Mississauga Mayoral Candidate: Derek Ramkissoon
During the mayoral campaign, insauga.com will sit down with all the candidates that come on our show.
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, we chatted with business owner and founder of the non-profit In Christ Alone Ministries Derek Ramkissoon about his first foray into politics.
Have you ever run for political office before?
No, this is my first time.
What do you do?
I'm a business owner. I've owned my own employment agency in Mississauga for over 12 years. I own about four businesses in the city and I'm heavily invested in the city. I also own numerous properties. I've never run for political office, but I've been doing a lot of volunteer work in the city of Mississauga in shelters and seniors homes and prisons. I'm always meeting a lot of people and finding out what their needs are and seeing what I can help with.
Why run for mayor?
I know it's going to be tough, there are some big shoes to fill! After speaking to a lot of people and doing a lot of volunteer work in the city, I feel I have a lot to bring to the table and offer to people. I've done a lot of counseling and I know what people are looking for. I know the needs that people have and I feel I can meet those needs by just being that in position [as mayor]. People ask me why I would go for the top job, and I feel that I'm a leader. I know how to get people to do things; I know how to motivate people. I know how to get things done properly. I've done it in business for 35 years and I use my leadership skills in business and in ministry. I feel I can bring those leadership skills that I have to get people to work together in unity to accomplish the tasks that they want to accomplish in Mississauga.
What businesses do you run?
I own an employment agency and an investment company and a couple other agencies. I also own a charitable organization that's called In Christ Alone Ministry. We go to prisons and shelters and seniors homes and I use my skills to help people get back on their feet. We help people find jobs. We help people furnish their apartments. We help people get their mindset in the right direction and help them realize they can do all things that they put their minds to. I've seen the changes in people in the past 15 years, people who have turned their mindset around by us letting them know they can accomplish anything they put their minds to. They don't have to live in this rut or settle. They can be better. I've seen how people from prisons have turned their lives around.
What would be your main platform as Mayor?
Number one, I want to get jobs. I want to get Mississauga working. I know how to do that. I run an employment agency; I've seen how many jobs there are out there. It's about getting the right people in the right jobs and I want to create more jobs for young adults who are in school or finishing school shortly. My main focus would be on creating jobs for these youth to get out there and keep themselves occupied and create after-work programs for them. I want to make our facilities that we spend so many millions of dollars on easy and accessible for all. We need mentorship for these people, whether it be in soccer or whatever, to give them a purpose in life. A lot of people can't afford to send their kids to play hockey because it's an expensive sport, and so I want to make [sports] accessible to every person and help them in the areas they're struggling. We can use companies and churches and organizations to pitch in to help these kids, so they can afford to play hockey or go to the gym. So they can have fun after they go to work or school. Transit is also a big focus. I would not focus on the LRT because my first priority is to get people to work and I'm not one to spend. I'm in business and I know how to save money and I know I don't go out and buy stuff if I don't have the money. I don't buy stuff on a credit card if I can't afford it and I would bring that same [mentality] to the city.
Would you pursue the LRT?
I would put that on hold until we can afford it. I want to bring an express bus from Square One to Port Credit. When we can afford the LRT, then we can get it because I don't want to tell the taxpayers, "listen, this is what we want to do and it's going to cost us $1.5 billion and I want you to pay for it." There are other ways we can spend that money. We can get our kids into after-hours programs and we can get people working and create jobs and train the skilled laborers we need in Mississauga. We're struggling for skilled laborers in our city. There are a lot of jobs that we have that we can't fill because nobody has the skill set to do it. I want to create something in Mississauga where we train these people, whether it be in unemployment or wherever, where we can train these people to do these jobs. If you talk to trucking companies, they don't have enough skilled laborers. We want to train everybody to get them going in the right direction.
What jobs in particular lack skilled laborers?
Trucking. There's a shortage of truck drivers in our country. We're bringing people from different parts of the world to fill those seats. I want to create a program where we can train people right here who want to do that type of work and put them into that job.
How has your private sector work prepared you to lead a city?
I know how to run a company. I've run a profitable business for 12 years. My charity work has really helped me reach people that no one else would reach. I'm not only for business, I like to help people. My focus is on helping everyone that I can help. I would bring that [philosophy] to the city, the [philosophy] that made my business so successful for 12 years. I want to see that the city is growing and that people are working. If people are working, they'll be able to spend and the city will flourish. I don't want Mississauga to survive, I want it to thrive. I'm proud of Mississauga. It's been great to me for the past 15 years and I want to give back. This is my way of giving back to everybody. It's giving back to people that I meet in the streets, and I help people start small businesses and buy their homes and that's what I want to do. People are looking for somebody who cares about their needs. I may not have experience running a city, but I have experience running a company. I care about the people who work for me, and I will care about the people in the city. The people that work for me are the people that are paying my salary, and if the people in the city are paying my salary, I want to work for them. I want to give back to them.
How will you meet Sauga's financial challenges?
A lot of people are looking at spending. I want to look at spending the right way. I'm not going to spend people's money like crazy. I want to manage their money like it's my own. I will manage the city money very well and spend it where it's needed. I will not go out and just squander and I'm not looking at raising taxes. I'm looking at getting the people working so they can bring more business into Mississauga. We've seen numerous companies coming into Mississauga in this past year alone. I want to encourage more businesses to come in and show them the city is accessible. I want to put in designated truck lanes and I want to help companies grow.
How would you set yourself apart from Hazel?
I would follow what she does instead of setting myself apart from her. Hazel has done a fantastic job in our city. I would do what she does and tweak what needs to be tweaked. I'd continue doing the great job that she's done for so many years in our city.
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