“I have always been someone who believes in the value of community service.” – Stephanie Bowman.
On June 2nd Ontario gave Doug Ford and the PC party its second majority mandate in the Ontario legislature. Locally, in our riding of Don Valley West, voters chose to continue the 20-year history of electing Liberal candidates. Liberal Stephanie Bowman easily defeated high profile PC candidate Mark Saunders by a margin of almost 2,000 votes.
Recently, I had the pleasure of chatting with our new MPP on a range of topics from her personal background to the challenges of representing a riding as diverse as DVW, to what she hopes to accomplish over the coming years.
An accountant by trade, Bowman is a former bank executive who recently served as a member of the board of the Bank of Canada. Previously, she was a long-time senior executive with Scotiabank as well as a partner at accounting firm Ernst & Young. Born in London, Ont., Bowman is a mother of two young adult children, who, along with her husband, have lived in the riding for more than 27 years.
You have had an extremely successful career in positions such as partner at EY, Bank of Canada board member, and senior executive at Scotiabank. What drove your decision to become a public servant?
I have always been someone who believes in the value of community service; I learned that from my grandparents and my parents. Along with my corporate career I was always involved in a number of charitable organizations and those that support the advancement of women. After I was involved with the Bank and got to see firsthand the impact of policy from an internal view, I thought it would be something I would want to “spring” my energy to, serving my community. Policy matters and good policy make a difference in people’s lives; we need people from all kinds of diverse backgrounds to bring sound public policy to bear in our provincial government.
I was also concerned about the direction our province was going in, considering government decisions on the environment, public education, and healthcare, as well as local developments in the riding around misusing power to overturn the Midtown in Focus plan, and implement the bill (OPA 405) that has allowed for very tall condominiums going up in our community without any supporting infrastructure.
What are some of your overall wishes for our community?
When you have a strong slate of candidates, which we did, we have people with remarkably diverse backgrounds, people who are environmentalists, businesspeople, and those who are experienced in politics and policy. I think leveraging those diverse and broad talents is what brings forward progressive and practical as well as achievable solutions, which is what I want to make sure we are doing. Growth and productivity are somethings that I am really interested in; it is part of the reason I found my work at Bank of Canada so fascinating. We all do better when the economy is growing because that gives us a stronger base for everyone to prosper from, while also making sure the revenues that come from that are funding our institutions and keeping them strong because we know that in Ontario and Toronto we have a very high rate of immigration and we need that; we want to make sure that those Canadians will do well. They will do well if they get access to high quality public education and healthcare.
Your predecessor Kathleen Wynne was deeply involved and active in the Leaside community. Leaside Life is focused on providing hyper-local content to the residents of Leaside and Bennington. Is there anything you would like to say directly to the residents of this neighbourhood?
We are open here, we are in the riding, I want them (residents) to reach out and feel free to talk to me about things they see that are troubling them, things that they think are going well that we want to build on in our community, and how we can collaborate across various levels of government. I have a great relationship with our MP as well as our city councillors, I want to make sure we can tackle issues that can be complicated because they cross various levels of government.
What do you think will be most important for DVW and Ontario moving forward post-pandemic?
I heard from a number of residents who own small businesses in sectors like tourism and hospitality. We want to make sure that all businesses are supported to recover, as well as the arts. We spoke to over 40 stakeholder groups on the policy team I was on, from the arts, to innovation, to technology companies, and small business associations. Those small businesses were really hurt being closed for so long, so we need to help them build back better, whether that be supporting them with digital capabilities, helping to continue to repay the debts they incurred during the pandemic – especially in sectors that were really hurt, like tourism, the arts, and entertainment, which are crucial parts of the economy. We want to make sure that we are telling both local visitors and those from outside the province that we are here, we are available to serve them again. Again, I think public education and healthcare have suffered. We have lost healthcare workers, nurses, and doctors to burnout, and we must make sure that the government stays focused on retaining and attracting new talent where we need to in those places and supporting our teachers so that our students are well prepared for the next phase of their life.
Affordability is a big challenge for families right now. Again, I want to make sure that the current government is thinking about some specific measures that can help people right away with the challenges they face in terms of food prices and housing, to name a couple.