Perth-Wellington incumbent MP, John Nater, took time out of his re-election campaign schedule on Aug. 16, 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?
Nater: My point on that is that I’m encouraging everyone to get their vaccine. I’ve had both of mine. I think that vaccines are the most important tool in our fight against the pandemic. No one can be forced to take a medical procedure. No one can be forced to take a vaccine but at the end of the day we are encouraging anyone hesitant, anyone who has concerns to talk to a health care professional, talk to their doctor, to get the very best medical advice possible but we do not force people to get vaccines – strongly encouraged but not forced.
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?
Nater: I think agriculture is one of those unique industries where they are already leading the way on a lot of initiatives that are good for the environment, good for the soil and land conservation so we need to be working with the agriculture industry on things like soil erosion, on low till and no-till – which is something the agriculture industry has been doing for decades. Carbon capture is something that has been at the forefront of the agriculture industry for a long time so working with the industry to come up with those solutions that they’ve been working on but actually giving them credit and giving them support for some of the work they are doing and they continue to do. Working with the industry, not against them.
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?
Nater: Absolutely – in terms of mental health that’s one of our five key priorities this election. Focusing on mental health, focusing on developing the resources, the commitment to mental health including rural and more remote people. What we’ve been seeing locally is a great commitment from organizations like the Listowel Ag. Society who are putting effort into mental health resources for the agriculture industry. One amazing example, Do More Agriculture is looking at creating a mental health support line staffed by people who know the industry. So from a federal perspective, something that we’re supporting within our platform … is support for organizations like that who can and will deliver resources specifically to different industries, but in our case, to the agriculture industry. So supporting that is one of the major elements of our platform and one that I’m so very proud of seeing advocated.
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?
Nater: Absolutely, so another component of our five-point plan is domestic capacity. So we need to start building and creating stuff in Canada today. Whether it’s manufacturing, whether it’s research and development, whether it’s science and pharmaceuticals – specifically here looking at vaccines it’s something we need to do. We look at other countries internationally including the United Kingdom who at the beginning of the pandemic ramped up their capacity on day one of the pandemic specifically to make that happen. We didn’t do that in Canada. So now going forward we need to make sure we have the capacity – so that’s investing in research and development, bringing home international businesses that have left the country in the last number of years and making sure that Canada is an innovative country so we’re proposing what’s called a ‘patent box,’ that businesses that create new technology and create a new development in Canada can keep it in Canada and to build it in Canada and then to provide it to the Canadian people so that’s going to be a major focus, not just for vaccines but for other things as well, so Canada can be a self-sufficient and self-sustaining country when we see situations like what happened in the last year and a half. Our borders were closed. We had trouble getting anything from personal protective equipment to vaccines to other things in our supply chain.
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?
Nater: There is a lot of different elements to do with housing but it’s all connected back locally when you look at housing, when you look at the labour market, when you look at transportation – they are all intertwined. Specifically, on housing we need custom-built housing that addresses the whole spectrum of housing needs from the detached family homes to the townhouses to semi-detached to purpose-built rental housing so in our platform… one of the things that we focused on, one of many things, is custom-built, purpose-built rental housing because a lot of people cannot afford to get into that housing market right away. They need to have that option, especially when they are coming to a different community such as Listowel where there is a shortage of rental housing. Then for affordability, for those that are buying their first home for the first time, we simply need more supply and that is something looked at in our platform, an increased supply, increased affordability for first time homeowners so they can get into that house. So one of the things we propose is banning foreign ownership of homes in Canada. I know that is more of an issue in larger urban centres but certainly, there is a spillover effect we see there, spillover from larger urban centres moving to our communities because of the cost of housing. We’re looking at where we put infrastructure investments that tie hand-in-hand with the cost of housing for those first-time homeowners. What we often talk about is affordable housing and housing that is affordable. Those two need to go hand-in-hand to make sure we have all the options along that spectrum of housing so we can keep people in our rural communities and attract people to our rural communities so that we can fill the jobs that are available here in Perth County and Wellington County.
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?
Nater: Very simple, first and foremost, we will connect every Canadian to high-speed internet by 2025. Period – full stop. That’s our commitment. There is no more wasting time. There is no more putting it off to 2030 which is the current target. We’re going to connect every Canadian by 2025. Now we’re going to do that in a few different ways. One is by making a massive investment to the tune of $6 billion in rural broadband to ensure we have the capacity there for organizations like SWIFT in southern Ontario and other places as well so they have the resources to put fibre in the ground. We’re going to increase the focus and speed up spectrum auction for that type of internet as well and implement a use it or lose it spectrum auction to prevent the major telecoms from buying up spectrum at an increased cost and then sitting on it and not using it. If the major telecoms want to play in this game they are going to have to pony up to the table and actually do it. We’re going to eliminate the ability for the major telecoms to sit on spectrums. 2025 is the commitment and I know from talking to people in Perth-Wellington that cannot come soon enough because they need it yesterday for their businesses, for their families, for everything they do.
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?
Nater: Absolutely, locally we’ve seen so many small businesses hurt through no fault of their own but difficult circumstances because of this pandemic. So what we want to see going forward is a focus on recovery, focus on getting people back to work so we’ve promised a few different things to help some of the hardest-hit industries such as the restaurant sector – we’re proposing different tax relief available to them to get people back into the restaurants. We are encouraging people to travel domestically, for tourists to tour in their own backyard. We’ve got a job CERB plan as well, so it’s covering half the costs of a new hire to get people back into the workforce and allowing those businesses that are strapped for cash right now to get back into that. As well, what we are calling the Main Street tax credit, so those who want to invest in a small business in a community, they can do that and have a significant tax saving investing in their own back yard. Investing and rebuilding that local economy that we all rely on.
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?
Nater: One of the things where we’re focusing on in our platform is really helping those who are at the bottom and middle-income bracket. For those who are at the bottom income bracket, providing them up to 70 per cent refundable credits of cost of childcare. Making sure that gets back into their pocket so that they will be able to afford the cost of child care and the flexibility of childcare – local childcare providers, whether it’s someone in the community, whether it’s a government-run daycare provider – giving them that flexibility to choose but especially for those in the lower-income bracket who are struggling right now to make ends meet.
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?
Nater: I’ll say first and foremost the legacy of residential schools, the legacy of our treatment of Indigenous peoples has been horrendous over the past century and a half of this country. That is a blight on every political party, my own party included so going forward we need to be partners with Indigenous communities. We need to end all the (boil) water advisories across Canada and we need to do that quickly so that means releasing funds for every shovel-ready project that is currently waiting for funding. It’s working with Indigenous communities and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to make sure that Indigenous communities take the lead and that the government is there as a partner. Then finally making sure we are there for them building communities and developing projects. There is a number of projects that are coming true, that we’re partners so that they can achieve the self-government option they’ve desired for so many years.
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?
Nater: Perth-Wellington is a wonderfully diverse community with people coming from literally all parts of Canada and now literally all around the world, so we need to be welcoming and open to that community. I look at some of the initiatives that are being undertaken by local community groups, by municipalities and working with them to ensure that we have diversity and the resources available. One of the things that I’ve been a proponent of is a local integration partnership that was proposed by the County of Perth about two and a half years ago. Unfortunately, the Liberal government declined to fund such a partnership but that’s one of the things we need to be advocating for is the ability to have resources available at the county level so they can be a one-stop shopping trip – things like language training, things like skills development, things like job tools. So that’s one of the things that if I am re-elected I will once again be advocating for that type of partnership with the county.
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?
Nater: In the last year and a half there have been a few different priorities that I’ve been trying to champion. One of them is obviously the protection of young people and persons with disabilities from sexual exploitation. Obviously, that’s something I will recommit myself to if I’m re-elected. The other thing is support for our rural and small towns to make sure we have the infrastructure funding needed to maintain and expand the services. Whether that’s North Perth or across Perth-Wellington, we need a rural focus on every infrastructure dollar that goes out to make sure that our rural communities are well-served going forward and then third, my commitment is, and I make this commitment at every election, that when people go to the polls on election day, that what they are getting from me is my hard work and my dedication to our community. I will work hard for each and every person in every corner of Perth-Wellington every day if I am given the honour once again of serving as a member of parliament.