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North brings Green ideas to the table

From mass transit, universal dental care and water-taking to the elimination of a faith-based school system
Bonnie North, the Green Party's candidate for Barrie-Innisifl in the upcoming provincial election, says some of the same old problems exist that still need to be addressed. Raymond Bowe/BarrieToday

This will be the third go-round for Green Party candidate Bonnie North, having run previously in the provincial election in 2014 and federally in 2015.

It helps being a known commodity in some ways, she said, but there’s also a feeling of starting over.

“Every time an election rolls around, there’s enough of an interval that you kind of start from scratch,” she said.

Campaigning is always a way to bring Green Party ideas back to the fore, said North, a 58-year-old nutritional health consultant who has recently been involved in urban agriculture and social-justice issues in the Barrie area.

“The federal election was a bit of an anomaly,” she said. “We saw people say that while they would normally vote Green, they weren’t going to because they wanted to essentially vote against the Conservative government at the time.”

The upcoming provincial election, on June 7, will also mark the first with new boundaries now mirroring the local federal ridings, with the city being divided into Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte to the north and Barrie-Innisfil in the south.

Running in the Barrie-Innisfil so far are Ann Hoggarth (Liberal), Andrea Khanjin (Progressive Conservative), Pekka Reinio (NDP) and North.

And while Hoggarth is the sitting MPP for Barrie, North said she doesn’t view her as the incumbent.

“It’s a new riding, so there’s really no incumbent,” North said. “Ann Hoggarth is not an incumbent in Barrie-Innisfil. However, she certainly has experience under her belt and that’s always a perceived but not real obstacle to overcome.

"What’s important to me is to focus on the work I’m already doing in the community.”

Changes in the riding’s boundaries means a shift in the overall demographics, too.

“It certainly changes the conversation in that way, but as far as representing voters, Greens are here to represent our constituents,” she said. “Our constituents go first and then the party comes second.”

From Patrick Brown resigning as PC leader amid sexual misconduct allegations (which he denies) to the hotly contested PC leadership race that followed (Doug Ford was announced as winner on the weekend), there’s already been plenty of turmoil in this campaign. And it’s only March.

“There’s also that hanging question on everyone’s mind as to what is going to happen with Patrick Brown,” said North, including whether he’ll run again provincially, either as a PC or as an independent, if at all.

“While that doesn’t necessarily affect us directly in this riding, it still is a distraction that takes away from us talking about important issues,” she added.

North and her Green Party are running on a platform of ‘Jobs, People and Planet’.

She would like to see the elimination of a faith-based school system.

“We need one school system,” she said. “We are paying an awful lot of money in duplicating administrative services and our children are suffering because of it.

“Schools are being closed down and we don’t have enough money going towards special-needs education and those supports,” she added.

Faith-based schooling is an antiquated idea, North said.

“The Catholic and Protestant school systems worked when there wasn’t really as much diversity in our province,” she said. “Now that we have the diversity we do, it’s really discriminatory on its face to have taxpayers funding one denomination and religion over others.

“If we’re not going to fund them all, then let’s just have one system.”

On the jobs front, there’s too much red tape, North said. “When we talk about jobs, let’s do something about reducing payroll tax, so small-business owners can start hiring more people,” North said.

Transportation is also a major piece of the Green platform.

“Let’s do something efficient about moving people in this province,” she said. “Transportation, mass transit in cities and between cities in Ontario is really in need of improvement. That forces people to be car-centric.

“People in Barrie are very car-centric and it’s not considered to be a walkable city.”

The Greens would also like to see universal dental care, as well as “proper” funding for health-care and long-term care facilities. Here in the Barrie-Innisfil area, North said it can take two years to get someone into a long-term facility.

“I dealt with that in 2013 and 2014 when my mother was in a long-term-care facility in British Columbia,” said North, who teared up while recounting the memory. “She was relatively healthy when she went in, and then sort of aged into a state where she became very ill.”

North’s mother wanted to be closer to family, so they began moving toward getting her back to Ontario.

“I put her on the list and waited while she deteriorated,” North said. “Two months after she died, I got a call from the CCAC to say there was an opening for her.”

North said it comes down to the province not funding health care properly and efficiently. “That has to change,” she said.

The Greens also want a provincial child-care strategy while also pushing the Active Living, Active Aging idea which includes an approach combining such things as transportation and home care.

The Barrie-Innisfil riding is also uniquely positioned as an urban centre surrounded by farmland.

“Because the farmland is so abundant, we don’t really stop to think about it,” North said. “What would happen if that prime farmland disappears? What happens to our source water? What happens to the food that goes to the cities to feed them?”

The Greens want permanent protection of prime farmland, “and that includes expanding the Green Belt all the way up to Wasaga Beach,” she said. “That will also help protect our water.”

North says the province also needs to take a stronger stand on water-taking, which has been a major issue in the area for decades.  

“We’re prioritizing corporations over communities,” North said. “Corporations are allowed first dibs, essentially, on our water.

"That’s insane.”