Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Minto needs Woodstock for MLA

      Minto All Candidates Forum Questions
      April 12, 2016
      Hosted by:  Spence Neighbourhood                                 Assoc. & DMSMCA
      Here are the questions & my answers.
                 - Don Woodstock
               "Keeping It Real! 
                   Keeping Them Honest!"

     1.  Accessing affordable housing is in an ongoing struggle for many of our community residents.  Will you commit to build at least 300 new social housing units annually for the next five years? What plans do you have to improve the state of affordable housing shortages in our community?  In your plan will this be social housing be public housing?

"Yes, I will build at least 300 new social housing units annually for 5 years making sure the housing is first ‘affordable’ low-income housing then, low-income housing because there is a difference.  First item to do is to get an audit of current derelict buildings that the City currently has on their books.  Fast-track the process of demolish or purchase so it doesn’t take 3-4 years.  Create housing co-ops – one that will make the purchase of these homes to never be sold for profit.  This will keep rents low & affordable.  The plan will be for both types of housing."

2.  Will you continue Rent Assist for those living on a low income?

"Yes, but what we will do differently is change up the model of Administration so more than the current 10% of eligible folks can get assistance.  We end up spending a lot of time & money administering over a system where it could be spent better – on the people.  We need less administrators & administrative red tape, so that more people have access."

3. Social Housing is an integral part of the diverse housing landscape in our community, where does your Party stand on committing to maintain and not sell off social housing structures in the future?

"What did Medicine Hat do?  They discovered that it is cheaper to the taxpayer to find housing for someone rather than leaving them on the street.  They would save approximately $80,000 a year.  I like Medicine Hat’s approach and should I be elected, I would put a Private Member’s Bill for legislation to make sure we adopt Medicine Hat’s model of Housing First.  Time has come for us to stop talking about this issue & act on it.  I would be the strongest advocate to suspend the empty promises while apartment blocks lay idle.  The apartment block at the corner of Ellice & Langside stood empty for 5+ years, supposedly being renovated.  Yet no one saw anyone there.  Half of Sage Creek was built in 5 years.  So, any political party or elected official can promise you all they want, but talk is cheap.  There are a lot of us who understand what is happening here in Minto to a lot of good people.  We can do better."

4.  Having a safe and well maintained home is important to safety and well-being. Many of the social housing infrastructures in our community are in need of renovation and maintenance. What ideas do you and your Party have to maintain the renovations program of Manitoba social Housing units?

"Let’s not be fooled by party rhetoric.  Let’s keep it real.  Let’s keep it honest.  It is impossible to depend on federal transfer dollars & higher taxation to keep social programs in this province running.  We have to be creating more jobs, less people on welfare, better use of taxpayer dollars, decrease administration, no more prison expansions – in fact, we need to reduce prison populations.  So, my answer to this question – if we truly want to have better housing & infrastructure – let’s be honest, we have to push for this Province to be a ‘have’ province.  Going to the Federal Government with our hands cupped is not moving forward.  Real income & real business opportunities are how we will be able to have the revenue for special grants for housing renovations & social housing.

"Manitoba Hydro – A Crown Corporation - if they were handling their finances better they would be able to provide grants for more than just windows, but have competitive loans for the purpose of retrofitting your homes, beyond windows & insulation."

5.  Energy efficiency is a way to a warm, healthy, safe, and cost efficient home for our community and Province. How will you help community residents who want to make improvements to their home to be greener and more energy efficient (solar panel, geothermal pump, etc.)?

"Manitoba Hydro can help by becoming an Green Energy Sector Leader rather than just an electrical power supplier.  This will create green business opportunities and less red-tape for incoming businesses to Manitoba.
For any Business Model to be successful – you need relatively low labour costs, relatively low Hydro, relatively low land costs, and guess what, Manitoba has all of that & centrally located in Canada.  Yet still, we do not have an economy that is self-sufficient.  For Economics 101 folks, ‘Steady Growth & Good Jobs’ is a con job."

6.  The purpose of the Restorative Justice Act (2015) is to support the development and use of Restorative Justice programs in Manitoba.  What is your party’s plan to support the continued efforts of the restorative justice model in Manitoba and how will you make restorative justice options more accessible to our community in West End Winnipeg?

"As a West End resident and social activist, I am endorsing Bill 60 and its policies on restorative justice.  Family Violence & Youth offenders would have a chance to have a more speedy court hearing and help to reduce the burden on our Criminal & Family Court System. Combining the Restorative Justice & the Families Justice Initiatives will help to make a clearer picture of peoples’ lives and circumstances to help in the decision of sentencing.  Advisory Councils, the new Prosecution Unit, new and expanded mental health and drug courts should all be reassessed to ensure that funding/administration costs/necessity of the positions to ensure taxpayer dollars are being spent properly.

The Perry Preschool Study:  Results - The study shows that a high-quality program for young children living in poverty, over their lifetimes, improves their educational performance, contributes to their economic development, helps prevent them from committing crimes, and provides a high return on taxpayer investment.

An office for Restorative Justice will be on Sargent, Ellice Avenue, or Cumberland right in the thick of things, and very visible to the community and accessible.

A new model is needed – Spend more money in early childhood development with emphasis on prenatal care vs building prisons.  I said it 4 years ago that it was the wrong thing for the government to embark on.  I am saying it again 4 years later, after no improvement to our community; it’s time for someone who truly wants to make a difference in improving folk’s lives that are in the inner-city."

7.  When people are in need of urgent support, it is essential that there are accessible and coordinated resources available to them in the community.  This is often a difficulty faced by those in our community during times of crisis.  This issue has been addressed in other areas of Winnipeg through a provincially funded Block-by-Block Community Safety Initiative.  What are your plans to address this issue for families living in the West End?

"This initiative was first launched in 2013 as a Crime Fighting initiative.  To date, I have heard no stats, no research, no reporting to the media or general public on how well this initiative is working.  I reviewed a website & found many MLA’s & top ranking folks “in-charge” & am not confident of its leadership & vision.  In May, 2015, Police Chief Clunis stood in front of the City Council building and announced its “Smart Policing Initiative” which is a part of the Block-by-Block Initiative explaining that this will take place over the next 5 years.  It seems that it will be many years before this initiative will come to fruition.

My philosophy has always been to govern more at the street level than in a marble-laid office so the philosophy of joining forces is appealing.  A phase of the Block-by-Block initiative focuses on improved housing, better access to wellness services, neighbourhood beautification and improved infrastructure.  Here in the West End, my focus will be on the neighbourhood - New lighting, a facelift, more education about the root cause of crime.  The 24/7 Safe Space, which I have strongly supported since its infancy, speaks directly to crisis assistance in the middle of the night.  Should youth in our community need assistance, voluntarily or involuntarily, the 24/7 initiative is there to help, and this is the initiative I feel will best serve during a crisis, and will see that this initiative continues.  My belief is that this kind of support and more, will eliminate youngsters being charged for petty things or unnecessarily because they are in the wrong place at the wrong time due to there are no other places for them to be."

8.  Harm reduction can be defined as strategies, programs and policies, which aim to reduce the negative health, social and economic outcomes associated with the use of licit or illicit substances. It is an evidence-informed and cost-effective approach – bringing benefits to the individual, community and society (International Harm Reduction Association, 2006).  How will your party support harm reduction efforts and programs in our community? 

"The Addictions Foundations of Manitoba has reported great results.  Folks who want to change their path in life have a better success rate if in their program.  Their programs speak directly to root causes.  Addresses them.  Lends support.  If we could, in one generation, turn around or eliminate harmful causes such as poverty, lack of housing, and more support of mental illness as well as addictions, we can look forward to a brighter future.  Many programs today look at treating the end-result – I would like to change that model – look at the beginning influence.  Let’s start there."

9.  What is your party doing to help the older adults and seniors of the West End “age in place” safely and have access to safety resources such as emergency medical services?

"Everyone deserves to stay in their homes for as long as possible.  We know that this lends to longer life, happier mental status and better physical activity.  We know today that we are living longer.  I believe we need to implement a Medical Savings program just for Home Care that will see the Education tax diverted into this Medical Savings, say at age 60.  Set it up as a tax-free investment as the senior will
be paying tax on the services when used. 
-        Ambulance/EMS
-        Healthcare doctors & nurses in-home visits
-        Transportation in vehicles (not ambulances) while remaining in             gurneys provided at a lesser cost than EMS
-        Prescription coverage 100% after 70 years of age
-        Coordination of services for housecleaning & yard work"

     10.  Crime Prevention addresses the risk factors in communities and connects people with protective factors (programs, supports, resources).  This approach meets the needs of community members in a multi-facetted way.  In what ways will your party prioritize Crime Prevention in our neighbourhood?  

"A small group of us in the West End have met on several occasions with the Winnipeg Police representatives to identify problems occurring in the community.  A huge hurdle we have to overcome is the lack of power by the Police until a crime has occurred.  So again, dealing with end results rather than with beginning influences.  Our social models have to change if we are going to move forward.

The Conservative government recently passed Prostitution as a legal form of work and the people who buy the services are breaking the law.  So, to play within this realm, requires us to become a little more resourceful.  More intense lighting on the streets, being a more vibrant business community, patrols on the street and cameras in areas of interest.  Removing unwanted elements, such as residences that grow and sell illicit drugs would be very beneficial to the community.  Let us institute a reward system for information leading to drug busts in West End Homes.  Whether it is monetary or service-related, if there is a benefit for someone to reveal this information then let’s use it to do the best for our community.  Calling Crime Stoppers or your MLA is one avenue.  Today, if your next door neighbour is selling drugs out of their home, sometimes you feel helpless or you call the police & it seems it takes forever for a result.  Remember, the Police can’t do it all.

In other communities of Winnipeg, prostitutes cannot stand on the corners, such as on Demetre’s corner street in Lindenwoods.  Why is it O.K. for them to stand here in Minto?  Why do I have to talk to my daughter about prostitution?  Not sure, if Andrew Swan who lives in Wolseley ever had to have that conversation with his daughters."
11.  What does your party propose in terms of mental health care for young adults who are exiting CFS care and are expected to be independent with little or no resources?

"The Hughes Enquiry has many key reforms which includes CFS wards to have extended care to the age of 25.  I firmly believe this to be a key factor in preparing a child for adulthood to have a better mental & physical future.  If we could spend one generation of supporting and nurturing CFS children, the number of children in-care would drop dramatically & permanently.  We have the studies, noted & respected people in their fields have given governments their recommendations and we have to change the CFS model dramatically, or we will never be able to solve the problem of young girls like Tina Fontaine, who at a young age prostituting herself on Sargent Avenue without the MLA & Justice Minister Andrew Swan caring enough to change it because she wasn’t related to him."

12.  Youth are completing high school and university with few employment opportunities, what is your party doing to promote accessible career and employment opportunities for the young people in our community?

"My true passion is the welfare of our children & what future are we providing for them.  Just recently, one of the residents of our street, Lipton Street, wanted to do a “Wood Workshop” at our annual Canada Day Block Party FREE to 30 children who want to see how well they could do at woodworking.  That was a brilliant idea.  But to expound upon that, with the help of the Urban Knights & Ladies organization, we have been working to put together a Youth Trade Skills program to introduce the youth of the West End to plumbing, carpentry, & electrical.  We have a big-box company seriously considering to come onboard with providing the materials the program would need.  Upon entering this program, we would help to secure funding for individuals who would like to continue into college or university to further their future in one of the trades. 

All communities thrive when there is a good mix of business & residential needs met.  As a huge environmental activist, one of my main focuses would be bringing in green business/technology.  Bringing jobs into the West End should be one of the main focuses of an MLA."

13.  What does your party promise for the continuation and increased support of recreation for youth in the inner-city?  How will you party increase support for the accessibility of recreation in the inner-city, through individual equipment, transportation and health support?

"When you are a resident of a community you understand the problems your neighbours face, and one of those is keeping our youth engaged.  We do have properties that can be revitalized for the enjoyment of the youth, such as the Orioles Community Centre.  Basketball courts, tennis courts & skate parks are essential to be local & evident in the neighbourhood for all to use.  A lot of, what I call fluff, is being done in the community today.  Minto needs strong leadership at the political level who care about seeing this community move forward in a positive way"

14.  Transportation affects all ages, however, the safety and wellbeing of young people is heavily affected by lack of reliable transportation.   What initiatives will your party take to help people access more efficient public transportation? 

"I would like to work with Winnipeg Transit/City of Winnipeg to institute a Dart Service (shuttle service that is provided to St. Boniface, Southdale & Ft. Richmond) that would run around the West End (from Balmoral West to Strathcona & from St. Matthews North to Wellington).  This service is provided at normal fare & is just a phone call away.  To get folks, especially youth & seniors from A to B safely, hassle free and with frequency is integral for health and mental wellbeing."

15.  How will your party provide better support for youth in the LGBT! Community in the education system, health care system and workforce?

"Every life is precious.  All races, creeds, colours, religion, sexual orientation & disability/ability are equal in my mind.  Our communities are striving to do better – and the LGBT community is a part of it.  I would like to ensure there is enough information about stereotyping & racial profiling, as well as discrimination, and as I have seen & felt discrimination on many fronts, I will strive as a community leader & your MLA to have more understanding out in the public about people of diverse sexual orientation.  This will be in the form of more open dialogue at schools & rec centres, education in schools & workplaces ensuring upper-level management engage in the process of acceptance by attending seminars to implement neutral-friendly facilities.  Ex. Washrooms.   Doing this in consultation and partnership with existing groups."

16.   A job can be an effective way out of poverty, but only if the wages cover the basic cost of living. The Manitoba minimum wage is $11 per hour. The current minimum wage is not based on any estimate of the cost of living, nor is it indexed for inflation. A two-parent family with both parents working full time on minimum wage still leaves them with a household income that falls $1,500 below the poverty line, and single-parent families$8,000 below the poverty line. Increasing the minimum wage to the Low Income Cut Off Before Tax (LICO-BT) measure for a single parent family ($15.53 in 2014), sets the minimum wage based on the actual cost of living.  Do you believe worker’s pay should cover basic cost of living?  Do you support increasing the minimum wage to the Low Income Tax Cut Off Before Tax measure (LICO-BT) ($15.53 in 2014) through a series of pre-announced steps by 2020 and indexing it to Low Income Cut Off-Before Tax?

"Yes I do, but only if we have a new government in put in place.  Due to the NDP’s demonstrations that they are more interested in hiring people for their political gains, rather than finding ways & means to put monies back into the pockets of people who need it the most raising the minimum wage won’t help us."

.    17.  Many of our community members have mental health issues and have difficulty finding work because of the stigma surrounding their disability. What would you do to help with educating employers about this problem, and promote the employment of those living with mental health issues?

"Reaching Equality & Employment Services (REES) corner of Portage Ave & Erin, I served on the Board of Directors for 4 years.  I saw, first-hand, 90% of people with disabilities/abilities who came to us found employment.  That is an impressive number.  We focused on their abilities & sought employers who could use those abilities.  The employers were very satisfied with the workers.  Our board was somewhat comprised of folks who had first-hand experiences with people who had disabilities.  That made a huge difference to our outcomes.  Looking at one’s abilities & finding an employer who needs that ability is paramount."

     18.  The poverty rate in our neighbourhood is one of the highest in the city, but many residents lack the education or skills to obtain employment. What will you do to provide more skills training and education opportunities to local residents in order to address this issue?  Residents have said there is a large gap between skills training and finding apprenticeship or job opportunities locally. How would your party work to close this gap and promote apprenticeship or employment so residents could find work in their own neighbourhoods?

"Earlier, I spoke of the Skills Training – the importance of it.  Now, we have to look at bold initiatives that the NDP government has not done.  There is a huge shortage in the construction industry, and a conversation I had with Mike Holmes, Holmes on Holmes T.V. show, is “the greatest asset we have is our youths.”   So we need to find ways & means to get them on-the-job training, apprenticeships and we will be working with folks in the community to make this happen.  We will bridge that gap."

19..  Alternative economic development initiatives such as micro-financing and local investment funds offer a way for communities to generate local income and employment opportunities. How would you support and promote such initiatives?

"Each initiative would be looked at for viability.  Small or large economies thrive on economic sustainability.  So, we need to have small Mom & Pop operations to do well.  Through consultation and public meetings rather than close door meetings will help us to develop a model that would benefit the community.  Promoting viable initiatives would be one of my main focuses."

20.  Many community members in our neighbourhood receive Employment and Income Assistance (EIA). Households on EIA have not had an increase in their Basic Needs Budget –meant to cover food and other basic needs. When other household supplies and necessities are subtracted, families are left with less than $4 per day per person for food, well below the cost of a healthy diet in Manitoba. In 2015, the Manitoba government raised the rent budget for people receiving EIA to reflect actual rent costs. This increase only goes halfway to filling the gap in what people on EIA need to survive. The other major component of the EIA program, the Basic Needs Budget also needs adjustment.  Where does your Party stand on the Basic Needs Budget and what will you do to ensure that the Basic Needs Budget reflects the actual cost of living and the needs of our community?

"In the 70’s in Dauphin, Manitoba – A study was done for Guaranteed Livable Income.  I will take the study & get it looked at again to help to implement into Winnipeg, Manitoba."

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