Residents of Ward 19 Beaches-East York attended a debate at the Beach United Church on Oct. 3 to hear candidates from the four major parties — although only three showed up.
Both Sean Manners of the Green Party and Mae J. Nam of the New Democratic Party (NDP) showed up on time, even talking to attendees before the debate had begun. While Liberal candidate Nathaniel Erskine-Smith showed up approximately 10 minutes later, he had the opportunity to address the questions asked before his arrival. Conservative candidate Nadirah Nazeer was a no-show for the debate.
The debate was part of a greater movement called the 100 Debates of the Environment, in which 100 MP positions are open for debate across Canada to help voters decide who they should vote for based on environmental issues.
They developed a set of 9 questions in the riding that concerns all faith and traditions, regarding environmental, health care, social and other inequality challenges. Questions were sent to candidates in advance.
Here are the positions of the candidates as delivered to the meeting, paraphrased and edited:
Floods and Water Pollution
Sean Manners: We need to rebuild our wetlands and have more trees.
Nathaniel Erskine-Smith: The government is taking steps to tackle plastic, put a price on pollution, and massive investments in clean technology to tackle climate change.
Mae J. Nam: The NDP is pulling away from the pipeline and investing in infrastructure which adapts to climate change.
Pollution and Toxic Substances in the Environment
Sean Manners: Our government needs to review our environmental protection laws, and have more trees to filter carbon dioxide. Multiple communities don’t have access to green space as others do.
Nathaniel Erskine-Smith: Liberals are going to strengthen the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
Mae J. Nam: Environment and Climate Change Canada says we are not on track. We need to look at the Aboriginal water crisis, they have had 50 years of cancer related death from the mercury in the water.
Aging and Mental Health Care
Mae J. Nam: We need to have more care for our seniors, long-term home care support, national pharmacare, affordable housing, and universal dental care. We have a lot of goals and plans to help people who are hanging by a thread. We have to help the people who can’t afford to retire.
Nathaniel Erskine-Smith: We have invested a lot of money for health care in the provinces. $5 million for mental health, $5 million for home care and prioritized senior issues. The lowest poverty rates are for seniors out of other demographics because we really take care of them. Increased guaranteed income supplement for seniors and creating an improved national dementia strategy.
Sean Manners: Not a lot of people have access to adequate health care and mental health assistance. We can make money available but money can’t just fix all problems. We have planned innovative forms of housing strategy to pair people with older individual for long-term home care. We can’t just invest in dementia research but also the care of the family members that have to help provide assistance.
Cost Rise of Pharmaceutical Drugs
Nathaniel Erskine-Smith: We have not only adopted but also listening to recommendations from the Canadian Drug Agency to help coordinate better involved purchasing for prescription drugs. It’s one of the first steps for universal pharmacare. We don’t know if provincial governments will play ball with us regarding universal health care, so we have to find that out first.
Mae J. Nam: One-in-five Canadians do not have access to health care. We need to do more collective bargaining with pharmaceutical companies to lower drug prices.
Sean Manners: We need to get universal pharmacare and lower prescription drug prices. People shouldn’t only have access to particular drugs, they don’t need to sell themselves out to get a particular drug.
Sean Manners: Too many people, particularly students, have been told to wait two week to six months to seek mental health help. When you are going through a mental health crisis you need to talk to someone immediately not just for a physical health crisis.
We can’t deal with the climate crisis when people are figuring how to feed their kids tomorrow, have enough money to take the TTC, how they will pay their credit card bills, deal with their family issues, having children, these things take a mental health toll. We need to destigmatize these mental health issues.
Nathaniel Erskine-Smith: In the last four years the government prioritized mental health issues. On a personal note I work with Centre of Addictions and Mental Health addressing the opioid crisis as a public health issue and people doing cannabis because of mental health issues. Our life expectancy has stalled because many people are dying from the opioid crisis. We have got 800,000 people out of poverty by investing in the Canada Workers Benefit, Child Care Benefit, and Guaranteed Income Supplement.
Mae J. Nam: We need to work on getting immediate access for mental health. We want to work on decriminalizing small amounts of all kinds of drugs and look at that as a mental health issue.
Mae J. Nam: We have to respect indigenous indifferences and help them acquire food and water security. It’s embarrassing that people don’t have access to clean drinking water, if we had soldiers who has access to clean drinking water when they go anywhere, why can’t we have our indigenous children clean drinking water?
Sean Manners: We have to respect indigenous indifferences and help them acquire food and water security.
Sean Manners: Most Canadians are living a couple of paycheques away from poverty. We need a guaranteed livable income. People should be able to live anywhere in this country. People that leave from neighbourhoods like this, can’t come back because the cost of living are too high. Minimum wage is also very low compared to the cost of living. We need to look into that.
Mae J. Nam: We need to take bold steps to address the gap between the rich and poor. Create ultra-wealth tax which looks at those folks who have access to $20 million and get one percent tax. This will help with getting universal healthcare, affordable housing, universal daycare program, $15 an hour minimum wage for federal regulated employees, and increase corporate tax rates to 18 percent from 15 percent.
Nathaniel Erskine-Smith: We have the lowest poverty rate in history because of what we did in the last four years. We are trying to get Canada’s Worker Benefits to be increased because the poverty rate of the working poor is in the lowest; low incomers shouldn’t pay tax and high incomers need to pay more. We also need to look into tax evasions and people not getting away without paying their part.
Sean Manners: Affordable housing and what we really need (developing structures that are affordable), are two different things. In Toronto you have to work 70 hours to afford a one bedroom apartment as a single individual.
Addressing real systemic social justice issues… we need to increase safe shelters because of emergency circumstances such as the increase of extreme weather events. The Plan to Homes report, established 66,000 empty locations in Toronto. We need to get these ghost properties back into the market to relieve some of this pressure immediately.
Mae J. Nam: People are spending 50 percent of their income on their housing. People are really stressed about housing, especially in the city. The NDP wants to create immediate relief for renters who are spending more than 30 percent of their income to rent, we want to give them $5000 rent subsidy which will helps thousands.
Nathaniel Erskine-Smith: People are paying 50 percent of their income to their housing. Kids who are growing in the beaches are being priced out of their neighbourhood, they are first-time buyers who can’t afford to buy their own place and have to move further out. The not-for-profit organization project that will have 10 percent equity share is a proven plan which works, that we are expanding all across Canada.