Mississauga Mayoral Candidate: Bonnie Crombie
During the mayoral campaign, insauga.com will sit down with all the mayoral candidates that choose to do so. This week we chat with and interview Bonnie Crombie
For the first time in over three decades, Mississauga is set to experience a truly unpredictable mayoral race. Hazel McCallion, who has been mayor since 1978, has decided to pass her long-held municipal torch onto someone else, and the race is just starting to heat up. Last week, former MP and current city councillor Bonnie Crombie sat down with us and chatted a little about filling Hazel's enormous shoes, improving infrastructure and making the city more appealing to young people.
What's your platform?
I've changed the focus a little bit talking about how we move with respect to a regionally integrated transit system. What we really need is to get people moving. The 82-minute commute that [many] Mississaugans face is one of the highest in North America. The congestion and gridlock is costing us millions of dollars and affecting our competitiveness and prosperity. What we really need to do is improve the way we move through the city. I just faced an hour commute from Malton [to the studio at Burnhamthorpe and Wolfedale]. We need to improve the bus transit system and improve the Go Train service. I'm looking at all-day, two-way Go Train on all three lines. I know it's much more convenient now on the Lakeshore line, but we really need the Milton and Kitchener lines to be all-day, too. We have the bus rapid transit system opening later in the year and that's an 18 kilometer dedicated track from Meadowvale to the airport area, where people can transfer to Toronto subways if they need to. Finally, there's the LRT [which will run on Hurontario from Mississauga to Brampton]. Eventually, I'd like to see that connect to the TTC subways as well. That'll really link us to the GTA. We have six 400-series highways here, so we need to improve how people and goods move through our city.
Right now, the LRT is set to link Mississauga to Brampton, but you mentioned wanting connections to the TTC subways. Is that in the works, or is that your proposal?
That's an idea that's mine that's also been talked about by other people. [But as for the Hurontario LRT route], we've analyzed this very carefully, and certainly the Hurontario corridor is the busiest in Mississauga and it moves the most people. What better than a train to get cars off the road? Each train would take 300 cars off the road. A bus only takes 50 cars off the road. We've analyzed which is the best route, and we would connect north and south along the Hurontario corridor and eventually east and west along a Toronto-bound street, possibly Dundas. We've also talked about Lakeshore.
You've talked about running to lead "today's Misissauga." What is "today's Mississauga" and how is it different from the Mississauga of five, 10 or 20 years ago?
Did you know that 50 per cent of [our current] population didn't live in Mississauga 10 years ago? Fifty-two per cent of our population was born abroad and we have an extremely diverse population. Our top spoken languages [along with English] are Mandarin and Cantonese, Urdu, Punjabi, Polish, Arabic, Spanish and Portuguese. Those are the people that represent the new Mississauga today. We're dynamic, we're diverse, we're aging and I think we really have to work hard to create employment and create jobs for our youth. I'd like to retain the youth in our city. We're actively trying to match the skills that our youth are training for at Sheridan College and UTM to help meet the needs of the economy in Mississauga today.
How will you reach out to young voters?
I have three young people at home, ages 17, 20 and 25, so I understand the plight of the youth today. Unemployment is the number one challenge among young people. So many of them are in positions of precarious employment where they're working multiple jobs and it takes much longer for them to start their careers than it used to and achieve those benchmarks in life like getting married, having kids and buying houses. I think the number one way to reach our youth is through helping them find employment and creating an environment that's exciting to them.
We are the festival city. We also have [a] great arts and culture [scene] and music scene and we have great restaurants and pubs and I think those are the features that attract our youth. So we have to get them employed, get them interested and then we'll help them find affordable housing. Between employment, culture, art, getting people moving and finding them affordable housing, those are the things that will keep our youth.
How would you make housing more affordable?
It's zoning and creating communities where people can live and work and walk to recreational activities. Walking to work goes a long way towards building a variety of different types of housing, whether it's stacked townhouses or row homes. Just a variety of different housing that not only appeals to the youth, but also to seniors who want to age in their own communities. You can purchase a starter home or purchase a condominium, then move to a bigger home, and, as a senior, you can go back to a smaller home or condo. People want to stay in their own communities. They don't want to have to move out [when they need a different size home].
What are the biggest challenges the city will have to face in the coming years?
The first challenge is leadership. With Mayor Hazel McCallion leaving, people are concerned about who will lead them. I try to position myself as a person who has the energy and vision and the commitment to lead the city and I'm somebody who has delivered for [the city] in the past, both as a Member of Parliament and as a city councillor.
We do have fiscal challenges. Certainly, we have an infrastructure deficit and we need a regionally integrated transit system. Gridlock and congestion are a huge issue and we need to know how to pay for those going forward. And finally -- and most importantly -- we need to show respect for taxpayers. People are stretched. Our youth are stretched, as are our seniors who live on a fixed income. People don't want higher taxes, so we have to find another way of doing things and I've taken a pledge to look for all other avenues and options before raising taxes. We're going to look for efficiencies, we're going to do an operations review, and we're going to do a benchmarking study to make sure our government delivers good value for taxpayers money. We're going to look for other streams of funding from the provincial government and we're going to re-prioritize when we have to. We're not going to spend money that we don't have. What we really need is all three levels of government to come to the table to find solutions for these issues because, now that Mississauga is 40 years old, we're starting to face the same challenges as other similar size cities and we're going through the pains of aging. Aging infrastructure is one of the key issues and how we're going to replace, renew, refresh and expand our infrastructure, and we really need all three levels of government to work on solutions. It can't all be on the back of property tax holder.
How would you set yourself apart from Hazel?
I think [Hazel and I] share values and principles that are very similar. We both entered politics from strong business careers at about the same age. I also believe in doing your homework and tight fiscal management, and those are principles we share. But I'm of a different generation, and even the mayor has said that we need a different generation leading us for tomorrow. I bring fresh ideas and I have a different style of leadership. I believe in a team-driven, consensus-based approach. I'm hands-on and tech-savvy, much like the youth are. I bring a different kind of vision for our city to take us into our next chapter.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
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