Thursday August 26, 2021 | COWICHAN-MALAHAT-LANGFORD [Updated 7:50 am August 27, 2021]
by Mary P Brooke, Editor | Island Social Trends
With the buzz of yesterday’s roadside rally still fresh in the air, NDP incumbent Alistair MacGregor was keen to talk about key local and national issues on this, Day 12, of the 44th federal election campaign.
There is a lot going on during this pandemic-season campaign. MacGregor is seeking reelection in Cowichan-Malahat-Langford for a third term here on Vancouver Island, and discussed a wide range of things with Island Social Trends today.
Seniors losing GIS:
Hearing from seniors is right up there at the top of the list. Many seniors who normally receive the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) due to low-income have seen that clawed back starting this month — only for having taken the CERB pandemic support last year.
“I’m surprised the Liberals didn’t see that coming,” says MacGregor, who has witnessed a groundswell of seniors speaking up about this situation that has put many in a precarious financial situation for up to a year (or at least until a newly elected House of Commons can set things right).
Voting on campus:
He’s also concerned about what might border on voter suppression in Elections Canada not offering voting-on-campus services at post secondary locations. “It doesn’t require a parliamentary sitting for that,” says MacGregor, about changing that decision and still offering that voting opportunity to post-secondary communities.
“I have trust in Elections Canada, they run our elections very well,” MacGregor said. But the agency — which operates at arm’s length to the government — he feels had plenty of time to see an election coming this year, and being aware of pandemic conditions.
This week Elections Canada made a cheerful pitch to students to use the special ballot process or vote by mail; both those processes would likely see poor uptake by youth who are used to digital access and in past elections appreciated on-campus voting.
Getting youth involved in the civic process at a young age is important to MacGregor. “It’s healthy for democracy to get people involved at a young age,” he explained, saying that the “transformative change that most of them are demanding” is potentially out of reach.
“The next generation is inheriting this country,” says MacGregor, point out that a lack of jobs and adequate pay is a cost to society.
Young people are a big part of MacGregor’s campaign in Cowichan-Malahat-Langford. They’re out door knocking — at a safe pandemic distance. The youngest is 12-years-old! “There’s no shortage of volunteers,” the 40-something candidate says about his campaign.
Pandemic realities: on the door step MacGregor and his volunteers knock, then move three metres back before anyone comes to the door. But they can’t do that in apartment buildings, so that sort of high-density opportunity is off the list in this election. Brochures in the mail are part of covering for that, as well as phoning from the campaign office.
Pandemic hit hardest in long-term care:
Long-term care has endured a crisis during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I’m very cognisant of how long-term care delivery falls under provincial jurisdiction, but there is room for strong federal leadership,” says MacGregor.
He points out one of the many harsh lessons of the pandemic, which is that the worst spread of infection happened in long-term care homes.
Factors in the long-term care home COVID crisis revolve primary around shared living space and various aspects of the labour force that works in long-term care (wage levels, single-site work locations, and training to meet standards).
Gaining voter attention:
It’s still summer, which is generally thought to be a time when people are still focused on the last-of-summer opportunities to do family things or go camping. But with the concern that parents have for sending kids back to school in the fourth wave of COVID and students planning a similarly treacherous return to campus, there is likely more attentiveness to the federal campaigns than might traditionally be the case.
MacGregor’s team gave that a shot, with one of their roadside rallies even ahead of the official election start date — they picked a high profile intersection in central Langford (Veterans Memorial Parkway at Goldstream Avenue), to make an orange splash.
This week, five roadside rallies were held on the same day. The Orange Island wave on August 25 saw three NDP incumbents and two new NDP candidates take to public view with their volunteers in orange T-shirts, signs in hand.
All Candidates debate:
Another tough thing to do during a pandemic is have an All Candidates Meeting in a public venue (like the one held in September 2019 at Brentwood College). No surprise, for this election the debate will be filmed and then posted on YouTube. That is being coordinated by the Duncan Cowichan Chamber of Commerce. That is set to happen on Friday September 10.
That’s one day after the federal leaders English debate (evening of September 9).
The four candidates in this 44th-election debate in Cowichan-Malahat-Langford will be Alistair MacGregor, NDP (incumbent); Alana DeLong, Conservative; Blair Herbert, Liberal; and Kim Hughes, Green.
Climate & environment:
Ahead of all that, MacGregor and the other Cowichan-Malahat-Langford candidates will take part in Canada’s 100 Debates on the Environment, scheduled for Wednesday September 8 at 7 pm.
Climate change is forefront on everyone’s mind now in 2021, or at least is should be. MacGregor lists off the many things that have changed in the environment that have risen up prominently this year including prolonged periods of heat, a heat dome, wildfires and droughts. MacGregor points out that, per capita, Canadians are “quite a polluting country”. It’s sobering: “It’s time to take responsibility for how we’ve lived our lives”, and requires “a lot of countries working together.”
A farmer himself in the Cowichan Valley, MacGregor put forward a Soil Health bill in the House of Commons in April this year. He is keen to see Canada make progress with food security especially in light of variable climate realities.
Housing costs & child care underpin business success:
The thing MacGregor hears most from small business is the challenge of labour scarcity. Labour shortages can cripple a small- to mid-size business that relies on skills from a small group of people. Lose even one key employee and operations can be hobbled. Underlying the workforce availability challenge is the cost of housing. If people can’t afford to live near where they work, they will ultimately be forced to relocate.
A renter’s rebate mechanism was announced by NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh this week. MacGregor explains that the process will be based on whether a person’s cost to rent is more than 30 percent of their income.
He emphasizes that this would be kept in confidence from landlords, as one way to prevent being evicted so the rent can be raised for a future tenant. “We want to implement this as soon as possible,” says MacGregor, noting there’s been a lot of feedback from renters.
Critical to how business runs is the opportunity for families to have access to quality child care. Long a Liberal government promise, affordable quality child care just has not emerged. Only weeks ahead of this summer/fall election campaign did the Liberals ‘make arrangements’ with provinces, one at a time, to underwrite costs and strategies for child care improvements. Still yet a promise.
More than 24?:
Back to election momentum. In October 2019 Canadians elected 24 NDP candidates to the House of Commons. “If that’s what we can do with 24 MPs, imagine what we could be with 40 or more,” MacGregor told Island Social Trends today.
He’s of course referring the verifiable record that the NDP pushed in the 43rd parliament for adequate levels of pandemic support (such as the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit for individuals, the wage subsidy to help employers retain employees, and benefits for seniors and students).
“The NDP prides itself on punching above its weight,” MacGregor said, veritably beaming with pride right across the phone line for the success of his colleagues in the 43rd parliament.
“This is the election that no one wanted,” MacGregor points out, given the pandemic and all. But now that we’re in it across the country, he says it’s an opportunity to focus on issues that matter, like affordability, health care and climate change.
As Alistair MacGregor posted on Twitter yesterday: “This campaign is proving to be anything but the summer sleeper the Liberals were hoping for. Come on Canada, you’ve been going back and forth between Liberals and Conservatives since Confederation.”
MacGregor was first elected in 2015 and re-elected for a second term in 2019. This will be his third term as the Member of Parliament for the economically and geographically diverse Cowichan-Malahat-Langford riding if re-elected on September 20, 2021.
“It’s been a great first week,” says MacGregor, even though we’re already on Day 12 of the 36-day campaign. That’s already one-third of the way in.
Time is flying by, and election issues could easily get swallowed up and overwhelmed by people’s legitimate concerns with the pandemic: employment disruption for workers in many sectors, back-to-school worries for parents, return-to-campus stresses for career-building young adults, and income problems for seniors.
In that sense, what better time for an election. The country’s leadership may get a shakeup on election day, September 20, 2021.
Some seniors toughing out GIS clawback during election (August 16, 2021)
Alistair MacGregor MP named critic for BC regional development agency (January 21, 2021)