Meet Perth-Wellington candidate for the NDP, Jo-dee Burbach

The campaign has kicked off for the 2022 provincial elections in Ontario, and Woodstein Media is speaking with candidates in its home riding of Perth-Wellington. This time, New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate Jo-Dee Burbach answers the questions. The other registered candidates will also get the opportunity to answer these questions. Please check out the related articles listed below.

WM: How will you advocate locally, and what actions can we expect to see at the party level to address the housing affordability and availability problems that are now happening province-wide?

Burbach: I think that is the biggest issue facing Perth-Wellington and certainly Ontario right now. So the NDP does have a very solid plan for making housing more affordable for people. One of the first ways is to bring in financing that will help first-time homebuyers, but it will also help people trying to get into the rental market. One of the toughest challenges I think people are facing is that there is a lack of the ability to even get into the market. Another thing we are planning to do is to provide more social housing, fix the stock that we have and provide more units of social housing for people, whether it’s supportive housing or social housing that would be municipally run. We plan to invest in that type of housing because it’s right where people are trying to get into the market; that’s a real challenge.

WM: Housing leads to the subject of jobs because we have them available in this area, but it’s tough for workers to move here to fill those positions. How will you work to address this specifically?

Burbach: One of the most important things we can do is create more housing units. Now there are a couple of different approaches to that. One is to build more out of the city, and we already have a plan for that, but we want to avoid a lot of sprawl, so the NDP is really focusing on retrofitting but also intensification, which means bringing in more units to already existing urban areas and provide units that are affordable, maybe smaller, create more density in places so that there are more units for more people. Those smaller units will be more affordable. We’re looking to fill in what’s called the missing middle—so not necessarily building single-family dwellings and not big huge condo buildings, but that middle ground where we have lower rise apartments, stacked townhouses and that kind of thing.

WM: Under the broad umbrella of job and labour issues are labour protections, benefits, and paid sick days, especially for the gig and contract workers and others working in non-traditional roles as freelancers or self-employed workers. How will you advocate for those workers?

Burbach: Those people are in a hard spot. We would bring in legislation that would allow those people to have certain rights. In other words, they would have to be employees of organizations. The way that gig workers are structured right now, there isn’t a lot of regulation around how employers must treat their employees, so that’s one thing that we would look at. One of our MPPs, Peggy Sattler, did introduce a bill to help gig workers. Unfortunately, the Ford government wasn’t too enthusiastic about the bill. If we form government, then it’s something that we already have ready to go and legislation that we’ll be bringing in.

Perth-Wellington New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate Jo-Dee Burbach engages the public during Earth Day events in Stratford on April 23. (Colin Burrowes Photo)

WM: One of the main pillars of pandemic recovery will likely be small business support? How will you advocate for local businesses if you are MPP?

Burbach: I definitely agree that small businesses need support and help from the provincial government. I’m a small business owner myself, so I’ve experienced the pandemic in that way. It’s been a real challenge, so especially coming out of the pandemic, I feel that small businesses do need our support, so there is a plan to reallocate some of the support that is now going to big corporations and big businesses and make sure it’s the small and medium-sized businesses, the family-owned businesses that are getting help from the provincial government. It wouldn’t necessarily be new money, but it would be better-spent money.

WM: Should ideas outside the box in Ontario, such as guaranteed basic incomes, be considered to help with some of the social issues constituents face?

Burbach: I personally believe that Universal Basic Income would be a great direction to move in. there was a pilot project in Ontario that was cancelled when the Ford government came in, so I would think that re-establishing that pilot program and understanding the data on how it works would be a great way forward to understanding Universal Basic Income.

WM: Homelessness has become a more visible issue in the region over the past ten years? What would you see your role as an MPP in tackling this issue?

Burbach: Definitely bring forward the NDP plan called Housing For All, so it’s a ten-year plan that would focus on supportive housing and transitional housing for people. Often, people have challenges that they face, whether mental health or economic, they’ve lost their job. People need support to get their foot in the door to stable housing because stable housing is the number one base that people need to be able to live their best lives. So definitely, tackling getting people into homes is the focus. We know that shelters help people temporarily, but finding a home where they are comfortable, a home that they can afford is really important, so that would be the focus. Getting people supports they need, whatever that might look like, and housing.

WM: In light of the pandemic, issues with long-term care have been at the forefront of conversations recently. How will your party continue to address shortcomings in long-term care across the province, and how will you advocate for better services locally, getting more beds closer to people’s communities?

Burbach: There are two ways that the NDP will help with long-term care. The first one is to make sure that we reverse the direction of privatization. So, bringing long-term care homes under the auspices of the province and being able to regulate them properly. Another thing would be to make sure whoever is working at the long-term care homes is properly paid so that people want to come and they are good jobs that are stable jobs for them to take care of our elders. A second prong to our long-term care plan is to make sure we have the in-home care that people need to stay in their homes longer, and they have the support to do that.

WM: Like long-term care, the pandemic has also shone a light on problems with the healthcare system – availability of beds, services in rural communities and staffing issues were just a few issues? How will you advocate for Perth-Wellington when it comes to healthcare?

Burbach: Absolutely, and I think those challenges in healthcare come from a long time cutting of spending, and one of the essential things we need to do is invest in the people who work at hospitals. So being able to pay nurses and other healthcare workers what they deserve and allowing them to negotiate for their wages. Those are important things, and those are things the Ford government hasn’t made a priority. So, our plan moving forward would be to make sure that we work together with our healthcare worker partners to ensure there is training available. To make sure that people are being paid properly and investing in healthcare rather than cutting.

WM: The opioid crisis is another issue related to healthcare that some people say is a pandemic of its own? What sort of advocacy will you provide residents of the region on this issue at the provincial level?

Burbach: At the provincial level, I think it is also a part of healthcare, and often, when people are using opioids, they either have a medical issue or a mental health issue that they are trying to deal with. So an investment, especially in mental healthcare, I think is critical. The NDP has announced a universal mental healthcare plan so that all the mental healthcare you need will be covered by OHIP. So all you would need is your OHIP card, and you wouldn’t need a credit card to pay for the services you need to get support.

WM: Climate change and environmental issues are always top of mind for many Canadians, especially when recently looking at the extreme weather conditions in provinces on both coasts. This is an issue facing all levels of government. What can constituents expect from you and your party on this issue?

Burbach: Climate change is a major issue as well. The NDP would look at actually addressing the problem where the current Ford government seems to be ignoring it. It’s a complicated question, but there are many things we can do starting tomorrow to bring us in the right direction. (Doing) things like retrofitting existing houses, creating green jobs so people know how to build environmentally sound homes, working towards net-zero, and investing in the electrical system to ensure that we have clean sources of power. Investing in allowing people to get into electric vehicles but also public transit. Giving the right kinds of investments to public transit to build a system that people will be able to ride that will serve all of Ontario, not just the GTA.

WM: Agriculture is a massive part of life in Perth-Wellington. Locally I’ve heard concerns raised about the loss of farmland to development as the areas such as North Perth continue to grow exponentially. What will you do to preserve farmland?

Burbach: I agree that it is a concern that we need to protect our agricultural land that’s growing food locally. It’s important for the environment, and it’s important for the economy. One way to address that is, it’s back to housing, is to make sure that we are developing our urban areas and building within the existing urban boundaries. (To make) sure that we don’t have the type of sprawl that is not efficient, so one of the big ways to tackle that is to make sure that we have plans that allow that missing middle development in housing.

WM: Transportation – PC Connect is good, but it has some practical shortcomings for commuting to and from cities for work? Will you advocate for expansions of the local transportation system?

Burbach: I think that is important. What has happened currently and why PC Connect exists is that the Ford government gave little bits and pieces of funding to individual municipalities. In southwestern Ontario, we’ve been able to cobble together that funding to create a bus system, but what needs to happen is to have a province-wide system that can be supported in areas outside of the GTA. Hence, the way I see it is that we would need to expand the GO system, use the existing resources and the structure that we already have but make sure it expands out into more rural areas and northern areas of Ontario.

WM: Any other words for the constituents of Perth-Wellington?

Burbach: I’d like to say that the NDP is a party for the people, and we prioritize working families over big corporations. We’re about people rather than profit, so I think we have a message of hope. I think we can make Ontario a much better place. A place where working families can live comfortably, and we deserve that, so the NDP is the way that we can get that delivered.

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