Q&A with provincial NDP nominee Ian Arthur

Arthur talks policy positions, student outreach

Ian Arthur visits Kingston City Hall. 
Credit: 
Supplied by Ian Arthur 2018

This week, Ian Arthur, the NDP nominee for Kingston & the Islands, sat down with The Journal to talk policy and the upcoming 2018 provincial election. Arthur is the head chef at the popular downtown restaurant Chez Piggy. 

Tell me about your background.

I was born in Newfoundland, but I grew up around here. My family owned an organic market garden about 45 minutes outside of Kingston. We actually sold veggies to Chez Piggy when I was a kid. My connections to that restaurant go way back. My mom served there when she was taking geology at Queen’s. I went to Trent University, I have an undergrad in international development and political studies. In terms of cooking, I always cooked to pay for school. I went to school on OSAP and what I could earn. 

Why did you decide to enter politics?

It’s always been an interest and a passion of mine, from high school and onwards. I dreamed I would get to do this one day, although I wasn’t sure how I was going to get from A to B. But I have been really lucky and I have gotten to build incredible relationships with farmers in the food community in Kingston and I think that’s a really important issue to bring to the forefront. You can find issues no matter what career you choose. It’s up to individuals to get involved. 

In terms of why I chose to run, I was tired of reading headlines about the Liberals. The Auditor General’s report on the $37 million that have been wasted. [The Ontario Liberals] are overpaying for hydro so much to leverage debt for our generation. We’re going to still be paying off this generations’ power plants after their effective lifespan. We’ll have to build new ones while we’re still paying for the old ones, just so we can save a little bit on hydro bills.

As a large part of your potential constituency, how will you get your message out to students?

We want to run a fun and youthful campaign. There are so many lessons to be learned when you look south of the border at how Bernie Sanders ran his campaign. Almost more importantly for Canada is what Jeremy Corbyn was able to do in the U.K. [The Labour Party] had an incredibly youthful and energized campaign and you saw massive increases in how many millennials were out and voting. 

What do you see as the most pressing issue for students?

I think you have to look at the cost of education and the cost of debt. I certainly support lowering tuition. I worry about free tuition placing inordinate value on academic streams of education versus college streams. 

I’m a huge proponent of basic income. I’m part of the Kingston basic income group. I would rather see that kind of approach. We are forgiving hundreds of millions of dollars in student debt every single year. We are in some ways spending that money anyways. Basic income, at its core, is the right to self-determination beyond circumstance. That, to me, is an incredibly powerful idea. 

What kind of policies will you advocate for if elected? 

You have to work with what you know. When I get elected, I would like to work on urban-rural connections. I have so much respect for farmers as a career. It’s one of the hardest jobs you can choose to do. I know food. I’d like to see the implementation of a sugar tax or a tax on high caloric foods. We have a treatment-based healthcare system and I think we need to look at more preventative healthcare systems. 

What is your position on the Ontario Liberals’ cannabis legalization and distribution framework?

I don’t think the Liberals talked to enough people before they designed how they are going to do this. I think they chose a program and decided to roll it out and it has upset a lot of people. When you look at how many locations are going to be selling it across Ontario, I am skeptical of the program’s effectiveness in eliminating the black market. It is poorly thought out, and it was not worked out with Ontarians who are already engaged in it as a business. 

Any final thoughts?

The problems that we are about to inherit are enormous. We are the first generation in modern Canadian history and (where) our parents are going to leave us with less than they were left. There are incredible changes, like automation, like the effects of climate change. You have to get involved and be a part of the conversation. I know we can build an incredibly bright future, but we need an entire generation to come together to do that.

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