Alejandra Ruiz Vargas, NDP candidate for Beaches-East York, answers four questions from Beach Metro Community News regarding this month’s federal election.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Candidates were instructed to keep their answers to approximately 150 words, and some of the responses have been edited to keep them as close as possible to the agreed word count.)
QUESTION 1: Please tell our readers a little bit about yourself and why you decided to run in this election?
I was born in Colombia and immigrated to Canada in 2005. When I arrived I thought I had landed in paradise: mixed income families living together! But gradually, my view of “paradise” changed as I began to see the inequality across the country and here in our community.
I decided to do something about it. I contacted ACORN, an organization that fights for social change, and got involved in campaigns for affordable housing, childcare for all, accessible internet for all, and EI reform.
As a housing worker, I am very familiar with the issues that underhoused people face. In addition to housing and affordability issues, I am passionate about the environment (if not now, when?), pharmacare for all, and a fairer and more efficient immigration system.
I chose to run to be MP in Beaches-East York because I want to be the voice for those whose voices have been silenced.
QUESTION 2: What will you and your party do to reach justice with Canada’s Indigenous Peoples regarding the past abuses of the Residential School system, and will you commit to fulfilling the calls to action made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015?
I am fully committed to implementing the 94 calls to action and the UNDRIP (United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples). Reconciliation is a key plank in our NDP platform.
We won’t pick and choose which rights to uphold. The NDP will ensure the appointment of a special prosecutor to pursue the perpetrators of harm on Indigenous children in Canada’s residential schools. We will take immediate action to support and resource Indigenous jurisdiction over child welfare systems.
We must address the intergenerational impacts of colonialism and residential schools and ongoing injustices. Real reconciliation can only be achieved by ensuring safe housing, clean drinking water, respectful safe access to healthcare, and ending the underfunding of Indigenous children’s services.
Locally, there is much we can do to support the urban Indigenous population here in Beaches-East York, from housing equity to local job creation. As your MP, I will advocate for these supports.
QUESTION 3: Given the high numbers of seniors who died in long-term care facilities from COVID-19 and the deplorable conditions many of them were found to be living in by Canadian Forces personnel called in to help, what steps will you and your party be taking to help protect seniors in the future?
I was devastated to watch the death tally rise day by day in our long-term care homes over the first two waves of the pandemic. It was like watching a slow-moving and avoidable train crash. The NDP will make immediate changes to ensure this never happens again.
There are clear inequities in the level of care. Families need access to quality home care and long-term care no matter where they live or their income. An NDP government will end private, for-profit long-term care and bring long-term care homes under the public umbrella. I will listen to patients and caregivers here in Beaches-East York and our party will work collaboratively with provincial and territorial governments to develop national standards for home and long-term care. The NDP’s plan serves long-term care patients, their families, and protects long-term care workers through better wages, stable jobs and health and safety protections.
QUESTION 4: What do you think is the issue in your riding that you can have the most impact on if you are elected MP?
My experience and expertise positions me to address one of the most important issues nationally and locally: access to housing. The pandemic has made housing issues more precarious, with many worried how they will be able to afford rent or mortgage payments.
We are in a very important moment in Canadian housing history, and I want to take advantage of this moment to make the best deal for our riding. One in three Canadians rent. Every day, our community loses neighbours to “renovictions” and because of the high price of rent. The NDP’s plan creates at least 500,000 units of quality, affordable housing and invests in co-op housing to ensure that people can afford a home. We also need to address affordable home-ownership. Our plan will help first time buyers by re-introducing 30-year terms to CMHC insured mortgages, doubling the Home Buyer’s Tax Credit, and implementing a 20 per cent Foreign Buyer’s Tax.