Get ready for a breath of fresh air in the political landscape because I am a totally different beast of aspiring politician than you’ve ever seen before. I’m 32 years old, I think for myself and I’m running on fresh ideas that are sure to impress.
My name is Peter House and I am excited to be running as an Independent in the federal by-election happening in Mississauga-Lakeshore on Dec 12th.
I grew up here. My mum taught math at LPSS for more than 35 years where I also went to school. Growing up with a politically active teacher, I was raised to strategically vote Liberal. The Harris government, 1997 Ontario teachers’ strike and the double cohort that marked the end of grade 13 are vivid memories that shaped my political identity.
Many years ago, this riding was a Conservative stronghold but in recent elections it’s been a fiercely competitive race between the Liberal machine and the Conservative elite. Strategic voting is usually extremely popular here…I know all too well as the former President of the NDP Mississauga Riding Association from 2017-2019. (Personally I left the NDP because labour has taken a backseat to identity politics – which presents a huge electability problem for the party.)
However, this by-election doesn’t present the usual motivations for strategic voting since decisions in the House of Commons over the next 3 years will not be swayed by an additional Liberal nor Conservative (nor NDP) Member of Parliament.
Earlier this year I founded the provincial Electoral Reform Party and ran in the Ontario election on June 2nd in the most student dominated riding in Canada of Waterloo where I went to school and lived for the past decade. I got about 150 votes without a budget, media attention nor team.
I am running on the same 4-point platform as I did in the provincial election earlier this year:
1.) Electoral Reform is at the heart of my campaign. We need ranked ballots with proportional representation and I am a proponent of Single Transferable Vote.
STV would remove the motivation for strategic voting. Canadians wouldn’t need to consider how everyone else was voting and could instead rank their true preference on the ballot without being punished. The representation we have in government would better reflect the way people voted and parties with only a third of the popular vote wouldn’t get majorities.
2.) Legislation that mandates our MPs hold a town hall in their riding each month so their constituents can hold them accountable face-to-face and so MPs have a pulse on the riding they ought to be representing.
3.) Legislation that mandates our MPs write a weekly blog entry or vlog entry – something publicly available explaining what they’ve been doing as our representatives. Currently we just receive quarterly partisan leaflets that are identical to the neighbouring ridings except they put the local guy’s face on the front. It’s basically just party propaganda.
4.) Legislation that ties 10% of our representatives’ salaries to their approval rating amongst their constituents in their riding. With the way the votes are whipped, our representatives never vote against their own party. Party discipline is strong in Canada and politicians rely on their party’s support to get elected. Legislation that gave our representatives a financial incentive and an out to justify voting against their own party would create an environment where our politicians actually considered the interests of their constituents instead of always voting with their party.
Electoral reform with STV isn’t just about being fair to voters. The big picture with electoral reform is that many of the issues Canadians are most passionate about lack the political will necessary for actually passing legislation that addresses the issues. This is largely due to lack of competition between political parties that stems from having First Past the Post.
Take telecoms for instance. Rogers, Bell and Telus have been ripping us off for decades. There is broad consensus among Canadians of all political stripes to address the aggressive price gouging of the telcom monopoly yet our politicians sit on their hands! This is clearly a winning issue, why doesn’t our government take action? There isn’t enough competition among the parties to justify sticking their neck out to address the problem. Politicians rely on media coverage from these corporations in order to be elected and so passing legislation that threatens Bell/Rogers/Telus profits would inevitably lead to bad media coverage and electability problems. Apparently the Liberal and Conservative leadership agree the political risk to their parties is too high and with a lack of competition in First Past The Post, that’s all that matters.
The true power of a fair voting system like Single Transferable Vote is it increases competition among the political parties…just like how fair regulations in the telecom industry would increase competition in the telcom industry. Increased competition disincentivizes politicians from fearmongering about their political rivals and encourages them to run on actual policy. It rewards politicians who actually speak to voters’ interests.
The way things are right now, most Liberals don’t vote for their party out of love for the Liberals but because they fear Conservative policies or doubt the NDP’s electability (or both). But if voters didn’t have to consider how popular their true voting preference was, political fear tactics would be much less effective.
In today’s political landscape with First Past the Post, politicians are completely beholden to their parties because they can’t get elected without the funding, resources, and brand recognition of their party. They can’t go on a limb or make promises beyond the preapproved party rhetoric – even if they’d like to or if it suited their particular riding.
It happened to former ONDP MPP Paul Miller earlier this year. When he was kicked out of the Ontario NDP he ran for reelection as an independent…He and the replacement ONDP candidate split the vote and they both lost to a Conservative candidate last June.
Here in Mississauga-Lakeshore, I am running against Kathleen Wynne’s righthand man – the former Ontario Liberal Finance Minister Charles Sousa. I went to high school with his kids and my parents have campaigned for him in the past.
I invited Charles out to a quiet little bar in July of this year to pick his brain for a couple hours about electoral reform, the OLP leadership race and this by-election. We both learned a lot from the conversation but one of my key takeaways was electoral reform wasn’t something on his radar and he’d never heard of STV. But I’m sure Charles understands electoral reform wouldn’t be in his best interests as a Liberal partyman. He wouldn’t win a seat in this riding if voters leaning NDP stuck to their guns. And I think he understands even if he were a vocal proponent of electoral reform that Justin Trudeau already poisoned the well reneging on the issue… so he would only lose credibility if he ran on electoral reform because of his party affiliation with Liberals.
Charles Sousa is running on a cookie cutter Liberal Party platform and while I have a great deal of respect and gratitude for him, I’m disappointed to tell you he isn’t running on any ideas of his own.
Of course, that’s nothing unusual in Canadian politics. Our politicians vote with their party leaders 99% of the time and the reason it isn’t 100% is because their voting records don’t match-up when one of them is absent. With the way the votes are whipped in government, a novice programmer could replace our representatives with a single line of computer code so that their votes matched their party leaders and the results would look the same.
If you haven’t noticed by now, I am a different breed of politician. I think for myself and I put constituents interests first, not a party. Which is something Charles Sousa claimed in the debate at the Army Navy & Airforce Veterans Club on November 15th so I combed through Charles Sousa’s Voting Record for us.
Charles, you have never once voted against your own party. Not even as a token gesture to insulate yourself from being pegged as a blindly obedient partyman. You were Wynne’s right hand man through and through.
My fellow Mississaugians, if all you’re looking for is a man in a red tie to sit with Justin Trudeau and obey the party whip – then Charles is your guy. After 11 years of spineless party obedience there is no expectation he will do anything differently as a federal MP.
My fellow Canadians, I am offering you the alternative you’ve been asking for – an actual voice in your government.
I will hold monthly town halls in-person every month in the riding, so you can put me on the spot, ask me hard questions and embarrass me in public. They will be broadcast online. That’s what or municipal leaders do (multiple times) every week. It’s not unrealistic.
I will write a weekly blog entry or vlog entry – something telling you what I’ve been doing as your local representative.
I will tie 10% of my salary to my approval rating amongst my constituents and I will pay for independent pollsters to determine what my approval rating is.
If you want me to do something for you, I’m the only one you need to convince.
And I swear on my life I will fight for electoral reform.
“That sounds pretty good Pete. But the only people who oppose accountability of government are politicians. Where do you stand on the actual issues? I can’t feed my family with electoral reform and town halls.”
Let me be candid.
The economy is not working for ordinary Canadians. We have horrendous inflation that is difficult to quantify, palpable corporate greed and a central bank that literally advocates for increased unemployment as a solution. Canadians are carrying record levels of debt.
First of all, I want to remind Canadians that they are less trapped than they might feel. If the banks have loaned money irresponsibly it’s the banks who should suffer. We enjoy one of the best passports in the world and your credit rating will not follow you outside North America. If things really go tits up, you aren’t trapped here like a stadium-building-slave in Qatar. Your North American credit rating will be absolved in seven years. But this is a cop-out answer. And I’m being provocative on purpose here. I don’t think politicians are aware how many Canadians, particularly people around my age, are seriously considering leaving for greener pastures and taking their publicly subsidized educations with them. There are real steps we can take to improve the financial lives of Canadians living domestically. The most obvious being to address the stagnant wages.
We’ve got to bring manufacturing back. This is a rare overlap between Biden and Trump. We cannot depend on China. We must invest in Canadian manufacturing and reignite bigger projects like Avro Arrow.
We have a lot of notorious monopolies in Canada. Bashing Rogers-Bell-Telus is a national pastime. Have you heard the story of Sasktel? It’s not a story the (telecommunication owned) corporate media would tell you… Sasktel is a telecommunications company owned by the province of Saskatchewan that is priced so low that Rogers, Bell & Telus have resigned to offer their usual cellphone plans at a fraction of their usual price for users signing-up inside Saskatchewan’s borders. Rogers isn’t violating their fiduciary responsibilities by slashing their prices to Saskatchewanians…they must do it in order to compete at all. This is market socialism.
We can copy this model in Ontario or even nationally. And if Rogers doesn’t like it, they should look in the mirror because they’ll have brought it on themselves. Furthermore, our reliance on cell phones in society has reached the point where they need to be recategorized as a utility (along with home internet).
Speaking of monopolies and market socialism, we should be considering government owned grocery stores too. The government needs revenue, and the market needs more competition.
In the past I have been in favour of Liberal gun control policy but it’s already pretty good and the recently proposed legislation affecting rifle owners strikes me as overreach.
If the federal government wants to address gun violence, gangs and organized crime it should primarily be focusing on the economic and social conditions that lead people to commit crimes.
Additionally, the federal government needs to seriously reexamine the tax rate and pricing of legal marijuana. Weed is the backbone of the Canadian black market. And if legal weed is actually competitive with the online black market, dispensaries and drug dealers, then the funding and violence associated with organized crime will dramatically diminish. But there’s a lot more to the black market than just pot.
None of the parties have a plan to tackle the opioid epidemic. It’s as if they’d rather we stop talking about it. In my view, drug addiction should be treated as a health problem not a criminal problem. We’re wasting tax dollars prosecuting minor drug possession and throwing addicts in jail. I think Canadian politicians should be debating the merits of Portugal’s drug policy and adopting similar legislation that levies fines, mandates addiction treatments, counseling, or community service on a case-by-case basis for small amounts of drug possession. Dealers trafficking hard drugs still deserve harsh punishments. Portugal’s drug policy was highly controversial and experimental back in 2001 but today it’s supposedly political suicide to suggest reverting back to the old ways.
It’s ironic my last name is House because I sure can’t afford one. I’m living with my parents right now. Canadians are being gouged on rent and the affordability of owning a house has escalated to a nationwide crisis. I am a stick framer and contractor myself so I know the cost of timber and building supplies has spiked. But it’s the overheated real estate market that has made housing prohibitively expensive. Speculative investors are buying up properties faster than we can build them so we can’t build our way out of the problem without additional legislation that shields the housing market from speculative investors. Additionally, we need a lot more non-market housing.
The Liberal government proposes we bring in an additional 500,000 immigrants by 2025. I’m not so sure that’s a good thing and I am not a bigot. Where are they going to live? Where are they going to work? If we can’t answer these questions for existing Canadians what hope do new immigrants have? I oppose the Temporary Foreign Worker program because it undercuts the value of Canadian labour and is a significant factor in our incredibly stagnant wages. We already have high unemployment that the Bank of Canada proposes we only increase! The opportunities in Canada are not what the once were even a decade ago and I worry we are falsely advertising to immigrants.
Identity politics is a hot button issue. Canada is seen as exemplary on the international stage when it comes to combating racism, sexism and bigotry by and large…but bigotry unfortunately is alive and well in Canada. I don’t buy-in to the “cultural mosaic” rhetoric and I suspect our indigenous communities know what I’m talking about when I say there is a mainstream culture that is not as inclusive as it claims to be. While we have our differences with the Americans we largely share a culture with the USA. The thing about identity politics though is it serves to divide us. Regardless of who we are as individuals, we have more in common with one another than the political culture in North America would have us believe. I mentioned I used to be the President of the NDP Riding Association here in Mississauga-Lakeshore and a big part of the reason I stepped down was because I felt the party had put identity politics optics ahead of its labour worker priorities. That might not be self-evident from the outside but internally within the NDP it’s quite pronounced. And the same is true for the Liberals (but that’s nothing new). Even if you agree with their priorities, it’s an electability problem for the left-wing parties in Canada. So if you feel as I do that political parties are a means to end for enacting political change, I think our leftwing parties in Canada need to reexamine their emphasis on identity politics so they can build a winning coalition.
I am an environmentalist. Environment and Resource Studies was initially my major at the University of Waterloo. But we are a nation whose economy is largely build upon resource extraction and the real challenge to reversing climate change is squaring that circle. I have mixed feelings about pipeline discussions for that reason. There are obvious political advantages to supplying ourselves and our trading partners with oil that the war in Ukraine highlights. (Germany definitely regrets being so reliant on Russian oil.) I would like to see refineries inside Canada instead of enriching America with our resources. We need to get real about climate change though. Given that heat pumps have more than 100% efficiency (shocking but true) and are just air conditioners running in reverse, I propose we subsidize the sales of air conditioners equipped with the additional plumbing and valves needed to use them as heat pumps. And I’m considering whether or not we should ban the sales of air conditioners without heat pump capabilities. “Heat pumps are a proven and reliable technology in Canada, capable of providing year-round comfort control for your home.” On the subject of waste, we need to challenge corporations on their packaging of products to reduce waste. Recycling is overemphasized. Our technology to recycle isn’t actually very good and when we talk about consumer recycling, we are letting the corporations that package all this stuff in plastic off the hook. Nuclear power *is* green along with wind, solar and hydro. We will need nuclear energy to meet our climate goals. And of course, one of the most obvious solutions to climate change is to fund the heck out of rapid transit to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels. Every politician talks about rapid transit now.
Continuing to expand public transit infrastructure has lots of political will, even among conservatives. But our public transit sucks. Mississauga in particular has terribly slow transit, with incredibly indirect routes and city planning that’s hostile to pedestrians and transit users. Our transit doesn’t connect people to where they want to go and it’s because we don’t design our cities to have public transit. They’re designed for cars. We just slap a bus route down because we’ve heard public transit reduces CO^2 emissions. If you want to get from Lorne Park to Hwy 10 & the QEW it will take you about an hour because it’s not a continuous route, and the *buses* don’t utilize the QEW which means having to go down to Lakeshore to cross the Credit River. Meanwhile it’s a 10 minute drive by car. Mississauga’s transit system has routes that are too short and that don’t connect the boroughs of Mississauga together without detouring into the middle of the city at Square One. In Waterloo though, there are some staple bus routes like the “8” that circulates through the entire city that can connect you to basically any other part of the city regardless of where you started and where you are going. Kitchener-Waterloo also redesigned the downtown to implement LRT infrastructure to replace the old iExpress bus route. Mississauga’s geography is admittedly more challenging but the problem is poor city planning. I’m a big proponent of rapid transit but we need city planning to enable public transportation to succeed.
Healthcare is a point of national pride. While it is provincial jurisdiction the covid pandemic and vaccination mandates were national issues. I don’t like needles and I don’t like the pharmaceutical industry. Nevertheless, I’m quadruple vaxxed and I actually still haven’t caught covid. Scientists, doctors and our political leaders were right to advocate for vaccines. However, I question the manner in which some of these vaccine mandates were passed into legislation and whether or not they were infringing on Canadian rights. Maybe the ends do justify the means but from a rights perspective I question if our government actually had the power to restrict Canadians in some of the manners it did. The trucker convoy tapped into a real dissatisfaction among Canadians and I think if our federal government was more consistent with covid restrictions and on more solid legal ground to restrict Canadians, the optics and the outcomes of our vaccination strategy would have been much better. I don’t support the convoy and I’m not a legal scholar but I did sympathize with some of their concerns.
While we’re on the subject of healthcare, Doug Ford and other Conservative premiers are letting our public healthcare systems fail in an attempt to garner public support for privatization of healthcare. I believe this is probably the biggest political issue in Canada at the moment although wage stagnation certainly gives it a run for its money.
Lastly, I want to talk about education. Which again is predominantly provincial jurisdiction but remember that a large part of our student loans come from the *federal* government. Post-secondary education has been way too expensive for way too long. We are saddling our young people with debt in a job market that doesn’t even value their degrees or justify the cost. Meanwhile our universities are making a killing. I’ve heard the engineering dept at the University of Waterloo pulls in half a billion each year but you won’t find that figure published anywhere. South of the border, Americans are inching close to *cancelling* a significant amount of student debt and frankly I’m shocked that it’s not even being debated in Canadian government. Since when were the Americans more progressive than we were? University tuitions continue to climb and the quality and value of their credentials is falling. During covid, tuitions for online classes – which were obviously of a lower quality than in-person instruction with our peers – were not discounted and the primary justification for this was that universities did not want to set a precedent for reducing tuition prices. Our federal and provincial governments use students as political pawns but they don’t consider students a significant enough portion of their voting base to actually cater to them. We need to lower tuition fees and threaten to remove government funding for universities if they continue to gouge Canadians.
Alright, so I’ve now given a *much* more comprehensive platform than the Conservatives. I’m a leftie but I have sympathies with the rightwing. The core of my platform is electoral reform (STV) and accountability of government and the only people on the other side of those issues are the existing politicians.
I may not have great chances in this by-election running as an independent but with the existing make-up of the House of Commons this by-election is very inconsequential so there will be far less ‘strategic’ voting which should boost my numbers.
I am looking ahead to the Ontario Liberal Leadership race in the new year and I’d like to leave you with a few thoughts about that. The OLP is a rudderless party of stale ideas and it’s prime for a Bernie Sanders style takeover. This is an incredible opportunity! I plan to run on this platform for the OLP leadership. But instead of courting the existing Liberal loyalists, my strategy will be to court the ocean of dissatisfied Ontarians and transform the party into something sensible that actually represents Ontarians – including young people. I’ll be crowdfunding the $100k required by the OLP to enter the race. I will reduce party discipline so our representatives can put their ridings’ interests before party interests. And I’d like to coordinate with the future ONDP leader so we work together to defeat Doug Ford. I think both parties should consider running less than the full 124 candidates in the next election so they aren’t stepping on each other’s toes. And if none of that pans out I would go back to building the Electoral Reform Party so that Ontarians have a voice in government.
Show your support for me in this by-election and I’ll be a serious threat to the OLP establishment in the Ontario Liberal Leadership race in the new year.
Independent Candidate for MP of Mississauga-Lakeshore
tl;dr – I have an unusually sensible approach to politics and accountability. This post is way too long because I’ve taken nuanced positions on well over a dozen issues in an attempt to illustrate what I’m about beyond a surface level. Show your support for me in this by-election and I’ll be a serious threat to the OLP establishment in the Ontario Liberal Leadership race in the new year.