Leigh Hunsinger-Chang is the Green Party of Canada candidate for the Cariboo-Prince George riding. We asked all the candidates four questions, here are her answers.
What is your vision for a pandemic recovery?
The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged everyone. We learned that both our health and heath care systems are precious. Many people’s physical and mental health have suffered due to isolation, stress, chronic disease, and COVID-19. People have struggled financially and the workforce in Canada has changed. This has made situations like housing affordability more difficult for many in the North and across Canada. All of this is on the back of an ongoing climate emergency that was declared in 2019 by the Federal Government. Successful recovery from the pandemic must address these issues. Our health care system needs support through increased federal transfers to catch up on treatments and procedures that have been delayed during the pandemic and to support our emergency services which are stretched thin. Additionally, we need a national strategy for long term care for our seniors, swift attention to the opioid crisis and implementation of a national pharmacare system. Economically, the COVID recovery plan must go hand in hand with the climate emergency, which means putting plans in action to transition to a low carbon economy so Canadians can thrive, not just survive. We live in the north; of course we can do this.
What will you do as a federal government to increase housing affordability for everyone?
The housing crisis across Canada is becoming one of the most prominent issues nationally this election. Safe, affordable housing must be declared a basic human right in Canada through inclusion in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Unstable housing and homelessness must be addressed rapidly by the Federal Government through a multi-pronged approach. This must include a National Housing Strategy with the appointment of a Minster of Housing to work closely with the provinces to address the individual needs of each province. The National Housing Strategy will include investment of new builds that are affordable and energy efficient as well investment in rental assistance for millions of Canadians. The National Housing Strategy must also work to eliminate homelessness, a health issue for many. This includes addressing chronic health conditions like addictions and providing fulsome mental health support for those who are living with homelessness.
What impact will climate change have on the Cariboo-Prince George riding, and what will your party do to combat those effects?
In 2017, thousands of people from Williams Lake and south to 100 Mile House were evacuated from their home due to devastating wildfires. I recall working in a makeshift clinic, in a corner of the gymnasium at The Northern Sports Centre with hundreds of cots spread across the gym floor, people living with no privacy, waiting anxiously to be allowed to return home. As I talked to people about their physical and mental health, the effects of this disaster became evident. Our neighbours were suffering the direct impacts of climate change; fast-forward to 2021 to the heat dome and more evacuations of communities and health facilities. We can expect more of these events and they will be more severe. Human activity is the cause of climate change and now we must rapidly transition to a low-carbon economy and eliminate fossil fuel dependency. It’s possible NOW and feasible NOW, with a move to renewable energy resources like wind, solar, and water. While creating millions of good, long-term, well-paying jobs, we will see immediate physical and mental health benefits, improved air quality and a reduced risk to life and property. There is still hope for a safe and sustainable future.
What concrete efforts should Canada be making toward reconciliation with Indigenous people?
Every day we see the impacts of colonization and multi-generational trauma on the Indigenous People in Canada. The first step toward meaningful reconciliation is to implement the 94 calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Report. There are many areas where we must focus our energy towards reconciliation, including examination of the over incarceration of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system, a disproportionality high number of Indigenous youth in the foster care system, and the existence of systemic racism in our healthcare system. We need ongoing dialogue and education about reconciliation with Indigenous people and inclusion of Indigenous history and our history of colonialism in our education system. The Federal Government must work with Indigenous leaders across Canada and respect the right and sovereignty of Indigenous communities, while working to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.