Softspoken and thoughtful, the Green Party’s Mark Daye says he’s just an average guy who wants to make a big difference in Ontario.
That’s why throwing his hat into the election ring for the first time was an easy decision.
“For me, winning doesn’t mean getting elected,” he tells Xtra. “Winning is having a chance to push the policies and issues I believe in and I think are good for the riding and good for Ontario.”
Toronto Centre is a hotly contested race with four strong candidates. Liberal MPP Glen Murray is defending his seat against street nurse Cathy Crowe, who is running for the NDP. Martin Abell is the candidate for the Progressive Conservatives. Both Murray and Daye are openly gay men.
“I’ve been involved with the party for a while and have always been a noisemaker, writing letters and talking to people, so it seemed like a natural progression. I just want to make a difference in my community.”
Daye, 43, was born in Brockville and raised in rural eastern Ontario. He now lives in Toronto with his husband and a 20-year-old son and works in finance for Optimal Performance Consultants, an ergonomics and accessibility consulting firm.
“The Greens and the NDP have similar policies, and the public thinks of us as being similar,” he says. “Where we differentiate is the Greens believe we can have a good economy and we can have a good environment. For the NDP, it’s either/or.”
In Toronto Centre, which typically leans to the left, Daye cites Crowe as the greatest threat. But some people still view the Greens as vote splitters.
“I get so annoyed when people say the Greens are splitting the left because we live in a democracy, so we should have choice,” he says. “The problem is the system. We have a broken electoral system. It’s archaic. Get rid of first past the post. We need proportional representation. So I’ll keep talking about electoral reform.”
In the 2007 election, the Green candidate, Mike McLean, grabbed 10 percent of the vote. Liberal George Smitherman won the seat with 47 percent of the vote. In the 2010 by-election that saw Murray win with 47 percent of the vote, Stefan Premdas of the Green Party got only three percent.
In this election, the Green Party is keeping the focus on the economy, job creation, energy, food and transportation, Daye says. He says provincial funding for the TTC needs to be increased to the level it was at before Mike Harris took office. “We need to change people’s attitude toward public transportation and make it easier for them to leave their cars at home.”
The first all-candidates' debate, on Sept 8 at the YMCA on Grosvenor St, will focus on housing. Xtra will host a debate at the 519 Church St Community Centre on Sept 22. The party leaders face off on Sept 27, but Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner was not invited to take part.
“I think it’s wrong that he has been shut out,” Daye says. “More than 300,000 people voted for the Greens in the last election. People want to hear what we have to say because we have a different message than the other parties.”
Daye plans to put the spotlight on education, particularly the urgent need for GSAs in Catholic schools.
“Of course, I will be talking a lot about the school issue surrounding GSAs and the Catholic school boards, which isn’t part of our platform but is an issue that I am quite concerned about,” he says. “The discrimination in Catholic schools makes me sick. It infuriates me.”
Only the Green Party is talking about ending all funding for faith-based schools and merging the two publicly funded school boards into one, Daye says.
“I think the other parties are afraid of losing the Catholic vote. That’s why they don’t want to talk about it,” he says. “It’s a very touchy issue for a lot of people. [Funding faith-based schools] is discriminatory and it’s being sanctioned by the government. It’s unacceptable. I don’t know why other parties aren’t taking this on. It’s wrong and it should be changed.”
On gender equality, Daye says, he will always advocate for human rights and equality and will push for trans rights to be added to the Ontario Human Rights Code. “I will always be a champion of human rights.”