In the leadup to the Sept. 20th federal election, we’re speaking to local candidates.
We touched on three hot button issues: housing affordability, COVID pandemic recovery, short and long-term action on climate change, and one other topic they may have as a campaign priority.
Today, it’s North Island-Powell River Green candidate Jessica Wegg. (Answers have been edited for brevity).
Wegg is a 38-year-old married mom of two who lives in Comox.
VR: If elected, what would the Green Party do to address housing affordability?
JW: I’m a tenant myself and I can see how desperate the situation is. I’ve spoken with landlords as well, and it’s really tough right now. We need to tighten up the laws that allow for the sort of investments that result in inflated housing prices. Hedge funds are an example of that. We need to also make more rental assistance available. So what can we do to help renters, particularly low income? A couple of things: we need to acquire, and/or build more multi-family dwellings because there just is not the volume that we need to accommodate the people who we have. So we would put in place an empty house tax essentially, that would encourage people who have vacant homes to make them available as rental properties, we need to work with municipalities to make it easier for people to have carriage houses (and) legal suites, and we absolutely need to acquire more multi-family, affordable housing, and we need to do it now. Families are homeless, young kids are homeless. It’s heartbreaking.
VR: What is the Green Party’s view on how to handle the COVID pandemic?
JW: People are concerned about mask mandates and vaccine passports. The Green Party’s position in general is that yes, vaccines are good, they’re safe, they’re effective, if you’re eligible to get one, you should get one, but we need to make space for the people who are not eligible to get them for medical reasons. I have known people who have had long-term side effects from the vaccine, so we really do need to have a bigger conversation about it and think about the implications of blanket mandates. For my campaign, we are not asking volunteers whether they’ve been vaccinated or not, I think that’s not my business to know. They’ve made a personal decision about it. But what we are saying is that if you are not vaccinated, then please volunteer for phone calling or some other activity that would not (involve) person-to-person contact.
VR: What would the Green Party do to mitigate climate change?
JW: We’ve been trying to have the required level of attention brought to the subject for decades and now here we are. We’ve had people die over the summer, the ocean caught fire, floods swallowed parts of Germany… it’s undeniable now that climate change is here, and now what? The Greens have the boldest plan for tackling this, including cancelling TMX (Trans Mountain Expansion Project). Pipelines are done. We need to take this moment in time, embrace this moment in history, and we can come out stronger on the other end if we acknowledge that now is the time for real change. We have to do this for future generations. Wind and solar energy are affordable, they’re cheap, we can do them, but we need to make it easier for people to start to use them. We need to have more charging stations for electric vehicles, we need to make electric vehicles cheaper and easier for people to afford, and we need to stop promoting gas cars. We need to make hard deadlines and actually follow through to meet them to make these changes. It’s not just you and me driving the (gas-powered) cars and ruining the planet, there are massive corporate polluters and they really need to be reined in.
VR: Finally, is there one topic that you would like to talk about?
JW: We need to decriminalize simple possession of (toxic illicit) substances, and we need to create a safe supply. All of the clean needles, clean pipes, and Naloxone kits are addressing the symptoms of the problem, and we can tackle the root of the problem by giving people dignity, reminding people that this is a public health crisis, it’s not a criminal issue. We need to take it out of the courts and put it into the public health sphere. These things would change lives and they would help a lot of people and we need to be addressing this, as well.”