Meet the Candidates Federal Election 2019 edition is The Gateway’s series of interviews with candidates running in Edmonton Strathcona. This is the first of five articles.
With the October 21 federal election fast approaching, The Gateway sat down and interviewed candidates from the major parties running in Edmonton Strathcona.
In the first instalment of this series, New Democratic Party (NDP) of Canada candidate for Edmonton Strathcona, Heather McPherson, is interviewed.
Previously, McPherson has worked as the executive director of the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation. While working at the not-for-profit, she worked on issues relating to poverty reduction, human rights, and environmental protection. She has also been part of the Canadian delegation to the United Nations.
McPherson is an alumna of the University of Alberta, completing both an undergraduate degree in education and a Masters of Education. She was the first volunteer coordinator for Doctors Without Borders campus chapter at the university.
The Gateway interviewed McPherson to see how, if elected, she plans to represent those living in Edmonton Strathcona and students in the House of Commons.
Responses have been edited for clarity and length.
The Gateway: Why did you decide to run in this election?
Why I chose to run is based on two things. One, is that I have this phenomenal mentor in Linda Duncan who asked me about a year ago if I would consider putting my name forward. She has been an unwavering advocate for me and has really helped me out while encouraging me to believe in myself. Secondly, I was just getting so angry at how Conservative and Liberal governments have really lied to Canadians and failed to meet their obligations. We have seen time and time again that we have been promised things and we do not get any delivery. It is really frustrating. My goal would be to go to Ottawa and actually fight for Albertans. To hold governments to account for these things.
What is the single issue that is most important to you?
Climate change. Don’t get me wrong, the affordability of life today is a huge concern; like the price of tuition has climbed over the years. Some figures I have seen say the cost of a degree today is almost 70 per cent higher than when I went to university, and I am not that old. However, there can be nothing more important than addressing our climate crisis.
What is your stance on climate change? How will your party concretely work to address it?
It is the most important issue to me. We have a number of things in place on how we hope to tackle this issue. I am really excited that EcoJustice has actually listed the NDP as the best platform for how we need to get to where we need to go in terms of this issue.
One of these includes having 300,000 good, clean energy jobs in place in Canada right away. This way we can start hitting our targets. Next, we need to be retrofitting our homes and changing our building codes. Our transit systems across the country have to be more appropriate and accessible. Transit should be free. We need to start moving towards that. In terms of oil and gas subsidies, we need to stop. We have to halt money that is sending support to American oil and gas companies. Instead, that money can be incentivizing green growth. There are tons of things we can do.
The thing I am most proud of, is that in our plan we have actual targets and how we are going to meet them. Linda Duncan has been a champion for the environment over the last 11 years as a Member of Parliament and even prior to that as an environmental lawyer. Her environmental bill of rights, where we could hold governments to promises you make is an example of the energy I want to bring to this issue.
What is your party doing to support post-secondary education?
We want to make life more affordable for students. The first thing we want to do is take interest off of student loans. That is absurd. We shouldn’t be asking students to pay interest on their student loans. At this point the average post-secondary student in Canada will graduate with $27,000 in debt. That really does hamper people’s ability to start their career, build a family, or purchase a home. That is not the way we want post-secondary students to start their professional life.
Another thing I would like to push for is more non-repayable student grants, instead of student loans. There should be support, particularly for students from lower income families, so they can enter the post-secondary system. I feel that undergraduate level education should be free. In the past you needed a high school diploma to get a job. That is not possible today. You need a post-secondary degree or training from technical colleges to get a good job.
If you were to choose one initiative or area of policy, what makes your party stand out from the rest?
Our entire platform has been costed out by the Parliamentary Budget Officer. The way we are going to make life more affordable is that we have an excellent plan in place and it is easy for us to push forward our agenda because it is amazing for Canadians. An example of this is our plan for national pharmacare, dental care, and mental care. It is all there, laid out.
Now for a joke question. Dead or alive, who is your favourite Canadian Prime Minister or the one who inspires you the most?
Lester B. Pearson. Part of that is because Pearson understood Canada needs to play a role on the world stage — there’s my background in international development speaking. He put Canada in a place where we helped the world so it would be that much of a better place. He is a great Canadian.