The Liberals and Progressive Conservatives – the two hegemonic parties of Ontario as he puts it – don’t work for the people of the province and have demonstrated they will not bring about the change they promise Zac Miller says.
“The government obviously isn’t working for us” Miller says positing that instead it tends to sway in the direction of lobbyists and business interests. “They’re protecting profits instead of people.”
The 20-year-old Pontypool resident and political science student is the NDP candidate in Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock for the June 7 provincial election and isn’t shy about calling out Ontario’s two major parties for what he says are their ineffectiveness incrementalism and gradualism.
“They represent no change” Miller says noting that both parties will make promises about enacting policies that will make life easier for Ontarians “but when they get into government it’s the same old continuity.”
Miller who just completed his first year of a political science degree at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology and has plans to subsequently pursue journalism says the policies of the NDP resonate with him because they are about protecting Ontarians.
“I want to protect the consumer because at the end of the day that’s pretty much all we are” he says.
He points to the high auto insurance rates that Ontarians face – the highest in the country – and the Liberals’ repeated broken promises to enact measures to lower premiums. All the money that Ontarians are being overcharged is going straight into the pockets of insurance companies Miller says.
The NDP platform includes a promised 15 per cent cut to auto insurance rates.
Miller cites a lack of affordable housing as a major challenge in the riding and in the province at large.
“185000 are waiting on a waiting list to get affordable housing” Miller says adding that about a third of that waiting list is comprised of senior citizens. “Affordable housing has to be a big deal. The Liberals have done nothing to fix this problem they’ve inherited.”
He adds the provincial waiting list for affordable housing has increased by more than 100000 people during the 15-year tenure of the current government.
The NDP platform includes 65000 new affordable homes and a promise to fund one-third of the repair costs for crumbling social housing.
Social housing and other services were largely downloaded to municipal governments during the Mike Harris era and Miller says that increased funding for municipalities is another NDP commitment that will help Ontarians.
“I’ve been going door-to-door and the one thing that people are saying is that their property taxes are too high” he says adding that boosted municipal funding should help local governments be able to mitigate property tax increases.
The high cost of hydro had dogged the Wynne government for years and Miller says the NDP plan is to lower hydro bills by as much as 30 per cent by eliminating time-of-use pricing.
“That’s a big burden that affects the middle class the disappearing middle class” he says of hydro rates.
The party also believes Hydro One should be brought back under full public control.
Miller will be vying against longtime MPP Laurie Scott who’s held office since 2003 with the exception of the couple of years when Rick Johnson was the riding’s Liberal MPP.
Scott had vacated her seat in 2009 to allow then-PC leader John Tory to run in a by-election in HKLB. Johnson beat Tory and was MPP until he was beaten by Scott in 2011.
Miller says Scott simply toes the PC party line and does not work in the interests of the riding’s residents.
“I mean who is Laurie Scott?” he says. “She doesn’t come out here. She doesn’t listen to anyone but her party.”
Scott had backed longtime MPP Christine Elliott in this spring’s PC leadership campaign Elliott eventually falling to now-leader Doug Ford.
When asked what he thinks about Ford as PC leader Miller says “Concerned and pessimistic about our future if he’s ever elected. Now she [Scott] is going to throw her weight behind policies that will make life even more unaffordable for everyone in our riding.”
He also cites the PC track record of cutting public sector jobs.
Asked what he might say to critics who say he’s not old enough to be taking on an experienced MPP Miller says “I don’t want age to be a factor.”
“We just need new ideas” he says. “The times are changing. It’s time for actual change.”