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Q&A with Newmarket-Aurora Candidates: NDP Denis Heng

NewmarketToday sent a series of questions to each of the candidates about a wide range of issues; here are the answers in their own words
20220217-Denis Heng Newmarket-JQ
Newmarket-Aurora NDP candidate Denis Heng.

NewmarketToday sent a series of questions to each of the candidates in the Newmarket-Aurora riding on a wide range of issues.

Candidates were provided the exact same questions, the same amount of time to respond and a limited word count for each question. None of the candidate's responses have been edited, only cut where word counts are broken. NewmarketToday will publish each response received by deadline.

Here is how NDP candidate Denis Heng responded:

1. What do you want voters to know about you? (50-word limit)

Having lived in Aurora for 16 years, I am the best local candidate, ready to stand up for a thriving Newmarket-Aurora now, and in the future. Living 1km away from the riding gives me a distinct advantage over Sylvain from his Scarborough home to represent our community needs.

2. What’s the most pressing issue in the 2022 provincial election campaign and why? (50-word limit)

“What should Newmarket-Aurora look like 20, 30, 40 years from now”? To thrive, we will be innovating a cutting edge, renewable energy, green economy, where the environmental choice is the easy choice, and safe, affordable, complete communities have been built. Let’s embrace the future, not double-down on the past.

3. What’s your party’s plan to address housing affordability? (200-word-limit)

The Ontario NDP is committed to responsible housing development within existing urban boundaries, while protecting farmland and natural heritage from wasteful sprawl. This includes aligning growth with transit investments and updating zoning rules to enable the construction of more affordable “missing middle” housing. As a government, we are committed to building 250,000 affordable homes that are operated by public, non-profit and co-op agencies so that affordable housing, for owners and renters, is available at all income levels.

Leaning on urban planners’ expertise, and underlined by the principle of prioritizing people over profits, we already have the local plans; we need to get to meaningful action! I am supportive of the York Region Official Plan and a transparent, public consultation process to update these plans as we move forward, while assessing our progress over the past decade. Sprawl or tall are not the only options. To meet the needs of both 8 year olds and 80 year olds, we need to
build complete, sustainable 15-minute communities that are appropriate parts of residential, commercial, and green space that provide needed community services. Let’s build communities for people to live, work, and play; not for developers to extract every penny of profit.

4. The Upper York sewage plant has remained unresolved at the provincial level for years, under both Liberal and Conservative governments. Municipalities have highlighted it is needed for upcoming growth and says it would have enough offsets for the environment, but critics are still concerned about watershed impact. What’s your position? How would your party handle this file? If elected, when would your party finally decide on this, one way or another? (150-word limit)

I commit to listening and working collaboratively towards responsible, timely, and sustainable solutions to benefit our community now and in the future. Seven years is too long waiting for infrastructure project approvals, and previous Liberal and Conservative governments share in this failing. Relying on technical experts for technical details, I accept the Regional Municipality of York’s website claims that the proposed technologies will produce water that is “cleaner than
the current river water quality today”, and that the proposed plan will meet “the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan requirements for phosphorus management”, making this a viable project. Honest communication and collaboration with the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation to address concerns of the impact on Lake Simcoe is a must. Moving forward, I will ensure that all claims live up to their hype and that future monitoring ensures that we are not putting the Lake Simcoe watershed at increased risk.

5. What would your party do to address the continued issues in the long-term sector? What is your party’s stance on keeping, or removing, privatization there? (200-word limit)

The Ontario NDP believe that every Ontarian, no matter their income, deserves dignified, affordable, quality care as they age, whether that’s excellent home and community care so older adults can stay in their own homes longer, or long-term care that prioritizes the well-being of residents over corporate profits. The Ontario NDP will immediately begin building 50,000 new and modern beds to meet our future needs. We recognize though, that our investments cannot
just stop with buildings. The home, community, and long-term care workforces, as well as family caregivers, that have been chronically understaffed and underpaid, also need meaningful support, not just token words of being health care heros.

We will fix the disjointed system that we have after 20 years of Conservative and Liberal governments rather than slapping on another band-aid. It starts with coordinating and standardizing community and home care, aligning culturally appropriate resources and training to community needs. This would involve $3.8 billion over the next three years to fix staffing and services as we move to a public, not-for-profit system, where compassion will not need to out- compete profit. We are committed to making sure that every dollar goes towards more and better care.

6. How would your party handle the ongoing challenge of COVID-19? What is your stance on re-implementing mask mandates or vaccination passports in the future, depending on pandemic trends? (150-word limit)

The COVID-19 challenge moving forward is making public places safe for all while balancing our everyday lives. Pandemic trends and science should inform the need for future mask mandates, not political popularity polling. Properly wearing a well-contructed, well-fitting mask is a personal choice that can help limit COVID-19 spread. Three years into this ordeal, there are enough preventative tools within the government policy tool box, such as passing legislation to enforce outdoor air ventilation standards of public buildings, and appropriately funding school ventilation retrofits, that when actioned, will reduce COVID-19 risk in public settings so that future mask mandates are not needed to protect our communities. But this only works if our government proactively does the work towards implementing sustainable, preventative actions. As for vaccine passports, similar to MZOs, they should be a policy tool of last resort, not one to avoid difficult discussions about our societal values and priorities.

7. With inflation rising and some struggling, what would your party do to make life more affordable? (150-word limit)

Newmarket-Aurora residents are smart enough to know that cost of living and affordability will not be solved by taking pennies a litre off of a gas tax, or returning $120 to drivers. We might have been better insulated from today’s increased costs of living if previous provincial governments had boldly moved to innovate towards a leading edge, green economy. The Ontario NDP is committed to building local communities for sustainable success. This includes showing the political will to prioritize people over profits; working to create good paying jobs,rather than encouraging low wage policies; creating complete, 15-minute communities that will provide affordable housing choices to all income levels. These are fundamental actions that will ensure that not only our current generation, but our children, can afford the quality of life we work hard to enjoy. Rather than the band-aid solution, I will always choose the sustainable solution.

8. What is your position on the Bradford Bypass and Highway 413? (100-word limit)

The Ontario NDP will cancel Highway 413 and the Bradford Bypass. We will not build over the greenbelt, nor encourage further urban sprawl for developer profit. Rather, we support infrastructure improvements that are evidence-based and transparently reported to the public and stakeholders. Instead of spending $10 billion on these highways, the NDP will reduce congestion now (i.e., 10 years earlier) by eliminating tolls on the underused Highway 407 for all trucks and transport vehicles. By assessing the missed volume penalties Ford let the 407 ETR keep, we will recover between $1 billion and $2 billion to finance this move.

9. What is one specific issue you would personally champion or private- members bill you would introduce, given the opportunity as an MPP? (100-word limit)

Our society is measured by how we treat our least privileged. As a public health epidemiologist, my career has focused on measuring the gaps between the most and least privileged in our society and working with others towards meaningful action to decrease these gaps. Instead of tearing people down, I believe our government and society has a role in building people up and ensuring that everyone in our community has an equal opportunity to thrive. Two issues that I would champion to enable this equal opportunity amongst all are: addressing household food security; and working towards a basic income guarantee.

10. What does your party’s campaign slogan mean to you? (50-word limit)

“Strong. Ready. Working for You.” I embody our slogan as a strong, local, informed candidate, representing those who vote for me, those who don’t, and those who cannot. I will amplify our community voices who are traditionally silenced, because we are stronger together as a community, rather than left alone.