EMBER McKILLOP (Green Party)

1. Why are you running to be MPP for Kenora-Rainy River?
I am running for many reasons but what motivated me to take this step is the increasing needs of the students I work with in my role as a special education resource teacher.
The situation in the classroom is such that teachers find they are having to try to help students with major mental health issues, fetal alcohol effects, and a myriad of disorders and delays associated with exposure to trauma and early neglect without having the expertise or support services to be effective.
These issues do not belong to one group of people or socio-economic status, but certainly poverty plays a huge part in the origins of them. Add to this a serious lack of adequate funding to provide the necessary supports to make all students’ academic experiences successful and we have a huge problem.
The Green Party has a platform that addresses each of these issues from chronic underemployment, poverty, education, and social support services but does so in a way that is fiscally responsible and with a mind to our economic and environmental future.
2. What are your qualifications/experience for the job?
It is true that I have never been involved in politics. I believe that this could be considered an advantage more than a liability in some ways.
However, in my career I have been in leadership and advocacy positions that require attention to issues and concerns, and the ability to respond to those in a way that meets the needs of admin and solves some of the problems brought forward.
I have also been a union steward in my former school in Pickle Lake, been the president of a number of community organizations, including the Pickle Lake Curling Club, and have opened and operated an emergency shelter for the Emergency Measures Office during a fire evacuation a number of years ago.
Since then, I have also been involved in disaster management with the Canadian Red Cross and been a member of the Dryden Syrian Refugee Committee, which was able to sponsor a family of six languishing for four years in a Iraqi camp.
3. What is the main message you hope to convey to voters during the campaign?
I really hope that voters come to see that the Green Party has a fully-developed platform based on research and sound policies that can work to protect the planet but also creates dependable, long-term jobs and takes care of the people of this province so they can be healthy and prosper.
The Green Party stands for electoral reform and bringing back civility in the House and politics, in general.
4. What opportunities do you see for the forest industry and future use of the fibre in our riding?
For this riding, I think it is appalling how much revenue is lost to shipping out raw materials to be transformed into value-added goods elsewhere. The companies that process fibre aren’t even based in Canada, so the lion’s share of the benefits are going elsewhere.
I would like to see fibre manufacturing return to our region, and support companies to return to recycling paper and cardboard as they once did. Logging is an important industry to our region but we are beginning to cut stands of trees regardless of their other values to people and wildlife in the name of turning a quick profit.
Also, strict requirements from mills for chip sizing means a lot of wasted fibre at the mill sites and out on the blocks, which, in turn, hurts those who are trying to make a living from cutting and hauling.
There are a lot of inefficiencies and potential for innovation that can make the industry more profitable, and help to better protect the places that are important for reasons other than improving the bottom line.
5. What is your priority when it comes to improving health care for residents of our riding?
This is a big question because the policies involved in improving health care include prevention, delivery, and scope. By investing more into preventative strategies, we can greatly reduce the overall burden, freeing up funding for strong programs and services for when they are needed.
Having a universal pharmacare and dental care plan are key components of this. We can support better home care that helps people remain at home longer and greatly reduces the costs of hospitalization.
Our Local Health Integration Network is currently being retooled again but the changes that are coming still aren’t addressing the level of need that we have in our communities.
As with education, the overall funding picture is largely based on population. This doesn’t work when your area has a higher level of needs per capita.
6. What is your plan to build and sustain the agricultural industry in our riding?
[The] Green Party has made agriculture a key component of its economic strategy because not only does supporting agriculture benefit the regional economy moreso than many other sectors, it also helps us to meet our environmental targets and increase food security.
It really doesn’t seem like southern Ontario realizes there is a large farming community in Northwestern Ontario, but Green policies would help make family farms more viable by opening and re-opening new revenue streams.
We plan to make it easier to run farm-based enterprises by cutting the red tape and offer financial incentives to farmers who engage in environmental stewardship practices. We will also work to ensure the infrastructure exists to help farmers reach customers, get their products to market, and meet their energy needs without breaking the bank.
There is so much more to share.
7. What is your strategy to ensure the local tourism industry continues to be a major economic engine?
Any policy that supports small business is going to be a boon to the tourism industry. The Green Party has a number of initiatives and supports to help local industry to complete and thrive.
But a key component of the Green Party platform is, of course, protecting our natural environment, which really sets us apart from the other parties.
Most people are aware of the mercury poisoning of the Wabigoon River system, which originated in my own town of Dryden. The leaking of this heavy metal was never addressed by the province in any way, other than to give token compensation to some of those who have been effected by it directly.
What people often forget is that all of the tourism outfitters along that waterway were forced to close. Protecting the wild spaces that attract so many visitors to our region makes good economic sense, as well as supporting biodiversity and carbon storage.
8. How would you help First Nations’ communities play a bigger role in economic development locally?
Our First Nations’ communities need to be supported in determining their own future. The economic solutions are there but policies and funding opportunities need to be in place to support initiatives using ideas developed at a local level.
Regardless of location, there are many underdeveloped opportunities in renewable energy production, tourism, and value-added resource development that can get a kick-start from Green Party initiatives around supporting small business and energy co-ops.
Fair revenue-sharing of the proceeds of resource extraction in the north will also help to provide needed funding for community initiatives.

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