Waterloo riding election profile: Diane Freeman, New Democratic Party

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What drove you to be involved in politics and to be a candidate?

“I graduated from the University of Waterloo in engineering in ’92 and I really, really believe that women bring value to decision-making because they tend to be consensus makers and I think that engineering and thinking technically about policy development brings value. So every time I run, I’ve tried to put those two things on the ballot. Being a woman — and a mom — and being an engineer.” 

What about your life experiences makes you a good candidate for member of Parliament?

“I’ve served as president of Professional Engineers of Ontario and I’ve also served on that board of directors for a number of years. I’m currently on the board for Engineers Canada. I have a very varied background. I co-founded a non-profit daycare centre here in Waterloo, and I’ve worked as an environmental engineer for Conestoga-Rovers, now known as GHD, for over 20 years. So when you combine all of that [experience], you could say that I’ve got a clear understanding in terms of municipal issues as a city councillor, and a clear understanding of environmental law and Canada’s environmental regulations framework through my work as an engineer. I also have a really good handle on education, and in particular early education, through my work with the child care centre, and I also serve on the board of directors of the Grand River Hospital, so I’ve had a lot of opportunity to interact and understand the health care system. So I think I have a lot of skills that are broad range and will bring value to the position. And I think the most important piece is that fundamental desire to serve the citizens of Waterloo.” 

What are some of the issues you consider personally important to you?

“To me, infrastructure is really important. Successive governments have downloaded infrastructure funding to municipalities and they have no capacity or the property tax base to meet those commitments. A federal government needs to step up and be a partner with municipalities on infrastructure. Here in Waterloo Region, two-way all-day GO is critically important in terms of moving skilled workers as well as growing the economy here in Waterloo, and so investing in transit is also very, very important to me. Expanding our public education system and building a national child care strategy that gets Canadians working is also something I’m very passionate about because I know that a lot of folks feel as if they can’t work because they can’t get ahead if they place their children in child care.” 

Why did you choose to run for the NDP?

“For a variety of reasons. There’s a bill that was in Ottawa this past year called C-51 and it’s a bill that fundamentally undermines civil liberties for Canadians. I followed that debate quite closely and I was tremendously disappointed when Justin Trudeau and the Liberals voted to support that bill. I think it was a terrible mistake — I was a card-carrying Liberal up until that day, when at that time I tore up my card. My grandfather did not serve in the First World War and return an injured veteran so that someone could say that his civil rights were on the table for chopping up. He was an immigrant to this country — immigrated from Britain — and so we shouldn’t have laws that make different kinds of Canadians, in my mind’s eye. And I’ve always been passionate about child care, and I truly believe that the NDP government is the only one that can affect change on child care.” 

Post-secondary education

“I think that the biggest thing is helping companies create jobs and the other thing is we’ll be investing in science [and] research, we’re going to get that back on track. We’re going to bring back mandatory completion of the long-form census which is critically important for informed decision making. We will be capping students’ tuitions and by making an investment through research programs like NSERC and SSHRC, we’re going to try to rebalance the universities so they don’t have to turn to student undergraduate tuition as a tool for backstopping research.”

Employment

“We have a really strong platform where that’s concerned. The NDP will create over 40, 000 youth jobs, paid internships, and co-op placements over four years. We plan to connect youth with non-government organizations and private sector opportunities. We will also partner with small businesses, industry and government to help Canadians get jobs, paid internships, and co-op placements, which is really important to me, I mean, I went through the co-op engineering program at Waterloo. My son is in second-year mechanical engineering right now at Waterloo and those internships and co-op placements, we know, help prepare students for full-time employment upon graduation. We will phase out interest on student loans, so we’re going to make sure we’re getting students on the right track once they graduate. We’re planning to make a $150 million commitment for 50,000 new grants to make them available to students. 

It’s interesting because over the last 10 years of the Stephen Harper government, there’s 60,000 fewer jobs for youth. And that is wrong, it is just fundamentally wrong. Youth unemployment has tripled. The other thing we care about is safety for young workers, so we’re going to make sure that we can crack down on companies just making use of unpaid internships. Students deserve to be paid.”

Environment

“I’ve worked as I said as an environmental engineer. My area of practice is air quality and I’ve also worked in landfill design, an environmental site assessment, so there’s a number of fundamental pieces in the NDP platform around the environment. Personally I’m very interested in the pieces around climate change. I find it absolutely fascinating that the Harper government is now claiming to have reduced emissions by closing down coal-fired plants. That is something they had nothing to do with. They certainly had everything to do with the loss of 400,000 good, paying manufacturing jobs which also resulted in reduced emissions in Canada. We need to have a climate change policy that actually keeps Canadians working and puts cap and trade pieces in place so that we are actually meeting our target globally for emissions reduction.”

Bill C-51

“I will expand to say that an NDP government will repeal bill C-51 in its entirety. ” 

Technology and innovation

“We have an innovation tax credit that we plan to bring into the forefront. We will be working with the aerospace industry and the automotive industry to invest in continued investment in those fields to help bring back high-tech manufacturing jobs to Canada. We also will be offering to reduce business taxes for small- and medium-sized businesses to nine per cent immediately upon taking office.”

 
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