Q1: The climate crisis and changing attitudes globally have put fossil fuels in the crosshairs. Any ideas on transitioning the Sarnia-Lambton economy to one less reliant on oil and gas?
NANTAIS: I’ve been involved with Lambton College’s Research Centre, which is forward-thinking and highly collaborative. That experience tends to bring me tremendous faith in the next steps for our community.
Recently I connected our Research Department with the Lambton Federation of Agriculture so they could discuss collaborative ideas for reduced uses and recycling of agricultural plastics as well as development of biodegradable plastics.
The oil and gas industry has shifted, leading in areas of bio-fuel technology and developing clean-tech companies. There is no rejection of innovation in favour of exclusive fossil fuel dependency. I believe the focus needs to be supporting the business side scaling up to commercial levels. We do that and connect our local development with consumer needs and our economy thrives.
Q2: Many of our young people are drowning in student debt and home ownership has become a pipe dream. What can be done to make life more affordable for young people in our community?
NANTAIS: The Liberal government quickly put in place support programs to help young people through the worst of the pandemic and now is taking action to continue to grow the economy. A robust economy brings opportunities for all, but young people in particular need a fighting chance to stay here and find homes and jobs.
One particularly instrumental tool that Prime Minister Trudeau recently announced to support young people in home ownership is the Liberal Housing Plan. In the plan, there’s a tax-free First Home Savings Account available for those seeking to own their own home for the first time, there’s a new rent-to-own program, a reduction in mortgage insurance, a doubling of tax credits and further incentivizing involved with first-time home buying.
Q3: Vaccine passports. Where do you stand, personally, on government requiring citizens to provide proof of vaccination to attend events and access non-essential services?
NANTAIS: Like most, last year I was washing my groceries and feeling isolated watching the news of mass unmarked graves in New York City back at the height of the virus. I’m grateful for not needing to live like that now. But now that conditions have improved, vaccinations have become a polarizing issue with personal freedom claimed on one hand and a priority of community care on the other.
People tend to project anger onto government, but restrictions and the difficulties we’ve endured start and end with the virus itself. We need to collectively focus efforts to rid ourselves of this virus. Exposure in public places is a proven risk, so we need to mitigate that risk as best we can and as reasonably as we can.
Q4: Canada’s federal debt surpassed a mind-boggling $1 trillion this year and is growing at the rate of $17 million each and every hour, according to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. Are you concerned about federal spending, and if so, what can we do without?
NANTAIS: The federal debt has jumped over the past two years with pandemic-induced government programs. I’ve had many conversations with people in this area and a consistency is that people say we had to do something to ease people’s suffering and especially during the worst of the pandemic. But we must now support our economic recovery.
Federal deficit declines as economy grows. The Parliamentary Budget Office projects a balanced budget for us in four years with the federal debt weighing in as a percentage of cost with gross national product (GNP). The greater the GNP, the better to work with our debt. Regardless of any rhetoric about how money is spent, the key here is a focus on a robust economy and this itself allows opportunity.
Q5: What, to you, is the most important issue in Sarnia-Lambton right now, and why?
NANTAIS: The most important issue in Sarnia-Lambton is continuing the recovery from the pandemic and its economic and social consequences for us. The pandemic has had a negative impact on everyone, but we know that the impact has been greater for people in some groups over others. Women, seniors, young people, Indigenous peoples, and those with mental health concerns have been particularly impacted.
As the current Liberal government continues to support and stimulate the post-pandemic economic recovery, we look to continue to build resources and foster participation in areas that will strengthen us collectively: housing, jobs, and services to help.