Ahead of the Sept. 20 federal election, BarrieToday has contacted all of the candidates in the Barrie-Innisfil riding with five questions related to the local opioid crisis, COVID-19 vaccine passports, Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations, climate change, and affordable housing. The following answers were received from Aleesha Gostkowski, who is the NDP candidate in Barrie-Innisfil. More candidate Q-and-A's can be found on our Canada Votes 2021 page.
1. For the past several years, Barrie has had a devastating drug crisis, one of the worst in the province. How do you think the opioid problem should be addressed and what is your stance on the proposed supervised consumption site (SCS) here in the city?
I’ve lost friends to addiction, so this issue certainly hits home for me. I believe support for people with addictions should be part of our health-care system at large. Research shows that trauma, mental health, and lack of access to community support resources are at the core of addiction.
To address the opioid crisis, we need to look at the bigger picture and not define a person by their addiction. The New Democrats have been pushing for the decriminalization of drugs, which would take power away from drug dealers and gangs.
Addressing social issues such as poverty, food insecurity and homelessness is something I’m especially passionate about. This would ultimately contribute to helping combat addictions.
Addiction is also usually a trauma response, and without adequate mental health support, we are enabling the cycle of trauma and addiction. We need to make mental health care more affordable and accessible.
I support supervised consumption sites. At their core, SCS's are meant to provide support. These are not used to "enable" drug users, but rather combat the crisis of people dying in our community from improper drug use. It is also important to note that most supervised consumption sites also offer addictions counselling and other support services.
2. As we brace for a fourth wave of COVID-19 and a more aggressive delta variant, many are suggesting Canada should embrace a vaccine passport. What is your view on this?
I believe if you can be vaccinated, you absolutely should be. Not only are vaccines helpful to protect us against getting COVID-19, but also to protect those who cannot get vaccinated, such as children under 12 years old.
I am fully aware that there are barriers which prevent people from being vaccinated, such as inaccessible health care or allergies. That being said, we should be prioritizing vaccinations to combat the delta variant and other possible variants of COVID-19 as best we can.
New Democrats have explicitly stated we support mandatory vaccinations for government employees and health-care workers.
To increase accessibility for vaccines, the New Democratic Party plans to create a Crown corporation to produce vaccines in Canada. In tandem, the New Democratic Party would create an emergency stockpile of personal protective equipment to ensure we have no shortages.
We are very fortunate to have safe and effective vaccines. It's important to remember that vaccines are the best chance we have of getting back to our daily lives, which is something I think we all want.
3. We are a rich country in many ways, but many Indigenous reserves still don't have clean drinking water. The tragedy of residential schools has ripped open the hurt and trauma many of our Indigenous families have felt for generations. Many of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations remain unheeded. How would you address these issues and help heal these wounds?
As Jagmeet Singh previously stated, we wouldn't be asking this if it were Toronto or Vancouver that didn't have clean drinking water. The plan is to provide clean drinking water to reserves, there should be no hesitation. It is not enough to just simply provide water treatment plants either, we need to think long term.
For example, my cousin lives near Tsiigehtchic, which has a water treatment plant, but every eight months the plant needs maintenance which nobody in the community knows how to do. We should be investing in training operators, preventative maintenance, and upkeep.
I understand that there isn’t a blanket solution for clean drinking water on reserves but if we prioritize this issue we can get it done. All people who live in Canada deserve access to clean drinking water.
In an effort to provide support in reconciliation, the New Democratic Party would provide funding for the recovery of gravesites at every former residential school site.
We cannot stop fighting for justice, and as MP I will advocate for justice and support for Indigenous people in our community.
4. Recently, a major scientific report warned of increasingly extreme heat waves, droughts and flooding, and a key temperature limit being broken in just over a decade. Scientists say it’s a "code red for humanity." What tangible ways will your party address climate change in both the short- and long-term?
This summer and over the course of the past year, we have watched in horror as temperatures repeatedly smashed record levels, and out-of-control wildfires endangered lives and communities. Smoke from fires hundreds of kilometres away blanketed major cities throughout the country, excessive heat has taken hundreds of lives.
The climate crisis needs to be taken seriously, and we need to tackle these issues quickly and with sustainability in mind. We need to be accountable because the future of our planet depends on the action we take. We don't have time to wait.
The New Democratic Party has made it clear that we will take action to be leaders in climate change. We need to get to net-zero, and create good jobs in sustainable energy sectors. We can't leave workers to do this on their own, we need to take action and support oil and gas workers to transition into renewable energy jobs.
New Democrats will fight for you, putting people at the centre of our climate policy by prioritizing the needs of workers, addressing inequities at home, and upholding Indigenous rights.
5. Housing is a human right, but many people in Barrie are not able to afford a roof over their heads. The cost of living continues to rise while the price of housing and rent skyrockets well beyond affordability for the average person. What would your party do to address this?
The cost of living in Barrie and Innisfil has increased dramatically, and affordable housing is few and far between. Barrie is quickly becoming one of the most expensive places to live in Ontario. People are being pushed out of our community and first-time home buyers are looking elsewhere just to find an affordable home. When we push young people out of our community, we are also pushing away the future and growth of Barrie-Innisfil.
As New Democrats, we understand this struggle. As someone who is currently renting and has tried to buy a home myself, I know first-hand how difficult it is to afford to live. The cost of housing and rent is constantly increasing, while our paycheques do not increase to compensate.
Our platform is focused on affordable housing, deterring large investors from buying up properties, and giving home buyers more tax credits to help with closing costs. We plan to invest in quality, sustainable, environmentally friendly, affordable housing.
I would highly recommend reading the New Democratic Party platform for affordability by clicking here.
Follow me on social media if you’d like to know more by clicking here.