Perth-Wellington New Democrat Party (NDP) candidate, Kevin Kruchkywich, took time out of his campaign schedule on Aug. 19, 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?
Kruchkywich: The NDP is behind mandatory vaccinations especially with federal employees who are travelling. We think it’s an important thing and it’s a public health concern. I think we want to make sure everyone is as safe as possible so that we can get back to interacting and working to open up all these industries like hospitality and the culture sector that have been shut down and devastated. We’re behind that.
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?
Kruchkywich: It’s an important discussion and it’s one that was one of the big pillars of the platform. Overall we want to be pushing emissions down 30 per cent below the 2005 level and by 2030 we want to be moving into some net-zero electricity. We want to partner with these rural communities, with all these farmers who are early adopters of technology and want to be taking care of their land because it’s their business. They want to – it’s practical for them. We want them to be a part of and be partnering with practical solutions. We understand that propane has to be used to dry grain in your dryers. We understand that. We also understand that there is a carbon tax on that now and the farmers I’ve spoken to understand the need for a carbon tax. They don’t have a problem with it. What they have a problem with is that there is no alternative. So the government in power, the Liberals, have put them in a position where they have to take a carbon tax but they have no other choice. They can’t pass that cost along on the other end. Their costs are set. So they are trapped. Completely unfair. This is why we supported the exemption of the carbon tax on those fuels for their grain dryers. Unfortunately with the snap election that has died in the Senate. It was on its second reading. It was ready to be passed we were 100 per cent behind it. The Liberals were not. What we also want to do is make sure there are alternatives. Farmers want alternatives so we want to put money into finding alternative fuel sources so those grain dryers can run but they can run more efficiently. We also want to level the playing field. We understand that because of these free trade deals that the other governing parties have put in we have American product coming in that has not been taxed any sort of carbon tax. We are all for levelling that playing field and we are all for supply management. We always have been as the NDP and all that does is level everything for all of our rural constituents so they have a competitive chance. We know our product is the best in the world, we just need to have a level playing field so we can sell it at a competitive price. So for us, environmental concerns are practical concerns. We want practical solutions and that’s going to drop all those emissions. We just need to get behind that and partner with the people who know best and that’s the farmers.
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?
Kruchkywich: It’s incredibly important obviously – mental health – and it’s under all of our… care stuff. It’s a big piece of that as well. We want pharmacare for all but we also want to make sure that everyone’s mental health is taken care of so we are going to put a lot of money behind support systems. We are going to put a lot of money behind care for the most vulnerable which is our seniors, our Canadians living with disabilities, women and children. So under our health care platform, there is a lot of funding, a lot of support and a lot of agencies that we are setting up to take care of mental health, not just a phone line to call when you are in dire straits… We get into prevention and support versus just dealing with it after it’s gone off the rails. This is ultimately what we want to do, start conversations with the people who know best so we can partner with them and we can get ahead of these things instead of reacting to them after the fact. It’s the same thing that happened with this pandemic. We had to react to it after the fact. We didn’t have anywhere that we were making vaccines. We weren’t making our PPE. We understand that we need to start building these things in this country so that we can start to take care of ourselves when these things happen. So that’s where we are putting our focus. So that’s where we are putting our money when it comes to health care. Getting into prevention, getting ahead of it before we have to react to it after the fact. It’s too late after the fact.
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?
Kruchkywich: We’ve always been the party that leads with compassion and leads with people first so pharmacare for all is a major pillar in our health care platform, as well as dental care. We’re also starting to roll out, if we’re in power, a guaranteed living income for our most vulnerable which are our seniors and our people living with disabilities. We would start there and expand it from there. So that money is in the pockets of people if things go wrong. We’re supported. We have a cushion. We’ve had a grand experiment with it right now and it’s helped us survive. It’s helped us take care of our basic needs. We think that is important. I think vaccine production sits under our ideas of infrastructure. We believe we need to be a manufacturing nation again. We’ve got a lot of raw resources and that includes our medical professionals who have all the know-how. We used to make (vaccines). Under the Conservative government they shut it down and suddenly we were at a loss. We can make PPE. We have shuttered factories that we can retrofit. Our idea is to rebuild this infrastructure so we are taking care of our resources… so we won’t be in the situation where we’re scrambling, where we’re waiting for other nations to send us vaccines or waiting for the Americans to send up masks for us because we don’t make any. We don’t ever want to be in that position again and we also want to make our own stuff. We’re a pretty industrious nation and we have a lot of raw resources. We know how to steward that the best, so why wouldn’t we work from the front end to the back end and do it ourselves? It’s also going to create a lot of jobs that we lost under NAFTA, that we sent away – we want to bring those jobs back and we want to build our things. We want to be proud of what we are making from our resources and knowing how we are stewarding our land. I think it’s important front-to-back so we know we’re taking care of the environment but we’re also producing our things. We can see it all. It will be transparent.
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?
Kruchkywich: That’s the biggest thing that spurred me into this election – affordable housing. It’s not a privilege to have a home. I think it’s a right. We all deserve to have a safe and comfortable home. I’m a working-class guy. I live paycheque to paycheque myself and it’s a struggle. I see the prices of rent going up. I can’t imagine if I was a single person or a single parent trying to afford a two-bedroom apartment now. In the past years, the jump is more than insane. It’s unfair. It’s cruel. There’s a big piece in the platform the NDP is going to roll out. Within five years we’re going to build 250,000 new affordable housing units. 500,000 in 10 years. It’s a priority for us. If you look at the Liberal platform it’s 150,000 at most they are going to roll out in the next decade. We’ve got 1.6 million people in this country who are desperate for housing. We also have plans to reintroduce a 30-year mortgage term on new mortgages which then reduces costs that way. We also want to put a speculative tax on top of people coming in and buying a place to use as an Air B&B so they are not living in it. We want to put a tax on top of that so we don’t lose those properties that people who live in the community need. They shouldn’t just be empty in winter and there for the tourists. It’s not a fair thing. We’re also going to take off the federal side of the HST for builders of new rental units so it’s going to make it more affordable. It’s going to encourage them to build units like that and have affordable units within larger projects. We’ve got a lot of really inventive approaches too. Co-housing and co-op housing which I think is going to be the wave of the future, even beyond multi-generational homes. You and your friends could buy a larger property together and there will be co-ownership mortgages that are transparent and fair… We think all of these things put together are going to drive prices down and make it affordable for people to live within their own community and that shouldn’t be a privilege. It should just be the way it is and that’s what we need to drive towards and that’s what really got me excited about the NDP, is their approach on affordable housing and their approach on living wages. The platform is that we want to start with our most vulnerable with a guaranteed income so we know they are taken care of and that will expand as necessary but as well we’re going to start at a $15 minimum wage and by end of the mandate, we will drive it up to $20. In this riding the research was done – $17.55 is a living wage here – so we’re going to be moving into that quickly. Also, there are great programs through the United Way that if I was the MP in this riding, I would partner with and try to encourage businesses to sign onto. At the grassroots level, I would be very active bridging, cajoling, pressuring businesses to start paying a living wage and express to them that if their business model can’t support a living wage it’s not really a business model, it’s an exploitation model and we need to address that. There is something broken about that… That’s what I’m really driven by. It’s what I’m very passionate about. In this community – just the past 10 years you see how people who were making due and had time for their families and they had one job – even in 10 years that has changed, it’s changed. Full-time jobs become part-time which means no benefits. It’s completely broken and I think we have a really good plan.
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?
Kruchkywich: Here’s something interesting – the NDP is going to declare that it’s essential. If they are in power we will say a high-speed internet connection for every Canadian is an essential service. So right off the bat that’s a completely different thing from any other parties. We’re saying this is necessary. This is an essential service that everyone needs to have. Getting broadband out there, the logistics of the infrastructure of doing that is pretty interesting. There is the idea that we need to dig up all the concession roads and lay out fibre optics and spend billions of dollars doing that. Farmers are early adopters of technology generally speaking. They want the newest thing that is going to help them help their margins and help their land. We’re going to find a lot of farmers in the next year when it rolls out who are going to sign up for satellite. It’s here. I’ve got a friend who already has his router. He signed on. He has a plan. He is just waiting for it to roll out. I think we are going to get there before we start getting fibre optics into the ground. I think we are way closer than other parties think and the other parties want to start throwing around billions of dollars to communication companies to rip up roads and I don’t know if it’s necessary. I think we’ve got satellites in place where we have high-speed internet instantly so I think the partnership that the federal government needs to do is to maybe look there instead of looking backwards to an old way that is going to be obsolete before they get it in the ground. We’re already going to be hooked up in the sky. That might be a little controversial and it might be not necessarily what my party has to say about it but I believe that we can get farmers internet quicker than five or seven years of digging up the roads. I think we can get it to them in a couple of years… Elon Musk is only a few satellites away from having an entire global network set up.
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?
Kruchkywich: I think we have got certain money earmarked within the platform for continued support for culture workers, hospitality workers and there are a lot of grants for our small businesses – my wife owns a small business in Stratford, a small boutique. So we’ve experienced first-hand lockdowns, the struggles to find support and the NDP want to streamline that support to get the Main Street back and working.
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?
Kruchkywich: It’s incredibly important. There is the fact that people need to work more to make ends meet so now if they need to pay for more childcare it’s a vicious cycle. We have a childcare program that we are going to lay out that is going to be subsidized to… get down to dollars a day so it can be an affordable choice and I think we’ll also see that a living wage is going to change that so you don’t have to work two or three jobs. You need to work one job and then you have your afternoon or your evening with your children so they don’t need to be in childcare as much. You are going to find that we’re going to keep families together longer but when childcare is needed childcare is going to be just dollars a day under the support subsidies that we’re going to roll out.
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?
Kruchkywich: The NDP is committed to meeting all 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It’s a strong commitment and on top of that, there is a real practical commitment to getting water to these reserves that don’t have clean drinking water. It doesn’t make any sense. Before the pandemic hit the government in power said – it’s hard to find the money, we’re doing the best we can, it takes money, it takes time. The pandemic hit and we found all the money in the world to take care of people. That tells you something. It tells you the political will that the Liberals have to take care of our Indigenous people. That’s unacceptable. It’s entirely unacceptable. We can get clean drinking water to them. They have their own power, they are in charge of their own Nation so we are there to partner with them and that’s our plan. We have the money to do it. We have the political will to do it. We have the technology to do it. So we are going to do it. That’s the stance of the NDP. With Truth and Reconciliation, it’s a priority for us to meet all of those recommendations. It’s taking far too long for the government in power to address some of these. Some of the simplest ones, the easiest ones they have done. Absolutely, but some of the ones that take more conversation – have been put on the backburner and that’s unacceptable.
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?
Kruchkywich: I think the NDP is already a party that cuts across demographics like that. It’s an ideological party that draws a lot of young voters and I think we also have a lot of older voters who believe in the things we’re putting forward like universal pharma care, universal dental care… It’s always a challenge for every party to engage with young voters but I think under Jagmeet that engagement has increased. I think we’ve got a really strong connection with the younger demographic.
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?
Kruchkywich: I think I’ve touched on affordable housing, a living wage – those are the ones that drive me and helping our farmers be sustainable environmentally and financially is a major concern for me personally and for this community. I think we’ve touched on the big three for me. I appreciate that and I appreciate those were the questions that were at the forefront of what you are curious about. It shows that we’re all pulling the same way which is great, which is important because that’s how change happens. It’s been great. It’s a pretty Conservative riding generally. It’s been great to talk to people who are Conservative but are open and willing to have real conversations and listen. I think there’s an idea on both sides that people on the “left” and people on the “right” are just at loggerheads. I haven’t found that to be the case at all. I mean I’m from a rural background. I’m a working-class guy. So I have a lot of kinship with people so I find it easy to talk to them. How receptive people have been to some NDP guy who has come into their community to have a chat. They have been positively receptive so no matter how it all goes it’s great to know that we all want the same things. Maybe we have differences in how we get there but we all do want the same things. I always call it pragmatic compassion. We care for each other but we need to be practical about it. We need to have practical solutions. I find that a lot of conservative voters think the same way so sometimes I’m surprised why they aren’t voting NDP because they seem onboard with a lot of the stuff that we’re saying. I find it refreshing that we’re not so different and we don’t need to be on opposite sides here. We all want the same things. So far it’s been such a great experience to talk to people. I was with the Grain Farmers the other night and they are fantastic. There was a fantastic conversation and informed and passionate people. It’s great. I love it. Now, most of them aren’t going to vote for me but they were great, they listened and we had a great time so it’s been really fun and eye-opening on that front.