Perth-Wellington Liberal candidate, Brendan Knight, took time out of his campaign schedule on Aug. 17, to give his thoughts to the Listowel Banner on some of the issues facing voters in the 2021 federal election.
LB: The pandemic is still top of mind for most voters. What are your thoughts on mandatory vaccinations?
Knight: I’m in favour of having mandatory vaccinations as the government has rolled out for (passengers on) planes, the government and federally-regulated employees to have mandatory vaccinations or some sort of accommodation for people that can’t. I think it’s important to push forward on very clear, concise policies for some sort of passport or some sort of certificate so that we can have our kids go back to school safely, our healthcare workers and people using health care services are safe and that businesses and industries have some sort of tool that they can use so that we don’t have outbreaks where businesses have to shut down or worse yet, that we have a greater provincial shutdown. I know it’s an evolving topic but I’m in favour of it.
LB: Agriculture is a huge part of life in Perth-Wellington and some say it is being affected adversely by climate change. Any thoughts on actions that can be taken to deal with the effects of a changing climate that can create erratic conditions for farmers?
Knight: The minister, just before the election had the deal about enhancing the AgriStability program and those kinds of programs are going to be important to work within provinces and with farmers to help mitigate these kinds of fluctuations within the environment caused by the greater climate change. I think climate change is one of the – other than maybe the pandemic – biggest issues of this campaign. I think it’s important here that we have a member that is voting in favour of addressing climate change, votes in favour that climate change is real, that we have to address it, that it is an emergency and that we’ve just seen the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report come out – things are not going in the right direction and the Liberal government has made moves to address it. Having a local representative that speaks for a rural agriculture community when these kinds of programs come forward from the government is important and I think at this point Perth-Wellington has a chance to have someone who is advocating to fight climate change and to do it in such a way that helps the community instead of opposing every measure to fight climate change.
LB: Mental health issues are prevalent this year due to the pandemic. Farmers are one group that has been dealing with mental health issues, even before the pandemic; a local study conducted by the University of Guelph recently found women under 40 are being hit especially hard by poor mental health. How will your party deal with mental health issues?
Knight: I think the federal government has addressed mental health issues in various portfolios but I think the biggest thing, especially (coming) out of this pandemic is getting back to what is seen as some form of stability and having some sort of post-pandemic economy and way of life with the ability to interact with family and friends safely. So some of the measures that we have to take now that the government has acquired vaccines for everyone is we have to start making decisions and put forward a plan that addresses what we found are major gaps during this pandemic. One of them being childcare. So having those deals with almost all the provinces to have more affordable childcare, to increase the number of childcare spaces to get people the ability to get their life back and to make their life more affordable will go a long way to addressing those kinds of issues. Of course, we have to continue to put money and support into the system.
LB: When it comes to health care, people have raised concerns because Canada had to look internationally for help with vaccines during the pandemic. What are your thoughts on this and how can Canada be better prepared next time?
Knight: I think most recently we just saw that addressed with the government coming with an agreement with Moderna to produce vaccine here and not only that, to have vaccine available in the years to come. So for me, my background when I worked in Environment Canada. That’s when the Harper Government came in and started making big cuts to science. I saw the effects. We had buildings with no people and that was environmental monitoring. It started to decrease and you can’t just turn that back on. It will take multiple years of investment.
So this election is one of those kinds of choices… The Liberals have shown that we’re investing in these things so that they are there beyond this government. If you go a different way and make cuts when it comes to the time that you need it, you don’t have infrastructure there. So I think that’s what is so important and the government has already demonstrated those long-term investments that are going to go beyond this government.
LB: What does your party plan to do to make housing affordable again, especially considering wages are not going up at the rate they once were in comparison to housing?
Knight: There is no doubt that housing will continue to be a challenge and the government put forward the first-ever National Housing Strategy which has real money behind it… Again, I think it’s important to have a representative that advocates and works with the government to get those funds for Listowel, for your local community. As you know Listowel has expanded a great deal so you need that level of advocacy, not opposing certain kinds of measures that are specific for the community and so I think that’s how best to address it is to have your local representative advocate within these existing programs to meet the needs. We have other issues with that as well. We talk about it, it’s more provincial, like the Minister’s Zoning Orders and land use so you have to work collaboratively to meet the needs of the growth of the community but still have affordable housing and rent, it’s very expensive for people to rent so it’s going to take enhancing of that program and advocating locally to get affordable housing in the communities.
See next week’s issue of the Listowel Banner for the Q&A conclusion.
Colin Burrowe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner