By AHMED DIRIE
Provincial candidates in the Scarborough Southwest riding were invited to debate and answer questions on issues including the state of the environment and the housing market last week.
Those in attendance were incumbent MPP Doly Begum of the NDP, Lisa Patel of the Liberal Party and Cara Brideau of the Green Party. Meeting organizers said Brett Snider, candidate for the Progressive Conservative Party in Scarborough Southwest, declined the invitation.
The candidates talked about a number of issues including the number of Ontarians working precarious jobs and racialized immigrants and women facing discrimination in working said jobs.
Also discussed were issues of food security, how local residents will deal with the closing of the Scarborough RT while it is replaced by a subway, the Eglinton LRT, COVID-19, equity in the education system, the greulling schedules for paramedics, single family monster homes, age discrimination, the impact of employment land being used for residential housing, and how each candidate plans to unite the division of Canadians which took place over the course of the pandemic.
Given GreenPac’s stance on the environment and the state of the housing market in Ontario, these two topics generated the most discussion, were circled back to multiple times, and many of the previously mentioned topics, such as food security and monster homes, were offshoots of those larger issues. This aligned with GreenPac’s goal to highlight the connection between many of the issues Ontarians face and its impact on the environment.
One of the first moderator questions was on the housing market and asked the candidates for their solutions.
“The Ontario Liberal government will have to adopt a holistic approach to solving the housing crisis,” said Patel.
“Firstly, we’ll build 138,000 deeply affordable homes over the next decade by establishing an Ontario home building corporation. Aside from building deeply affordable homes, this will also be exclusively to first-time buyers, and other people along those lines. We will invest $360 million annually to help municipalities pay for the operations of social supportive and community homes and we will also invest $100 million on Housing First initiatives to end the chronic homelessness and move people to shelter and supportive facilities.”
Housing might be the most important issue of our time, said Begum, and it is one she hears about daily from her constituents.
“There are quite a few solutions that I want to highlight,” said Begum. “That includes co-op housing, working with the Canadian Co-Op Federation, as well as focusing on programs where we are actually focusing on Ontario Non Profit Housing Association. A few things that I want to include are building 1.5 million homes over the next decade, focusing on exclusionary zoning, as well as saving 311,000 households on average $300 for rent.”
Brideau agreed that housing should be one of the top priorities for the incoming government.
“It sounds like we’re all just trying to fix the system that’s broken,” said Brideau. “We can start with really settled things like implementing vacancy controls to limit rent increases. We would like to invest $800 million each year for 10 years to build over 100,000 permanently affordable community housing rental homes. We also need to update and strengthen sections of the Residential Tenancies Act so that they deal with the state of repair for multi-unit buildings to ensure tenants have homes that are safe.”
Later in the debate the candidates were asked how they will follow through on their plans to protect the environment and limit climate change.
“We will act,” said Begum who was born in Bangladesh where people are losing homes to rising water. “This is the reality for some people when we talk about climate change so for us, for New Democrats, we have a plan that is ambitious, because we need an ambitious plan. And that’s called the Green New Democratic Deal.”
The policy will include creating green jobs, reducing Ontario’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 per cent, and achieving net zero emissions by 2050, said Begum.
As their name suggests, the environment is an important aspect of the Green Party’s platform.
“Climate action is job action,” said Brideau. “So the Green Party would love to cover the tuition costs for skilled trades and clean energy jobs to launch a massive green workforce. We’re going to focus at least 25 per cent of the overall benefits of public investments to reduce climate pollution in disadvantaged communities and this is going to come from a one per cent climate surcharge levy on the province’s top 10 per cent incomers.”
The Liberals will also seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent by 2030, said Patel, as well as introduce policies of their own.
“We will slash all public transit fares across the province to $1 until January 2024,” said Patel. “This would be taking 400,000 cars, trips off the road and reducing pollution and congestion. We also will designate 30 per cent of land as protected areas by 2030, up from 10 per cent and take the equivalent of 500,000 cars off the road by planting 800 million new trees over the next eight years. Finally, we’ll also expand the Greenbelt by creating five new provincial parks.”
The Ontario election will take place on June 2. For more information on where and how to vote, please visit Elections Ontario.