On Monday, September 20, Canadians will vote to select who will represent them in the Canadian Parliament. Each day this week, My Cowichan Valley Now will ask a different candidate running for election in the Cowichan-Malahat-Langford constituency to provide insights on how their party will deal with three of the major issues facing voters: affordable housing, post COVID-19 pandemic recovery, and global warming.
The New Democratic Party of Canada (NDP) is represented by Alistair MacGregor. He has been the Member of Parliament for the Cowichan-Malahat-Langford constituency since 2015. MacGregor was re-elected in 2019. He has served as the NDP’s Critic for Agriculture and Agri-food, Rural Economic Development, and deputy Justice critic. Alistair lives in the Cowichan Valley with his family on a small farming property.
My Cowichan Valley Now: If elected, what steps would an NDP government take to deal with the lack of affordable housing?
MacGregor: “Affordable housing is an issue that comes up continuously on the doorsteps. It really is on top of everyone’s mind, especially here in the Cowichan Valley given how much we’ve seen prices increase and the lack of availability of rental units. I think for any serious candidate in this riding, and indeed for any serious federal government, there needs to be a very real commitment and strong federal leadership on this file. So as New Democrats we have long realized that the major problem is that there’s a lack of supply of non-market affordable housing. People just can’t afford to get into this market, so we need a federal government that is going to actively commit to increasing the non-market affordable housing, and under our plan, we’re committed to building 500-thousand units across Canada over the next 10 years. They will be very good quality units. They will be done in partnership with local municipalities, and they will cover a full spectrum of housing options because we don’t have one size that fits all, so it’s really about working with local communities to see what their needs are. So, people who are struggling right now with the high cost of rent – for example, I ran into a senior just yesterday when I was door-knocking and she said that she was paying about 75 percent of her fixed income in rent – and so for those people who believe that a rental subsidy is needed we’ve committed ourselves to $5000 per year to anyone who is paying more than 30 percent of their gross income towards housing costs, and this is something that would be done without the landlord’s knowledge because we know there is a fear that some landlords may increase prices if they were to know that. This is something that’s important to help people weather the storm now while the federal government commits to that leadership of building those affordable units across the country.”
My Cowichan Valley Now: If elected, what steps would an NDP government take to deal with Post Pandemic Recovery?
MacGregor: “I think it’s really important to realize that we still are in the pandemic and the fourth wave is very much going on around us. So those COVID supports, I think, are necessary to stay in place, they help individuals whose jobs are still precarious, they’re still unavailable because of the pandemic. We also have to make sure that small businesses have the support to keep their doors open, as well, because we’re not out of the woods yet. In order for us to get out of this, we need to strongly encourage as many people as possible to go and get vaccinated because that’s really what is going to effectively stop it. Most of the people who are going into hospital, and most of the people who are having serious health complications are people who are unvaccinated, so it’s very important for us to keep leading on that. Going forward I think we have to take a very strategic look at what was working and what wasn’t. It’s very evident that our social system had a lot of gaps in it. So in our post COVID recovery, we want to make sure that we are really addressing a lot of working families’ sources of anxiety, what was making their life unaffordable. So those unexpected medical costs, we want to see federal leadership in covering dental care because millions of Canadians can’t afford to see a dentist. Pharmacare: we need a national universal pharmacare plan because we have so many people who are either missing out on their prescriptions or not taking them altogether and that can lead to further health complications, so we need to really address those affordability issues. I think for small businesses we have to make sure that their concerns about available labour are addressed. You know, really trying to address the affordability issues, I think this relates to the earlier question about housing, is to make sure that housing is affordable in our communities because if workers can’t afford to live in communities where small businesses are operating they are just going to have an impossible time affording that labour pool. So I really think this is an opportunity for us to examine what was working for us, what wasn’t, where the gaps were and take this unique opportunity to address those very real and deep structural inequalities that existed in our society and take this opportunity to fix them.”
My Cowichan Valley Now: If elected, what steps would an NDP government take to cope with Global Warming and Climate Change?
MacGregor: “We have made a very strong commitment right off the bat to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies. Canada subsidizes oil and gas to the tune of billions of dollars each year, and redirecting those funds towards a just transition strategy, building a renewable energy economy of the future I think is the way to go. Stopping the Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline project, I think this being the year 2021 and with the evidence of catastrophic climate change mounting year by year, it is a completely bone-headed decision to be investing billions of dollars in expanding fossil fuel infrastructure. So those are immediate things that can be done by the federal government. Over the long term, we’re going to, I reference that just transition strategy, in order for any climate plan to be successful we also have to show workers and working families that there is a place for them in the new renewable energy economy of the future. So that just transition strategy is going involve retraining, but there’s also a lot of transferable skills. We will need electricians, we will need pipe-fitters, we will need heavy-duty mechanics to be employed in that renewable energy. The federal government has the ability to start working with provinces and establishing an electrified electricity grid and making sure that our electricity generating sources are not coming from fossil fuels and establishing that smart grid. We can make those big investments in electrifying our transport, starting with the federal government’s massive fleet of vehicles, but also helping in inter-city transportation networks, and making sure that those transportation hubs are not using fossil fuels. I think locally, we’ve seen a huge increase in the interest in riding e-bikes, if we have the federal government partner with local municipalities in building a dedicated biking infrastructure, separate bike lanes so that people felt safe, and use that as a very convenient way to get around without adding greenhouse gases, so there’s a number of different ways, but I think the overall message is that change is coming one way or another. Either we are going to be the authors of that change or it’s going to be forced upon us. I would rather make those investments now than having to pay the massive ecological, societal, and economic costs that are going to be coming later on.”
Alistair MacGregor is running against Alana DeLong of the Conservative Party of Canada, Lia Versaevel of the Green Party of Canada, Blair Herbert of the Liberal Party of Canada, and Mark Hecht of Peoples Party of Canada.