Candidate Q&A – Mark Vercouteren, Green Party

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Mark Vercouteren

Mark is a first generation Canadian who grew up in Chatham-Kent, spending his teenage years helping at his parents fruit stand business.  It involved dealing with farmers in the Chatham-Kent-Leamington riding.  In 2012, he moved back to Chatham-Kent, and just bought a house in Chatham with his wife of 10 years and his elderly cat.

He is excited to be the candidate for the Green Party again and looks forward to serving the people in the Chatham-Kent-Leamington riding.

Mark believes in a government that sees the big picture and best practices which drew him to the Green Party.  He demands solutions that look at what works instead of just zombie policies. We need plans that do not just focus on the next election but our future, and generations.  Mark continuously studies best practices for good government.

Mark has B.A.s in Physics, and Math from the University of Waterloo.  His previous jobs:  farm worker, working at his family’s fruit stand in Blenheim, retail, IT/ Technical Support, teacher. Presently a Customer Service Rep., he has 15 years experience at various call centres.  Mark ran provincially in Kitchener-Centre, 2011; Essex, 2014; and federally in Chatham-Kent-Leamington 2015.  Mark supports Blue Dot in Chatham-Kent.

Mark enjoys reading, history, podcasts, Canadian, and US politics. Also biking, gardening, baking bread from scratch, local foods, and he is Roman Catholic.

Would you make changes, and if so, what, to the Green Energy Act?

The Green Energy Act must be modified to work with communities, and not imposed by corporations that are not accountable for their actions.  We can provide incentives without entering long term contracts to buy energy at higher rates than we are selling.  There were several factors that caused the price of hydro to increase that are not connected to the Green Energy Act.  For example, we can reduce cost by not repairing nuclear plants which is not cost effective.  We can develop an energy policy that will benefit individuals, communities, and organizations.  Businesses benefit from the ability to produce energy by putting solar panels on their roofs, and this can be expanded to benefit schools, and hospitals.  Also, we should focus on the need to reduce energy by retrofitting homes, and business to be more energy efficient.  This will create jobs and reduce demands on the grid.  Renewable energy is a job creator, and the only option available to expand energy development to meet our needs for cheaper electricity.

Ontario electricity prices continue to spiral upward.  What should be done to stop the increases?

The main solution is to stop wasting billions of dollars rebuilding our nuclear power plants that use outdated technology.  Instead we can change to the more cost-effective method of buying water powered energy from the Quebec.  We can also stop selling our extra energy at a loss to the US.  Along with that the Green Party will provide more incentives for retrofitting homes, and business to reduce energy usage.  While reducing demand will not work in directly reducing cost, people will benefit by paying less for energy by using less energy.  This will work better than borrowing money to provide an immediate relief.

How do you think the increase in minimum wage has impacted the Ontario economy?

The increase was necessary but clearly happened too fast for businesses to adjust.  It benefited the economy by providing more buying power to people who are more likely to shop locally and work at large businesses.  Many people working for years at the same stagnant pay rate only received an increase in their wages because of the min wage increase.  However, it had a negative effect on small business.  Those that can only pay min wage were forced to pay more.  Local business who paid their employees well found themselves with employees at the same pay rate as less skilled workers.  This is why the Green Party wants to reduce payroll taxes, it will help businesses, and their employees.  Economies benefit most when the wage of the average worker is increased, and not the few top earners.

In terms of health care, what do you feel the spending priority should be?

The Green Party’s focus is on health care not sick care.  Health promotion, and early intervention with the point that prevention is a more cost-effective focus for our health care system.  We also believe that a universal dental care program, and Pharmacare program will pay for itself in the savings in produces in the long term.  Expanding Nurse Practitioner led clinics will reduce cost and wait times.  Along with that expanding home care, and long-term care will provide important benefits.  At the same time, we will reopen hospital beds, operating rooms, and services based on the population’s need.  It is also important to increase midwifery training, and birthing centers with the understanding that obstetricians are available in case of complications.  Even when the woman does give birth in a hospital the stay is shorter as the mid-wife provides the necessary follow up care.

The province has a debt of more than $320 billion, running a deficit this year of about $6.7 billion.  What has to change?

I would like to start by expressing my outrage how the deficit is used every election for parties to attack each other.  One party will make a big deal about the present deficit only to create a bigger one while in power.

To answer your question, we can start by closing the nuclear power plants, and redirect energy from Quebec water power to save $1.1 billion a year.  Next by raising taxes on the largest corporations by 0.5%, increasing the income tax rate of the top 1% of income earners by 1%, and through a housing speculation tax we can generate more revenue that can be applied to the deficit.  Tax cuts do not create jobs, and tax increases in small amounts will not cost jobs.  We can also streamline government programs to make them more cost effective with a Basic Annual Income.

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