Join us this month for a new series, where Emily Steers and Daniel Tarade introduce listeners to the Municipal Socialist Alliance (MSA) candidates running for mayor, city councilor, and school board trustee throughout Ontario!
Up next is Mark Freeland, the MSA candidate for city councilor in Mississauga Ward 7.
Mark Freeland is a member of Socialist Action and a unionized construction worker running for city council in Ward 7 Mississauga. As a worker, Mark recognizes the need for solidarity — twice Mark helped unionize his workplace, including IATSE Local 58 and LIUNA 183. He strives to end municipal politics being dominated by careerist politicians who shove money into developers’ pockets while social justice issues are ignored. Workers need a real voice in municipal politics. To know why a Workers’ Agenda at City Hall is needed just look at Patrick Brown, Dipika Damerla, and Doug Ford. Mark Freeland says that the fight for free mass transit, accessible and supportive housing for all who need it, the preservation of crucial farmland, the end of racist policing, and tax giant corporations and the rich requires a mass social movement.
All the people who work on The Red Review live and work on stolen Indigenous lands across Turtle Island. There can be no reconciliation without restitution, which includes Land Back, RCMP off Indigenous land, and seizing the assets of the major resource corporations and returning them to the commons.
Emily Steers 0:03
Hello everyone, and welcome to The Red Review, a Socialist Action podcast. My name is Emily. I use she/her pronouns, and I am coming to you from the unceded territories of the Neutral, Anishinaabe, and Haudenosaunee peoples known as Guelph, Ontario.
Daniel Tarade 0:45
Hi, comrades. It’s Daniel. I use he/him pronouns. I’m coming to you from Tkaronto, the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee, the Anishinaabeg, the Chippewa, the Mississaugas of the Credit, and the Huron Wendat. All members of Socialist Action live and work on stolen Indigenous land from across Turtle Island. So we echo the call of land back and Indigenous self determination. We believe that reconciliation is not possible without restitution and that includes seizing the assets of the major resource corporations and returning them to the commons. Today, we are back for yet another interview with one of the Municipal Socialist Alliance candidates for the upcoming elections in Ontario. Today we are joined by city councilor candidate in Mississauga Mark Freeland. Mark Freeland is a unionized construction worker running for city council in Ward 7 Mississauga. As a worker, Mark recognizes the need for solidarity. Twice, Mark helped unionize his workplace including IATSE local 58 and LIUNA local 183. He strives to end municipal politics being dominated by careerist politicians, who shove money into developers pockets while social justice issues are ignored. Workers need a real voice in municipal politics. To know why a workers’ agenda at City Hall is needed, just look at Patrick Brown, Dipika Damerla, and Doug Ford. Mark Freeland says that the fight for mass free transit, accessible and supportive housing for all who need it, to preserve crucial farmland, to end racist profiling, and to tax giant corporations and the rich requires a mass social movement. Welcome, Mark.
Emily Steers 2:16
Awesome. It’s so great to hear from you. Everyone’s bios are just so impressive. We’ve got such an amazing slate with the MSA. So Mark, is there anything you’d like to tell us that wasn’t covered in your fantastic bio?
Mark Freeland 2:28
I don’t think so. Should be noted that I haven’t any prior political experience. But yeah, I have been active within the unions – been a union worker for the last 15 years.
Emily Steers 2:38
I would say that’s being involved in politics.
Mark Freeland 2:40
A little bit. And then I work as an organizer for Socialist Action in Peel. But this is my first attempt to run for any elected office. It’s been a whole wide variety of first experiences for me.
Emily Steers 2:51
So what made you finally decide to take the plunge into municipal politics?
Mark Freeland 2:57
So for the most part, I’ve been disillusioned with our governance here in Canada on all the different levels. And in the last probably five years, I think my ideas have become more concrete. And rather than just being disparate ideologies, I’ve sort of looked more at pragmatic ways to put these ideas into practice rather. It’s been a process of going from just being disillusioned and isolated and apathetic about the political condition in Canada, and moving towards trying to actually take some kind of action rather than just sitting on the sidelines. Everything, of course appears easier from the armchair right.
Emily Steers 3:38
Mark Freeland 3:38
So it doesn’t seem like even the simplest things that would improve conditions for the working class are even remotely considered or any action taken upon. Of course, there’s a lot of talk, especially about social justice issues. And it seems like every politician out there is, of course, the best friend of the working class or the best friend of the at-risk, but you rarely see that there’s any meaningful action taken. We do elect people in order to enact our will. But we’re always forced into this position of making a concession or settling for someone we think is the best fit. There’s always a compromise.
Emily Steers 4:14
So what would be some of those solutions? And what are some of the actions that you want to see happening or that you would initiate?
Mark Freeland 4:21
At first it would be to stop the bleeding. For the most part, the actions or inaction of Conservative and Liberal governments have served to erode our state institutions like the public school system and the healthcare system. They get attacked under Conservative governments and never rehabilitated underneath the Liberals. Then their underfunding and failures are pointed to as failures of the system rather than failures of the governments that are improperly administrating them. Stopping that trend means that we need elected officials that are going to take action and make funding available for those systems.
Daniel Tarade 5:02
To borrow from a union term, so no more concessions bargaining. You kind of alluded to that earlier. So first, no more concessions. Second, fighting for gains. You’re coming from Mississauga. So what are some of the big gains that the people of Mississauga need and is long overdue? And what would a mass movement in Mississauga look like to try and achieve that?
Mark Freeland 5:20
Near me, about 750 meters from where I live, there’s a homeless shelter. It’s run by the Salvation Army, the Cawthra shelter. I have been there in the last few weeks. What I found when I went there was that there were a lot of people that were just simply in a bad spot. I even met someone that works in my industry. I’m a construction laborer. You know, I do fairly well. But there was another gentleman that works on a project that, you know, potentially I could be working on. And he was simply just fallen on hard times. And there were a lot of people there that find themselves in situations because they’re not able to afford housing with ODSP or OW. So a lot of the things that I think would really help Mississauga are unfortunately, not within the purview of the municipal government. There are things that are provincially mandated, let’s say. For example, the Residential Tenants Act. So just recently, people have discovered that their rent increases annually are double now because of the Ford government. The Residential Tenants Act is not something that the municipal government can act on. But a city hall in Mississauga could make a statement or condemn the provincial government for that increase because it’s not helping affordability for the working class, right. Also, rent control is also part of that same act. I would really like for there to be a change to rent control, but I can only advocate for that. And hopefully I could do that from City Hall to try and make some change in provincial politics. But I see in Mississauga, certainly, there is a housing crisis. And by that, I mean, there’s ordinary working class people, who are gainfully employed, that find it impossible to have adequate shelter. They find themselves having to combine their paychecks, have roommates, you know, they pay $1500 to $2,000 for a one-bedroom apartment. They’re facing other rising costs for fuel and for groceries. They pay exorbitant fees for telecom services and internet access. It’s just really become unaffordable for the working class, in general. Obviously, inflation is coming down. But that doesn’t mean that prices are coming down.
Daniel Tarade 7:11
They’re increasing just slightly more slowly than before.
Mark Freeland 7:14
So I’m not sure exactly all the things that would be necessary to transform Mississauga into a livable place for the working class. But one thing is for sure, it would mean more affordable housing. And that is something that is within the mandate of a municipal government. That would be the first thing that I would try and push through in City Hall would be a massive increase in the requirements for inclusionary zoning and the construction of affordable housing. Right now, the provisions at Mississauga City Hall are for between 2 and 5% of new developments to be affordable. And that’s just simply not enough.
Emily Steers 7:50
And what does affordability even mean, you know, sometimes affordability is, you know, 70% of the median rent, and who’s that affordable for?
Daniel Tarade 7:58
Yeah, they’re indexing affordability to the unaffordable prices right now, which is, again, the entirely inverse way of doing this. It should be indexed to what workers are actually making, let’s say.
Mark Freeland 8:07
I certainly agree. And that is a part of our policy, or one of the policies that I supported as having been endorsed by the Municipal Socialist Alliance. We decided democratically that the best way to address the housing crisis is to construct rent-geared-to-income housing, sort of pay what you can. You know, 30% of your income, I mean, that is a fair amount, you would think. Regardless of your income, it shouldn’t cost you more than that to have an adequate place to live.
Daniel Tarade 8:33
We talk a lot on this podcast about Toronto. It’s where I’m based, but Mississauga itself and you know, neighboring Brampton, there’s been a massive movement yet almost invisible from the mainstream media perspective. You have a lot of South Asian, Southeast Asian precarious workers who have basically seen there’s no other recourse for them except to take to the streets en masse and directly confront their abusive employers. So I’m talking about the Naujawan Support Network, for example. I know you’ve been involved in supporting the rallies.
Mark Freeland 9:02
There’s also Justice for Peel and Justice for Workers. There are also organizations that are strongly advocating for status for all, for all workers in Canada, so that workers that are on a visa or international students, making sure that they can access all of the rights and protections under the Employment Standards Act that Canadian citizens enjoy is just a no brainer. Absolutely a no brainer. I can’t see any reason besides bigotry that would prevent us from enacting that policy.
Emily Steers 9:33
What voices are missing in City Hall in Mississauga right now and what voices did there need to be more of?
Mark Freeland 9:39
Mississauga City Hall seems to be a collection of business people and establishment politicians. There’s many failed provincial politicians that run for city council in Mississauga. We have one in Ward four. We have the incumbent in Ward seven that tried her hand at provincial politics in the last provincial election and failed. We have in Ward three Chris Fonseca, the wife of Peter Fonseca, federal Liberal politician. They’re not representative of the residents of Mississauga for the most part. Dipika Damerla is the only South Asian in City Hall in Mississauga.
Emily Steers 10:20
And for a place like Mississauga that has a massive community of Southeast Asian and South Asian diaspora, that’s a rather glaring disparity in representation.
Mark Freeland 10:31
Absolutely. It’s a glaring omission in representation. It should be noted, too, that we have the largest Polish church in Mississauga outside of Poland on Cawthra road, just south of the 403. Mississauga is the home to every race, colour, and creed from all over the world. And we’re so much better for it. We just have so much diversity and so many different things to experience here. In Ward seven, we have a lot of Afghan and Syrian refugees, a lot of Middle Eastern and South Asian people living in Ward seven, and it’s actually transformed that area around Dundas and Hurontario. It’s actually it’s great. But one thing that is happening is gentrification in Ward seven. So some of these smaller ethnic stores and businesses are now disappearing as developers rush to construct condominiums in Ward seven. A lot of these new constructions are not very neighborhood friendly. They don’t include any green space. There’s one just east of Dundas and Hurontario that will have three towers over 30 stories, and those towers go right up to the sidewalk of Dundas and don’t include any green space. It’s actually really urgent that Mississauga starts to codify meaningful provisions for affordable housing in new developments in this area because the completion of the LRT, which they’re currently working on, is going to lead to a massive gentrification of that area that is going to price out the immigrant working class that lives there and destroy all the small businesses in that area that form the character of it.
Emily Steers 12:07
It sounds very much like, you know, with all of the developer money that goes in at City Hall, that politicians are valuing construction over community. With a majority white council that doesn’t have the representation from those immigrant communities that is so vital to what Mississauga is, you know, you’re gonna get condominiums riding roughshod over immigrant communities that are such vital cultural hubs for so many people. And really, as you say, really do enrich the lives of so many people within and outside of those communities within Mississauga.
Mark Freeland 12:42
Absolutely. And recently, there was the Affordable Housing Task Force. The Affordable Housing Task Force issued a report to all of the municipalities in Mississauga, and in March, Mississauga City Hall responded, and their recommendations or what they took away from the great recommendations that were in the taskforce report were to fast track approvals of new developments, to allow developers to sidestep the inclusionary zoning rules, to offer cash in lieu instead of the green space requirement to fund public parks or provide greenspace. So this whole idea that we’re going to negotiate with private developers in order to fast track the construction of more unaffordable housing is absolutely the idea being forwarded by the current city hall.
Daniel Tarade 13:32
And so do you know and city council, we talked about representation, but in Toronto where I am, I don’t think there’s a city councilor, for example, who is a renter, or are incredibly in debt. So the class nature of city council is something that often gets overlooked.
Emily Steers 13:46
When we’re talking about representation that is, of course, included. You know, where’s the working class representation. Not just representation of minorities, but also the majority, the working class. Where is that representation?
Mark Freeland 13:59
Well, I’m right here!
Emily Steers 14:00
Mark Freeland 14:01
That’s the hope, that I’ll go in there. And right now, I work 60 hours a week underground to earn a living. I certainly don’t expect everybody to be able to work the kind of job that I do. But really, yeah, we do need workers in City Hall. And you’re absolutely right. I sometimes get uncomfortable, really, because of all of the social justice issues that are highlighted by the MSA because I am not going to in any way pretend that I understand the struggles that at-risk people and racialized people are going through. I can’t really pretend that I’m going to be the savior of the homeless considering I’m on my way to home ownership. In some ways, I really represent the working class, but I’m not going to pretend that I’m a champion of all of these various social justice issues. But I recognize that helping those struggles is helping the working class in general. it’s important to stop the persecution of these groups because it helps the working class as a whole. You know, so long as they can discriminate against one worker, they can discriminate against another. We should all be together — that’s solidarity of the working class. Yeah, an injury to one is an injury to all, that’s right!
Emily Steers 15:08
And a victory for one is a victory for all.
Mark Freeland 15:11
I like the sounds of that because it frames in a more positive way. I would love to see victory for all of these social justice issues.
Emily Steers 15:18
You know, you put it quite rightly, you know. We can’t all be the champion of every issue. But what we can do is be a conduit for other voices. And we can advocate for people in our community whose voices are being marginalized and silenced.
Mark Freeland 15:33
That’s right. I’m lucky that I have the time, some time and energy, to pursue this endeavor. Right? That’s really not available to everyone. Actually participating in democracy beyond voting. Even just voting is in some cases, like we talked about, it’s going to be Diwali on October 24. Many people may not vote. Even voting, there’s somewhat of a barrier to it. So to participate in democracy on the level that I am now currently trying to, like to seek election that is not available to everyone. You need to have the time, you need to have some disposable income to pursue this. And there’s an awful lot of barriers to entry. As I’ve gone on this path I’ve seen, yeah, I really would benefit from these sponsorships and whatnot. You could easily buy a seat on city council. You absolutely could.
Emily Steers 16:19
We like to pretend that our political system is free from corruption and cronyism and bribery. It’s not. There’s no way.
Mark Freeland 16:28
It was shocking. The first emails that I got, they were all from advertising corporations, sign manufacturers, and they were all advertising buys being pitched to me that were several thousands of dollars. And I guess I had a more naive view of what municipal politics was. I thought really, that it was more of a grassroots thing, where you know, someone’s participation in community or infamy, let’s sa,y would land them, you know, in a good position, but what I’m finding is that it would be desperately easy to just pump out an outrageous advertising campaign and buy a seat on city council. It’s absolutely possible.
Daniel Tarade 17:06
So Mark, where are you at with your campaign these days? How can people read more about your campaign? How could they come out and support you if they’re interested in supporting you?
Mark Freeland 17:14
I’m on Twitter! Yeah, I got a Twitter. I never had one prior to two months ago. So this is exciting and horrifying. I feel like it’s 4chan for people that think they’re too good for 4chan.
Emily Steers 17:27
What a great way to describe Twitter.
Mark Freeland 17:29
So you can follow me on Twitter @freeland4wardseven. The four is the numeral four to keep within the character limit for handles on Twitter. I honestly think that if I got a few hundred votes, that would be a magnificent success. But I plan on putting everything that I’m learning currently into another campaign four years from now.
Emily Steers 17:52
Mark Freeland 17:53
Without a question. And part of that is this ridiculous thing where I plan on running a shadow counselorship, where I plan to follow whomever wins to offer opposition or criticism of each decision that is made in the seat that ought to belong to the working people.
Daniel Tarade 18:12
I love that.
Emily Steers 18:12
Mark Freeland 18:13
And in that way, hopefully, I can build a larger following and have a better run at this the next year. And just in the process of doing this, I’ve met so many more activists and like-minded people. That’s all going to serve me so much better. Not only [to] heighten my claim before the election, but also to educate myself about the praxis of promoting this kind of thing in a municipal election, how to go about it. I think we’re really positioning ourselves because I think the Municipal Socialist Alliance is learning things itself now about, about all of these things, the realities of campaign finances, and how best to employ social media as well as you know, traditional media. I know that for sure, the experience of going through this is going to just so much better arm us for another try. Certainly a defeat in this battle doesn’t mean that we’re going to give up on the, on the war in general.
Emily Steers 19:05
Daniel Tarade 19:06
Revolution or bust. Outgoing Guelph city councilor James Gordon endorsed the municipal socialist Alliance. And in that conversation that some of us had with James Gordon, put it in a way that I really quite liked. Think of this as you’re running now for four years from now. Because in Toronto in particular, there’s a huge incumbent advantage. And so you need that time to connect and build up our actual grassroots power. If we’re going to compete with their 1000s and 1000s of dollars coming from the developers, we need to match that with people power and with connecting with the grassroots and actually growing horizontally in that way so that in four years from now, they won’t know what hit them.
Emily Steers 19:41
Mark Freeland 19:42
Daniel Tarade 19:43
Mark, thanks so much for coming on. And thanks so much for sharin. Again, everybody, especially if you’re in Mississauga, check out Mark. We also have another candidate running in Mississauga, Sarah Szymanski. Hopefully we have her on the podcast in a few days or a week from now. Mark, all the best. And everybody else, keep safe and solidarity.