Racelle Kooy, with the the Green Party of Canada, responds to the DSP 2019 election forum questions.

1) If elected will your party support the current federally legislated poverty reduction strategy? 

Yes, however, it must be strengthened to include Guaranteed Livable Income and a Federal $15 an hour minimum wage.

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?

Eliminating poverty is cornerstone to the Green Party of Canada. To address the needs of Canadians living with low income, we need to ensure that their fundamental needs are met. In a recent comprehensive review of the MBM, the following areas were identified as essential and must be included in the “basket”:

  • Communications technology- internet access and a phone are essential. School-aged children need internet access on a computer.
  • Childcare expenses- childcare costs are represented in the MBM as a direct deduction from disposable income. Childcare costs must be treated as essential and be included as a basket item.
  • Different household and family sizes- from seniors and recent graduates living on their own, to smaller than the identified 4 member family household, to multi-generations living together household and family size are quite varied and their costs and needs reflect that diversity as well.
  • Reality of housing costs- there are concerns that the current MRM housing costs formula is too low and has not evolved to truly reflect the increased cost of housing since the baseline was established in 2008.

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?

For the needs of Greater Victorians, the current baseline family household of a family of four does not reflect all the diverse realities of those living in poverty – as a single parent, a home-owning senior, a recent graduate grappling with a precarious job market and a mountain of debt, a new Canadian remitting money to their family overseas- are distinct and must be taken into account. In addition, as Greater Victoria rents have increased considerably, the current MBM is low balling an essential need- affordable, safe and secure housing. Each of these realities must be reflected on the Advisory Council- people with lived experience as well as experts who take into account the diversity of people living in poverty.

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?

In order to tackle the issue of high costs of living and housing in Greater Victoria, I am advocating for a guaranteed livable income (GLI) as stated in the Green Party of Canada platform. This GLI would be set at a “livable” level and builds on the Market
Basket Measure (MBM), a measurement tool which considers the cost of an average basket of goods for an everyday Greater Victorian. To set the GLI at a truly “livable” level, the GLI must also consider the costs associated with communications technology, childcare, household size, and housing.

3) Does your party support the recently adopted National Housing Strategy and the right to Housing? Please provide comments to support your position.

Yes, the Green Party supports the National Housing Strategy, and I would work to strengthen it. I am committed to legally protecting housing as a fundamental human right for all Canadians and permanent residents. The housing crisis – be it affordability to rent, incredibly low vacancy rate, or how out of reach it is for many residents to purchase a home – is very real here in Victoria. All residents should have access to safe, affordable, and adequate housing which includes not spending more than 30% of their income on housing. In Victoria, 47% of renters spend more than 30% of their income on housing, and 23% spend more than 50%. This is an unacceptable burden.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Canada’s house price to income ratio is the highest in the world – by a significant margin. This is why the Green Party of Canada has made housing a human right- as we know that safe affordable housing is foundational to the health and well being of individuals and communities. The Green Party of Canada proposes to appoint a national Minister of Housing to oversee implementation of the National Housing Strategy in collaboration with provincial ministers, recognizing the provincial jurisdiction over housing and the unique housing situations of each province.

4) Does your party commit to maintaining federal leadership and investment to address access to safe, affordable, and adequate housing?

Yes, the Green Party of Canada, commits to maintaining federal leadership and investment to address access to safe, affordable, and adequate housing. In addressing the unaffordability of housing, the Canadian Greens will open 25,000 new and 15,000 refurbished housing units each year for the next 10 years. The Green Party will also establish a Canada Co-op Housing Strategy to improve the mechanisms for financing co-op housing, and invest $750 million each for the National Housing Co-investment fund for new builds and for the Canada Housing Benefit for rent assistance for 125,000 households.

The Green Party proposes several structural changes to the financing of housing in Canada. I will eliminate the first time home buyer’s grant, restore tax incentives for building purpose-built rental housing, and provide tax credits for gifts of land, or of land and buildings, to community land trusts to provide affordable housing. I will move to reclassify new and existing housing as eligible infrastructure, allowing the Canada Infrastructure Bank to support provincial and municipal housing projects. The core mandate of Canada Mortgage Housing Corporate (CMHC) will be refocused to support the development of affordable, non-market, and cooperative housing, and the Green Party will introduce legislation to allow Indigenous organizations to access financing through CMHC to invest in self-determined housing needs.

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?
b) If no, please provide comments. Yes – Housing First. As the Green Party candidate for Victoria, I commit to increasing federal investment specifically targeted to housing people experiencing homelessness.

According to leading Canadian researchers, the Housing First model can be effective at reducing and working towards eliminating homelessness nationwide. In Greater Victoria, the Regional Housing First Program includes support for 400 shelter rate units. I support the federal government’s continued investment in Housing First and the strengthening of this program with the goal of ending homelessness in Greater Victoria.

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?

As the Green Party of Canada critic on Mental Health and Addiction, I see the direct action that has taken place due to the Public Health Emergency that was declared in 2016. Opioid overdose is an undeclared national health emergency in Canada. To combat the devastating loss of life attributed to drug overdose, we need to decriminalize possession and treat the crisis as a health issue not a criminal issue. Drug users need protection from poisoned drug supplies, access to treatment, and respect and compassion to help them recover. Most importantly, we need to declare a national health emergency to end this epidemic.

In our Green Party of Canada platform, we call for an end to the failed war on drugs and embrace an approach that reduces harm, and respects human rights.

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.

Even prior to the 2019 election, the Green Party of Canada seeks to fund noninstitutionalized, community-based support for substance abuse prevention and rehabilitation programs.

I would ensure that the federal government is doing their part to ensure that local service providers have the necessary resources to offer an integrated health care approach as it essential to build trust and care with individuals, meeting them where they are at physically and figuratively:

  • ensuring that those struggling with addiction are met wherever they are seeking help, in a culturally safe and timely manner.
  • that they are given the supports they need to prepare for recovery, prior to treatment and post-treatment.
  • that they are not struggling with essential needs such as housing, basic income and medication

The Green Party of Canada believes that safe, affordable and secure housing is a human right, that a guaranteed liveable income is an essential safety net and that universal pharmacare is required to meet the fundamental needs of all Canadians.

To hear more join us for the Victoria Riding All Candidates Meeting.
When: Thursday, September 26th, 2019 at 6:30 – 9:00 p.m.
(Doors at 6:30; Meeting 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.)
Where: Christ Church Cathedral School (School Gymnasium), 912 Vancouver Street

In Crisis?:

If you require urgent emotional support, including having thoughts of suicide and other mental health issues, please call Vancouver Island Crisis Line: 1-888-494-3888.

Youth (under 25 years of age) may access youthspace.ca for online emotional support.

For other resources, including shelter availability, visit bc211.ca