WATERLOO REGION – Climate change, the escalating costs of homeownership and childcare, as well as the ongoing challenges presented by COVID-19 were among the hot topics discussed by the five MPs from Region of Waterloo in year-end interviews.
MPs spoke to The Record as the Omicron variant began to take off.
Liberal Waterloo MP Bardish Chagger has said Canadians will determine whether this country is heading for another COVID-19 lockdown.
She said she spoke to voters concerned about the vaccine.
“What I usually tell people is ‘first of all, I was vaccinated’,” said Chagger. “I also remind people that they should talk to professionals such as their doctor to alleviate their concerns.”
Valerie Bradford, Liberal MP for Kitchener-Sud-Hespeler, said no one wanted another lockdown.
“I know we’re all reluctant for this to happen again, but we also want to try to control this so that better minds than mine make these decisions and I guess we’ll just have to wait and see,” he said. she declared.
Kitchener-Conestoga Liberal MP Tim Louis said the pandemic has taught lessons about inequalities in society, with racialized people and women being disproportionately affected.
He also stressed the need for changes in the healthcare system, especially long-term care homes which have been hit hard by COVID-19.
“At the federal level, one of the things we are talking about is creating national standards,” Louis said.
Additional funding for personal support workers in long-term homes is also needed, he said.
Kitchener Center Green Party MP Mike Morrice has said he will advocate against for-profit long-term care and the need for universal prescription coverage.
Morrice said he would reintroduce a motion addressing specific ways to improve care.
This would include implementing a basic care guarantee and more training for staff so that each resident receives at least four hours of personal care each day.
“We have to put good care first, which means reaping the benefits of long-term care,” Morrice said.
While Morrice will stand up for seniors, Cambridge Liberal MP Bryan May will focus on young people.
He would like Ontario to join the federal government’s $ 10-a-day child care program.
“For me, crossing the finish line in Ontario for $ 10 a day of child care is a no-brainer,” said May.
“Considering that we have approximately 50 percent of the children and families in Canada located here in Ontario, it is quite essential that our families and those in Kitchener-Sud-Hespeler have the opportunity to have child care services.” more affordable, ”she said.
Besides a mortgage, May said child care is the next “massive” cost for families.
For some, a mortgage may never be a reality with the cost of housing skyrocketing.
In November, local real estate statistics showed that the average prices of all properties sold in November rose about 29%, or about $ 185,000 year over year, to reach $ 825,818 in Waterloo and Kitchener and $ 821,969 to Cambridge.
May said more homes need to be built, and soon, to start addressing housing supply issues that are driving up prices.
“I think we have to recognize that supply and demand are part of the problem… we are growing as a country, our population is increasing, but we are not keeping pace in terms of housing stock,” he said. declared.
The Liberals launched a national housing strategy in 2018. They committed $ 55 billion over 10 years to build 125,000 new homes.
Bradford said finding the workforce to build the new homes needed would also be a challenge.
May said there are other ways to bring prices down, including ending blind housing auctions which often see buyers paying too much because they don’t know what other bidders are offering. .
“You don’t go to a car dealership and they say ‘How much would you be willing to pay?’ “, did he declare. “There is literally nothing else we buy other than a house where the system is used. “
Morrice said he would also advocate for house prices.
“From a youngster worried about whether he’ll ever be able to move, to seniors on fixed incomes, we need to make sure that homes should be for people and not for commodities. base for investors, ”he said.
MPs agreed that there is a shortage of subsidized housing for those who need it most.
The plight of homeless people in the area was brought to the fore when the Region of Waterloo bulldozed a Kitchener settlement in November.
“I think like everyone else I was horrified to see this and the way it was executed,” Bradford said.
This decision sparked a public outcry, strong criticism from some regional advisers and resulted in a revision of the regulations to detail how the camps will be treated in the future. Expulsion will be the last resort.
“It was disgusting what happened and just devastating to see both the photos and the video,” Morrice said.
Louis said he was “shocked” when he saw the photos.
But it’s not enough to build housing, Louis said. New subsidized housing options need social supports to accompany them.
“It’s not just about housing any vulnerable population,” Louis said. “You can’t just build houses without the support programs. “
The region carried out a one-time homelessness count in November. The count revealed that 1,085 people in cities and townships were homeless. That’s up from 333 in 2018, although that number doesn’t include hidden homeless people who might be surfing the couch with friends or family.
“It’s not a new problem,” May said. “We recognize that chronic homelessness is a major problem in Canada, and this is what we are desperately trying to address with the national housing strategy.
As part of the Liberal housing strategy, there is a quick housing initiative. The federal government provides funding for subsidized housing that is coordinated by the communities that receive it.
One of those projects is a $ 6.9 million construction on Block Line that will see 41 units built for single homeless women.
Supports will be put in place to help with budgeting, food preparation and purchasing.
“Through the Quick Housing initiative, we were able to work directly with municipalities to make sure the money would go right into our communities,” said Chagger.
Louis said there has also been a change in the way the government talks about homelessness.
“We were saying we were going to reduce homelessness, now we are saying we are going to end homelessness,” Louis said.
As the only Green, Morrice said he was determined to act on the climate crisis.
“Whether it’s mudslides and flooding in British Columbia, or even more recently on the east coast, we’re seeing it across the country and around the world,” he said.
Bradford said she had just received her committee appointments, which include the science and research committee.
“I think it’s going to be very relevant coming from the Waterloo region when we have so much research and research capacity going on,” she said.
MPs have expressed their willingness to work across party lines on issues affecting residents of the Waterloo region.
“All the MPs in the region, I have always strived to make sure that we work closely together, regardless of their political affiliation, because I truly believe that the world needs more Canada, Canada needs more. more Waterloo, ”said Chagger.