Ian Bingham says Grit platform worth voting for on its own
BY JOHN CHICK
Special to the VOICE
Niagara West federal Liberal candidate Ian Bingham isn’t making excuses for the actions of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. In a chat with the Voice last week less than 12 hours after old photos and video of the party leader in racially demeaning “brownface” and “blackface” surfaced, Bingham wanted to stress that all politics are local.
“I think that people are right to be alarmed,” the Grimsby lawyer said. “There’s things going on and it doesn’t look good. But I say to people, when you tick the ballot, you’re thinking about three things —the philosophy of party, the leader, and the local candidate. I think those three things should be balanced in people’s mind before they vote. Even if you’re unsure about Mr. Trudeau, consider me and consider the policies that the Liberal party stands for in moving Canada forward.”
In deeply Conservative Niagara West, it would be a challenge for Bingham to win a seat in the House of Commons even without the newest scandal and the lingering SNC-Lavalin affair. Tory MP Dean Allison has represented the riding since 2004, when Bingham, who doesn’t turn 30 until December, was just 14 years old.
Still, Bingham notes a couple of factors.
“Twenty-thousand people from our riding didn’t vote in the last election,” he said, rounding up from the approximately 18,000 who didn’t cast a vote in 2015. “I think some of that is a suppressed vote, voters who felt like it would be a waste of time to vote for the party of their choice, which leads me to believe a lot of them are Liberals.”
He also points to Niagara West’s changing demographics, which are seeing more and more people move to the area from regions like the GTA.
“Newcomers to the area are a growing percentage of the population now, and they’re not entrenched in any party affiliation,” he said.
Locally, Bingham says he’s cognizant of hot-button issues in Pelham, specifically around cannabis production.
“[It is] an issue to resolve so people aren’t concerned about their property values,” he said. “If I were elected, I would put as much pressure as I can … if that means working with Health Canada, so be it … there’s a balance to be struck between the rights of people and producers.”
While the taxation model of pot facilities falls under provincial jurisdiction, Bingham agrees it must change.
“At this point, it would be wise, and I’ve heard enough people in the area say that they want cannabis moved from an agricultural designation,” he said.
Beyond cannabis, one issue relevant to Niagara that Bingham would like to see addressed is that of seniors. He’s proposing a system like one in the Netherlands, where nursing homes offer rent-free living for qualified youth (often college and university students) in exchange for assisting seniors.
“It’s worked very well,” he said.
Another regional project Bingham supports in a field short on big, outside-the-box ideas, is pursuing the long-dormant Mid-Peninsula Highway, an expressway that would connect the Peace Bridge with Hamilton— originally tabled as a relief valve for the QEW. Bingham envisions it as a Canada-U.S. trade corridor.
“The trade corridor would kill about three birds with one stone,” he said. “The QEW is a mounting problem. The second one is there’s very few long-term sustainable jobs in the area. The third is development. It would alleviate the congestion, it would build up the area, and it would be serviceable for new residential development.”
In a political environment sensitive to the environment and blatantly anti-car in some quarters, Bingham knows there will be pushback. Yet he says the corridor is integral to the long-term growth of Niagara.
“At first I agreed with [the anti-car viewpoint],” he said. “But in talking to people who use the highway a lot, a train won’t work for a lot of it. As an example, the GO Train is still going to take two hours to get to Toronto. I think a highway is feasible in the long-term as we move toward electric cars.”
This is where the Liberals’ carbon-pricing plan helps, he said.
“The good news about the Liberal government is they’ve pledged to invest in municipalities though carbon pricing.”
Before practicing law in Grimsby, Bingham served in the Royal Canadian Navy. He said that experience taught him about leadership and perspective.
“In the Forces I learned service before self, which I believe is critical to being a successful representative,” he said. “Through a global lens, I learned that our constitution and ideals in Canada are extremely valuable and worth defending, and should be the focus of any election.”