Marking his eighth political campaign in the city, Robert Bowers is running as an independent candidate to represent Peterborough-Kawartha riding in parliament. Longtime Peterborough residents may recall him as “Bob Bowers” on previous election ballots: this election is his fourth federal campaign, though he has also run for several provincial elections. Bowers’ focuses are on mental health and addictions, housing and Indigenous rights.
Peterborough Currents spoke with Bowers ahead of the September 20 election to discuss how he came into his political career, what his platform is focused on, and why he chose to run as an independent candidate. Listen to the interview or read the interview transcript below.
Peterborough Currents: Would you introduce yourself?
RB: My name is Robert M. Bowers. I’ve lived here all my life, and I’ve lived in almost every corner of the city. The fact is, I know this city like a book.
I know that things have changed over the years. And that’s the reason I run. The fact is that at one time we were a very prosperous city. When I was a kid, around 1950-1960, everybody had a job, there was no poverty, and everybody was productive. How we got changed around I have no idea but our politicians have not done their job. And I’m saying to them, I can change this. Because I believe that with dedication, and proper compassion, things will change.
And I want people on the street to understand that I’m behind them. I want them to get homes. I want them to have happiness and something better than the drug world.
PC: What would you say are your biggest priorities with this campaign?
RB: First of all, I’m a native. And the fact is, I believe that if we really want to help these people, we can. All it would take is dedication and hard work. And I also believe that the natives are not after money. That’s not their purpose. They want happiness, they want housing and proper jobs. They need education, they need water, which everybody points to, but that’s not the only thing, there’s all kinds of things they need. And we have to do this for them, because of what we’ve put them through.
I know because my father was in a residential school. I had to put up with that in my life. And I’m very emotional about that.
The fact is, there’s all kinds of things we have to do for people. It’s not just the natives, we have the poor in town here, we need to have proper care of them. We need a drug world that is healthy for them, so that they can get rehabilitated. And I should guess, we make drugs legal. We can’t persecute them. We have this feeling that they’re doing something wrong, but all they are, is addicted to something that started many years ago.
And we have our police forcing their way into the homes and taking their children. And it’s not fair. And talking about [Children’s Aid Societies]. We have to get CAS out of the native community. It’s not right, those people have suffered enough.
And then there’s the young people, I’m not forgetting the ordinary person, either. The fact is we have young people that are going to school and paying for it themselves. And that’s not fair. I look at it as a job. And they should be paid for. We can do that for our people. And I want the students to understand that if they stick together and petition the government properly. They’ll get that. And I’ll be beside them, hopefully.
PC: Why do you think it’s important to be an independent candidate in this election?
RB: I’ll tell you why I run as an independent. One time I ran for the NDP. And the fact is, I thought I was trapped. I couldn’t say what I wanted to say. I was shunned if I ever had an idea of my own. And I have ideas that you’ve heard now. And I really believe in these things. And we can do it as a society if we really want to. And that’s the way I feel. And I run as an independent because it gives me my freedom to speak. And I can say whatever I want. And people either take it or leave it, you know?
This interview was edited for clarity and length. Robert Bowers was interviewed alongside the other five candidates running in Peterborough–Kawartha, listen to all the interviews here.