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Candidate questions: PETER SMITH - GREEN PARTY

Editor’s note : The Journal invited the six local candidates in the federal election to participate in a Q&A on issues. The answers of the five who participated are presented this week, in alphabetical order.
Peter Smith

Editor’s note: The Journal invited the six local candidates in the federal election to participate in a Q&A on issues. The answers of the five who participated are presented this week, in alphabetical order. People’s Party of Canada candidate Brian Everaert did not respond.

1 - What do you see as the most pressing issue in Sarnia-Lambton right now, and why?

We talk about the drug/overdose crisis in question #3, so I’m going to go for homelessness/lack of low income-rental. We’ve had a problem for a number of years now and the influx of students at Lambton College has amplified the problem. Rental costs have gone up by so much that even when available, those on disability or even those earning minimum wage are unable to afford the rents. While a hall of residence at the college would help ease the strain, we still need more affordable housing. However, that doesn’t mean that we should house people in substandard conditions. The real solution to this is not more low-grade housing but raising people out of poverty so they can afford better housing.

2 - Do you believe climate change is caused by human activity? And what should Canada do about it?

There is overwhelming evidence that human activity is the major cause of climate change. In 2018 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned world leaders that we have to reduce emissions to 45% below 2010 levels by 2030 and to net zero by 2050 if we wish to keep the average global temperature increase below 1.5°C. We have already wasted too much time, so we now have to act quickly and decisively. We need to stop playing Russian roulette with our children’s and grandchildren’s futures. Putting a price on carbon is the most cost-effective way of encouraging a reduction in emissions, but this must be supplemented with incentives to reduce energy consumption and transition to non-carbon energy sources.

3 - Residents know Sarnia is in the grip of a serious addiction problem. Any solutions?

The “war on drugs” has failed. Treating addiction as a criminal issue has failed. We have wasted billions of dollars and thousands of lives, while putting billions more into the hands of the drug cartels and gangs. If elected, the Green Party would de-criminalize the possession of small quantities of all drugs. Addicts would be referred to a specialized health unit in Sarnia-Lambton where they could receive safe drugs in a safe environment until they were ready to enter a rehabilitation program. This would stop the epidemic of overdose deaths on street drugs, eliminate funding to the drug gangs that are plaguing our cities and reduce the incidence of petty thefts that fund drug addiction. Addiction is a healthcare issue, not a crime.

4 - Despite a robust economy, none of the major parties are promising to balance the government’s books in the next four years. Is that a mistake?

It is always better to be debt-free than in debt, but we all need to borrow sometimes to make a major purchase or get through some tough times. Because a country or province never dies, it can simply roll over debt from year to year without the need to ever pay it off. The issue for Canada therefore is whether or not that debt is under control and how much it costs us in interest each year. As a fraction of our GDP (which grows larger every year) Canada’s federal debt is currently at 34%, the lowest among the G7 countries and about the same as it was in 1962. It is our provincial debts that Canada needs to be concerned about.

5 - Sarnia-Lambton’s economy rests heavily on the oil and gas industry. How should this community position itself in a world moving away from fossil fuels?

While fighting climate change will require us to first reduce and then totally eliminate burning oil and gas, we will still have a need for plastics and other products made from oil and gas. In fact we will need a number of new products like liquid fuels made from renewable agricultural byproducts, and high-grade asphalt for our roads, carbon fibre, nano-tubes and graphenes, etc. which can all be manufactured from western Canadian bitumen. Sarnia-Lambton has the skills and infrastructure necessary to produce all of these products and to generate substantial renewable energy. We’ve already made some progress in renewing our local economy, what we need now is help from a progressive government that can see the opportunities.

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