Fiona Jager, Green Party of Ontario Candidate

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David Shanahan: This is a different election in some ways for all the parties in that you’re now running against somebody who’s a member of a government, as distinct from sitting MPP. Does that make any difference to your approach to the campaign? 

Fiona Jager: I think the fact that I’m not a career politician is one of my strengths as someone who’s running for government. I’m a nurse. I’ve been a nurse for six years, and I think that gives me a particular perspective on the problems that people are experiencing in this riding. I’m an ordinary member of this riding. And so that’s what I try to focus on. The Green Party really has a holistic way of seeing problems, so it really looks towards the future. Where do we want to be in a generation, in seven generations? What are our values? And then, how do we get there, as opposed to just responding sort of willy nilly to the problems of the moment? And one of our core values is that we care about people, and we care about people living full and productive lives. And that means taking care of workers. And so taking care of workers is a really, really big part of the Green Party approach, making sure that we repeal Bill 194, that we create a task force for nurses to figure out what is it that’s creating this state where we have nurses who love nursing, but are leaving the profession because their work life has become unsafe and unbearable. And then make sure that we’re really solving long standing problems with the way nurses are treated in Ontario, that the pandemic has shone a light on. Make sure that we’re fairly paying RPNs and PSW’s. And then the other piece is we do want to fund health care appropriately. Mental health care is a big focus of our platform. So we want to increase mental health care spending to be 10% of the total health care budget. It’s currently 7%. And then we have plans to rebalance the funding formula. So just sort of speaking a bit to the needs of this riding, so that we’re better able to meet the needs of rural and remote Ontarians and providing services in these areas that sometimes now are only provided in the larger cities. And then getting back to the hospital piece again, we recognise that there’s a backlog, a surgical backlog right now that’s really not acceptable for many people. And so we would be negotiating with the federal government to make sure that we had surge funding to make sure that we were clearing that surgical backlog.

Full interview …..

David Shanahan: If you’re looking at things like housing, education, the proposed prison, how do the Greens take an holistic approach to all of these things as a society?

Fiona Jager: So we’re saying we want healthy people and a healthy planet. Then how do we get there? So we know that we need to reduce our carbon footprint. And we also know, this is one example, that we need to create jobs for people. So combining those two goals, we look towards a new climate economy where the jobs that we’re creating for people are also the jobs that move us towards a better, safer planet. So we want to invest in the EV industry, the electrical vehicle industry. We would offer retrofits to housing up to $15,000 for retrofits to reduce the carbon footprint of our housing and our buildings in the way that they cool and they heat, which would create a ton of jobs. And then we would make sure that new housing was built in a way that was already more sustainable. So it’s putting all of those goals together and seeing how they work together. You mentioned the prison in particular, and certainly that’s another area. So we have a prison, and we know that one of the reasons why we need new prisons is because we need changes to the way that our jail systems works,we just need judicial reform. We know that certain groups are overrepresented in prisons, including racial- ized communities and indig- enous communities. And we also know that people with mental health and addiction disorders are overrepresented in prisons. And so we say, don’t build the prison. Don’t put all that money into the prison. Instead, put it into all of those other areas, into judicial reform and to mental health and addiction funding. And then there are other issues with the prison as well. One is that it’s being built over prime farmland. And another one is that the plan for the prison was created without proper communication with the community. And those are all things we would be transparent in any decisions that we made. And one of our big goals is to preserve the farmland in Ontario, which is currently being paved over at a rate of 175 acres a day. 

David Shanahan: Wouldn’t making housing more ecologically friendly be too expensive, when housing is already so expensive? 

Fiona Jager: So this goes back to that being that forward thinking as a party. What we’re proposing is, is change, right? Like a change where we’re moving away from a fossil fuel based economy and towards renewables and towards a green economy. And people are always afraid of change, even when the things that we’re doing right now are causing the crisis that we’re in. Because of the crisis, we sometimes have that instinct to just clamp down. And we want immediate relief more than we want sort of that vision of a better future. And so we’ve really thought a lot about that. And our plan does have an element which we call “no person left behind”. So we understand that the changes that we’re going to need to make are going to require a transition period. And we have to think about how to get people through that transition period safely and affordably. So there’s a lot of things you mentioned: housing and then this idea, is it going to be more expensive to create more ecologically sound housing? And it’s really about where we’re putting our money. So we would use a lot of incentives. We’re going to give people up to $15,000 for retrofits because we know the average person can’t just go out and say, oh, heat pumps are better than my natural gas furnace. I’m just going to replace it. We know that. And we want to fund that. That also creates industry, right? Because now all these people are doing the retrofits. And, in the end, it saves people money on their utilities. So it’s good on all three levels. The things that we need to do require making sure that we understand that homes are for people, and easing this financialization of the housing market. And so we have a plan for how to do that, so that the number one thing, I think, is that we would reduce speculation, and we would do that by creating a tax, a 20% tax on the third House that you buy, and then more for the fourth, and more for the fifth, to discourage people from owning multiple properties where other people can’t buy a house. We would end blind bidding. We would make inspections mandatory and at the cost to the seller. It’s one thing if you’re a speculator and you buy a house because of the bidding war, you buy it without an inspection and it turns out to be a lemon. Because you’ve got four other houses, you can move your investments around. But if you’re a family and you’ve thrown your life savings into your house, you can’t afford for it to be a lemon. So inspections are a really important thing for families. Along with that, and going back to, you know, how can we do things in a way that’s both eco friendly and good for people, and homes right now are being built on farmland, right. We’re building these massive kind of sprawling suburban communities on the edges of our townships. And what we would do is freeze urban boundaries, and we would change policies to encourage infill developments. And we have looked at whether that will create enough housing for people. And it does, the maths works. So we would change regulations so that you could build a second home on your property and then sell or lease that to somebody else. To make it easier for people to have duplexes, Triplexes and fourplexes to really preserve the character of our communities where we can live, work, go to school and youth services, as opposed to sort of these bedroom communities of people who are commuting in and out.

David Shanahan: You’re talking about basically changing the thinking and the approach of a whole society. How do you get people to think in the longer term, a generational term?

Fiona Jager: Yeah, I think that’s a great question and I think I probably only know parts of the answers, but we can start to try to piece it together. So one thing is to talk to young people, because we’re really trying to build up the next generation. I think we start really, really young. So we have to talk to people and make sure that that eco anxiety that they’re feeling isn’t causing a shut down and ignoring of the problems. And, instead, that we’re infusing them with hope that there are other people out there who are working on these things, because there really are solutions to these problems. There’s so many things like design solutions and green technology that’s out there that we’re not taking up because of a lack of political will. So if we can expose people to that, and tell them that they have options, then hopefully we can use that dread and that eco dread and the eco anxiety to mobilise people for change.

 

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