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No. 6: My god, the federal election.
Climate and environmental justice platform points. Affordable housing woes in Toronto. And a Spadina-Fort York candidate update.
Despite having a bi-weekly calendar notice, I allowed myself to forget about this newsletter. However, we are in the last few days of the federal election and it felt like a wasted opportunity to let it pass us by without a few complaints.
If you missed it (or are still in denial), Election Day is finally coming up this Monday, September 20.
To my great disappointment, the number one election issue during this Canadian 2021 federal election was not anything substantial regarding policy (y’know the climate crisis, reconciliation and land back, or even the pandemic response)…. it was literally that we were having an election in the first place. Other Off the Hill panelists felt more strongly that this was THE election issue (see below for the recording) — and hoped voters would channel their disappointment against the Liberals.
In my view, it was 100% ok to be upset pre-writ drop and in the first week or so; I shared these frustrations and sentiments. BUT THEN we all should hunkered down and have any sort of imagination on what kind of country and society we could work towards with transformative policy points and a HOW to get there. The federal leaders’ debates also showcased poor design decisions with such a short 30 second speaking slot.
SO here are some exciting highlights and insights from the campaign trail that didn’t get the attention I believe they deserved.
HOUSING & CLIMATE JUSTICE
either or both or taxing the rich
One of my absolute favourite NDP climate platform points (which got zero air time) is the idea of a Civilian Climate Corps (excellent graphic by NDP candidate Avi Lewis).
“We will improve where we live and work, because these improvements help reduce carbon pollution, save money, and make life better for everyone. This means retrofitting all buildings in Canada by 2050. And we would create a National Crisis Strategy to help communities reduce and respond to climate risks, complimented by a new Climate Corps of young workers to respond to climate impacts and build an equitable clean-energy economy.” (NDP Platform, page 43)
Both the NDP and the Greens propose an “Office of Environmental Justice” as well — “to address the disproportionate impacts of pollution and loss of biodiversity on low-income, racialized and other marginalized communities.” Beyond this… despite the year or two we’ve had on systemic racism and increased awareness of police brutality, ongoing colonial genocide — we don’t really see much discourse on what it would mean to meaningfully address these issues — nor a sense of intersectionality in for example, climate platforms.
Canada is a country that is very reliant on its fossil fuel and natural resource extraction. We barely see it come up except when Trudeau and our Environment Minister says that the TransMountain pipeline will fuel the transition to a low-carbon economy (or O’Toole pits clean energy against working class folks which is complete BS and Iron & Earth’s transition plan addresses this).
Even on the left, we need to continue to hold our politicians accountable to meet the bar required in a climate emergency. I’m proud of Niklas and my friends at Climate Justice Toronto who stood up against Singh in support of Fairy Creek land defenders and against the TMX pipeline.
"Agarwal commended the commitment, but urged Singh to be bolder and take a clear stance on what the NDP would do with the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. … "It's really disappointing because in the last election, he was very firm in his stance against TMX so to see him backsliding," Agarwal said.
Lastly on climate — I’m a big fan of the climate emergency alliance. Like Niklas and fellow climate activists, they’re asking the real questions. The Climate Question Debate Moderators Should have Asked – Will You Keep it in the Ground?
On the housing front, it’s been a harder to stay optimistic. Joel Roberts (who I work with on the York Affordable Housing Committee and HOUSE Ontario) wrote an excellent article: “Federal election 2021: More supply won’t solve Canada’s housing affordability crisis”. As a renter, I worry a lot about rent and the lack of affordable housing impacting our friends, family, and neighbours (I may have mentioned that I have family members fighting unwarranted eviction notices from their landlords who want to sell).
life, activism, politics
Housing in Toronto stresses me out all the time, but I’m hella impressed by affordable housing journalist Victoria Gibson (fun fact: we went to the Queen’s weird castle in England together in first year undergrad).
We absolutely need more reporting like this — acknowledging the reality of our poorest Toronto neighbourhoods and highlighting community power when there is little faith in federal housing promises.
I believe that the local NDP candidates in these neighbourhoods, Brian Chang (Toronto Centre) and Paul Taylor (Parkdale-High Park) respectively, are the right choices to fight for truly affordable housing and for poverty reduction. It’s also been heartwarming to see Davenport NDP candidate Alejandra Bravo share her experience as a refugee and through a lifetime of movement politics.
"I see being elected as an ability to advance the demands that are being generated in social movements, and to build organizing capacity... When people experience wins together through collective action they develop a sharpened sense of efficacy and a desire for more. That's what I've been doing in my professional work, trying to build that, and in my voluntary work. It's the logical thing to do it now as a Member of Parliament, at this moment of crisis, and also because in a minority government I know the NDP can help people. So, around this narrative of, 'who helped us to build a better life?' I always tell people -- everything good that we have, nobody gave it to us. People collectively dreamed, fought for, and won it." — Alejandra Bravo
To finish off this newsletter, I unfortunately do want to address the situation in the riding I last ran in - Spadina-Fort York. (CW: sexual assault).
As of this morning, Liberal (now former) candidate Kevin Vuong was just dropped as a candidate due to sexual assault charge allegations. Although ballots cannot be changed at this point, that means there is technically no Liberal candidate in the riding and if he is elected, he will sit as an Independent MP.
I’m deeply upset that all of this happened, that we live in a society where people who don’t understand consent can and do ascend to political office, that this has been traumatizing for many women and community members who have experienced sexual assault and harassment. I believe survivors and I am grateful for the woman who spoke out. It was the right thing to do for the Liberals to drop him as a candidate, even though it took two days to do so.
There’s so much to say. I hope this was an informative weekend read. If anything, it was cathartic for me.