4 min

From the corporate world to politics

Robert Dekker's bid for Centretown

Robert Dekker Credit: Courtesy of Robert Dekker

Before turning to politics, Robert Dekker’s life was split between the corporate world and the media. He was a radio announcer for several years in Stratford, Ontario, and most recently worked as a call centre manager for Bell Canada. Dekker, 50, grew up in Scarborough and Mississauga before moving to Ottawa 22 years ago. He resides in the Golden Triangle and is the president of the board of directors for Daybreak, a non-profit supportive housing initiative, and the past chair of activities for the Centretown Citizens’ Community Association transportation committee. Dekker is the Progressive Conservative candidate for Centretown.

Xtra: Local police priorities have been in the news a lot recently, especially around sex-worker sweeps. Police say that they are acting on community complaints, but many of these sex workers actually live in these communities. What should policing priorities be in Ottawa, and is there any way for an MPP to influence police decision-making?
Robert Dekker: The police have a mandate to protect every citizen. If there are instances where police go beyond what they should be doing, then there should be investigations. As an MPP, I hope we can persuade and create laws that protect citizens from police who overstep their boundaries. That would be an MPP’s role to make sure citizens’ rights are not infringed upon. There are processes in place where if there are complaints, they are investigated upon. We have to rely upon these processes. But if they’re found to be ineffective, then as a local MPP it would be my responsibility to go to the solicitor-general and to ensure that the laws are practised. If they need to be changed, we can look at ways to change them to help innocent citizens.

What would you do as MPP to help protect sex worker rights?
RD: The PC party doesn’t have a particular policy speaking directly to sex-trade workers. All we’re asking of Ontarians is they abide by the laws that are there. If people are living and working within the laws as they are, then if there are any injustices, we should look at why they were caused and what actions should be taken to ensure they are not repeated.

Xtra: HIV-nondisclosure laws are increasing in their scope – we have a high-profile case going on now in Ottawa. There is an Ontario working group trying to get prosecutorial guidelines in place for the Crown and police to follow. What is your take on the HIV-nondisclosure laws?
RD: I think if an Ontario citizen can put someone at harm because of a medical condition they have, I believe these things should be disclosed so consenting parties are fully aware of any harm, risk of harm or illness to be transmitted. I think that it is the right thing to do so that nobody is unknowingly caused any harm, especially in the case of a medical condition.

Xtra: What would you do as an MPP to help push these guidelines?
RD: This is a federal jurisdiction. All we would be able to do is consult with the local MPs. We can have discussions about the gaps to ensure the disclosure laws are correct. If there are gaps, we should close them so they protect Ontario citizens.

Xtra: Ontario has a Safe Schools Strategy designed to help children to learn in a safe and secure environment. The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board has diversity clubs and gay-straight alliances (GSAs) in their schools to help gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students. The Catholic School Board, however, does not allow GSAs, although some do have diversity clubs or multicultural clubs. What can the provincial government do to make sure Catholic schools are safe and inclusive for queer students?
RD: All activities and extracurricular activities within the school board are under the jurisdiction of the Catholic school board. As the province, we don’t necessarily have the ability to dictate what activities happen in that school board. It’s not the role of the province. We have a curriculum, but it’s a school board decision.

Xtra: How can you as an MPP ensure that your local Catholic schools are protecting queer students?
RD: There are laws in place that do not allow for discrimination against somebody for who they are. We’ll work in the laws as they are. And we’ll work with the school boards. If the school boards have difficulty with this, as an MPP, I can assist the school, teachers and students with education to the students and the staff as to the laws and the rights guaranteeing the students a safe place to go to school without any harm or threat of harm. Every student should have the ability to go to school with a non-threatening environment to have an education to help their future.

Xtra: What do you see your role would be as MPP for Ottawa Centre? How does the queer community fit into it?
RD: My role as an Ottawa Centre MPP is to represent each and every member of this riding, groups and communities. As such, my role is to work with the government for the delivery of services. A Conservative government will lower taxes for every resident by reducing hydro and heating costs. We’ll also eliminate waste in government spending. These initiatives and other initiatives in our change book benefit each and every citizen in Ontario and in Ottawa Centre.

Xtra: Do you support the Village initiative? Why or why not?
RD: I’m not opposed to the Village. Within the Village framework, there are other groups that need to be part of the process. As MPP, I would be part of those discussions with all the stakeholders to see if an agreement could be reached so that a Village could be created in Ottawa.

Xtra: The federal government has announced another three years of the cost-shared Affordable Housing Initiative. What will your party do to play a direct role in affordable housing once that program has run out?
RD: I’m currently the president of the board of directors for Daybreak, a non-profit supportive housing initiative. As an MPP, I would like to pursue my interests in affordable and supportive housing in Ottawa and to help a Conservative government have a strong affordable-housing initiative.

Xtra: Community-based non-profit housing is part of our local infrastructure; what will you do to improve funding for repair and improvements to existing housing?
RD: In the Conservative Party Change Book, there’s a $35-billion infrastructure program. This money would be available for the City of Ottawa to apply for and use to fix current housing and create new and affordable housing and supportive housing.