Brandon: How would your party support rural education, and what is your stance on the closure and amalgamation of rural schools?
Claude: I grew up in northern Quebec in a farming community, rural. So I’ve been exposed to what kids have to go through in rural areas, and my opinion as a candidate, and hopefully MPP, for SDSG is to support our rural schools. The school is the heart of a village or small town. And once it goes, then the town goes down. So you need that school to keep the young people in your town, or to attract new young couples to live in the villages or the farming communities around there. And I read in a report they did last year, that students travelled an hour and a half morning and afternoon to go to school. That’s long, so my goal is to reduce the amount of travelling, and support as much as we can to keep the schools close to the communities where it’s required, even if there’s less students. You can do combined classes and stuff like that. And as far as the boards, in my opinion, I would keep the four school boards in place, because when you have an organization and you make it bigger, people that are affected lose control. The bigger the board, it’s a lot harder for parents to have a say in what’s going on in their children’s education. New Blue has in our blueprint, education credits. So you can use that money to place your child in public or private school. Your choice. And that follows your child.
Brandon: What would your party do to support small businesses and local commerce?
Claude: New Blue, in our blueprint, is lowering the HST. So from 13% down to 10%, and by leaving the money in people’s pockets…you know a lot more what to do with your money than the government. Governments tend to be less capable of managing money than when it’s in the people’s pocket. So we leave it in people’s pockets and then they spend in their local economy and local stores. And that’s why we estimate that we would grow the economy by 5% a year. And by stopping the wind turbines, which produce less than 5% of electricity, but increase your power bill by 25%, so that amount of money that would be left in people’s pockets and would support the local economy as well. And another pet peeve for me is to identify Ontario products. That was a program before. I want one to identify Ontario produce and products so people know, this is made in China… so to help the local area.
Brandon: North Dundas is a growing community. Are there any projects that would be investment priorities for the province locally?
Claude: The government has different programs to help the local economy. I moved from Alexandria down to Cornwall five years ago, so I’m not that familiar with Dundas itself, and I can only say that our program to lower the HST would help local businesses. I’ve seen in Maxville, they have units. And they converted the old police station as well into four apartments. So this is the type of thing that I would support for each small town or village so people can, if they decide to sell their house, have affordable housing to go to. And that would prop up the economy in all of the riding.
Brandon: North Dundas readers might want to know if you would take an interest in learning more about the Dundas side of the riding.
Claude: Well, I would certainly, as MPP. What I plan to do is these social events, there’s breakfasts, there’s dinners… where non-profit organizations try to raise money. To attend those throughout the riding and find out more of what’s going on in the riding and be available for everybody to get to know the MPP. I just don’t want to go in Toronto and the office in Cornwall. No, I want to be throughout the riding. I grew up on a farm and I loved the country. I was in Alexandria for five years, just outside, I had 25 acres. And I want to support our farming community.
Brandon: What is your take on the affordable housing crisis locally, and what is the solution?
Claude: Begin by promoting the economy and leaving more money in people’s pockets and making sure the COVID stuff is behind us so we have more people working. And be able to build more housing by having more housing built, then the price gets back down. And that’s about it.
Brandon: So, like a supply and demand type thing?
Claude: Yeah. I heard the provincial debate and the Liberals and NDP talking about rent control. Well, if you go rent control, then the owners stop repairs on their units. Housing goes down the toilet, and then you as an investor would not be interested in building a new home, a new rental unit, if you cannot adjust your prices. So it would restrict the amount of new affordable housing being built. And I think, in the past, that was a big problem, because if you’re not going to make money at it… you have a project that’s $10 million to build affordable housing. I’m sure they get provincial money for that, too. But I’m a great supporter of affordable housing. I saw one and it was in Morrisburg. And that was not government owned, that was privately owned. But the ladies were all out there enjoying the sun in the company of each other. And so I think that’s the type of project we could get behind and help build them in the local communities.
Brandon: How would you support the largely rural population of this riding in being heard at Queen’s Park?
Claude: As I said before, my main objective would be to participate in the local events, get to know people, and to be available to talk about their concerns. And not only in the office, and not only me. I’ve never been in politics. I don’t know how many people an MPP has working with them, so I would imagine they would have a staff. And I know McDonnell has an office in Cornwall and one in Winchester…a satellite office. The way I see it is to participate in social events, and people get to know me and get access to me and my office. So they get an answer. And if we don’t know, then we go get the answer, and do my best to represent my constituents in Queen’s Park.
Brandon: Are there any issues that locals have touched base with you about which you intend to bring forward if elected as MPP?
Claude: Well, one of our volunteers, Ruby Meeker, she has three wind turbines around her house. And so that’s the main point… the wind turbines. There’s three aquifers that have been polluted by the wind turbines. That’s something I didn’t know. But it’s not only like the noise and the vibration, it’s because it breaks the shale when they pile drive to build those things or just the vibration itself, it breaks the shale and pollutes the water underneath the water table. So you can imagine, you can’t use your well, and you have a dairy farm with 500 cows. Not very good. So the wind turbine is not only very expensive, but it’s damaging for health and water. So that’s one of the things.
Brandon: Do you believe the COVID 19 pandemic is still a concern locally?
Claude: Well, if you look at the data worldwide, it’s endemic phase, everybody is reopening, even the federal government as well. Well, I had COVID. I had the three shots and I had COVID at Easter…so during the last wave. One week of throat, sniffle and stuff. My wife’s 75, and she went through it better than me. But yeah, I think it’s basically over. It is one of the reasons I became a New Blue member and a candidate was the response by the Ford government. He said he would not do the vaccine passport and he did. And now they’re setting up digital ID. So New Blue is against all of that. If we get power, we will repeal Bill 195 and compensate people that lost their jobs due to the mandates. Of course, the Ford government didn’t force the nurses to get the vaccine, but they left it to the hospitals. So all the health care employees who lost their job, not by Ford, but with hospitals…this is one of the main reasons I said, well, I can’t vote for him. I was not involved in politics until about five years ago. I became a member of provincial PC, and then come this COVID response by the PC, I sent many, many emails to McDonnell and Ford and said, you guys are letting the doctors run the province. You’re going to lose your election because the doctors are running the province. That’s why I became a New Blue. And basically, the COVID is gone hopefully. So back to normal.