she says will be in demand in the future.
“The vision is we could get kids as early as high school starting to apprentice in some of these new green industries and then getting their certification here, whether that’s at St. Lawrence or at Queen’s,” she said.
In addition to her climate change policies, Christmas says she feels passionate about creating better local support for youth with addiction and mental health issues in the city.
“What I envision for Kingston is … a healing centre for youth aged 12 to 25 that will allow them residential treatment in terms of being able to have a safe place to stay while they’re dealing with their mental health and addictions issues,” she said.
Andy Brooke — PPC
WATCH: Talking with Kingston and the Islands PPC candidate Andy Brooke
Andy Brooke was born in Montreal and raised in Prescott and Kingston. He’s an alumnus of Loyalist College and Vocational Institute, Queen’s University and Simon Fraser University. Brooke also served almost three decades as an RCMP officer.
Brooke’s political career is less cut and dried. He ran for the Conservatives in the last political election but this year opted to run with the People’s Party of Canada. He officially left the Conservative party in 2018 — his resignation letter remains on his PPC campaign website.
But, in fact, he claims he was actually denied the Conservative candidacy for this year’s election back in 2018, a month before he rescinded his Conservative party membership.
In an email Brooke sent to Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, which is also posted on Brooke’s campaign website, the Kingston and the Islands candidate references a message he received from the Conservative selection committee on Oct. 17, 2018, saying that his candidacy was “disallowed” from the committee.
Brooke’s email goes on to allege that no reasons were given for this decision.
Cory Hann, director of communications with the Conservative Party of Canada, did not respond when asked whether the party disallowed Brooke from running but provided a statement from the party.
“Our rules and procedures are clear — we apply these equally to all candidates in all ridings,” the statement read. “In the rare case a nominee may be disallowed, it is never a decision the party takes lightly. Per our standard practice, reasons for disallowing an applicant are not provided.”
Brooke said he believes the party did not agree with his open support for electoral reform and Kingston’s prison farms.
Nevertheless, Brooke says he has found like-minded people in the PPC who allow candidates to have their own opinions.
Brooke said one of his biggest priorities in running for the 2019 election will be equity for veterans.
“We’re in a really sorry state right now,” Brooke said.
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Other national concerns Brooke pointed to include the persisting issues with the federal government’s Phoenix pay system.
“My first act as a Member of Parliament will be to bring a motion in the House that all MPs forego their salaries until the pay issues are resolved,” Brooke said.
Brooke describes himself as a “climate centrist” and a “sensible environmentalist.”
“I’m not a climate denier. I’m not even a skeptic. I just don’t believe we need more animosity and alarm out there,” he said.
As for local issues, Brooke said he wanted to focus on jobs in Kingston, specifically how to retain Queen’s students who are leaving the city after they graduate, and affordable housing.