WARNING: RESIDENTIAL SCHOOLS
This text accommodates mention of residential schools and resulting deaths. Those in search of emotional support and crisis referral services can call the 24-hour National Indian Residential School Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419.
Shelby Bertrand is running in her first provincial election because the Green Party of Ontario (GPO) candidate for Ottawa Centre.
Bertrand is pursuing a master of philosophy on the University of Ottawa and was formerly a public servant and member of the Animal Protection Party of Canada.
She spoke with the Charlatan to debate health care, climate change, inexpensive housing and Indigenous relations.
Bertrand was born with Crohn’s disease and, after what she said was an early misdiagnosis, was later diagnosed in an emergency room. She said she hopes to reverse Ontarians’ “overdependence on acute and urgent care,” citing an absence of primary care resources and an excessive amount of hospital traffic.
“People like our nurses and [personal support workers], they deserve fair pay [and] they should be in work environments which might be properly staffed with mental health resources,” Bertrand said.
She said the GPO will provide burnout-combating resources, fair advantages, living wages and higher work environments for health-care employees. It is going to also scrap Bill 124, which suppresses wages for health-care employees, and implement rapid training programs for health care.
“People like our nurses and [personal support workers], they deserve fair pay [and] they should be in work environments which might be properly staffed with mental health resources.”
Bertrand said the GPO will divert funds away from incarceration and criminal justice efforts, and toward protected injection sites. It is going to also form a mental health and addictions ministry and add mental health coverage under OHIP.
The GPO will raise carbon prices by $25 a tonne annually until 2032. Bertrand added not counting on a cap-and-trade program will encourage transparency and inquiry about how much carbon allowance the federal government gives people.
“Because most Ontarians aren’t huge polluters, most individuals are going to interrupt even from that quantity that’s returned,” she said.
The GPO may also incentivize home retrofits and revise Ontario’s Constructing Code to make all recent structures environmentally-friendly. A primary step, Bertrand said, can be making public transport-friendly communities and combating urban sprawl.
“It costs rather a lot more cash and it’s rather a lot less convenient to maintain constructing these neighbourhoods which might be form of Nineteen Fifties-style, simply full of single-family homes,” she said.
The GPO may also incentivize electrifying private and non-private transit and improve the pay, advantages and dealing conditions of transit employees, Bertrand said.
“It costs rather a lot more cash and it’s rather a lot less convenient to maintain constructing these neighbourhoods which might be form of Nineteen Fifties-style, simply full of single-family homes.”
Other priorities Bertrand mentioned include constructing more coherent bicycle paths for practical and leisurely use and reducing waste by relying more on local manufacturers. The GPO may also double the dimensions of the Greenbelt so as to add a Bluebelt that protects watersheds, basins and river systems and preserve greenspaces to enhance mental health.
“Greenspaces are taken without any consideration or they’re just seen as opportunities for profit,” she said. “However the irony is that [to] put money into the well-being of individuals … it is necessary that individuals in the neighborhood have greenspaces.”
The GPO has a 60-page inexpensive housing plan to combat the financialization of the housing market. Bertrand said the GPO also plans to tax the 20,000 vacant units currently raising Ottawa’s housing prices.
She said it will discourage foreign developers and money parkers from investing in properties around Ottawa. The GPO will protect aging and privately-owned buildings that house people on advantages like ODSP and may also help house newcomers to Canada and provides non-profit buyers the pre-emptive right to buy property, Bertrand said.
“The people most affected by the inexpensive housing crisis without delay … They’re not searching for single-family homes,” she said. “They’re renters [and] they have a tendency to be from the very struggling segments of societies.”
“We’d not have people [drowning in] debt leaving the stage of life after they’re alleged to be excited for starting their profession and making something of themselves.”
To offset costs for college kids, the GPO will make the primary stage of post-secondary education, including bachelor programs, trade apprenticeships and college degrees, free or publicly funded.
“We’d not have people [drowning in] debt leaving the stage of life after they’re alleged to be excited for starting their profession and making something of themselves,” Bertrand said.
She said the GPO will further reduce living costs by constructing walkable communities, in addition to form a registry for monitoring local developments and assess short-term rental value on a case-by-case basis.
Bertrand processed residential school sexual abuse files while working for 4 years at Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (now Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada and Indigenous Services Canada).
“That gave me an appreciation for intergenerational trauma,” she said. “Targeting the roots of that could be a big point of strategy in how I need to assist this demographic in Canada.”
She said the GPO would require mandatory cultural sensitivity training for public-facing professionals to raised support and foster positive relationships with Indigenous peoples.
“We’d actively be trying to provide leadership roles [to Indigenous peoples] within the services that they eat and make as many culturally-relevant services available as possible.”
Taking a case-by-case and self-determined approach to Indigenous land consultation and avoiding homogenization are also GPO priorities. Bertrand said the GPO will implement age-appropriate Indigenous education from kindergarten to Grade 12, in addition to add more Indigenous language instruction at schools.
“We’d actively be trying to provide leadership roles [to Indigenous peoples] within the services that they eat and make as many culturally-relevant services available as possible,” she said.
For more information on Bertrand, visit her campaign page.
Featured image by Katrina Joy Pizzino.