Huron-Bruce riding candidate James Rice, Liberal Party

Huron-Bruce Liberal Party candidate, James Rice, took time out of his campaign schedule to give his thoughts to Midwestern Newspapers on some of the issues facing voters in the 2021 federal election.


MN: The pandemic is still top of mind for most voters. What are your thoughts on mandatory vaccinations?

Rice: I am in favour of vaccine passports. The science is clear that vaccines are the best way for us to beat COVID-19 once and for all.  Health Canada approved vaccines are safe and reliable. Almost 80 per cent of Canadians have done the responsible thing and gotten vaccinated.  The Liberal government introduced a vaccine mandate for all areas covered by federal jurisdiction. That includes the federal public service as well as plane and train passengers. Going forward we will support the provinces/territories in implementing their own vaccine passport systems.

To be clear, vaccine passports are different than mandatory vaccinations.  This isn’t an issue of taking away people’s rights; it’s about providing people who have done the responsible thing with their rights and helping us all get out of this pandemic.


MN: Agriculture is a huge part of life in Huron-Bruce and some say it is being affected adversely by climate change. Any thoughts on actions that can be taken to deal with the effects of a changing climate that can create erratic conditions for farmers?

Rice: Agriculture is the backbone of our rural economy, and if elected as the next MP for Huron-Bruce, I would be a relentless advocate for all agricultural sectors. Part of the Liberal party’s commitment to farmers includes tripling funding for clean technology on farms, including for renewable energy, precision agriculture, and energy efficiency.

A re-elected Liberal government will also work with provinces, territories, and farmers— including young farmers—to update business risk management agriculture programs to fully integrate climate risk management, environmental practices, and climate readiness. As the original environmentalists, I believe farmers have a critical role to play in growing our economy while reducing GHG emissions, and the federal government can play a critical role in ensuring that farmers are given credit for the work that is already being done on our farms.


MN: Mental health issues are prevalent this year due to the pandemic. Farmers are one group that has been dealing with mental health issues, even before the pandemic. How will your party deal with mental health issues?

Rice: Over the last 18 months, nearly half of Canadians reported that their mental health worsened during the pandemic. Mental health is health. This is why the Liberal Party is making mental health care a priority: it is clear that we need publicly accessible mental health care.  I am committed to working within a re-elected Liberal government to establish a new federal transfer to provinces and territories—the Canada Mental Health Transfer—to assist jurisdictions to expand the delivery of high- quality, accessible, and free mental health services. Building on the principles of universality and accessibility in the Canada Health Act, this transfer will help establish standards in each province and territory, so that Canadians are able to expect services that are timely, universal, and culturally competent. This will help each jurisdiction focus on and solve critical backlogs in service and provide help to those who need it, according to the unique needs in each region.


MN: What does your party plan to do to make housing affordable again especially considering wages are not going up at the rate they once were in comparison to housing?

Rice: Affordable housing is a huge issue in Huron-Bruce.  As someone who has just bought a home in Port Elgin, I know first-hand how expensive things have become. The Liberal Government took action with the national housing strategy to help more Canadians have a safe, affordable place to call home. But we know the job isn’t done yet.

Our plan going forward includes building 1.4 million new units across the country. We’ll ban foreign buyers for two years, and impose a tax on flipping to ensure that families have access to affordable homes.  We’ll legislate a home buyers bill of rights, to ensure that everyone has the right to a home inspection, and we’ll get rid of the blind bidding process.  On top of that, we’ll introduce a registered down payment account, so home buyers can save for their down payment tax free. We’ll make the first-time home buyers incentive more flexible and introduce a rent-to-own program.

To be clear – our plan DOES NOT include a tax on the sale of a person’s primary residence. There is a lot of misinformation going around about that, but it is not true.


MN: Rural broadband remains a major issue for many within Huron-Bruce.  How do you see that being dealt with if your party is elected?

Rice: The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted much of our lives online and transformed how we live, work, learn, and do business. I’ve heard from businesses in our riding who, without access to broadband, are worried about getting left behind.

Since 2015, the federal government has invested more than $8 billion to accelerate the delivery of high-speed internet and wireless service across Canada. That is more funding committed to broadband investments than all previous federal governments, combined. This has been done through partnerships with provincial governments, municipalities, and telecom providers so that we can deliver for rural Canadians. Because of our investments, this year alone over 400,000 more Canadians will have access to high-speed internet.

A re-elected Liberal government will require telecoms that have purchased the rights to build broadband actually do so. With this use it or lose it approach, Canada’s large national carriers will be required to accelerate the roll-out of wireless and high-speed internet in rural and northern Canada by progressively meeting broadband access milestones between now and 2025. If these milestones are not met, we will mandate the resale of spectrum rights and reallocate that capacity to smaller, regional providers.


MN: How will your party help people who have been hit hard financially by the pandemic? Some examples are small business owners, people who work in arts and entertainment and the tourism industry?

Rice: During the pandemic, the federal government responded swiftly and to ensure that businesses and individuals had access to economic supports. This included programs like the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), the Canada Recovery Benefit, Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, and the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit.

During our recovery, the Liberal Government has helped ensure over 5 million individuals were rehired, through the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, which helped businesses across Canada keep and rehire their workers.

These programs are all critical, but there are some sectors in particular which need additional assistance, which is why the Liberal Party has implemented the Highly Affected Sectors Credit Availability Program, to help the hardest-hit industries, including the tourism and hospitality sectors, access low-interest loans. If elected, I would seek to be an effective voice at the table for these highly affected sectors.


MN: How would you provide relief to parents of young children in desperate need of support due to the high costs of child care services?

Rice: As someone with a two-year-old at home, I know the importance of being able to access affordable daycare options. The Liberal party is proposing to introduce $10 a day early learning and childcare over the next five years, beginning with a 50% reduction in costs by the end of next year. Raising kids is expensive, and for too many families in Canada, affordable early learning and childcare is not accessible. The COVID-19 pandemic has also made clear that without access to early learning and childcare, parents – particularly women – can’t fully participate in the workforce. With childcare and schools frequently disrupted or closed during the pandemic, parents have struggled to balance the demands of work and raising children. Many reduced their hours, or left jobs altogether.

A re-elected Liberal government will work with provincial, territorial, and Indigenous partners to build a high-quality, affordable and flexible early learning and childcare system across Canada.


MN: Indigenous issues have been at the forefront of the news recently. What would you say Canadians can expect as far as the furthering of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action if your party is elected?

Rice: As someone who has worked in the Northwest Territories as a clerk with the Supreme Court, I have seen first-hand how indigenous peoples in Canada face systemic discrimination. The legacy of residential schools and trauma resulting from that demands action, and as an MP I would be a voice within government that would help advance this process of reconciliation, including implementing all the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Part of this process includes addressing the immediate needs of indigenous peoples, such as finishing the government’s work to end long-term boil water advisories on reserves across Canada.


MN: The Nuclear Waste Management Organization is seeking a location for a proposed deep geological repository to store high-level nuclear waste, with the Municipality of South Bruce being one of two locations currently under consideration. What is your stance on the proposed project, and do you think South Bruce is a more suitable location than Ignace?

Rice: I am fully supportive of nuclear power, which is a key part of our economy here in Huron-Bruce. I have family who works there, and it is clear that nuclear power is one of the safest forms of electricity generation, which will also help us get to net-zero emissions by 2050. That said, we also must recognize the importance of due process in ensuring that the Nuclear Waste Management Organization consults fully with residents in South Bruce and receives buy-in from them when considering whether to locate the DGR in our riding. Millions of people rely on the water resources of the Great Lakes, and it is important that we ensure that due diligence. I believe in order for a site to be deemed suitable, there needs to be a clear consensus in our community. If that consensus can be reached, I would be supportive of bringing the DGR to our riding.


MN: Is there anything else you would like to let constituents know about what you intend to do for them that has not been asked?

Rice: The federal government has committed to establishing a Canada Water Agency to safeguard our freshwater resources for generations to come. As Ontario’s west coast along Lake Huron, I believe that our riding needs to have a critical voice at the table for these discussions, and if elected as MP for Huron-Bruce, I would seek to have this agency located in our riding.