Name: Charles Sousa
Riding: Mississauga South
Years as MPP: five
Former cabinet positions: Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Minister Responsible for the 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games and Minister of Labour.
Bio: Former business owner and banking executive with 25 years of experience in the private sector. Sousa is married with three children.
Platform: Sousa platform is based on job creation through an improved branding of Ontario. He wants more processing and manufacturing to be done in Ontario and seeks to take advantage of untapped potential in rural and northern Ontario.
On Toronto/GTA: Make Metrolinx responsible for TTC. Build a new university campus in Milton. Reform the Condo Act.
Hobbies/interests: Sousa enjoys music and plays piano and was the Athlete of the Year in junior high school for his prowess on the football field.
In quotes: “It’s about staying away from election-cycle politics, that’s short-term thinking. I want us to be proactive. I want us to be visionary. I want us to make investments in transportation, in infrastructure projects, in manufacturing, that will enable us to provide stimulus and programs so that entrepreneurs and businesses produce jobs. It’s not about more government it’s about more opportunity.”
Charles Sousa boldly entered the Ontario Liberal leadership race in November by billing himself as the “jobs premier” – making clear his intentions to usher the province into a new period of growth and prosperity should he be chosen to succeed Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.
The Mississauga South MPP believes his experience in both the private sector and public service sets him apart from the competition and will allow him to execute an ambitious platform focused on creating jobs.
The 54-year-old married father of three owned a company that offered financial services to small businesses before embarking on a 20-year executive career with RBC Financial Group.
He was first elected to the Ontario legislature in 2007 and was re-elected in 2011. Along the way he’s held posts as Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Minister Responsible for the 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games and Minister of Labour.
“I think my private sector experience does provide some broader perspective and enable me to compliment that which I’ve now done in government with the various portfolios I’ve held,” he told CityNews.
“We still have to balance our books as necessary but we still have to make investments over the long term to enable us to be competitive.”
Sousa sees, for example, untapped potential in northern Ontario – home to vast chromite deposits in the region known as the Ring of Fire, about 500 kilometres north of Thunder Bay.
“What I want is to see more smelting and more manufacturing of that product in Ontario to provide those value-added jobs.”
“Developing the Ring of Fire will be my top priority for the north.”
He also wants Ontario to take a more active role in the fishing industry.
“We have the largest fresh water fisheries anywhere in the world right here in Ontario and it is untapped,” he said. “It’s a sustainable stock and what do we do? We catch it and ship it off to other parts of the world. We should do the processing here, the packaging here, and enable our value-added jobs to be secure in Ontario.”
Sousa, who spent his earliest years in Toronto’s Kensington Market neighbourhood before his family moved to Mississauga, also has ambitious plans for the GTA.
They include big changes to the TTC and building a new university campus in Milton.
“I’d integrate our transit systems into one regional system by making Metrolinx responsible for the TTC,” Sousa said in a Toronto Board of Trade speech in early January.
“Not just because the status quo isn’t working, but because making the TTC part of a truly regional system would work much better.”
He also has plans to build high speed rail that would “connect Hamilton to Toronto, and Toronto to Oshawa.”
Ontario would “partner with the private sector to find innovative financing solutions to get the job done and protect the taxpayer,” he said.
Taxpayers, however, put Sousa on the hotseat for his role in the costly cancellation of a power plant in Mississauga.
Sousa lobbied the premier to have it moved and taxpayers were forced to foot the bill, pegged at around $230 million, including another cancelled gas plant in Oakville.
The decision to move the Mississauga gas plant came just days before the Oct. 6, 2011, election.
Sousa says he was against the location for the plant from day one.
“I fought to protect the interests of our community and the surrounding community…and I opposed it prior to being elected because it was wrongly sited.”
He believes more public consultations should have taken place.
“More could have been done with the communities,” he stressed. “And we could have sought information because there was other communities that did want the power plant.”
Sousa finished fifth in delegate selection with about 11 per cent support, well behind front-runners Sandra Pupatello (27.4 per cent) and Kathleen Wynne (25.2).
Even though he trails considerably heading into this weekend’s leadership convention, Sousa still thinks there’s time for a late run that could land him the premier’s job.
“There’s no clear winner. It’s anyone’s game,” he told CityNews.
“I’m asking the delegates to look at a third option, and that option is to ensure that we look at a new fresh face that’s going to be able to bring positive and forward thinking.”