Matthew Chambers, NDP candidate for Oxford County in the Sept. 20 federal election, says it is time to go beyond the status quo.
“The status quo just isn’t producing the results that people need anymore,” said Chambers, “and I think a lot of people are starting to look at different parties, different platforms.”
Some of the NDP’s biggest platform pieces, said Chambers, are affordable housing, the expansion of Medicare, the NDP’s environmental commitments, and their commitments to the Indigenous people in Canada.
“We are in a housing crisis right now, we pay some of the highest housing prices in the whole region in southwestern Ontario right here in Oxford. Woodstock and Ingersoll alone are up over $600,000 (average price of homes sold in July 2021) and the rest of Oxford is up over $500,000.
“So definitely affordable housing, and our plan for that is we would like to build 500,000 new affordable housing units across the country.
“We want to stop the renovictions. That’s when a developer will buy up a property, evict the tenants under the guise of renovating… but really not do anything with the property and just let it sit there.
“And implement a 20 per cent foreign buyers tax. That’s when a foreign business investor or real estate person will buy up properties, leave them empty, and just let the price go up treating the housing market as a stock. But it’s not a stock. Housing is a human right.
“Young people just starting out, the likelihood of them being able to afford a house now is slim to none. People who might want to downsize from a great big house to something smaller, their options are extremely limited. An apartment that starts at $1,700, I wouldn’t describe that as very affordable.”
Chambers said the NDP would like to see Medicare cover ‘head to toe,’ which would include pharmacare, dental, vision, hearing and mental health care.
“One in five Canadians can’t afford the medicine their doctor prescribed to them. One in three Canadians has put off dental work because they have no insurance of any kind. The pandemic has put a strain on people’s mental health, so why is that not covered? All these things are part of your body so they should be covered under Medicare.”
The NDP would invest in renewable energy, said Chambers, and aim for net-zero emissions by 2030.
“And actually creating new jobs out of the renewable energy sector.”
Chambers said it’s time to do more than talk about ending ‘boil water warnings’, that it’s time to do it now when there are some 90 communities across the country that still have boil water warnings – “and they’ve been going on for 20-plus years.”
“We’re far beyond the time for token gestures. Token gestures mean absolutely nothing. The time for talk is over, it’s time for action.
“And it’s time to have Indigenous people as actual partners in government and in everything that is done in this country.”
Chambers has been hearing good things from Oxford residents about federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh.
“It’s becoming more and more obvious that he is the most popular leader out of any political party. He engages with people, he’s somebody who is approachable, he talks to people in a way they can understand and in a way that connects with them on a personal level. So he’s the ‘man of the moment’ if you ask me.”
Things are going well so far in a short election campaign, said Chambers, who finished second in the 2019 federal election with 12,306 votes.
“Obviously this is a different kind of election. This is the shortest election legally allowed by law – it’s only 36 days long – so it’s new, in terms of compressing everything that we normally do in say like a three-month period into 36 days. So it is interesting and it is also exhausting – morning until night. I was in Tillsonburg last night (Thursday) until about 10:30.”
Chambers has also heard frustration.
“What we’ve been getting is a lot of frustration, especially as to why we’re doing this. ‘Why are we having this election? Why are we having this right now?’ We’re into a fourth wave, the Delta variant is becoming more and more prevalent and people are upset that we’re having to do this. I’m not particularly thrilled myself.”
And although two years (less one month) between federal elections is a short time, Chambers said the Liberal minority government lasted “about as long as I thought it would.”
“Minority governments usually only last two years at the most.”
Chambers said he was looking forward to the Oxford candidates debate in Woodstock Sept. 7 hosted by Unifor Local 636 (to be aired Sept. 11 at 8 p,m.), and a Meet the Candidates event in Tillsonburg Sept. 15 (1-3 p.m. at The Carriage Hall on Brock Street) hosted by the Tillsonburg District Chamber of Commerce.
“I welcome the opportunity to present the platform and present our vision for a better and more fair Canada.”