Podcast: Who’s running in Peterborough—Kawartha?

Candidates Jen Deck, Greg Dempsey and Robert Gibson introduce themselves in this first episode of our provincial election podcast

The 2022 Ontario election is on June 2. In Peterborough-Kawartha, six candidates are trying to unseat the Progressive Conservative incumbent Dave Smith, who is running for reelection.

Those candidates are: Jen Deck (New Democratic Party), Greg Dempsey (Liberal Party), Robert Gibson (Green Party), Tom Marazzo (Ontario Party), Rebecca Quinnell (New Blue Party), and Dylan Smith (None of the Above Party).

Peterborough Currents invited the four major-party candidates in the riding to sit for an interview to discuss why they’re running and what they’ll do about some of the biggest issues facing our community.

Deck, Dempsey and Gibson agreed, but Dave Smith did not respond to our requests, which were sent by text, email, and in-person messages. 

In this first episode of our election series, Deck, Dempsey and Gibson introduce themselves and run through what their biggest priorities for the riding are. Then, they each share how they’ll work to restore decency and respect to our political discourse.

Stay tuned for future episodes, which will cover topics such as policing, housing, and the drug poisoning crisis.


Produced by Will Pearson

Hosted by Ayesha Barmania

Music courtesy of Erika Nininger.

Mentioned in the show


Ayesha Barmania 0:05
Hello, you’re listening to the Peterborough Currents podcast. My name is Ayesha Barmania. And today I’m joined by my colleague, Will Pearson–

Will Pearson 0:12
Hi there.

Ayesha Barmania 0:13
–and we’re bringing you the first episode of a series looking at the 2022 Ontario election for you. Will, you’ve been working on this series, can you tell me about how it all came together?

Will Pearson 0:23
Yeah, so this podcast series is based on interviews I did on May 15, and May 14 with local major party candidates. I interviewed Green Party candidate Robert Gibson, NDP candidate Jen Deck and Liberal candidate Greg Dempsey. And it’s those interviews that you’re going to be hearing over the course of this series– this episode and the next couple ones to come. I did invite the incumbent PC Party candidate, Dave Smith to participate in this podcast as well. But unfortunately, he didn’t respond to any of my requests. And so you won’t be hearing from him in this in this series.

Ayesha Barmania 0:56
You invited four candidates and spoke to three of them. But there’s a couple other people running locally, right?

Will Pearson 1:01
Yes, there’s also Tom Marazzo from the Ontario Party, Rebecca Quinell from the New Blue Party and Dylan Smith of the None Of The Above Party. And they’re not excluded from the series for any like principled reason. It’s more just the amount of time and resources that I had to devote to the podcast, we only have so much capacity here at Peterborough Currents and so I had to kind of make choices around with the time that I have, what are the most important candidates to hear from and I thought that those four were the most important to feature.

Ayesha Barmania 1:32
Yeah, gotcha. So what did you ask them about? What topics did you put to them?

Will Pearson 1:36
So in this episode, you will be hearing just kind of a general introduction that the candidates are going to make about themselves. I asked them, who they were, why they’re running, what their priorities are, and why they think the party that they’re running for is the right party to govern Ontario. In this episode, you’ll also hear them answer a question that I asked in relation to the recent events that happened when Jagmeet Singh visited Peterborough and the hateful reception that he received here. I asked candidates, just how they hope to work to repair the state of the political discourse in Peterborough, and Ontario. And you’ll hear their answer to that question on this episode, as well. And then in future episodes, we’re going to take a look at a couple of particular issues, including housing, the drug poisoning crisis and policing, for example, it’s always hard to know what what questions to ask and what topics to cover. I feel like I’m still kind of learning how to make those kinds of decisions in my journalism. But this time, I chose topics that we had already done some reporting on and that we already had a little bit of knowledge to base our questions on. To be honest, I also just ask the questions that I wanted to hear answers as a voter myself. And so that’s kind of guided me a little bit as well.

Ayesha Barmania 2:54
Yeah, absolutely. It strikes me that maybe climate change is something that we need to report on, but also that we are like getting answers from folks in these interviews with so–

Will Pearson 3:03
Yeah, I didn’t ask any questions about climate change, which I think is an oversight. One of the reasons that it’s not in this podcast series is when I was putting the questions together, I was also watching the climate change and environment debate that some local groups put on. And I learned a lot from that debate, I was really inspired by the people that organized it. The people asking questions and running the debate were all– I think they were all teenagers, which was inspiring to see. And to be honest, they all asked better questions that I would have thought of. And I thought, I didn’t want to like replicate that work. And so I think that I think everyone should care about climate change in this election. And I think that people should go check out that debate. It’s online, you can still watch it. Maybe we can put the link in the show notes.

Ayesha Barmania 3:48
Yeah, let’s do that.

Will Pearson 3:50
So yeah, I would encourage everyone to listen to that, as well as this podcast, as well as all the other reporting that’s going on in our community right now.

Ayesha Barmania 3:57
Great. Well, any final thoughts before we just hop right in and start hearing people talk?

Will Pearson 4:02
No, no, I don’t think so. You’ll hear from Greg Dempsey first and then you’ll hear from Jen Deck and then you’ll hear from Robert Gibson. And yeah, I think we should just let the candidates introduce themselves.

Greg Dempsey 4:14
Hi, Will. It’s a pleasure to talk to you here on Treaty 20 territory and the traditional territory of the Mississauga Chippewa nations. My name is Greg Dempsey, he/him. I’m the Ontario Liberal Party candidate for Peterborough—Kawartha. I grew up just outside of Peterborough, actually in Otonabee township just off my grandmother’s farm. I went to school in Peterborough at Edmison Heights and Adam Scott, and I subsequently have made my career working on social justice issues, representing Canada in Afghanistan at the United Nations, and then working on human rights issues right here at home. I moved back to Peterborough at the start of the pandemic, essentially to be closer to my family as the walls caved in on all of us. And I’m running because I think that we could do better here in Peterborough—Kawartha. I think that we deserve a better, more caring provincial government, one that’s actually going to take into account the views of everybody across the entire riding. And I think I have the skills and the experience that connections to this community to make a great MPP. And so I’m really excited for the opportunity to be running in the provincial election. And I’m looking forward to our conversation.

Will Pearson 5:27
What are your biggest priorities for this riding?

Greg Dempsey 5:31
Yeah. So I think I would say the biggest priority has to be housing and affordability. So we’ve seen the price of housing skyrocket across Peterborough—Kawartha. It’s great that so many people want to move to our riding, it’s a wonderful place to live. But our community is really struggling with how high the cost of housing has been, both for people who are on fixed incomes, students, seniors, and indeed anybody who’s trying to move into the riding. I’m excited about having the provincial government get back into the business of building housing– safe, affordable places where people want to live. That’s really exciting for me. And then also affordability too falls into that. And that’s why I think our proposal to offer $1 transit fares on every single transit ride – every bus in Peterborough, the link to Lakefield, the GO bus to Oshawa, even the train all the way to downtown Toronto, is really going to be an important thing for saving people money. My second priority is healthcare and education. We’ve seen the devastating impact of the cuts and chaos of the Doug Ford Conservative government. I believe that we need to restore a respectful, positive relationship with our health care and education workers who are doing such amazing, amazing work. And I think that they deserve to be heard. Right now, they can’t even get a meeting with our MPP to have their concerns be listened to. I’m a proud union member, I think it’s really, really important. And I think we absolutely need to be listening to the voices of our education and health care workers. And then the third for me is the climate. I mean, we know that the climate is in crisis. This is a huge issue that’s facing our community, the province the entire world. And we know that Ontario can be a climate leader. When we cancelled all the coal power plants in Ontario – it made an incredible difference to the emissions across our province, and problems with asthma and other health issues. We need to do better, we need to get our electricity grid to net zero as quickly as possible. We need to meet our emissions targets. It’s not just about our community, it really is the entire world that is looking to us to be a leader on that.

Will Pearson 7:46
And why did you choose to run as a Liberal in particular? And why do you think Steven Del Duca is the best choice for Premier?

Greg Dempsey 7:54
Yeah, so the very short answer that question is Peter Adams. So when I was in high school, I, you know, I suffered through the kind of chaos of the Mike Harris years. I was out on the picket lines with my parents and my other teachers. And through that process, I got to meet Peter Adams and he was so incredibly kind and generous with his time. And so I’ve always thought of myself sort of as a Liberal just because of the great work of Peter Adams. But I can tell you, when we thought about running for this nomination, I looked very carefully at the leaders and the policies of the two major progressive parties, certainly. And the thing that I’ve been so impressed with about Steven Del Duca is he’s a great listener. He cares. He cares about feedback from me and the other candidates. And there are specific things in our policy platform that I have helped introduce, and that I’m really, really proud of. And so those kind of factors together are why I’m excited about running for the Liberals. I’m also really proud of our plan, the plan is going to be great. We talked about transit, about housing, the investment in education and health care, family doctors are important. And I’m really excited about the team that I’m running alongside with doctors and nurses and teachers and principals and social justice advocates. And I think it’s going to be a great team that’s going to be able to lead the province into the future.

Will Pearson 9:29
Can you just take a minute or two to introduce yourself and tell us why you’re running in this election?

Jen Deck 9:35
Sure. So my name is Jen Deck, she/her. And I moved to Peterborough to come to Trent University in 1992 – 30 years ago. I did a degree in biology and women’s studies, which even then seemed like a not entirely marketable degree, but it suited me. Actually I did a feminist critique of Darwin’s Origin of the Species for one of my fourth year courses. And I’ve got two wonderful children, Piper is 27. And Eliyah is 25. And I have a loving partner. Both of us are teachers. And about eight years ago, I got involved in the union and very quickly got deeply involved, what a jump off the deep end, I showed up at an annual meeting and came away on the executive. And then two years later, I was the president. So and in some ways, I’m repeating that now by standing on the jumping board, looking at the possibility of being an MPP. So yeah.

Will Pearson 10:50
Cool. What are your biggest priorities for this riding?

Jen Deck 10:55
Teaching. As a teacher, education is always very close to my heart and top of mind. I feel very strongly that the education system has been underfunded for 20 years. So that. And that is having all manner of downstream effects. Kids are not getting the educations that they deserve. Education workers are really stretched thin. Schools are closing in rural areas. Busing– kids are traveling on buses forever. You know, the the list just goes on and on. And then of course, with the pandemic, everything has been exacerbated. We had, you know, serious, really troubling equity issues when we went virtual, where kids that didn’t have reliable internet, either because they were in rural areas, or because their families couldn’t afford devices. So we really saw the biggest learning gaps and the biggest mental health challenges in our most marginalized students, which of course, breaks all of our hearts. So education, very top of mind. Health care, once again, I don’t think anyone can have ignored how tough it’s been on the health care – just on the health care providers going through COVID. And we’ve really felt the pinch of closing beds, closing wings, eliminating nurses. And then when we really needed them, it was very hard to ramp back up. So that would be another and I guess, my third – I always like doing things in threes – I really feel for our small businesses who really felt the brunt of shutdowns and closures when the big stores just, they just made made profits as usual, if not more.

Will Pearson 12:47
Yeah, so you’re the NDP candidate in this election, I’m wondering what drew you to that party and why you align with that party and why you think Andrew Horwath is the is the right choice for Premier in this election?

Jen Deck 13:00
Great question. Um, I would say, I voted NDP, probably most of my life, not always, I haven’t always voted NDP. But you know, that’s always pretty much aligned with my values. And then especially looking at the platform, it really speaks to me and I feel like the party is really committed to the same sorts of things that I am around social justice and climate action, and just compassion. And why do I feel like Andrew Horwath–? I mean, she’s amazing. She’s such, she’s such an amazing speaker, she gets such a rough ride, you know. People sometimes give her a hard time, we never criticize Doug Ford for the stuff he says, and you know, if you were to put something that you know, as a speech bite from Andrea up against Doug Ford, there’s no comparison. So you know, and she’s just, I’ve had the opportunity to meet her a few times and talk with her, she’s thoughtful, she’s caring, she’s intelligent, and she’s gonna work for us here in Peterborough.

Will Pearson 14:32
I’m wondering if you could just take a minute or two to introduce yourself and tell us why you’re running.

Robert Gibson 14:38
Okay. Thank you. Um, my name is Robert Gibson. And I use he/they pronouns. And I live on the autism spectrum, I know that policies have an impact on everyone in different ways. And the reason why I’m running is because when I was a kid, I started watching the news regularly, when I went camping with Scouts, my parents told me about the city of Peterborough having a massive flood event back in 2004. This influenced my education and interest. And the weather events are predicted to be worse due to climate change and inaction, as well as policies that promoted urban sprawl and didn’t take the environment into consideration. And we’ve already seen deaths as a result of climate change. Six, almost 600 people died in British Columbia. There has been floodings within Canada. And the elimination of the environmental commissioner, abuse of zoning orders, environmental deregulation, from both the Conservatives and Liberals, violation of our environmental law were all contributing factors and I couldn’t wait four more years to sit on the sidelines. Because we have to act now to address climate change.

Will Pearson 16:43
Cool. Thanks for that. Something that I meant to mention before we started the interview was just to disclose that you’ve done some writing for us. In the past, you’ve written a couple of stories about the environment. But that’s a relationship that we ended when we realized you were going to be the candidate for the Green Party. So I just wanted to make sure that listeners knew that. So yeah, I guess my next question is, what are your biggest priorities for this riding?

Robert Gibson 17:11
Yes, well, I know, housing is a huge priority and in this riding, and it’s connected to a lot of different issues. The opioid crisis, environmental land use planning, even the pandemic to an extent because of where and how we build houses is an issue. We know that future pandemics might be caused by the loss of biodiversity. So if we build them on wetlands and forest, that’s a huge problem. And people need spaces to go on and enjoy as well. Ending the ministerial zoning orders – thankfully they haven’t happened within this riding – but they very well might happen. And repealing Bill 124 is a huge priority to attract more people in the health care field. And supportive housing – we have a plan to build 60,000 supportive housing and in Peterborough—Kawartha that would be about 480. Partnerships with Indigenous nations is important. And getting all the municipalities to allow triplexes and duplexes. And yeah, those are some of my priorities. Jobs related to climate action, housing.

Will Pearson 19:40
Cool, tell me why you chose to run with the Green Party in particular and why Mike Schreiner is the right choice for Premier.

Robert Gibson 19:48
Okay, yeah, thank you. Um, well, I’m running because I believe in the Green Party policies the most. Like the energy policies. There was a report that said that, right now the energy subsidies are benefiting people with large homes, the rich, more than they were benefiting people on low income and they promote wasteful energy use. So the Green Party will save a lot of money by redistributing the subsidies to have it more targeted and reduce the amount of consumption. And the Green Party has a plan to get to carbon zero five years faster than the other parties. And you asked about Mike Schreiner in particular being a good leader. Mike Schreiner has reached across party lines to get action. He’s kept the Government accountable when needed. And this has happened many times, during this Government. And one example is the community gardens being restricted. And I know there was a group with a community gardens in the city of Peterborough. And the Green Party has also– members of the Green Party have also supported me in advocacy on environmental issues. And the other parties don’t have the best record in terms of environmental protection. One example is– there was a report by the auditor general’s office that said, over five years, which included both the Liberals and Conservatives, only 0.003 percent of land was added for protection. So I don’t believe that they are acting fast enough, in terms of protecting 30 percent of land, or with climate change. And those are the reasons why I am running for the Green Party and why I believe Mike Schreiner would be the best premier.

Will Pearson 23:20
Okay, thanks to Robert, Jen, and Greg, for those introductions to themselves. You know, as I was preparing for these interviews, I watched as protesters outside of Jen Deck’s campaign office called for the death of Jagmeet Singh who was visiting the office for a campaign event. This incident, which got on national news wasn’t an anomaly. I think it’s emblematic of just how toxic and hateful political discourse is becoming in our community. I know it’s probably like a minority of people who are throwing around this hateful rhetoric – not just rhetoric, hateful rhetoric and hateful actions, really – but even if it’s a minority, I think that this kind of behavior has a big impact on the rest of our politics. I really don’t know what the path out of the situation is. But I know that it’s going to take some really courageous leadership. And since candidates in this election are all running to be leaders in our community, I wanted to ask for their thoughts. So I asked them at the end of our interviews, really like regardless of whether they get elected or not how they intended to work towards repairing some of this, like social fragmentation. And how they intended to address the rising violence and hate that is animating a lot of our political discourse. Here’s what they had to say.

Robert Gibson 24:43
Yes, yeah. Thank you for the question. So, yeah, regardless of whether or not I’m elected, I hope to reach across party lines and have discussions around this particular issue. And yeah, it’s unacceptable, what Jagmeet Singh and Jen Deck experienced. And I know that this is happening at the municipal levels as well, so supporting efforts at all levels of government – and at the federal level there is harassment – it’s going to require a lot of work. It’s not going to – I would like there to be a, a quick fix, but I’m not sure that there is. And I know some of this action will need to take place after the election, so it should not be a political issue. And it should be something that every political party supports.

Greg Dempsey 27:01
Yeah so first off, let me say that what happened to Jagmeet Singh was wholly unacceptable. I mean, I was absolutely shocked. I wouldn’t say surprised, because we have seen as you’ve talked about the undercurrents of this happening in our community, certainly over the last few months, but has been bubbling for a number of years now. I think as well, we think of the insults and the difficulties that our former MP suffered through as well. Especially during the previous liberal election campaign, which were completely also unacceptable. You just have to look at my Facebook page, Will, if you want to see some pretty awful things, and some awful comments from people. The one that sticks out to me is we put up on Mother’s Day posts from my mom, I guess, a week ago, and somebody told me that my mom should be ashamed of me for running for office, and that they hope that I died as soon as possible. So this level of discourse is directed at everybody who is running for office. And we see of course, some great municipal leaders who’ve decided not to seek reelection because of the abuse that they have faced. So absolutely denounce it. Yes, we all have a role to play in this. I think what we need to do is demonstrate the overwhelming majority of people at Peterborough—Kawartha are civil, positive – we may disagree on what the policy solutions are for things, but we’re all cheering for our community, we all want the best, we’re all very respectful. I’ve had great conversations with Conservative supporters, NDP supporters, Green supporters, that I felt were really, really positive and wonderful. That is the vast majority of people in our community. But–but this very vocal minority is also our community. It is and we need to be coming together to look for creative solutions, of how we can restore a better level of political discourse. So I am eager to work with everybody. I’ve said that I am going to work to have a positive relationship with our MP, a positive relationship with the mayor and the future mayor, whoever that might be. And I think we need to come together, especially if we’re from different parties or different backgrounds. Come together to denounce this kind of hatred wherever it is, and to work together towards a more respectful political dialogue.

Jen Deck 29:27
The way that I have always tried to live my life is to approach everyone with compassion. That’s not always easy to do. And, you know, my instinct is always to think about why somebody is behaving the way they are. You know, maybe that’s because I’m a teacher. Maybe it’s because I’m a mother, but I don’t think that we get fixes – but you know, it’s a reflexive reaction that we can have to say we should have a law about that, we should have a bylaw about that. Maybe we do. But I think more importantly, I think that we need to spend more time focusing. I keep using the word investing and in this case, I’m really not saying it in a financial way – we need to invest in the concept of civic responsibility, and compassion for others. And like everybody else, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what happened last Tuesday. And you know, I’ve thought about it lots before. And, I do honestly think that when we starve our public services, and they no longer work for people, then people become angry about that. And they distrust the very services that were supposed to help them. And so we’re really working at cross purposes, if we don’t put funding into education. I mean, teachers desperately want to teach about social justice and about ethics and about civic responsibility. And they don’t have time, they are just stretched to the limit, trying to juggle really big classes with really complex needs. And individual kids just can’t get the individual attention that they deserve. Similarly, if you can’t find a family doctor, then you’re going to be negative about public health. So I don’t think there is a quick fix for what you’re describing, William. But I really think that we need to model the kind of behavior that we want to see in others, model that to our children. Help our friends by calling in when we make mistakes, if we make mistakes about terminology, or if we make mistakes, you know, the older generation might say stuff that is racist or homophobic and rather than going to the easy reaction, which is “That’s racist, that’s homophobic!” to really call them in and say, with love, say, “Here’s what’s going on. And here’s what the impact of what you’re saying is.” And give them a chance to learn from that. We were really quick to go to the anger all of us. And, and so for some people, they’re going to take it that much farther, but I think it’s something that we all need to address in our own hearts.

Will Pearson 33:03
That’s all for this episode of Peterborough Currents’s 2022 Ontario election podcast. This was our first one. We’ve got a few more episodes coming out after this, so keep watching your podcast feeds. Hey, thanks to Erika Nininger whose music you’ve been hearing in this episode. You can buy this music at Erika’s Bandcamp: erikanininger.bandcamp.com Thanks so much for lending us your music. And if you appreciated this podcast if you want to see us do more journalism like this in your community, please be sure to support us financially if you’re able. Head over to Peterborough Currents dot ca slash support us. We really can’t do this work without your support. So I’d really appreciate that. Thanks for listening, and we’ll talk soon.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that five candidates are running against incumbent Dave Smith. The correct number is six.

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