Perth-Wellington riding candidate Brendan Knight, Liberal Party

Perth-Wellington Liberal candidate, Brendan Knight, took time out of his campaign schedule on Aug. 17, to give his thoughts to the Listowel Banner on some of the issues facing voters in the 2021 federal election.


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

Knight: I’m in favour of having mandatory vaccinations as the government has rolled out for (passengers on) planes, the government and federally-regulated employees to have mandatory vaccinations or some sort of accommodation for people that can’t. I think it’s important to push forward on very clear, concise policies for some sort of passport or some sort of certificate so that we can have our kids go back to school safely, our healthcare workers and people using health care services are safe and that businesses and industries have some sort of tool that they can use so that we don’t have outbreaks where businesses have to shut down or worse yet, that we have a greater provincial shutdown. I know it’s an evolving topic but I’m in favour of it.


LB: Agriculture is a huge part of life in Perth-Wellington 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?

Knight: The minister, just before the election had the deal about enhancing the AgriStability program and those kinds of programs are going to be important to work within provinces and with farmers to help mitigate these kinds of fluctuations within the environment caused by the greater climate change. I think climate change is one of the – other than maybe the pandemic – biggest issues of this campaign. I think it’s important here that we have a member that is voting in favour of addressing climate change, votes in favour that climate change is real, that we have to address it, that it is an emergency and that we’ve just seen the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report come out – things are not going in the right direction and the Liberal government has made moves to address it. Having a local representative that speaks for a rural agriculture community when these kinds of programs come forward from the government is important and I think at this point Perth-Wellington has a chance to have someone who is advocating to fight climate change and to do it in such a way that helps the community instead of opposing every measure to fight climate change.


LB: 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; a local study conducted by the University of Guelph recently found women under 40 are being hit especially hard by poor mental health. How will your party deal with mental health issues?

Knight: I think the federal government has addressed mental health issues in various portfolios but I think the biggest thing, especially (coming) out of this pandemic is getting back to what is seen as some form of stability and having some sort of post-pandemic economy and way of life with the ability to interact with family and friends safely. So some of the measures that we have to take now that the government has acquired vaccines for everyone is we have to start making decisions and put forward a plan that addresses what we found are major gaps during this pandemic. One of them being childcare. So having those deals with almost all the provinces to have more affordable childcare, to increase the number of childcare spaces to get people the ability to get their life back and to make their life more affordable will go a long way to addressing those kinds of issues. Of course, we have to continue to put money and support into the system.


LB: When it comes to health care, people have raised concerns because Canada had to look internationally for help with vaccines during the pandemic. What are your thoughts on this and how can Canada be better prepared next time?

Knight: I think most recently we just saw that addressed with the government coming with an agreement with Moderna to produce vaccine here and not only that, to have vaccine available in the years to come. So for me, my background when I worked in Environment Canada. That’s when the Harper Government came in and started making big cuts to science. I saw the effects. We had buildings with no people and that was environmental monitoring. It started to decrease and you can’t just turn that back on. It will take multiple years of investment.

So this election is one of those kinds of choices… The Liberals have shown that we’re investing in these things so that they are there beyond this government. If you go a different way and make cuts when it comes to the time that you need it, you don’t have infrastructure there. So I think that’s what is so important and the government has already demonstrated those long-term investments that are going to go beyond this government.


LB: 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?

Knight: There is no doubt that housing will continue to be a challenge and the government put forward the first-ever National Housing Strategy which has real money behind it… Again, I think it’s important to have a representative that advocates and works with the government to get those funds for Listowel, for your local community. As you know Listowel has expanded a great deal so you need that level of advocacy, not opposing certain kinds of measures that are specific for the community and so I think that’s how best to address it is to have your local representative advocate within these existing programs to meet the needs. We have other issues with that as well. We talk about it, it’s more provincial, like the Minister’s Zoning Orders and land use so you have to work collaboratively to meet the needs of the growth of the community but still have affordable housing and rent, it’s very expensive for people to rent so it’s going to take enhancing of that program and advocating locally to get affordable housing in the communities.


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

Knight: It’s an issue the government has been focused on and putting money towards as well. Similar to housing there is programs and money there and it needs a push to bring it forward. I think that’s just one piece. It’s not only getting broadband access to the area but there’s also affordability for people once they have it. I don’t think that piece has been addressed enough and needs to be in tandem with actually getting that infrastructure there so I think that’s a piece that I would focus on too. The affordability to access it when it’s finally available in the community.


LB: 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?

Knight: We got indication with the release of a wage stability program to get people through the winter and also for places like theatres – a ticket matching program. So it’s an enhancement of the program that’s already there that will be extended to get people through until the next season. It’s an ability to support them by ticket matching to address the need to not be able to fill a full theatre. Maybe… readers have been to the (Stratford) Festival (in past years) and you’d go in there and you were like sardines in a can. Obviously, due to the COVID restrictions, it’s not going to go back to that for quite a while. So to make some of these places be able to weather the financial system it’s a way to supplement that ticket loss. You have a system set up on X amount of capacity but you can’t run that so this is a way to bridge it until we get past COVID. More importantly, the tourism sector is the hardest hit. Some of them have almost had a 100 per cent shut down and it’s going to be the last (industry) to come back. It’s great that we released that… but we’re going to need more and we’re going to need more for different sectors because it’s going to be difficult for everyone to get back to 100 per cent. So I think those are the choices we need now. We’ve acquired enough vaccines. We have these programs to bridge but now is it going to be different after the fourth wave? How do you get back to 100 per cent? We don’t want businesses to fold – businesses are taking on debt to meet the COVID pandemic and they need help to address that as well. So I think again there is a need to advocate and I’m a member to advocate, not oppose, these measures to help small businesses, to help the tourism industry and students, job transitions, whatever it may be to get through.


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

Knight: As we touched on before – there are childcare deals and I would hope the Ontario government would work with the federal government to come up with an agreement as well to eventually get to $10 per day daycare. What the government has negotiated as well is not just $10 a daycare, it’s an increase in capacity. Essentially what we are facing now is almost a choice that we had in 2006. In 2006 we had childcare agreements that would increase the number of childcare spots and also make it more affordable and another Conservative government came in and all that was turned away. Parents were given a small amount of money – a significant amount of money but not enough that was going to cover the high costs of childcare. It never created spaces. It didn’t create capacity or good-paying jobs to help people find good affordable child care so that’s the same choice that we have. Not just the price and the capacity, but there is also before and after school care. Not everyone works to a school time frame. You can’t drop a kid off in the morning and then pick them up at three. So you need some other support there. It’s difficult to get into those programs or they are not available. So this also adds more support to increase before and after school care starting in 2022. Each province is different. It’s not a take it or leave it, depending on what the province needs, but the main goal is to increase capacity and lower the costs so that people have access to affordable childcare and can create more jobs. We can have people able to better maximize their ability to work and address whatever career desire they have, so coming out of the pandemic I think most people can understand, whether you have children or grandchildren, that it’s a policy that economically makes sense and will make the life of Ontarians and people in Perth-Wellington better.


LB: 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?

Knight: I think the government has been focused on addressing those and the latest tragedy at the residential schools. They put forward money to allow for communities to investigate… how they would like to do so… so they can address this tragedy that happened to their ancestors or their families the way that they feel is appropriate. So I think, unfortunately, there will be more discoveries and I think the government has to continue what they are doing to support whatever the community asks for. There are over 100 boil water advisories that they have addressed. I know there is still more to go and it’s challenging at times whether it’s the ability to build a plant or the situation is within the community but I think addressing that is extremely important. I think going forward you will see the government continue to address all the calls to action.


LB: The demographics of Perth-Wellington have changed greatly in recent years and continue to change. How would you and your party represent the needs of a more diverse riding?

Knight: One, I think (there is) a little bit (of a) younger generation with younger kids so some of the issues that are coming up (with people) having to raise kids, having to work and having parents that are going into retirement and needing more help – I think a representative that has to think about those kinds of issues is extremely important. I think my experience working with (Scarborough-Guildwood) MPP Mitzie Hunter sets me on the best footing to address a more diverse community – Scarborough being extremely diverse and having to address a very urban area with very different populations, with very different needs and to take that experience back to a rural area that is changing. I can understand some of the issues that have come up. I’ve experienced them on a larger scale.


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

Knight: I think I addressed it a little bit in there but I think this is one of those inflexion points going forward out of the pandemic and deciding how we’re going to take the new challenges coming on. I think it’s important for Perth-Wellington now to have a person who is working with the government and is not opposing every measure like climate change or getting supports for people but finding those solutions that work for the community and can help specifically, either financially to get through COVID or address climate change. I just think where most of the riding feel climate change is real and that it needs action. I think also bringing forward issues that (were) mentioned such as childcare that helps affordability and creates jobs and also supporting industries coming out of this such as arts and culture.



Local Journalism Initiative Reporter