Collingwood Today sat down with Jesseca Perry, Green Party candidate for Simcoe-Grey. This will be Perry’s second provincial election running for the Green Party in Simcoe-Grey.
CT: What is the main factor setting this election apart from previous ones?
JP: The biggest main factor would probably be to get a change up from the Liberal government. We’ve had the same reign of the Liberal government for a long time now and I think, with the big shift in the Federal election, when we went from Conservative to Liberal, it was very much strategic voting. We can kind of see that in the provincial election because we want to get the Liberals out but the (Progressive) Conservatives aren’t really a great alternative, so now it’s really time for a change.
I think it’s time now to really flip a coin and pick a side that nobody’s really used before.
CT: Polls are showing the issues Ontarians are most concerned about this election are health care and lower costs/ balanced budgets. Why do you think those have risen to the top as the main issues?
JP: I think the lack in health care services is really in the forefront now with all the mental health issues that have started to come to light over the last few years. I think that’s really big in people’s minds now because everyone’s more comfortable with talking about mental health issues, and the services aren’t there for the people who need it... Also, with baby boomers needing more health care, I think we just need the quality to be there for those people.
The cost of living just increases and increases but amount of living wage doesn’t seem to. I’ve seen it. My mom has lived in Beeton for the last 24 years, so I grew up there. She’s basically stayed at the same wage, same living standard, same housing situation over those last 25 years and nothing has really got better for her. It’s not like she has a large amount of savings, she works at a factory at a lower income job. It doesn’t seem to be changing... everything just seems to be increasing the debt. I think people are really hoping that will change in this election.
Increasing the minimum wage only gets you so far. We also need to think about lowering payroll taxes for small companies so they can actually afford to employ people in our community, and grow a local economy.
CT: What is the biggest challenge facing the Ontario health care system and what needs to be done about it, particularly in Simcoe-Grey?
JP: Retrofits are a big one. Hospitals need upgrades and they need certain equipment in order to facilitate the needs of the people in their community. For example, more locally, the best hospital in the area would be Southlake. So, if somebody has a major heart attack, say in Wasaga Beach or Collingwood, that hospital might not necessarily be equipped with the tools to treat that person, and think of how long they would have to wait, or even get to the hospital to get medical treatment. I think updates and having proper equipment in the hospitals is very important. We need to think about Collingwood and Alliston as the two hubs of Simcoe-Grey and update those hospitals for the people in the community, especially because we have so much development in the area and so many more people... the population is growing and it doesn’t seem like the community is accommodating the amount of people that are coming.
CT: What is the biggest problem with the Ontario education system right now and what needs to be done with it?
JP: The biggest problem right now is the quality of education that our children are getting because (resources) are so divided between two different school boards. I think merging the Catholic and public school boards would be a great option for enhancing the quality of education. It’s already been done in other provinces, I believe Manitoba is one of them, so amending our constitution doesn’t seem to be so far out of reach.
If we can do that, reducing classroom sizes is really the main goal here, so that teachers can be focused on individual needs.
(I was asked) this year to donate school supplies (for my own kids). I don’t think my mom ever had to do that when I was growing up in school. Even walking around (my daughter’s) school, I felt like, is this really what an updated school looks like?
CT: What is fairness and what role do you think the provincial government should play in establishing and enforcing fairness?
JP: I get the sense of fairness in terms of when we need services everyday as citizens such as gas, hydro prices, water prices and property taxes. Everything has to be fair in terms of, how can you live within your means? People go outside of that and consume all these things they can’t afford, incurring all this debt that they’re going to leave behind for their children. The Green Party definitely stands for fairness in terms of regulations when it comes to pricing items that consumers need for everyday uses. When we have gas price increases and no one can even afford to get to work, how is that a scale of fairness? How can somebody obtain or reach that?
I don’t understand any party that wouldn’t want people in their communities being able to afford everyday essentials. I don’t understand any party that would be opposed to that or who would be more in favour of a corporation because, at the end of the day, we are consumers so you need to make it affordable for people to buy and live.
CT: Affordable housing is a huge issue in Simcoe-Grey and especially Collingwood. Local municipalities have spent thousands on studies to come up with ideas for attainable housing. It’s impacting the availability of the workforce for every type of industry in Collingwood. What can be done?
JP: I think putting restrictions on the amount of development, and how developments will impact the infrastructure for the rest of the community, all needs to have restrictions put in place. So, when you have a development come in, and now all of a sudden the rest of the community is suffering, there’s a problem.
I grew up in Beeton, my husband grew up in Beeton, our parents both still live in Beeton, but we can’t afford to buy a house there because of the amount of development. None of our friends, who also grew up in the community, can afford to live in places where their parents still live. It’s unfortunate because you lose your sense of roots and community. The Green Party’s solution to that, first of all, is we need to expand the Greenbelt and put protections in place for development so it can’t be developed. We need to talk to existing developers about putting a minimum of 20 per cent of the houses that they build geared toward lower income families.
When we think about development, we think about acreage lots and houses that have three-car garages and four bedrooms and three bathrooms and maybe only a family of two and two children are living there. It’s excessive.
We need to start thinking about building upward. I’m not talking about skyscrapers, more like complexes of four to five stories high that can house 20-50 people, I think is a better solution.
At the Collingwood all-candidates debate, Jim Wilson mentioned that there’s too much red tape for developers to get around in order to build, and I think that’s just the opposite of what needs to happen. We need to put restrictions in place. The red tape is there so that we can have proper assessments conducted and we don’t start building in communities and create infrastructure problems.
My in-laws have lived in the same house for 30 years, and now that there’s a big development a couple of streets behind them it’s pushing all the groundwater into the homes. The ditches aren’t draining the water out properly and now they’re forced to dig a hole in their basement and install a sump pump at their own expense because the town and the municipality isn’t doing anything to put proper assessments in place that really look at the infrastructure.
Collingwood is the same. They put all this money into developments and now they don’t have money to put into their new hospital. Look at Wasaga Beach. Money is going into development there but the beachfront is dead, there’s no community storefronts or local businesses, they’re devastated there.
We’re building all these homes for people to come but we’re not fixing our community. The people who have lived there their whole lives are the ones who are suffering.
CT: Outside of affordable housing, how will you make everyday life more affordable for Ontarians?
JP: The cost of living is increasing and wages are not. Although the minimum wage increase is a step in the right direction, what we really need is a basic income. It has cross-partisan support.
To be honest, when we increase the minimum wage people start thinking about losing jobs because they’re afraid their employers won’t be able to afford to employ them anymore. While that is a fact for a lot of small businesses who can’t afford the increase, what we need to do for those small businesses is lower payroll tax.
CT: How long before your party plans a balanced budget?
JP: Our party has released a costed platform and we hope to balance the budget within the first few years that we’re actually elected. First thing’s first – we need to get people to recognize that voting Green will actually make a difference and we can actually balance a budget. Our costed platform is available online and is very accessible. I find it frustrating when people say, ‘We have no information about the Green Party,’ or ‘A vote for the Green Party is a wasted vote,’ yet they haven’t even read our platform.
CT: Where do you find common ground with the other party platforms?
JP: I find common ground when it make sense. When parties talk about basic income, that’s great. When parties talk about fairness, equality, access to health care services, balancing a budget, we can all see eye-to-eye on that. I think what we don’t see eye-to-eye on is how to achieve those goals. I think we all have the same goal in mind, it’s just, how do we get there in order to make everybody happy? It’s difficult.
We’ve been going down the same path for years and years flip flopping between two parties, and nothing is any better. I don’t understand how people can just continue to vote (that way) even though nothing is changing. I think it’s time for people to realize that the Green Party is a party that does want to work with other parties to come up with a goal that makes sense for everybody and a solution on how to get to that goal.
I think the Green Party is the only party that is willing to work with other parties to do that.
CT: Colours and parties aside, what are the three things Ontario needs most in a government right now?
JP: Honesty from their government. I think they need their government to follow through on what they say they’re going to do. And we do need change in this province, it’s becoming unaffordable for people to live here.
The Greens have made big changes. We have people elected in New Brunswick, PEI, B.C., and I’m about to move to one of those provinces if we can’t get a different government here in Ontario on June 7.
CT: What first motivated you toward politics? More specifically, you’re running in Simcoe-Grey, but you live in the Barrie-Innisfil riding. What made you choose to run in Simcoe-Grey?
JP: I first became involved in politics when I was quite young... when I became of age to vote I thought it was quite important to exercise that right and be informed about it. So I looked online at all the parties and looked at their youth wings and the Green Party of Canada’s youth wing really stood out to me and I decided to apply to join council. I was accepted to several positions over the next five years and I was very involved federally while I was in college.
After college I came back to my parents house and I wanted to become engaged in my local community so I contacted my local riding association and got onboard with them and just kind of got thrown into the position of candidate in the last provincial election in Simcoe-Grey, my husband and I both lived in Beeton with our parents. It was a great experience, it was a great time. I met a lot of people whose issues paralleled with mine. We had the same vision, the same passion, the same values. My husband and I continued to live in that riding for about a year after the election.
Then, we wanted to buy a house. We put together as much as we could for our down payment, my grandmother even helped us out, but we still couldn’t afford to buy a house anywhere near the community we grew up in.
We must have looked at, it felt like hundreds of houses in the riding, none of which we could afford. Ultimately we came out to Barrie and we saw maybe three houses out here. We put an offer in and we finally got something going.
We are constantly looking at how we can get back into Beeton... It was a difficult decision.
The reason I chose to run again in Simcoe-Grey is because I feel more connected to that riding. I feel like I know more about the issues that matter to the local residents there. I think it’s important too to keep the candidate consistent. You don’t want to be flip-flopping back and forth between a bunch of different people with a bunch of different views. If that candidate is well-versed in the issues in that area, it doesn’t really matter where they live as long as they know the issues and the residents and are willing to fight for them.