Election Day is 2 weeks away and candidates are ramping up their visits and public presentations, all vying for a chair around the Manitoba Legislative table.
Brandon resident, Glen Simard, is one of three contenders for Brandon East, the area east of 18th Street and south of the Assiniboine River to the Brandon city limits.
Simard represents the New Democratic Party, and is competing against current MLA of Brandon East, Len Isleifson (PC), as well as MLP candidate, Trenton Zazalak.
The Brandon East Riding’s population is 23,790, states the division’s profile. Brandon is Manitoba's second-largest city, with an official population of 51,313 in the 2021 census, this being a 5% increase from the 2016 census.
The following questions have been asked of each candidate, to help us learn more about their opinion on important issues facing their riding, as well as all Manitobans, specifically in the Westman Region.
What are the key issues on your platform?
‘Well, the key issues on our platform are healthcare and affordability. And we are running on a Manitoba that can move forward together. You know, we're talking about a vote for the NDP being a vote for better healthcare, a vote for lowering costs for Manitobans, everyday Manitobans, and a vote for Manitoba with a job to pay the bills.’
‘We are running on the promise of less crime, and an end to chronic homelessness. So, what we're connecting with voters is that their vote can really make a difference in this election, that we can have the opportunity to change the government, and that we can make our lives better together.’
‘Going through the different key areas in terms of healthcare, we want to bring more doctors back into our communities, and we want to shorten wait times for ambulances and have better cell service, especially in rural areas. We want to hire more staff to keep rural health centers open and basically improving the relationship between government and its workers, and we want to improve health technology to connect doctors and families, and we also want the seniors to be able to stay healthy at home.’
There is a great lack of doctors across the province. What steps are your party taking to be proactive in your riding?
‘We have a rural doctor recruitment fund that was eliminated that we're going to restore. That was at $4.5 million and we're going to double it, so it reaches $9 million. And we have a proven record of listening to healthcare workers and experts. So, we're on the side of patients here and we want to stop the cuts and invest at the bedside. We know that it's going to take a lot of years to fix the damage, but we have some solutions.’
‘We announced just last Friday in Brandon that one of the solutions is expanding primary care teams and being able to work with the clinics on aiding their capacity in enabling to treat more people. We are committing towards a doctors-in-Manitoba-target of hiring 400 more physicians, committing to hiring more healthcare aides, home care staff and paramedics.’
‘Really, the recruitment piece is very important, we're investing $500,000,000 more over and above what has already been promised by the PC's. So, it really comes with a strategy with a 3-pronged approach which is through retention, recruitment and looking for the future with these clearer long-term goals.’
‘Some of the things that we've been doing are creating Centers of Excellence from one hospital to the next, and specifically for Brandon, we're talking about having more seats in terms of doctors learning their craft in Westman, with the idea that someone in Souris or someone in Boissevain or someone in Gilbert Plains who is interested in becoming a doctor can do it close to home.’
‘And in terms of retention, we want to keep treating our staff with respect and creating a culture of health-leadership, so we respond with social-emotional intelligence, where we're responsive to patients needs and staff needs, but also offering a better work balance.’
‘People should be able to go to work knowing that they're going to be able to come home and not be mandated to stay, or a nurse can take their day off and turn their phone off and not be called into work. And we're on the side of patients and that's what we're continuing to talk about.’
What are your thoughts on the carbon tax and how it affects our farming community in the southwest?
‘First of all, the carbon tax is a federal tax, so it's not really under the control of the provincial government and we want a government that fights the climate crisis, not pointless legal battles. But to that end, in terms of our government, we’re committing to cutting the gas tax to save $0.14 a liter at the pump every time you gas up.’
‘And we'll give the Public Utilities Board the power to review and regulate fuel prices to protect consumers while holding gas companies accountable. So that should have a direct effect on the agriculture side and so that is one of our ‘solves’ there.’
‘We're going to invest in communities that are better served with more services. So, whether it's healthcare, education, or reopening, some of these ER’s have been closed in rural communities. I think that's a step forward.’
Carbon Tax background courtesy Manitoba Hydro website:
The federal carbon charge puts a price of $65 on each tonne of greenhouse gas created by burning fossil fuels. Since natural gas produces greenhouse gases, the federal government has set a carbon charge equal to 12.39 cents that is applied to each cubic metre of natural gas Manitoba Hydro sells. The federal carbon charge can be found on your energy bill in the natural gas section. GST is applied to the carbon charge. The federal carbon charge applies only to consumption of fossil fuels. While almost all of the electricity produced in Manitoba is virtually emission free, we do buy fossil fuels for our operations. This includes diesel fuel for our fleet vehicles, and natural gas for building heat or the infrequent use of the natural gas-fuelled Selkirk and Brandon generating stations. In a typical year, higher prices for these fuels coming from the carbon charge will result in a very small addition to our overall electricity costs.
Homelessness and drug abuse continues to rise in Westman. What are your thoughts on eradicating this growing population?
‘In terms of chronic homelessness, we're committing to ending that in two terms by providing dignity to everyone and keeping our community safe. We've pledged a long time ago to follow the Houston model, which is to immediately connect people with barrier-free housing. But not only the housing but having the mental health and other supports, in order to keep people off the streets and in homes. They had a lot of success with that and it's something that we are looking at implementing.’
‘In Brandon we've seen four times as many people on the streets in the last four years and that's a serious problem. When we're looking at the Houston model, when they implemented that program, their homelessness was reduced by 63%, and there was like 25,000 people off the streets and into homes of their own.’
‘In Brandon we have a much lower number, so I think that it's a very dual doable thing. And of those 63% of people that went into their homes, 3/4 of them stayed in that home the year after. So, I think that plan is, is important and the Houston model talks about additional investments in preparing and increasing the existing stock. But also investing in addictions and mental health wrap around supports. And so, when we are able to go to the source and go to these people and add and meet the needs that they require to stay off the streets, I think that's an important piece.’
‘In Brandon, I think we have a number of agencies that are working very hard and diligently to reach this population and because we know who the population is, we have a pretty good grasp on who these people are. I think that actually puts us in an advantageous position and being able to address it in a meaningful way.’
‘Because when you really think about it, when people can have their basic needs met, they'll have a greater ability to contribute to the economy, have better health care outcomes and so I think every dollar that we can invest in the early stages will save us many more at the back end whether with fighting crime or whether it's treating healthcare needs.’
Rural crime is on the rise in the Westman Region. What are your thoughts on this?
‘The criminal element, I think, increases when people aren't feeling that they can break out of that tough spot that they're in. We know that crime is getting worse and youth crime is also on the rise. I think that we'll bring together police officers, community foot patrols like the Bear Clan, educators and families to develop the best strategies. One of the things that we've talked about is our universal nutrition program and going back to what I was mentioning before, about having those basic needs met, if we can have a dignified approach to meeting people's basic needs, I think that it'll go a long way in reducing crime.’
‘We want a government that takes crime seriously and we need to be tough on crime and the right way, and we will be tough on crime and the causes of crime and on helping our young people find a good path. And it’s a priority. It is going to be a ‘day #1’ issue for us.’
‘I just want to make the point here is that the NDP will not defund the police and our leader said so publicly. We will actually help the police do their jobs by hiring 100 mental health workers.’
What makes you a good fit for your riding?
Please listen to MLA candidate Glen Simard’s response to this question, as well as his final thoughts, in the audio below.
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