Paul Summerville was acclaimed on Oct.13 as the Liberal candidate for the Victoria by-election that will fill the vacant Member of Parliament (MP) seat in Ottawa. NDP representative Denise Savoie left the Victoria MP seat when she resigned on account of health issues in August. Harper called the by-election to be held Nov. 26 in conjunction with those in the Calgary-Centre, AB, and Durham, ON, ridings.
Summerville is an adjunct professor at the Gustavson School of Business at UVic and the former chief economist for RBC Capital. He will compete against three other candidates with UVic ties: NDP candidate Murray Rankin co-chairs UVic’s student-run environmental law centre and is an expert in environmental and aboriginal law; Dale Gann is the president of the UVic enterprise Vancouver Island Technology Park and represents the Conservative party; and UVic professor of law Donald Galloway hopes to win a second seat for the Green party.
Since earning a PhD from the University of Tokyo in 1988, Summerville has worked for several prominent financial firms as an investment banker and appeared as an economic expert or spokesman on various global news channels. He is in charge of content on the blog Canada’s Excellent Future, which draws attention and discussion to important public policy issues. Early this year, he ran for the position of National Policy Chair for the Liberals and was defeated by a margin of seven votes.
Summerville was first involved in politics with the NDP beginning in 2004 when he returned to Canada from Japan. He was active in the party, running for Parliament as a favoured candidate in central Toronto in 2006, but found his views on taxation, social justice and the role of the market economy were better aligned with Bob Rae’s Liberal platform. Summerville says he still holds great respect for the late Jack Layton.
Rae and Summerville emphasize the importance of a strong market economy that is balanced by fair government that offers robust social justice.
“I’m a product of the country where there was equality under the law, where there was the science of good health and where education wasn’t seen as a personal investment but as a societal investment,” says Summerville. “That’s the Canada I want, and that’s why I’m running.”
This three-pillar approach is the framework on which the rest of Summerville’s policy positions rest. Calling himself “radically progressive,” Summerville supports policy that he believes is environmentally and economically responsible. His efforts in Victoria are aimed at blocking the proposed $800-million Core Area Wastewater Treatment Program from being implemented in the Capital Regional District (CRD) because he says there has yet to be a study showing net environmental benefit; he instead favours investments in public transit infrastructure and rehabilitation of the city’s storm sewer system.
“I call it the billion-dollar boondoggle. The secondary sewage treatment plant is going to block a number of investments that would make Victoria a model 21st-century city for people to live, work and play and raise their families. If we make the mistake of letting that go ahead, then Victoria’s future is really harmed.”
Summerville also supports a federal carbon tax, legalization of marijuana (followed by commercialization and taxation, so that marijuana income doesn’t subsidize criminal activity), a national childcare plan that looks at ways parents can stay home if needed (not just an extension of schools) and a publicly funded and privately delivered healthcare system. He is also in favour of more grants for post-secondary education and lower tuition, particularly for first- and second-year students.
Summerville likens his more controversial initiatives to past policy changes that seemed extreme at the time but are acceptable today, such as legal access to birth control, divorce and gay marriage.
Summerville is quick to invite students to engage in politics, referring back to his three-prong frame of advancements in healthcare, education and a strong-but-regulated market economy. “For every person under the age of 25 that votes, five over the age of 65 vote. So why do you think we have the changing view of education that we do, as our population ages? Students need to get involved in politics because it’s going to frame their lives in ways that are invisible.”