Perth-Wellington incumbent MP, John Nater, took time out of his re-election campaign schedule on Aug. 16, 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?
Nater: My point on that is that I’m encouraging everyone to get their vaccine. I’ve had both of mine. I think that vaccines are the most important tool in our fight against the pandemic. No one can be forced to take a medical procedure. No one can be forced to take a vaccine but at the end of the day we are encouraging anyone hesitant, anyone who has concerns to talk to a health care professional, talk to their doctor, to get the very best medical advice possible but we do not force people to get vaccines – strongly encouraged but not forced.
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?
Nater: I think agriculture is one of those unique industries where they are already leading the way on a lot of initiatives that are good for the environment, good for the soil and land conservation so we need to be working with the agriculture industry on things like soil erosion, on low till and no-till – which is something the agriculture industry has been doing for decades. Carbon capture is something that has been at the forefront of the agriculture industry for a long time so working with the industry to come up with those solutions that they’ve been working on but actually giving them credit and giving them support for some of the work they are doing and they continue to do. Working with the industry, not against them.
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?
Nater: Absolutely – in terms of mental health that’s one of our five key priorities this election. Focusing on mental health, focusing on developing the resources, the commitment to mental health including rural and more remote people. What we’ve been seeing locally is a great commitment from organizations like the Listowel Ag. Society who are putting effort into mental health resources for the agriculture industry. One amazing example, Do More Agriculture is looking at creating a mental health support line staffed by people who know the industry. So from a federal perspective, something that we’re supporting within our platform … is support for organizations like that who can and will deliver resources specifically to different industries, but in our case, to the agriculture industry. So supporting that is one of the major elements of our platform and one that I’m so very proud of seeing advocated.
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?
Nater: Absolutely, so another component of our five-point plan is domestic capacity. So we need to start building and creating stuff in Canada today. Whether it’s manufacturing, whether it’s research and development, whether it’s science and pharmaceuticals – specifically here looking at vaccines it’s something we need to do. We look at other countries internationally including the United Kingdom who at the beginning of the pandemic ramped up their capacity on day one of the pandemic specifically to make that happen. We didn’t do that in Canada. So now going forward we need to make sure we have the capacity – so that’s investing in research and development, bringing home international businesses that have left the country in the last number of years and making sure that Canada is an innovative country so we’re proposing what’s called a ‘patent box,’ that businesses that create new technology and create a new development in Canada can keep it in Canada and to build it in Canada and then to provide it to the Canadian people so that’s going to be a major focus, not just for vaccines but for other things as well, so Canada can be a self-sufficient and self-sustaining country when we see situations like what happened in the last year and a half. Our borders were closed. We had trouble getting anything from personal protective equipment to vaccines to other things in our supply chain.
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?
Nater: There is a lot of different elements to do with housing but it’s all connected back locally when you look at housing, when you look at the labour market, when you look at transportation – they are all intertwined. Specifically, on housing we need custom-built housing that addresses the whole spectrum of housing needs from the detached family homes to the townhouses to semi-detached to purpose-built rental housing so in our platform… one of the things that we focused on, one of many things, is custom-built, purpose-built rental housing because a lot of people cannot afford to get into that housing market right away. They need to have that option, especially when they are coming to a different community such as Listowel where there is a shortage of rental housing. Then for affordability, for those that are buying their first home for the first time, we simply need more supply and that is something looked at in our platform, an increased supply, increased affordability for first time homeowners so they can get into that house. So one of the things we propose is banning foreign ownership of homes in Canada. I know that is more of an issue in larger urban centres but certainly, there is a spillover effect we see there, spillover from larger urban centres moving to our communities because of the cost of housing. We’re looking at where we put infrastructure investments that tie hand-in-hand with the cost of housing for those first-time homeowners. What we often talk about is affordable housing and housing that is affordable. Those two need to go hand-in-hand to make sure we have all the options along that spectrum of housing so we can keep people in our rural communities and attract people to our rural communities so that we can fill the jobs that are available here in Perth County and Wellington County.
See next week’s issue of the Listowel Banner for the Q&A conclusion.
Colin Burrowes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner