Michelle Budiwski is the candidate for the Manitoba Liberal Party for Spruce Woods, and hails from the Town of Rivers.
For the Spruce Woods Riding there will be 3 names on the ballot sheet come October 3rd; Michelle Budiwski (MLP), PC candidate Grant Jackson, and Melissa Ghidoni for the NDP.
What are the key issues on your platform for your Party?
‘I think it's important to differentiate between me and the Party because I love the Manitoba Liberal Party platform. I think that it’s a really great platform for the future of Manitoba, but the reality is at this point it's looking like we’re not going to form government – and that’s just a reality.’
‘We are rebuilding the Party. We haven’t formed a government here in Manitoba in over 70 years. We’re getting stronger, but we’re not quite there yet. So really my goal here is to be the best representative in our riding here in Spruce Woods and work with our municipalities and our people to really make sure that we have a voice in the provincial government.
Ideally, I’d like to see a minority government so that we can stop the polarization of parties and really start collaborating and working together.’
Budiwski names Rural Health Care as her #1 topic on her priority list, followed by Economic Development (including infrastructure), and Education and Poverty Reduction.
There is a great lack of doctors across the province. What steps are your party taking to be proactive in your riding?
Budiwski says the MLP has been in collaborative discussion with Brandon University to establish a medical school in Brandon.
‘But what I’m really excited about is working with municipalities and communities all across the province, especially here in Westman, to offer in-community training for not just doctors and nurses, but nurse-practitioners, lab-techs, all the supports we need so we can get our clinics and our hospitals open.’
‘And we know that when people train in their own community, or close to their community, they are most likely to stay and practice in those communities.’
Budiwski suggests training medical staff across the province following the Brandon University model of how they teach Education, and partnering with ACC’s current community-based programs that are already in place.
‘When decisions are being made in central locations that impact rural Manitoba, we need to make sure that rural Manitoba is understood, because it’s not just a matter of going to the next hospital down the street or across the city. Especially now, we have only 3 ER’s that are open 24/7, and they’re very far apart; Neepawa, Virden and Brandon, and we’re overwhelming those systems.’
What are your thoughts on the carbon tax and how it affects our farming community in the southwest?
“The Carbon Tax affects us all, absolutely it does, and nobody likes a tax. But the reality is, at this point, it is what the Federal Government is mandating and because Manitoba has not come up with our own, I mean we spent over $10 million fighting the Fed’s on carbon pricing and we lost.’
‘So, the idea of continuing to fight that and spending more taxpayer's money does not interest me. What we need to do is come up with our own plan so we can keep those dollars in our own province and invest them in our industries and Ag sectors, as well as help homeowners transition to more efficient retrofits and upgrades to their home.’
‘But, also working within the Ag and industry so that we can invest in education, infrastructure that’s needed, equipment, re-skilling; whatever they need to do in order to bring themselves online and help them save money, helps us all.’
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?
Budiwski says this question becomes very personal for her as she has been advocating for mental health and drug addiction issues for decades because she, herself, is a recovering addict, being clean from her opioid and narcotic addiction for 23 years in October.
“Twenty-three years ago, I was a homeless addict. I understand addiction is a reaction to trauma and if we continue to treat it the way we have been treating it – I'm thinking of how we have not been investing in mental health, and grassroots organizations that are working with people on the ground.’
‘If we want to treat addiction, we need to get to the root of the problem. We need to deal with the underlying issues of addiction, and that includes poverty reduction, food and home security, mental health and education, and especially in the rural areas where resources are available when people need them. We need long-term investments to solve the root problems of these issues.’
‘Now that being said, what we can’t do is turn our backs on the issue that we need to protect people in our communities from the impacts of drugs, which can often lead to crime, and we need to make sure that people, whether they are addicted or not, they are held accountable for their actions. It does need to be a multi-pronged approach where we have crime control, but we’re also dealing with the issue of getting people help where they need it.’
Rural crime is on the rise in the Westman Region. What are your thoughts on this?
Budiwski says the issues of homelessness, drug addiction and crime go hand in hand, and they need to be seen as a larger problem inter-connected.
‘If we want to reduce crime, then we need to reduce the causes of crime. That doesn’t mean we have to let criminals go. I am a huge supporter of our police services. I’m all about law-enforcement but we also have to look at addressing the root causes of the crime.’
‘Most of it is caused by poverty and trauma, so if we start investing in poverty reduction, housing, security of food and education, and an investment in poverty reduction now is going to reduce the cost of our health care, our justice system years from now. Instead of looking at it like an expense, it is an investment, and instead of constantly paying for the band aides we need to invest in the cure.’
What makes you a good fit for your riding?
Please listen to the remainder of this interview with Michelle Budiwski as she answers this question and share her final thoughts.
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