Jordan Reichert, with the Animal Protection Party, responds to the DSP 2019 election forum questions.
1) If elected will your party support the current federally legislated poverty reduction strategy?
Yes, the APPC will support and continue to improve upon the poverty reduction strategy
a) How will your party ensure that the new ‘Official Poverty Line’ for Canada, the Market Basket Measure, is regularly updated so that the measure reflects the current costs experienced by those living in poverty?
Because of regular fluctuations in the market, the cost of living, and housing, an annual analysis of the Market Basket Measure must be undertaken to ensure it is capturing the most up to date assess of the needs of those living in poverty
b) How will you ensure that the Advisory Council on Poverty reflects diversity and functions as an accountability mechanism that holds the federal government to its commitments?
An essential component of representation for the Advisory Council on Poverty is to prioritize the inclusion of individuals from equity seeking groups and those with lived experience of poverty or meaningful engagement with policy in this area.
Accountability is always an issue for government policy. I think that the MP for each representative on the Advisory Council, should be required to attend a certain number of meetings of the council each year and be accountable for bringing forward action points, if raised, by the council to the Ministry of Employment and Social Development. This direct relationship between government and the Advisory Council should ensure greater accountability by placing the onus on the elected officials involved.
2) Given the high cost of living and of housing in Greater Victoria, will you advocate that your party implement a guaranteed basic income for all? What would you specifically do to tackle this issue?
Yes, the APPC has long supported the implementation of a guaranteed basic income and I personally advocated for this with Basic Income Victoria in the past.
For people to be able to participate fully and meaningfully in society they require the economic means to engage socially. We would ensure a guaranteed basic income that is weighted to the needs of people by their geographic location in Canada to participate fully in communities. Those most vulnerable would be the first phase of implementation for a guaranteed basic income to prioritize their needs. Ensuring access to free education must be done in tandem with such a program. Similarly, we must ensure safe, affordable, and adequate housing as the foundation for providing economic equity for all. Comparing a guaranteed basic income to current social assistance programs indicates a reduction in stigma in those accessing this program, savings to the government from less management of people through multiple systems, and a greater return on investment in peoples desire to be engaged members of the community who have greater opportunities for self-actualization.
3) Does your party support the recently adopted National Housing Strategy and the right to Housing? Please provide comments to support your position.
Overall, the APPC supports the NHS and we definitely support the right to housing. However, we would argue that the new funding set out in the NHS is not adequate and is not timely enough to address the issue at hand. Holding the money hostage behind the federal election is unconscionable, as is placing half the burden on the provinces.
It is good to see an injection of funding into rent subsidies, repairs, and social housing, but it does not address the underlying poverty many people face even with this. A guaranteed basic income is an essential component of affordable, safe, and adequate housing. Many people are house poor, unable to meet their basic individual and social needs even with a roof over their heads.
4) Does your party commit to maintaining federal leadership and investment to address access to safe, affordable, and adequate housing?
Yes, the Animal Protection Party of Canada is committed to maintaining federal leadership and investment to address access to safe, affordable, and adequate housing.
a) If yes, how does your party plan to increase federal leadership and investment to address access to safe, affordable, and adequate housing?
I believe that the 4 billion promised in the Canadian Housing Benefit needs to be available now. Also, the strategy must empower municipalities to do more to address their particular housing crisis. As the provinces and municipalities are closer to this issue, a direct line needs to be made for these bodies to engage the federal government on the direction of these funds. We need commitments in funding to particular areas, not just promises of money that may someday get there.
5) Does your party commit to increasing federal investment specifically targeted to housing people experiencing homelessness?
Yes, the Animal Protection Party of Canada commits to increasing federal investment specifically for housing people experiencing homelessness.
a) If yes, how does your party plan to increase federal investment specifically targeted to housing people experiencing homelessness?
As an essential part of the National Housing Strategy, we need to work from the ground up to ensure the funding is available to provide the housing necessary for those most vulnerable and currently living with homelessness.
As a central component of helping people improve their outcomes with addictions and poverty, housing is the rising tide that lifts all boats. It is not just a housing issue, it is a health issue and our efforts would be targeted in this way to prioritize its creation. Alongside provide funding to NGO’s for housing initiatives, the government must be involved in the creation of social housing, co-operatives and the decommodification of housing as a human right and not a market for profit.
6) More than 11,000 Canadians have died from fatal drug overdoses since the last federal election in 2015. Life expectancy rates in Canada have fallen for the first time in many years. Locally, 300 individuals in Greater Victoria have died. Both people who use substances and medical experts are calling for decriminalization of personal drug use and a regulated and safe drug supply. These policy options have been successful in other countries such as Portugal. If elected what will you do to advance these evidence based solutions?
I personally have worked with many of those who have died from fatal drug overdoses and am sad to say the response from the government has been dismal.
The APPC supports the decriminalization of personal drug use and providing a regulated safe drug supply. These changes in policy are essential to addressing the stigmatization of the those struggling with addictions, their prevalence in the criminal justice system, and the criminalization of what is a health issue.
7) There are no publicly funded treatment options for addictions on Vancouver Island, only costly private ones, for the thousands of island residents who want help with their substance use. Victoria’s only outpatient option has a 10 week wait list just to start a group. If elected what will your government do to increase access to recovery services.
Having worked in Withdrawal Management Services for over a decade with Island Health, I am acutely aware of the lack of publicly funded treatment options on the Island.
While medical detox is publicly funded, the path to recovery beyond the physiological treatment of withdrawal has substantial barriers to those with limited economic means. Many patients are funded through social assistance programs, but this falls short of addressing the lack of services available to meet the demand and access to this funding for many. Over the last decade I have seen the number of people struggling with addictions grow exponentially, while the number of treatment beds has only increased by about 5. Recovery services must be seen as an essential component of well-being that belong on the continuum of publicly funded care. Alongside this, we would recognize that for many people seeking treatment for substance use, psychological health is also a concern and access to appropriate mental health services is essential. We need psychological services to become a part of our universal health care system, as without this we are effectively only treating half the body. Over the last decade we have only lost addictions councillors and much of this workload has been passed onto unqualified peer support groups or case management.
We must stop taking a reactive approach to the issue of addiction and recovery. We frequently see the government throw money into measures that do nothing to address the structural problems that persist inside and outside the recovery system. The system has become more about managing people with addiction, than actually helping people with addiction. We must take a people focused approach that prioritizes spending on direct services, such as treatment beds, safe consumption sites, long-term treatment, and psychological services to compliment each stage of recovery.