Quentin Robinson is running as the NDP candidate in Brandon West.
The following questions were asked of Robinson, as was all the candidates in the Ridings south of the Trans-Canada in the Westman Region.
Here are his answers:
What are the key issues on your platform?
Well, Healthcare is really number one. As I go from door to door, I hear story after story of the trouble people are having with health care. You know, finding doctors is a big one. Folks can't find a doctor and so end up in the emergency room. And so, I hear stories about people being in pain in the emergency room for hours and hours, they’re obviously overburdened in there. And then stories of people who are waiting for months and months to try to get hip surgeries and having to go out of province or even go out of the country for those. So clearly what's been going on is not working and what's been going on, it's been mostly cuts, and that has to change. We need to rebuild the healthcare system in lots of different ways.
I tell you that another one that I hear mostly when I'm talking to parents with children in school, that that they're noticing that schools are suffering from underfunding as well. And also when I talk to teachers, classrooms are getting bigger and especially in the younger grades, that becomes a problem. Because, in school now we have kids of all different ability levels and some with behavior difficulties. And what that means is you just have one adult in the room then. A lot of the kids that are not having problems are not getting the attention, but it's kids that are struggling one way or another.
So, we really need to have the funding to get enough teachers and enough educational assistance in the room.
So, healthcare and education and, of course, with inflation being what it is then, affordability is an issue for lots of people; single parents and families with young kids and seniors on fixed income. So, they need some relief from prices always going up, some support for that.
There is a great lack of doctors across the province. What steps are your party taking to be proactive in your riding?
Well, the answer for Brandon is part of the answer for the rest of the province. You may very well have heard about our NDP plan to go on an aggressive plan to find 300 more nurses and 400 more doctors throughout the province.
So, there are different ways that's going to happen. Just most recently, I think just last week our leader Wab Kinew was in Brandon talking about one of those ways. Training facilities are going to be expanded under an NDP government and there have been 10 training positions that have been specifically targeted for Brandon. So, we are going to get more doctors as time goes by through this training enhancement course.
In the shorter term, we have to do some other things, right. We can't be waiting for, you know, four years or so until we get our first new doctors. So, we're going to be recruiting. There have been health professionals of all kinds who have been leaving the province because the system, being in decline, and that's been discouraging and so they start looking for places that are better to go to.
So, we need to be wooing them back. We have internationally trained professionals in the province and across Canada who have been waiting for their credentials to be recognized. So, we work at streamlining that process so we can get them back to work and the work they're trained in and the work that they love to do.
What are your thoughts on the carbon tax and how it affects are farming community in the southwest?
I'll tell you that my first career was in farming and so someone who started out in farming I know that any additional cost of production isn't good news and that cuts into profits and that cuts into competitive advantage. So that has an effect on farmers that is above and beyond what it has on those of us who are just general consumers. I mean farmers are also consumers of energy in the rest of their lives too, so there's another impact for them.
So generally, I'll say what we won't do. First, because [the current government] has decided that [they] are going to just fight the carbon tax and spent millions of dollars fighting the federal government in court and lost. And now [they're] saying that she's going to do the same thing over again. So, who wins by that? It seems to me that the only people who win are the lawyers who get millions of dollars in their pockets.
And as a former farmer, I'd certainly rather see millions of dollars going to the pockets of Westman farmers to help them get through the energy transition that we're all undergoing here, it's happening across the country and around the world. We are in the midst of that. We're not an isolated island that can avoid the worldwide trend that's going on.
So, what we can do is help with energy costs and our NDP plan is to freeze hydro rates for the next year to give consumers of all kinds a break from the hydro prices that have been going up continually.
And also, we're going to cut the provincial gas tax for the next six months.
So, in a couple of different ways, farmers as well as everybody else, are going to be getting a break from energy costs rising.
So, beyond that, I mean there's a general approach to dealing with this.
The federal government has said from the beginning to provinces, if you have a plan, tell us what it is and we'll figure out if that will work. And so Wab Kinew been clear about the approach for the province is to go and talk instead of fighting. To go and talk and make a case. And we have a pretty strong case to make here in Manitoba, because we already have - we're already a green energy leader with Manitoba Hydro power which is green energy, right. So, we should be able to negotiate that into a carbon reduction program that works for us and works at the federal level too.
Homelessness and drug abuse continues to rise in Westman. What are your thoughts on eradicating this growing population?
Yeah, that is certainly a big problem and it has become a bigger problem as the years have gone by and there are a number of things that feed that problem, one of them certainly is that instead of trying to provide more housing, the current government has actually sold off affordable housing, sold off public housing, not creating them. So how are you going to solve the homelessness problem by not having affordable homes left for people on the street - that doesn't work.
So, our plan is to get housing in place, to reverse that change, to build more affordable housing and that in itself won't the fix because the houses just sit there until you connect people with them, and homeless folks have a challenge in trying to make that connection. They don't have cell phones to call anybody up to say, hey, can I rent this house, right? There needs to be folks connecting with them to help them get from the street to the house and we're very fortunate that in Brandon there are a number of community organizations that already exist that are set up to help folks transition from the street to a home, if there's just a home available for them.
And so many community organizations have been complaining that their funding has been cut, and even if it hasn't been totally cut, it's provisional year by year and they never know if they're going to get money or what money they're going to get. So, it leaves them in a very difficult situation to try to carry on the good work that they're doing.
So, we would be acting to support community resources that are in place. Make sure that they that they're supported and funded in a way so they can help folks get off the street and into a home. And when we do that, some of the drug problems will start to ease, not in all cases, but certainly in a number of cases.
When it comes to drug abuse, there's a range of how that presents. For some people, it's just doing drugs and being on the street, not causing much problem. But there are some folks who when they do drugs, they cause problems, they act out in violent ways. And when that happens, then we need to make sure that safety is the first priority. Folks who are being violent need to be off the street. And there's lots of evidence that if we take people off the street, and they go to prison that there needs to be treatment there because if not then it's just a revolving door. They go back on the street and back into a life of violence or crime.
So, treatment in prison is shown in a number of areas to get people off the addiction track. And back into a track where they're productively involved in society. So, any money spent to do that is clearly a win-win because now we have people who are not pulling tax money for the treatment and for the incarceration, they are people who are contributing. And that's what everybody wants. That’s what people with substance abuse problems want in their best moments too.
As well, we know that when drug dealers who are bringing drugs into the communities as dealers, we haven't been that effective in getting rid of them, so we're going to be introducing an unexplained wealth legislation which is going to put the onus on drug dealers to show, hey, if you have a $2000 car and you're living in a $5 million house, you need to show us where this money came from. And it kind of switched the onus so it's easier for us to be able to hold drug dealers to account in the legal system.
So those are a number of the steps that we would take to address this complex web of problems that we’ve got in that area.
Rural crime is on the rise in the Westman Region. What are your thoughts on this?
People who are in desperate situations resort to desperate things. So yes, we have to get people in a place where they have a home and they're able to start putting the pieces of their lives back together, right? And hope that, you know, that provides an exit out of a life of crime.
But as I say, I mean if there are cases where like you can't just be doing that when folks are a danger in society, then we have to deal with that in a serious way.
It’s interesting that the [current government] that’s supposed to be the the party that's tough on crime, but the thing is that over the last seven years they've been the ones who have been defunding police. They started out by ending the anti-gang task force and they ended the ankle bracelet monitoring program even though they were advertising on billboards in Winnipeg, they're still doing that. Actually, they cut it back in 2017.
So those are things that would have been keeping people safer, reducing crime. This eliminating those programs just frees up criminals to be in your neighborhood.
And then in a more closer level to us, we got the freezes on municipal budgets. What that means is that towns and RM and cities like Brandon have to make difficult decisions about who gets funds. And the offshoot of that is that everybody ends up getting less. And in lots of cases that means that the police force gets less.
So over the last seven years, the actual real dollar values available for policing have gone down so that the so-called tough on crime party has been reducing resources available to police and so it's not a coincidence that over the last seven years crime has been getting worse and worse. We haven't had the resources in place to make it better. That has to change.
As a responsible provincial partner to municipalities to make sure that there's good faith negotiations to find out what the what the needs are to make sure municipalities aren't left in a position where they have to make those kind of decisions which lead to cuts in programs that we need and that we rely on.
What makes you a good fit for your riding?
Please listen to the audio clip below for Quentin Robinson's answer to this last question.
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