Candidate survey results – Kate Young, Liberal Party of Canada, London West

Candidate survey results – Kate Young, Liberal Party of Canada, London West

i Nov 23rd No Comments by

How do you think our current electoral system (FPTP) impacts women and minority groups? What difference would a proportional representation model or other electoral reform make to these groups?

Our current electoral system impacts women and minorities in two ways. First, as potential candidates and elected officials. Both groups are already under-represented politically in Canada. As we see in Europe, countries with proportional-representation have a higher representation of women within government. In Canada, parties and leaders dominate the public discussion; so, if there is no political will to ensure that a fair representation of women and minorities exists, then it is impossible to translate that to a ruling government. In other electoral systems, there is room for further nuances which can better and more accurately represent the values of the population voting. I believe we need a new electoral system that better represents all Canadians. The second impact is on the voter who must choose only one candidate and then, either feel as if they’re not represented at all, or worse, there is no one on the ballot who speaks to their values and experience as a woman, an immigrant, someone of First Nations heritage, etc. This further disenfranchises voters. Every vote counts and all Canadians deserve a voice in Ottawa. When every one is heard, then we can have policies and laws that truly reflect our country.

The Fair Elections Act removes the provision for people to vouch for those with no ID. This has the potential to disproportionately impede people such as those experiencing homelessness from voting. What is your plan to ensure these individuals are able to vote?

Canada depends on immigration and our Canadian values embrace our social responsibility to refugees. It is in our best interests to ensure that all newcomers to Canada have access to the resources they need on their path to becoming Canadians, if they choose. We believe that immigrants should be reunited with their families abroad as quickly as possible. We also believe that refugees must have access to the health care, especially mental health care, they often need urgently after leaving countries in the midst of war and other tragedies. The recent debate over allowing more Syrian refugees into this country is an indication of how the present government’s views of refugees is not in step with the citizens of Canada.

Newcomers to Canada experience high levels of social isolation and often have multiple barriers to receiving optimal healthcare. If elected, how will you and your party address these challenges?

Canada depends on immigration and our Canadian values embrace our social responsibility to refugees. It is in our best interests to ensure that all newcomers to Canada have access to the resources they need on their path to becoming Canadians, if they choose. We believe that immigrants should be reunited with their families abroad as quickly as possible. We also believe that refugees must have access to the health care, especially mental health care, they often need urgently after leaving countries in the midst of war and other tragedies.

Please comment on Bill C24, the legislation that gives the government the power to revoke Canadian citizenship and also makes it more difficult to become Canadian.

The Liberal Party is opposed to Bill C-24. Processing times for all major categories of immigrants, as well as for visitors, have skyrocketed over the past five years. At the same time, the bill proposes to increase the fee for new citizens from $100 to $300. This means would-be new citizens are getting double the waiting time for triple the fee. Further, while we agree with that Canadian citizenship is a privilege and that new citizens should be genuinely committed to our country, we disagree with their decision to extend language tests from those aged 18-54 to the broader age range 14-64. The age 14 is too young, while 64 is too old. We also believe that the Bill will actually devalue citizenship by making it harder to obtain and by providing the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration with extraordinary discretionary powers to revoke a Canadian’s Citizenship with limited access to judicial appeals. While we agree that individuals charged with serious crimes like terrorism or treason should face the severest legal penalties, it is a basic principle in our democracy that those making the laws cannot also be the ones enforcing them. This is the role of Canada’s judicial system, not politicians.

How would you address the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada? Do you support an inquiry?

We can only move forward by acknowledging the failures and egregious wrongs of the past. This issue has gone on too long and without facing this head on, we have failed our entire country with this ongoing national tragedy. A Liberal government will immediately launch a national public inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada. We will work with First Nations and Aboriginal partners to develop a process by which it is established. That process will be fully inclusive, designed to find justice for the victims and healing for their families. An inquiry would seek to recommend concrete actions that governments, law enforcement, and others can take to solve these crimes and prevent future ones. We must acknowledge and accept the truths of why this has happened. Only then can we understand the root causes and take action to ensure it does not continue.

Education funding levels in First Nations have long been noted to be sub-standard to what is provided across Canada. On average on reserve education spending is $2000 less per student than what is offered by the provincial education systems. What steps would you take to begin closing the funding gap for First Nations students on reserve?

We are committed to closing the gap for First Nations students on reserve. An initial, immediate new investment of $515 million per year in core annual funding for kindergarten through grade 12 education for First Nations. This will rise to over $750 million per year by the end of our first mandate. It includes not only the funding promised and never delivered by the current government, but an additional $325 million annually.

Canada is the only G8 country without a national housing strategy. Where do you stand on creating such a strategy?

The Liberal Party of Canada believes that every Canadian has the right to safe, adequate and affordable housing. We understand that affordable housing is a possible solution to many of our society’s challenges. Child poverty, struggling veterans, high student debt, and the precarious lives of people experiencing mental and addiction issues are all addressed with better housing. Our platform will include measures to encourage the construction of new, affordable, purpose – built rental housing, investments in innovative programs for supportive housing, as well as predictable and sustained new funding for affordable housing. Liberals will prioritize significant new investments in affordable housing as part of the Liberal’s historic ten-year investment of nearly $20 billion in social infrastructure. We will provide $125 million per year in tax incentives to increase and substantially renovate the supply of rental housing across Canada and we will finance the construction of new, affordable rental housing for middle and low income Canadians. Tackling the housing shortage requires collaborative planning between all levels of government, meaningful engagement with community stakeholders and Canadians, as well as sustained funding. A Liberal government will work collaboratively with all our partners to increase the availability of affordable housing.

Federal funding for homelessness through the Homelessness Prevention Strategy (HPS) has not been increased since its inception over a decade ago. As the rates of homelessness have increased significantly since that time, would you increase funding? What other strategies might you recommend to reduce homelessness? As well the steady decline of low cost housing is contributing to the homelessness problem. What suggestions would you have to address the issue of increasing access to affordable housing?

As discussed in the previous question, the Liberal Party is committed a National Housing Strategy. We also called on the government to recognize the continued need for the HPS. As elected representatives, our duty is to stand up for all Canadians, especially those who do not have the basic neccessities. The purpose of the Homelessness Partnership Fund, originally created by the Liberal Party of Canada, was to provide funds to allow the provinces and cities to determine where funds were most needed. This partnership and the funding must continue. Only by providing people who are homeless with the services they need, from housing, to training, and addiction and mental health treatment can we lift them out of their circumstances, giving them a fair chance to feel the same dignity that all Canadians deserve.

Candidate survey results – Peter Fragiskatos, Liberal Party of Canada, London North Centre

i Nov 23rd No Comments by

How do you think our current electoral system (FPTP) impacts women and minority groups? What difference would a proportional representation model or other electoral reform make to these groups?

When individuals and groups lack representation in parliament, they lack a voice. Proportional Representation (PR) has the potential to improve representation among women and minorities. As such, it would obviously strengthen our democracy by granting a greater role to those who so often find themselves excluded from the formal political system. The experiences of other countries – and the Nordic states in particular – affirms this. But while FPTP falls short in ensuring fair representation, I don’t think we can expect or rely on PR to serve as some kind of panacea. As far as electoral systems are concerned, we need to make sure that the way we vote creates the conditions for the kind of democracy we want. Voting is just one aspect – albeit a very important one – of democracy. For me, a genuine democracy is one that allows for active engagement, participation and respect. PR would benefit Canada as far as formal parliamentary representation goes, but my concern is that it fails to provide incentives for greater civility. This is why I support preferential voting (the Alternative Vote, or AV, variation), which can allow for proportionality but is not designed to guarantee it. In my view, the benefits of AV outweigh concerns about the fact that it cannot ensure a proportional parliament. The key reason I favour AV over PR has to do with its potential to generate a kinder and more civil politic. Ranked balloting – the central feature of preferential voting – pushes those who are running to engage each other in a more respectful and cordial manner. When such incentives are in place, constructive debate and genuine citizen engagement become possible. And if we want to create a society where traditionally marginalized groups feel included and valued, then we need to look at systems that encourage their participation. In short, we need to be worried about more than just seat counts. The Liberal Party of Canada is committed to enacting electoral reform within eighteen months of forming a government. While we want to move away from the unfairness of the First-Past-The-Post system, we will not commit to a particular reform until the matter has been studied thoroughly.

The Fair Elections Act removes the provision for people to vouch for those with no ID. This has the potential to disproportionately impede people such as those experiencing homelessness from voting. What is your plan to ensure these individuals are able to vote?

This (Un)Fair Elections Act is an affront to Canadian democracy and that is why the Liberal Party has committed to repealing it. Because it will prevent the use of vouching and the use of voter information cards as a means of legitimate identification, more than one hundred thousand Canadians could be turned away at the polls this October. According to the Conservatives, there are 39 options for identification allowed at the polls. The truth is that voters need ID that has their photo, name and current address and very few of the acceptable forms of identification provide an address (an exception is a drivers’ licences and paper copies of utility bills). Many advocacy organizations and respected commentators have criticized these reforms because it will make it difficult – even impossible – for marginalized and under-represented citizens to vote (including seniors, the disabled, indigenous peoples, the poor, and students or youth) simply because they do not drive or have their name on their household’s utility bill. The Liberal Party has committed to restoring the voter-ID cards that Elections Canada accepted at voting stations prior to the introduction of the act. I will work with any local organization or citizen-led effort trying to help those who are likely to be impacted by making sure they know what pieces of ID will be accepted on election day.

Newcomers to Canada experience high levels of social isolation and often have multiple barriers to receiving optimal healthcare. If elected, how will you and your party address these challenges?

We need to strengthen the ability of settlement agencies to do their job. Their staff are equipped with the expertise to help newcomers access the healthcare system. The Liberal Party also feels strongly that reuniting families is a crucial part of a successful immigration policy and essential in attracting the best and brightest. Just as important is the fact that family reunification provides newcomers with a support network, such as family involvement in childcare. When strong support networks are in place, health challenges – and this includes mental health concerns – can be mitigated. Although Mr. Harper’s Conservatives present themselves as the party of family values, placing limits on reunification to 5,000 each year has caused serious harm. In essence, the federal government has put a stop to the family reunification dreams of tens of thousands of Canadian families. This began with a dramatic increase in wait-times and has persisted under the false pretense of addressing a backlog they created. The result is that they are keeping families apart. On top of all this, rather than ensuring that there exist are sufficient resources to process immigration files, the Conservatives have been closing visa offices abroad and within Canada.

Please comment on Bill C24, the legislation that gives the government the power to revoke Canadian citizenship and also makes it more difficult to become Canadian.

 The Liberal Party is opposed to Bill C-24. No government should ever have the ability to take away an individual’s Canadian citizenship. Any Canadian who commits a crime ought to be punished. Yet, the revocation of citizenship crosses a line that we must never accept. Without citizenship, the rights and equality we enjoy become meaningless. I also want to add that while this position reflects my stand and that of the Liberal Party, it was John Diefenbaker, a Conservative Prime Minister, whose government changed the law in 1957 to ensure that no Canadian would ever be stripped of their citizenship. Until recently, this is an issue that all parties agreed upon. But Mr. Harper has changed this. Bill C24 is another example of the Harper Conservatives using fear for political gain. As far as other reforms addressed by the legislation, it needs to be pointed out that the government’s own data shows that processing times for citizenship applicants have doubled under their watch, from 15 months in 2007 to 31 months in 2012. The government acknowledges that inadequate resources are the main reason for this increase. Indeed, processing times for all major categories of immigrants, as well as for visitors, have also skyrocketed over the past five years. At the same time, the bill proposes to increase the fee for new citizens from $100 to $300. This means would-be new citizens are getting double the waiting time for triple the fee. Further, while we agree with the government that Canadian citizenship is a privilege and that new citizens should be genuinely committed to our country, we disagree with their decision to extend language tests from those aged 18-54 to the broader age range 14-64. The age 14 is too young, while 64 is too old.

How would you address the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada? Do you support an inquiry?

The extraordinarily high disappearance and homicide rates faced by indigenous women in Canada is unacceptable and part of a systemic problem that requires careful scrutiny. Our party fully endorses the need for an inquiry and completely supports the recent recommendations published by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The Liberal Party won unanimous parliamentary support in 2013 for a motion in the House of Commons for a special committee to investigate this issue and suggest solutions addressing the root causes of violence against Indigenous women and girls across the country. Unfortunately, the Conservative government used their majority on the special Parliamentary committee to do away with its report.

Education funding levels in First Nations have long been noted to be sub-standard to what is provided across Canada. On average on reserve education spending is $2000 less per student than what is offered by the provincial education systems. What steps would you take to begin closing the funding gap for First Nations students on reserve?

Only one in three First Nations youth living on reserve graduate from high school and the funding gap is a key reason why. Reversing this unacceptable situation will require strong leadership and our party is ready to provide it. Whereas Mr. Harper’s Conservatives have only committed to improving the graduation rate by eight percent by 2018, Liberals will commit to doing better. It was a Liberal government that negotiated the Kelowna Accord in 2005. That agreement – turned aside by the Conservatives – was built on a foundation of real engagement with First Nations leaders and communities. It would have provided $1.8 billion over five years to improve high school graduation rates so that they matched with those found in the rest of Canada. It also aimed for a fifty percent increase in the number of students graduating from post-secondary education. Mr. Harper’s government did commit funds to address the gap. However, their approach failed because it ignored the need for a grassroots approach that consulted a wide range of voices and perspectives among First Nations. It is therefore no surprise that the reforms introduced by Conservatives have gone nowhere. Bringing about a different outcome will require MPs to begin a dialogue with First Nations communities in their riding as to how the problems plaguing First Nations students can be addressed. I am ready to engage in that dialogue.

Canada is the only G8 country without a national housing strategy. Where do you stand on creating such a strategy?

The Liberal Party’s stand on this question is as follows: Canada faces a stark shortage of affordable housing – making it harder for Canadian families to make ends meet. But we need more than just affordable housing. We need housing that’s accessible and available to the people who need it. Liberals believe the federal government should invest in the development of more affordable housing units to help Canadian families ease their cost of living. Every Canadian has the right to safe and affordable housing. Current programs to provide affordable housing are short-term and under-resourced. Every year, 1.8 million Canadians are in need of housing, including approximately 300,000 homeless. Yet, the government is in the process of ending rent-geared income subsidies to co-operative housing and other social housing projects that make affordable housing more accessible. Tackling the housing shortage requires collaborative planning between the orders of government and sustained funding. On a personal note, I also want to say that housing is essential if we are to address the issue of mental health and its consequences. According to a recent study that appeared in the Globe and Mail, for each $1 spent on housing and assistance for the homeless, more than $2.00 is saved in prison, hospital and shelter costs. In other words, housing is not only a morally appropriate policy but an approach that is fiscally responsible.

Federal funding for homelessness through the Homelessness Prevention Strategy (HPS) has not been increased since its inception over a decade ago. As the rates of homelessness have increased significantly since that time, would you increase funding? What other strategies might you recommend to reduce homelessness? As well the steady decline of low cost housing is contributing to the homelessness problem. What suggestions would you have to address the issue of increasing access to affordable housing?

More will be said about this issue in our platform. In the meantime, the Liberal Party believes the following: Canadians deserve a high quality of life and are committed to a poverty reduction plan for Canada. Canadians deserve a high quality of life where everyone is given a real and fair chance to succeed. Liberals are strongly committed to a poverty reduction plan for Canada. Little progress has been made in reducing the poverty gap under the Conservative government.

Candidate survey results – Irene Mathyssen, New Democratic Party of Canada, London-Fanshawe

i Nov 23rd No Comments by

How do you think our current electoral system (FPTP) impacts women and minority groups? What difference would a proportional representation model or other electoral reform make to these groups?

Proportional representation would indeed help both women and First Nations. It’s essential that our governments reflect the population.

The Fair Elections Act removes the provision for people to vouch for those with no ID. This has the potential to disproportionately impede people such as those experiencing homelessness from voting. What is your plan to ensure these individuals are able to vote?

We would repeal or amend the so-called Fair elections Act. It might be possible to introduce changes like the changes proposed by New Democrats at committee.

Newcomers to Canada experience high levels of social isolation and often have multiple barriers to receiving optimal healthcare. If elected, how will you and your party address these challenges?

New comers need social agencies that can support and connect them to the services and professionals they need. There are not enough settlement services and workers in Canada. Good community connections help families to integrate and make the best use of all service providers. family re-unification is also key to good integration.

Please comment on Bill C24, the legislation that gives the government the power to revoke Canadian citizenship and also makes it more difficult to become Canadian.

This bill creates two classes of citizens; this is not acceptable. New Democrats have indicated we would withdraw this bill.

How would you address the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada? Do you support an inquiry?

There must be an inquiry so that we can look at the systemic causes of this violence. New Democrats have promised we would call an inquiry within 100 days of our taking office as government. First Nations, Metis and Inuit people know and are ready to address the solutions to the tragdey of poverty, violence and lack of opportunity in their communities. We must have nation to nation dialogue and a firm commitment to respecting the treaty, land and resource rights of indigenous people. We also must make sure there are financial resources to address the need for education, decent housing and access to services and opportunities.

Education funding levels in First Nations have long been noted to be sub-standard to what is provided across Canada. On average on reserve education spending is $2000 less per student than what is offered by the provincial education systems. What steps would you take to begin closing the funding gap for First Nations students on reserve?

The cap on First Nations funding must be lifted immediately. We need open, clear dialogue on a nation to nation basis will allow First Nations to articulate their needs. They must be our partners in resolving these issues. Patriarchal governments have not been successful in this very important area.

Canada is the only G8 country without a national housing strategy. Where do you stand on creating such a strategy?

We would create a national housing strategy because decent, affordable housing is the foundation of strong communities and healthy families.

Federal funding for homelessness through the Homelessness Prevention Strategy (HPS) has not been increased since its inception over a decade ago. As the rates of homelessness have increased significantly since that time, would you increase funding? What other strategies might you recommend to reduce homelessness? As well the steady decline of low cost housing is contributing to the homelessness problem. What suggestions would you have to address the issue of increasing access to affordable housing?

The current programmed HPS is condescending and is a short term approach. Because of the NDP, there was a national housing strategy from 1971 to 1993. We need to bring back that staratgey and ensure there are affordable, supported units available to familes and individuals of all ages and needs. CMHC is a good resource in regard to the funds needed to restart this vital programme.

A look back at the Women & Politics Election Strategy

i Nov 3rd 1 Comment by

In planning for this 2015 election cycle, the Board of Women & Politics set out a strategy to identify the election issues most important to women in London and area. We started off with a survey to the community that identified 4 priorities:

  • missing and murdered Indigenous women,
  • proportional representation,
  • affordable housing and homelessness, and
  • refugees, newcomers and healthcare.

From there, we organized a Women’s Issues Forum in June where we invited four women leaders to speak on these issues and invited discussion from the broader community. That event was well attended and sparked the formation of a sub-committee focused on election issues relating to young women. Women & Politics, along with the London Youth Advisory Council, successfully obtained a grant from the Laidlaw foundation to hold three evening events for young women. The topics chosen by the committee were, politics and youth, the future of work, and young women’s healthcare. These small group events created some interesting discussions with attendees, and several small election strategies were implemented, including a commitment to talk to young women in our community about health and politics.

Our biggest event was a World Cafe style All Candidates Meeting, organized in partnership with Business Professional Women London (BPW), which was held at Riverside United Church on September 29th. Over 100 people came out to the event, with eight candidates in attendance. Each candidate rotated between tables of their riding made up of 6-10 participants and a facilitator. Candidates were asked a variety of questions by participants and were also asked to respond to questions on the four women’s election issues, previously identified in our survey. The feedback on this event was very positive, with both candidates and participants expressing that the format allowed for deeper discussions and a unique opportunity for participants to engage with candidates.

We also participated in the World Homeless Action Day on October 8th, which raised awareness about homelessness in London and was organized by the London Homeless Coalition, London CAReS and United Way’s GenNext. Women & Politics offered up election information and questions one could ask candidates about how they and their party would address homelessness. It was privilege to attend this event and have the opportunity to share information on a key election issue, identified as a priority by women in our community.

Lastly, there was plenty of action happening on our website and on social media with an election resource page, regular blog posts on the identified key election issues, and regular posts related to election issues.

As promised when we initially sent out the survey at the beginning of the election cycle, we intend to hold candidates and their parties accountable for their promises. As such, we are posting the elected MPs survey responses on our website and we will be providing an updated report card on their progress in relation to these issues You can find the surveys here. Additionally, below you can see a quick summary of what Prime Minister Designate, Justin Trudeau and his party promised in relation to these issues. We are hopeful and cautiously optimistic that these promises will be upheld. It is vitally important to women in our communities that these and other issues are addressed.

On issues related to women and the election, on his first day as Prime Minister Designate, Trudeau stated the importance of holding an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women. He also made a campaign promise to consult the Canadian people on electoral reform and institute some kind of change from the previous first past the post system, prior to the next election. In his party’s campaign platform, Trudeau pledged to commit $20 billion over 10 years to social infrastructure and to create a national housing action plan that would theoretically provide affordable housing for Canadians at all income levels. Trudeau’s party committed to providing “$125 million per year in tax incentives for developers and landlords to build and renovate rental units.” And lastly on the issue of health and refugees, according to the Liberal Party’s platform, the Liberal government promised to fully restore the Interim Federal Health Program for refugees. While C-24 is not directly mentioned in the Liberal platform, Trudeau has said throughout his campaign that the Liberal government would repeal C-24 and its second-class citizenship. We are pleased with these developments and will be watching local MPs and the larger government to see if and how they fulfill these promises.