There have always been gaps in Canadian society, but COVID-19 has only “exacerbated” problems that already existed.
So says Yvonne Kelly, who will carry the New Democratic Party of Canada banner in Newmarket-Aurora for the Federal election set for September 20.
Now in her third campaign to turn Aurora’s north riding orange for the first time, Ms. Kelly says it is time for voters to think seriously about the NDP as a viable alternative to Liberal and Conservative governments.
“If you look at Provincial governments right across the country, the NDP have the best track record for fiscal responsibility while also achieving the broad social goals and programs they set out to do,” says Ms. Kelly. “Have we led federally? No, but we have certainly been in minority positions where we have been able to get amazing things happening.”
The global pandemic is a prime example, she says, pointing to the efforts of NDP leader Jagmeet Singh on CERB and EI to help Canadians stay afloat during unprecedented uncertainty.
“We have very distinct ideas about how to solve [problems],” she says.
When Ms. Kelly first became involved in local politics even before securing her party’s nomination locally, she was a campaign leader driven to “build community and build a progressive moment” with other people. In the last three or four years, momentum has built in the area of social equity, diversity and inclusion. As she goes door-to-door, Ms. Kelly says residents are saying “we want to do more.”
“The issues of the NDP are the issues I stand for,” says Ms. Kelly, who grew up in Saskatchewan, the home province of party-founder Tommy Douglas. “I feel, as a society, we are only going to advance together if we take care of those who are left behind at times, who are left out of opportunities, who don’t have the same capacity to earn income as those who are able to make the most of whatever financial gains they either came into the world with or have been able to accrue. We can’t leave people behind. There is just something fundamentally wrong about that idea.”
A key area where she says many people have been left behind is the issue of affordability.
10 years ago, it would have been hard to believe that in Aurora and Newmarket there would come a day when they “might not be able to afford a home or not be able to afford rent.”
“That has ramped up in a way nobody saw coming,” she says. “It is a global problem, but if we don’t deal with it in our own back yard, we’re never going to get ahead of it.”
Housing was a top-of-mind priority for her in the last Federal campaign in 2019 and it remains so today, along with affordable child care, implementing a pharmacare program and, of course, improving the environment.
“We’re the only country that has a universal health care system that doesn’t have a universal drug or pharmacare plan,” she says. “[Our Federal] governments have known forever that they need to go toe-to-toe with the big pharmaceutical companies and purchase nationally so that we can pass along those savings to those who need them because when your housing is out of reach, when you can’t count on the type of work that is going to give you health benefits and a decent, adequate income, one of the first places, aside from cutting back on food, you’re going to cut back on your prescription drugs. Everyone is dealing with the cost and we pay the third highest amount on prescription drugs as anywhere in the world.
“If you talk to folks who are fighting for the environment, they will tell you that nothing else matters as much. On the one hand, they’re very right because we only have a certain number of years to be able to address this. It is hard to tell someone who can’t put food on the table that the environment is the most important issue, so I don’t get into the game of ranking them, but getting our carbon emissions down, getting net zero by 2050, is the goal we have set right now and we would like to see that happen sooner. The only way you can do that is by standing up to big polluters, not providing loopholes, stop investing in fossil fuels and oil companies, and start investing in green infrastructure.”
Doing so will be a shot in the arm for good jobs as well and keep Canadians “on the right side of history.”
History also needs to be addressed and that is why Ms. Kelly says as a Member of Parliament she will be an advocate for the Indigenous community and Truth & Reconciliation.
It is, she says, “kind of like a ball that gets passed around” from government to government and that needs to stop.
“We know our communities are going through a lot, they are going through trauma and they are being re-traumatized,” she says, referencing the re-discovery of the remains of thousands of children in areas associated with residential schools. “We need to support people, we need to stop taking people to court, and we need to make sure we make good on the promise of clean water. We’re not talking about complicated things; if Newmarket and Aurora ran out of clean drinking water, you can be damn sure there would be hell on the street and people stomping on the doors of Council and things would be turned around very quickly. “It is about making people’s lives better in all counts.”
Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran