Brock graduate runs for provincial legislature
Published: Tuesday, March 11, 2003
Updated: Thursday, July 5, 2012 15:07
Mark Brickell, the Progressive Conservative (PC) candidate for St. Catharines, dropped by Brock University to chat about his election platform and his 5-year political agenda, that would be implemented if the PC government was re-elected.Brickell, 40, is a graduate of Brock University's political science program and has been involved with the community in various roles for nearly two decades. Of his credentials, Brickell has spent 14 years serving on the Lincoln County Board of Education as a school trustee, and three years as a city councillor; he is currently serving as a regional councillor for Niagara.
Brickell wants to make Brock's student body aware of a program that is under cabinet consideration, at Queen's Park in Toronto. "The program is called 150 Jump Start, it's a proposal I support which would allow the first $150,000 a student earns after graduation to be tax free."
Brickell stresses that the program attempts to address the reality of the financial situation for students while in school, and in particular after graduation.
He says if students have no loans, the money saved could be used to buy homes or to start new businesses, commenting, "I have three children in university, so this issue is very important to me."
Brickell notes when he has discussed the idea of this program, students "very quickly realize the benefit of it."
Because the program is universal and would apply to all students regardless of income, it would also assist those not in financial need. Brickell, when asked whether he believes the universality of the program to be a fair assessment -- since it could be considered as a tax break for the wealthy, who would otherwise afford the burden of tuition -- he replies that he is "shocked" by the accusation.
"To determine if a person should qualify because they are a dollar over, or a dollar under a certain limit is shocking," says Brickell, adding "People make false distinctions between what represents wealth and what represents evidence of financial need. This solution would benefit everyone, and to suggest that there is something unfair in this is shocking to me."
Another issue central to Brickell's campaign is public transit, as he wants the GO Transit system extended to St. Catharines.
"Right now, the cost for a monthly GO transit pass is $90; when I worked in Mississauga, I was paying more than $600 a month just to commute. What GO transit does is it allows individuals from St. Catharines to expand their job search area to include all the communities."
Acknowledging the project would be expensive, he says that it would require a "comprehensive strategy" to implement. Brickell said the system would allow for greater job opportunities while still living in the Niagara region.
Noting there are infrastructure dollars available for the initiative, and that it is just a matter of lobbying or building a strong business case for it, he says "I want to see this done in years, not decades."
Brickell also wants to see the QEW expanded to six lanes in the St. Catharines area.
Asked if this initiative would defeat the purpose of the GO transit initiative he replies, "We still need to have efficient transportation corridors ... There is a bottle-neck in the QEW at St. Catharines, however, and this needs to be addressed." He continues by asserting the "bottle- neck" makes St. Catharines look like a "second-class city."
The re-development of environmentally damaged land -- so-called Brownfield sites -- is another initiative which Brickell supports. He says that this continued development of green lands leads to urban sprawl, which he says is very expensive.
As far as rehabilitating St. Catharines automotive industry, Brickell says he is against any kind of corporate welfare. "I believe sound economic policies are more important to encouraging businesses to invest; we should invest in research and development rather than just subsidizing the automotive industry."
Part of this investment should, according to Brickell, be targeted at creating "Centres of Excellence" in post-secondary institutions like Brock. He asserts that this would aid in the diversification of St. Catharine's economic base.
"There are new sectors we need to bring in like biotechnology so as to offer our young people meaningful choices in their future occupational endeavours," he says.
Brickell's election platform also makes much of the need for a "competitive tax structure" to compete with the United States. He says, however, that this does not mean a reduction of taxes to levels seen in the United States.
"You have to be competitive to compete. It does not mean mirroring economic policy south of the border. It does mean addressing the economic needs of industries in the region and seekings ways to facilitate their continued growth."
Brickell then lauded the conservative government's track record on job growth since 1995, noting that one million jobs have been created in Ontario since 1995 with only 30,000 having been created in the Niagara Region. He confidently asserts, "I am committed to adding a further 20,000 to that total during the next five years."
The concept of a five-year plan is central to Brickell's election strategy as it will be developed through consultation with all members of the community. He plans to outline his stance on important issues in his five-year plan, noting "If you don't have a plan you are not going to get anywhere. Politicians need to be accountable; my plan is a contract with my constituents."
He says he does not, however, believe his success or failure as a politician should be based on whether or not his plan is implemented fully, or even at all. He does say that "Politicians should acknowledge what they stand for."