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?
BUNKO: The reallocation of governmental subsidies for fossil fuels, including payments and tax write-offs, to invest in renewable energy, development of zero emission systems/technologies and closed-loop production systems. In addition, funding for collaborative research and development, between companies and Lambton College, to draw in new green industries to Sarnia-Lambton.
Sarnia-Lambton’s workforce has a diverse and transferable skill set that would easily transition into green technologies. In the event that retraining is required, detailed programs would be developed in partnership with workers and their unions.
Other transitions include upgrading municipal transportation budgets, to electrify the transportation system along with inter-municipal connections, provide incentives to retrofit homes and businesses to green technologies, and ensure 30% of food imports are replaced by domestic agriculture
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?
BUNKO: If we want to encourage the next generation to be excited for their future, and inject their income into the economy, we need to remove the hurdle of debt. Therefore we should eliminate existing student debt above $10,000, removing sales tax on textbooks and migrating towards eliminating tuition overall.
The current mortgaging model should also be revamped, especially the “stress test:” If an individual with good credit has illustrated they can afford a $1,200+ monthly rent, without late payments, they should be allowed to afford a $1,200+ mortgage.
There should also be a mandate for a respectable percentage of all new housing construction within the area allocated for developing affordable housing, through collaboration with municipalities and development companies.
Q3: Vaccine passports. Where do you stand, personally, on the government requiring citizens to provide proof of vaccination to attend events and access non-essential services?
BUNKO: Implementing just a vaccine passport can negatively impact the most vulnerable, the equity within the community and also potential privacy infringements. I believe that we need to increase vaccination in order to protect the community, through both vaccine passports and rapid checks.
We also need to find a movement that puts into consideration how the requirements for photo ID affects those living in poverty and the un-housed.
In respect to public health, the government should ensure public safety in a manner that has minimal infringement on freedoms and is proportional to the needs of society. The implementation of vaccine passports alone would be unfair to individuals who cannot get vaccinated for medical reasons
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?
BUNKO: Spending should not be a concern if the budget is balanced and cash flow is properly monitored. This doesn’t necessarily mean that cuts are required and sometimes means that additional income needs to be sought.
The cost of poverty on the Canadian health-care system is estimated by the Ontario Association of Food Banks to be $7.6 billion; so why would we cut social services that try to eliminate poverty?
We need to implement a corporate tax on transnational e-commerce companies, close tax loopholes that benefit the wealthy, and apply a 1% tax on net (family) wealth above $20 million
Of course some spending should be limited: Spending on bailouts unless tied to performance requirements to maintain the workforce within Canada.
Q5: What, to you, is the most important issue in Sarnia-Lambton right now, and why?
BUNKO: Access to adequate forms of health care, both long and short term. Improvements for seniors, front-line workers, children, marginalized populations, and especially mental health care.
Sarnia has two pandemics: Addiction, which stems from lack of social services, and COVID, which has illuminated the inadequacies of our long-term care system.
Currently there isn’t enough support for help for individuals to heal themselves from substance abuse: Decriminalization of users, funding for harm reduction, access to mental health services and rehabilitation, and finally access to housing and employment support are required.
Finally, public ownership or non-profit management structure of seniors’ care, with a variety of housing options is so important. We need national guidelines to improve both resident’s safety and those of the personal support workers. For more complete answers, see my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/StefBunkoGreenParty/