Nikki Macdonald, with the Liberal Party, responds to the DSP 2019 election forum questions.
1) If elected will your party support the current federally legislated poverty reduction strategy?
The Liberal government is committed to act as a leader and full partner in the fight against poverty. We have already taken significant action to help Canadians make ends meet. The Liberal Party enacted the National Poverty Reduction Strategy, “Opportunity for All,” and we will support and enhance this effective policy.
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?
The National Poverty Reduction Strategy endorses the Market Basket Measure of low income to assess poverty rates by region. Statistics Canada is currently reviewing the calculation of the MBM to ensure it accurately reflects current purchasing power.
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?
The Advisory Council on Poverty is enshrined in legislation. It has ten members who were selected from over 800 applicants. The chairman and members represent all regions, four are Indigenous, one is from the LGBTQ2 community, and one is a member of another racialized community. They have expertise in child welfare, housing the homeless, health including mental health and addictions among other specialized knowledge, and some have lived experience of homelessness and poverty. The Liberal Party will continue to appoint highly qualified individuals from all regions to ensure diversity on this hugely important Council.
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?
Our policy is to continue to enhance and increase the guaranteed basic income strategies already in place:
● For families with children, the Canada Child Benefit amounts to a guaranteed income support for children.
● For low income workers and their families, the Canada Workers Benefit is a refundable tax credit raising their take home income to a guaranteed dollar amount;
● For over 65s, the Guaranteed Income Supplement to the Old Age Supplement ensures seniors have a basic income, and for the future, an enhanced Canada/Quebec Pension Plan will provide better pensions for all Canadians.
3) Does your party support the recently adopted National Housing Strategy and the right to Housing? Please provide comments to support your position.
All Canadians deserve a safe and affordable place to call home. A home makes Canadians feel more secure, making it easier to raise healthy children, pursue an education, and gain employment. Affordable housing has meant all the difference for families and people of all ages and walks of life.
The Liberal Party’s National Housing Strategy is moving forward with a ten-year, $40 billion plan that will give more Canadians a place to call home. The plan is a blueprint for:
● reducing chronic homelessness by 50%
● removing more than 530,000 households out of housing need
● creating 100,000 new housing units
● repairing and renewing more than 300,000 housing units
● protecting an additional 385,000 households from losing an affordable place to live
4) Does your party commit to maintaining federal leadership and investment to address access to safe, affordable, and adequate housing?
The National Housing Strategic will focus on meeting the needs of Canadians, including seniors, women and children fleeing family violence, Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, those dealing with mental health and addiction issues, veterans and young adults.
a) If yes, how does your party plan to increase federal leadership and investment to address access to safe, affordable, and adequate housing?
The increase to the First Time Home Buyers Incentive in particular will allow many younger people in Victoria to acquire a home, freeing up rental accommodation for others. This measure will not increase indebtedness of first time home buyers or result in added inflation of housing prices, unlike the NDP’s proposed reintroduction of 30 year amortization of mortgages.
The 1% national speculation and empty house tax will also have the effect of deterring foreign speculation in Victoria’s housing market, keeping prices down and raising revenue for other efforts to make housing more affordable.
Other non-housing supports to individuals and families make housing more affordable by reducing the amount families pay for other household expenses – commitments to reduce childcare expenses, the Canada Child Benefit, make it easier for families with children to afford good housing.
5) Does your party commit to increasing federal investment specifically targeted to housing people experiencing homelessness?
a) If yes, how does your party plan to increase federal investment specifically targeted to housing people experiencing homelessness?
The Liberals’ National Housing Strategy includes a $13.2 billion Co-Investment Fund that will create and repair affordable housing across Canada for those with the greatest need, to help Canadians have a safe place to call home. The Liberal plan will create a new generation of housing in Canada. It will promote diverse communities and will build housing that is sustainable, accessible, mixed-income and mixed-use that will be located close to transit, work and public services.
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?
The opioid crisis continues to have a devastating impact on communities and thousands of families across the country. Despite significant actions taken to date, more needs to be done to help address the crisis and save lives. The Liberal government has taken action with a number of important initiatives to help address the opioid crisis. Through Budget 2018 our plan is investing $231 million to support a range of actions to improve treatment, address stigma, and gather more data to make a real difference.
Health Canada under the Liberal Government has eased restrictions around supervised consumption sites, and provided legislated protections under the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act to protect those who seek emergency assistance when they experience or witness a drug overdose event. These two measures have saved many lives.
Liberal policy carried out by Health Canada strives through outreach activities to end the stigma of drug use. Health Canada works with provinces, cities, NFPs and Indigenous organizations to fund evidence-based projects to prevent, reduce harm and treat substance abuse, as well as funding research into treatment and harm reduction.
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.
The Liberal Party is committed to increase health funding to the provinces including for addiction and substance use recovery. Although Island Health (BC) has jurisdiction to provide health services in the Victoria region, the federal role in funding health services is important and the Liberal Party is committed to working cooperatively with the provincial health authority to address the crisis.