After cruising to another big win in his riding of Niagara Falls, Wayne Gates says a run for leadership of the Ontario New Democratic Party is not off the table.
Not long after leader Andrea Horwath announced last Thursday night that she will be stepping down, Gates’s name already was being floated as a possible successor.
“Would I love to be the leader of the NDP? I think that answer is probably yes,” Gates said.
As he cleaned up his campaign office on Tuesday, he told The Lake Report he is open to running for the leadership but remains undecided.
“I’ll be honest with you — I’ve had the conversation with a lot of people. But the most important is with my wife and my grandkids,” he said.
Gates talked about how important his family is to him and how long they have been in his corner while he battles it out in Ontario’s political sphere.
“They’ve supported me for the last 40 years. I’ve been elected a long, long time, in a lot of different roles in my community.”
“So, would I consider running? Yes. Have I made up my mind to run? That will come with a conversation with my family and, quite frankly, with my staff members as well and my friends.”
Gates tied the decision to the week-old provincial election.
“We just finished an incredible election and making hasty decisions, I’m not gonna do that.”
“My staff, they’re the best, by far, in the province of Ontario and they’re tired, they’re exhausted. So, we need to take a few weeks to kind of get our thoughts together and then maybe make a decision on what my future holds with the NDP.”
In the meantime, Gates is turning his focus to pressing issues that face the Niagara Falls riding, Niagara-on-the-Lake and the rest of Ontario.
“For Niagara-on-the-Lake, we just have to continue to make sure that we protect our arts, our culture. I’m not against development but it should be smart development with consultation with council, with the residents,” he said.
“Parliament Oak, I think that’s a very good example of making sure that we protect the Old Town when it comes to development and coming together as a community, as a council.”
Gates was at the parade commemorating the centennial of the Old Town cenotaph on Saturday, June 4.
“We have an incredible history in Niagara-on-the-Lake and Queenston and St. Davids over the last 200 years.”
“We have to do everything we can to protect that,” Gates said. He referenced the Shaw Festival as one of the cultural icons of NOTL.
He said he also looks forward to further representing the wine and agricultural industries in NOTL, who “support a lot of jobs and bring billions of dollars into the local economy.”
“I’m absolutely honoured that (the riding has) given me that opportunity for the fourth time to be that face, be that strong voice and listen to the residents.”
But there was one issue that cuts across all ridings and all levels of politics: affordability.
“The affordability issue is real,” he said,
Gates said he would actively work to prevent price gouging of consumers at the gas pump and in grocery stores.
“There’s no doubt there’s gouging when profits are up 40 per cent on billions. It’s not like they are just barely making money. They are making billions of dollars,” he said.
“It’s absolutely gouging and governments have a role to play in making sure they address that. What I see, it hasn’t been addressed yet.”
Gates specifically targeted the Weston family which controls stores in Canada such as Loblaws and Shoppers Drug Mart.
“Pasta has gone up, if you can imagine, pasta has gone up 19.6 per cent. Cereal — I eat a lot of cereal by the way (Cheerios is his favourite) — it’s gone up 13.9 per cent. Bread is 12.2 and fresh fruit is 10 per cent.”
“Whose wages are going up with those kinds of figures and what senior, who’s living on pension and in some cases surviving spouses have had their pensions reduced because their spouses have passed away, (can afford to) buy food?”
“We need to be a strong voice and not allow this to continue to happen.”
Gates had some words for people who may be worried about what four more years of a Doug Ford Progressive Conservatiove government will do to Ontario.
“I think we’re all worried about the privatization of health care.”
Gates criticized the “unnecessary attack on health care, health care workers, paramedics, correction officers and others with Bill 124.”
“I’m hoping that premier Ford and his cabinet repeal Bill 124 and try to save lives that are being lost every day in our health care system and long-term care centres because of staffing issues.”
He said he wants to work together to ensure people are taken care of when they are sick.”
“I will always be a voice fighting for publicly funded health care and publicly funded education. I think that’s what makes Canada different from other countries in the world, particularly the Americans.”
Gates expressed his gratitude that the people of NOTL, Fort Erie and Niagara Falls put their trust in him again.
“I’m very fortunate and I certainly don’t take it for granted to be that voice and that face for those communities, to make sure we’re heard at Queen’s Park but, quite frankly, sometimes right across the country.”