Nearly 40 percent of the people in the riding of Eglinton-Lawrence are immigrants and Progressive Conservative candidate Rocco Rossi says he knows how difficult life can for many new Canadians.
Although he was born in Toronto, Rossi grew up watching his mother raise five kids in the city without knowing any English.
“She effectively became a prisoner in her own home,” said Rossi. “If the phone rang and it was someone speaking something other than Italian she would hang up.”
After she got the chance to take free English classes as part of a program funded by the United Way, Rossi’s mother joined the local information centre so she could help other immigrant women. Decades later, Rossi is still trying to follow her example.
“That desire to give back and that understanding that a very small thing can make such a huge impact on people’s lives is a big part of what attracts me to public service,” he said.
The Princeton grad and former business executive has given back to the community by working on the board of the United Way and as the CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation from 2004 to 2009.
During last fall’s municipal election he attempted to serve the public by becoming Toronto’s mayor but dropped out late in the race. For nearly two years prior to that he was the national director of the Liberal Party of Canada.
In early February, Rossi announced that he had left the Liberals and would be running in Eglinton-Lawrence as a Progressive Conservative in the Oct. 6 provincial election. He said changing parties was the only way to enact change in the province.
“For me the party that best meets the needs and the leader that best meets the needs of the challenges facing Ontario is Tim Hudak and the Progressive Conservative Party,” said Rossi. “I was approached by both parties to run and I believe fundamentally that Ontario needs change and the only party that’s going to bring real change are the Ontario PCs.”
Allowing married couples to shift up to $50,000 to the other spouse for tax purposes would be one of the first changes the Tories make, Rossi said. They also promised to reduce the provincial income tax by 5 percent for those taking home up to $75,000.
“That’s not a tax break for the rich,” Rossi said. “That’s a tax break for the working middle class.”
Rossi also said his party would remove the HST from home heating and electricity bills if they form a government. Although they had previously called for the elimination of the HST all together that is no longer a practical option, according to Rossi.
“The way the Liberals brought HST in, to dismantle it all would generate huge penalties,” he said. “There’d be about $5 billion that had to be paid back to the federal government.”
In this election Rossi will face off against Gerti Dervishi of the NDP and Liberal Mike Colle, who has represented the riding since 1995.
Despite Colle’s long run in office, Rossi will have a good shot at unseating him if the federal election results can be used as any sort of measure. In May, Conservative candidate Joe Oliver took Eglinton-Lawrence from the incumbent of 24-years, Liberal Joe Volpe beating him by over 4,000 votes.
“In these difficult times people want to vote for representatives that are going to work with the other levels of government,” said Rossi. “We want all our elected representatives to work together and I think having Conservatives in Ottawa Progressive Conservatives at Queen’s Park would be a good thing because then there would be no excuses not to deliver on what the people need.”