KAWARTHA LAKES-Kawartha 411 News asked each of the 2021 federal election candidates a series of ten questions on issues of concern to local residents. We will be publishing each of these in the order the responses were received.
This is Zac Miller, NDP.
1. Tell us a little bit about you and your family.
I am a community activist and student at U of T for a Masters of Information specializing in Archives and Records Management, which builds on my undergrad in Political Science and love of culture and heritage. I grew up in the city of Kawartha Lakes in Pontypool with my parents and twin sister.
2. What made you decide to run in this election?
I have been deeply involved in politics for the last several years, having run for Provincial election in 2018 and coming in second. I have been president of our local Riding Association and campaign manager for Barbara Doyle in the 2019 Federal Election. My work with the Kawartha Lakes Health Coalition, fighting for our local hospitals and long term care issues, as well as serving on the Board of Directors of the Victoria County Historical Society which operates the Olde Gaol Museum in Lindsay has shown me the necessity of all levels of government working together to get the core supports Canadians need in place. I know the deep history of local politics in this Riding and I have studied what has worked and what has not. What we have now is not working and change must happen at the political level if we want different outcomes. I want to work towards implementing that change.
3. If elected, what will you do to improve the lack of affordable housing in Kawartha Lakes?
There is no doubt that we need shovels in the ground right now. There simply isn’t enough housing stock, whether that is purpose built accessible apartments, townhouses or detached homes, to meet the current needs of residents much less to address an economic growth plan. To fix the supply problem, we will begin to build 1.7 million homes across the country, of which 500,000 of them will be affordable. A key component that I will fight and advocate for is that all money invested must go into building homes, rather than into developers’ pockets. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation must be reworked so that the Crown corporation once again gives more money to our municipalities so that they can use those funds to incorporate affordable housing into their growth targets. The reason why we see victory homes and the homes on Howard Avenue in Lindsay is because the government gave money to Kawartha Lakes to build them. The result: people who needed a home at the time got them, instead of funnelling money to developers and offshore LLCs. Another component is to look at the practices of the Bank of Canada over the course of the pandemic and identify the role they play in causing skyrocketing housing prices.
Like myself who sees a dim reality that is homeownership, reworking the CMHC will allow families to opt into a 30-year mortgage as well as open doors for one-time grants to aid with closing costs. The federal government used to build homes and over the course of the last few decades stopped, resulting in the mess that we see now.
4. If elected what will you do about the opioid epidemic?
In the City of Kawartha Lakes, in Haliburton and in Brock Township, we have seen all too much of how drugs have impacted our communities. The effects of isolation and trauma from COVID-19 have only heightened the crisis our friends and family members that struggle with drug addiction have been going through and help can’t come soon enough. New Democrats believe that there is much more we can do to save lives and support those struggling with opioids. In government, we will declare a public health emergency and commit to working with all levels of government, health experts and Canadians to end the criminalization and stigma of drug addiction, so that people struggling with addiction can get the help they need without fear of arrest, while getting tough on the real criminals – those who traffic in and profit from illegal drugs. We’ll work with provinces and health professionals to create a safe supply of medically regulated alternatives to toxic street drugs, support overdose prevention sites and expand access to treatment on demand for people struggling with addiction. We will also launch an investigation into the role drug companies may have played in fueling the opioid crisis, and seek meaningful financial compensation from them for the public costs.
5. If elected, how will you help seniors who are struggling to make ends meet and have only had nominal increases to CPP and Old Age Security?
An important piece to this question and answer that is oftentimes forgotten about are the seniors who do not qualify for GIS and have been left out by recent increases. We can no longer leave our seniors, who make a few dollars over the GIS limit or those who recently retired and don’t meet the age requirement, in the dust. I believe that we must implement a basic income of at least $2000 a month that will be in addition to pensions (public and private) as well as safety nets such as OAS and GIS. Rolling this basic income out would be targeted first to seniors and persons living with disabilities quickly followed by the rest of us. Giving more money to residents will allow for comfortable living in retirement. Aside from income supports, keeping money in the hands of seniors and families is a must and that can be achieved by implementing a national pharmacare and dental care program that can be accessed by everyone. Working families and seniors will not need to pay costly co-payments, deductibles or premiums when filling a prescription or visiting a dentist. Keeping everyone healthy is a top priority.
6. If elected will your party continue with vaccine passports or mandates of any kind?
I strongly encourage everyone to get vaccinated. Let’s not tiptoe around the issue. A large majority of us in this country are vaccinated and those who choose to go against scientific research and doctors’ advice are in the minority. When we are potentially facing more school and business shutdowns, continuing to wear masks and deal with social distancing when all we want is to live our lives the way we used to and see families and friends comfortably, the folk who are vaccinated are not the problem. There are three candidates in this election locally who have done everything we were advised to do (Mr. Schmale, Ms. Forbes, and myself) and followed scientific research. There is this constant debate back and forth about tyranny and freedom and whatever other line folks throw out, but the people whose freedom that is held back are the people who have done everything right. We are dealing with things that we don’t necessarily need to deal with anymore as long as everyone who can gets vaccinated. If you choose not to, that is your right. You just lose the privilege to attend certain high-risk leisure activities.
7. What is your party platform when it comes to climate change?
The climate emergency isn’t just a threat to the environment. It is a clear and present danger to the health and wellbeing of Canadians right across the country. We must implement a Green New Deal that connects workers and communities together to achieve not just environmental justice, but social justice for working families. In order to do this, we must eliminate fossil fuel subsidies and immediately begin to revolutionize our energy to renewable energy while making sure workers are supported all along the way. This will lower our emissions by at least 50% in the next nine years. For those impacted by this switch, the government must be there to provide supports for retraining and guarantees of good paying jobs with benefits in renewables, rebuilding infrastructure, retrofitting homes, etc., so that each and every one of us can live comfortably in our communities. A specific item relating to our riding would be enshrined in the Environmental Bill of Rights, a provision that protects 30% of our natural waterways. Our riding has some of the greatest lakes and rivers and we must make sure that they are protected and not damaged in years to come. We can no longer sit idly by while large corporations rake in profits while destroying our environment and forcing taxpayers to clean up their mess.
8. Will your party implement any kind of tax on a principal residence?
9. If elected, what will your party do to further truth and reconciliation with our indigenous communities? What about the bodies of children found at residential schools across the country?
The federal government should not be able to pick and choose which Indigenous rights they will uphold. Working within the framework of UNDRIP, working with Indigenous peoples, we must fully implement all 94 Calls to Action and co-developing a National Action Plan for Reconciliation to ensure that our laws and policies meet our human rights commitments. Through this we must respect treaties and self-determination of Inuit and Metis.
The genocide that occurred at the hands of churches and governments ways on all of us and it is time that we find every child and bring them home. This will require fully funding the search for gravesites and the costs of the commemoration and reburial of those lost in the genocide. In order for there to be real truth and accountability and justice for survivors and victims’ families, the NDP must appoint a special prosecutor to pursue those responsible and require churches and governments to hand over any and all records that could aid the investigation of those responsible. To guarantee that churches and governments apply, we must use every resource necessary to gain compliance with orders.
10. What do you think is the most important issue facing residents of Kawartha Lakes and how would you tackle fixing it.
There are many concerns that I have heard from constituents from all corners of the riding. What unites all of us around our riding is the dire need to make sure our residents and children have secured and high paying jobs. The NDP has a comprehensive policy to guarantee that whichever profession one chooses – whether that be in construction, education, or even childcare – they will be able to meet their needs and more. When we support our workers and recognize that they are the backbone of our economy, the businesses around us will flourish and so will our country. Everyone pays into EI and that support is there when we need it, not when the government decides we qualify. We should all be able to have a guarantee of sick days in whichever profession one works. We should all be able to have financial security that allows us to buy a home and spend recreational time with our families.
We created an economy that works for the wealthy, large corporations, and shareholders while leaving students, seniors, workers, families behind and forgotten. It is time we change that.