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, Green Party of Ontario (GPO) candidate Laura Bisutti 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?
Bisutti: Our top priority is to build liveable, affordable communities. We can plan smarter to have connected communities where everyone would live, work, play, shop, and access public services. Our plan is $23.5 billion over ten years to transform our approach to housing. It would focus on infilling. The plan is 100,000 new affordable rental units. I’m also thinking of updating our rent controls, making them stricter—$5 billion into retrofitting our existing apartments.
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?
Bisutti: Yes, I know in Listowel and Stratford, we bus people. I mean, that’s ok too, but it’s better if they live in the town where they work and are not so dependent on a car … It is unaffordable to keep expanding municipal services, so we need to help municipalities build more density, not these gigantic homes that developers make so much money on. So that $23.5 billion would be to focus on low rise apartments and liveable communities so that they live close to work, shopping and so on.
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?
Bisutti: Well, the gig workers as they are called technically do have an employer, so I think we must do what the European Union wants, which is to make sure they are getting a minimum wage and that they have access to sick pay and holidays and to reclassify gig workers as employees of LYFT, or Uber or Skip the Dishes and so on. They are called self-employed, but they are on call all the time, so there needs to be a reclassification. We need to push that through.
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?
Bisutti: We have the build-back smarter plan. Small businesses are the pillars of economic recovery. Still, the future of Ontario jobs is green, so we are advocating for a made-in Ontario supply chain for electric vehicles. We are advocating for fair taxes for small businesses. We must encourage people to buy local, so our communities can become self-sufficient. We must fix the rent relief program. Only 10 percent of the funding was given out in the program, so we must make sure that it is working to make sure businesses can pay their rent. Also, bringing in tax credits because they had to adjust and upgrade to retrofit, whether plexiglass or having another entrance, and invest in our downtowns that are people-centred—not investing in sprawl but investing in these mini-communities.
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?
Bisutti: At first, I thought the guaranteed basic income absolved companies from paying a living wage. Having said that, I’ve been very appreciative of the monthly childcare benefit that I have gotten over the years. It is kind of a light version of guaranteed basic income. I realize now that it would ensure that seniors and people on disability are not in poverty, so the GPO favours a guaranteed 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?
Bisutti: The GPO has supportive housing with wraparound mental health and addiction services in their platform. They need to be available to those who need them, so we want to build 60,000 units with wraparound mental health and addiction services over ten years at about $6.5 billion. Also, stronger rent control rules need to be put in place sooner rather than later, and of course, more social housing construction is part of that $6.5 billion. Just make it easier to build new homes in already built-up areas and be able to make duplexes and triplexes to get more density because there are a lot of homes that have three bedrooms, but only one person is living in there, so it makes sense to make it easier for them to retrofit their house and rent part of it.
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?
Bisutti: Yes, there was an issue in our area where they were going to close Hillside Manor. There was an uproar in the community, so the government has brought more beds to our area, which is a good thing. On top of bringing in new builds, we have to improve the working conditions and the pay for staff because we want them to be happy in their jobs, so they stay in their jobs and not leave after a couple of years. Once we prioritize the care over the profit, we’ll probably naturally phase out the for-profit homes. We have to look at this now because I believe the over 70-year-old population will be growing quite fast as the baby boomers age. We should also look beyond long-term care homes into models like aging in place and home care.
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?
Bisutti: A few things, we have a lot of small towns in our area. First, the nursing shortage has been driven by chronic understaffing and constant over time. So, we want to repeal Bill 124. We want to improve the working conditions by investing in recruiting nurses so we can adequately staff the hospitals. We can do this by expediting granting nurse licenses to qualified, internationally educated nurses. We can also reduce overcrowding if we better use the existing homecare and nurse-led clinics. If we empower the nurse practitioners as primary healthcare providers, we could have more clinics. Our healthcare capacity plan that (GPO leader) Mike Schreiner is asking for is to reopen hospital beds and operating rooms based on the population’s need for care. We should also support the public transit services for rural residents to access healthcare because we have to drive long distances.
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?
Bisutti: Well, the investment that we are proposing for 60,000 permanent supportive housing spaces over the next decade and expanding the number of consumption and treatment service sites, so they have access to safe supply. But I think the key part of it will be investing in mental health and addiction services, and the GPO plan is for $4 billion over four years.
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?
Bisutti: The GPO plan is to reach net-zero by 2045, stop investing in fossil fuel projects, and invest in public transportation. We also need to retrofit homes, and we need to reduce the sprawl. The most important thing I think would be to protect the wetlands permanently. That is important to reduce flooding. We also have to protect our forests, which are the natural sponge of rain and create weather systems, and we have to protect the prime farmland. We can’t be using that for building houses. Then we must clean up the air and water in the worst polluted areas. It can be done. Lake Erie was once quite polluted, so we’ve changed that direction. We have to support emerging low-carbon industries and help existing industries transition. If we don’t, it gets more expensive as flooding problems, torrential rains, or ice storms occur with increasing intensity or increasing numbers.
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?
Bisutti: The stats are alarming. Ontario is losing 175 acres of farmland daily. The proposed highway 413 will destroy 2000 acres of prime farmland, so that needs to be stopped. So, I guess first would be smart growth within existing urban boundaries, the infill of the missing middle to expand the zoning options to give more housing choices and expand within our urban areas. We should also be reinstating the provincial brownfield remediation fund to make sure we can build on these old industrial sites and, most importantly, permanently protect all prime farmland. That will help us for food security and economic prosperity if that’s an area where we know we will produce our food.
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 because it can be difficult for riders to return home?
Bisutti: When you said it’s hard to come back. I haven’t used it yet. I’ve been meaning to go to the small towns on the bus because I want to experience it but is it too full when coming back? Is that the problem?”
WM: No, it’s a problem with timing and connections to other cities.
Bisutti: I was one of the volunteers. I went there to answer questions about what we need, and we did say that it has to be made with a student in mind because it would be going to Waterloo University or want to connect up with the GO service for Toronto. So, I’ve seen that there are several routes. I thought that they covered the day quite nicely, but I should relook at that again. I like the fact that we have a rural system now, and the Greens, of course, that’s highly important to have a useable and affordable transit system. So, we’re saying all municipalities have to have the ability to levy a local vehicle registration tax dedicated to transit or active transportation, and we’d have to restore the 50 percent provincial cost-share for transit operating because that’s vital. If we are expecting people to give up their cars, it must be easy for people to get around because I don’t even know how I would get to Hamilton where I would like to go, other than to spend hours connecting, connecting, connecting. That is a vital part of our platform.
WM: Yes, when I’ve heard from riders who transfer and use the GO system to reach other cities, they almost have to start travelling back as soon as they arrive. It is not only the PC Connect timing which causes issues, but the circuitous routes and inconvenient timing of GO buses?
Bisutti: Yes, that’s what I figured. You pretty much have to stay overnight. Most kids don’t mind because they have all the free time in the world, but not all people have free time.
WM: Any other words for the constituents of Perth-Wellington?
Bisutti: The GPO wants to prioritize a caring society. So we’re committed to mental health and equity, healthcare, truth and reconciliation. We’re committed to having connected communities, so 15-minute communities, less car dependency and a new climate economy. Local ecosystems, not so we’re totally independent, but we’re more self-sufficient, and I’ll say to check out our platform. We didn’t discuss education, but some people might be interested. We want to modernize education by funding a single French and English public school system to eliminate the administrative duplication of the two boards and eliminate discrimination in hiring teachers based on religion. So check under our platform at GPO.ca.
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