New Pathway – Ukrainian News.
After MP for Etobicoke Centre Borys Wrzesnewskyj announced in late 2018 that he would not be running in the next federal elections, he endorsed a former MPP for Etobicoke Centre, Yvan Baker to run in his place. In May this year, Baker won the Liberal Party’s nomination for the riding and is now running as a candidate in October’s federal election. NP-UN spoke to Baker about his platform and plans.
What were your motives to move from the provincial politics to the federal level?
When I was a member of provincial Parliament, I think I was successful in making a difference for people. Whether it was because of our accomplishments on local issues like successfully saving Silver Creek public school for children with autism and special needs, or successfully fighting to tunnel the Eglinton LRT or including the Holodomor as part of the education curriculum and securing $1.5 million for the Holodomor mobile classroom. But there is so much more work to be done and I am running federally to be able to make progress on many issues like continuing to strengthen our economy and improving our healthcare system, building transit across the GTA and fighting climate change.
Which issue is on top of your political agenda?
It’s a difficult question, to pick one. I would say, it’s continuing to strengthen our economy. It’s the foundation for our quality of life and ability to support programs like healthcare, education or transit. A lot of progress has been made over the past four years – over a million jobs have been created in Canada, we have the lowest unemployment rate on record. But there is more to be done to make sure that we continue to strengthen that performance and position Canada to be as competitive as possible in the economy of tomorrow.
Your background is in management consulting. From this perspective of a person who knows economics and finance, what would you do to strengthen the Canadian economy?
We need to continue investing in infrastructure, like public transit and other forms of infrastructure such as internet connectivity, university research and innovation. It’s also important that we negotiate effective trade arrangements to attract investment and make sure that Canadian businesses have greater access to the global markets. Anything that we can do to avoid or reduce tariffs, which have been imposed by different countries recently, would be of benefit to the Canadian industry.
What issues would you like to tackle in your riding, Etobicoke Centre?
Making sure that Eglinton LRT is tunnelled is one of the issues. Another is ensuring that Pearson Airport does not permanently divert flights over our community. A few years ago, Greater Toronto Airport Authority (GTAA) considered a plan to change flight paths so that many more flights would fly in over Etobicoke. This is despite the fact that they promised decades ago when they built the southern runway that the people south of the airport would only get a certain percentage of flights. I fought against it, federal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj along with some of his colleagues fought against it and we were able to stop GTAA from diverting those flights. But going forward GTAA may consider doing that again and we need to make sure that this does not happen.
A recent study by Simon Fraser University suggested that Canadians do not believe that elected officials care what people think. How would you like to change that?
Between elections it’s important for people to get to know their politicians, what they are working on, to hold them accountable. When I was in provincial office, I tried very hard to make sure that I was accessible so that my constituents could do this. For example, every Saturday for three hours I would knock on doors in my community, not to ask for votes but to introduce myself, listen to people’s concerns and ask if people had any questions or concerns.
There have been some worrying developments around the war in Ukraine lately – French and American presidents have expressed desires to mend relations with Russia. Do you think that the sanctions against Russia need to be strengthened or otherwise?
I am concerned about any sign of any weakening of international resolve when it comes to sanctions against Russia because of its invasion of Eastern Ukraine and annexation of Crimea. I think that pressure needs to be applied to the Russian government and its leadership to send a signal to Vladimir Putin that the global community will not allow Russia’s continued presence in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine to stand. Russia is showing no signs that it is going to withdraw its troops from Ukraine and the pressure has to be increased, not decreased.
Canada has a Defence Cooperation Arrangement with Ukraine and has provided Ukraine with some defensive weapons. Do you think Canada should increase its supplies of defensive weapons to Ukraine?
I think that’s a question for the Ukrainian government, frankly. Canada has basically removed the limitations that previously prevented the Ukrainian government from buying weapons. Now it’s a question of what the Ukrainian government believes it needs. I think we need to do everything in our power to support Ukraine in defending itself from the Russian aggression.
Yvan Baker’s background
Yvan Baker is one of the most recognizable figures in the Ukrainian Canadian community. Apart from serving as MPP for Etobicoke Centre from 2014-2018, he was president of Ukrainian Canadian Congress Ontario from 2010-2012. Baker’s maternal grandparents Ivan and Olena immigrated to Canada after WW2. Ivan, from Bukovyna, came to Canada in 1949 and Olena, from Central Ukraine, in 1951. Yvan’s grandparents and parents encouraged him to know the Ukrainian language and culture (successfully, as Baker’s speaks Ukrainian fluently and correctly) and to be active in the Ukrainian Canadian community. He danced with Ukrainian groups Ukrainian Academy of Dance and Desna Dance Group until his mid-twenties. Baker became active with UCC Toronto branch, was one of the vice-presidents of UCC Toronto and then was elected president of UCC Ontario. In his role with UCC Ontario, he focused on working to represent the Ukrainian community before the government of Ontario on issues like the inclusion of Holodomor and Internment in the curriculum. He also helped to wright the bill that created Ukrainian Heritage Day on September 7 of every year.
Hobbies? “This is a good reminder for me to find more time to do the things I love doing. I like to exercise and try to use the gym in my apartment building every day. I also enjoy sports very much – I like attending baseball and hockey games and watching them on television.”
Movies, books or music? “I enjoy a little bit of all of those things. Sometimes I watch TV series, I am a big fan of historical and epic series like Peaky Blinders and Game of Thrones. I like reading biographies, I also like books focused on self-improvement and how to become a better communicator and leader. One of my heroes is Nelson Mandela. One of the things that I’ve learned while reading about successful political leaders is that it’s very important to constantly listen to people to understand what their priorities and concerns are and then develop solutions for those problems. Many leaders also attribute their success to the people around them. Industrialist Andrew Carnegie once said that his tombstone should read ‘Here lies the man who was able to surround himself with men far cleverer than himself.’ I am fortunate to have had great teams supporting me as well.”