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FORUM: Vajda makes the NDP case (Oct. 2019)

October 17th, 2019 · No Comments

Community lawyer pushes planks of housing, climate crisis

By Melissa Jean-Baptiste Vajda

University-Rosedale is a vibrant, diverse community. Over the past few years, I’ve had the pleasure of advocating for University-Rosedale residents through my work as a community lawyer at Kensington-Bellwoods Legal Community Services. Now, I want to stand up for Uni-versity-Rosedale in Ottawa, as your next Member of Parliament. 

I know that University-Rosedale is full of people who take care of one another and care deeply about the future of our community. I also know, though, that it’s a community where people are facing challenges. As a lawyer, I fight every day for the rights of tenants and low-wage workers, and I know that people are struggling.

One of the most pressing challenges in University-Rosedale is the lack of affordable housing. According to Canada’s Rental Housing Index, our area is the fifth most unaffordable riding for renters in the country. Housing prices in Toronto have become so inflated that a family now needs to earn at least $167,000 to buy an average home, according to RBC. The Liberal Gov-ernment has talked a good game when it comes to their National Housing Strategy, but the Parliamentary Budget Officer recently found that they are spending almost 20% less on afford-able housing than Stephen Harper’s government did.  

Housing isn’t the only cost that is going up while people’s incomes stay the same. Many of the folks I’ve spoken to on the doorstep have challenges finding affordable childcare, or are strug-gling with the high cost of everything from internet bills to prescription medications. Families are forced to try to do more with less — and the government isn’t helping. Instead, we’re see-ing income inequality get worse while handouts go to big corporations and the top 1%. 

I decided to run for office because I believe that there’s a better way. I know that we can have a government that actually builds 500,000 units of real, affordable housing. I know that we can have a head-to-toe health care system with universal pharmacare for all, and access to dental, vision, and mental health coverage. I believe that we can expand our public transit system, re-duce the burden of student debt, and invest over $1 billion each year in affordable childcare. 

I also know that we need bold action climate change. Last week, I was inspired by the thou-sands of people — especially young people — at the Global Climate Strike, and was honoured to participate in Toronto’s rally. We owe it to future generations to act now, which is why I am committed to a green new deal that will see an immediate end to fossil fuel subsidies, create 300,000 good, green jobs, and legally-binding emission reduction targets. I am also committed to a true partnership with Indigenous Peoples and environmental justice, and a government that will fully implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and all 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

This election, the NDP has made history. We are the first party to have elected a person of col-our as a national leader. We are the only party to have committed to a Canadian Green New Deal and a just transition to a low-carbon economy. We have the most diverse slate of candi-dates, with strong representations from Indigenous and LGBTQ2S communities, as well as people living with disabilities. I am proud to stand alongside Jagmeet Singh, who is committed to inspiring new voters and engaging with communities that other parties have left behind. 

When it comes to the future, I know that our community, and our country, can’t afford the status quo. I believe University-Rosedale deserves real representation, not empty promises — and that’s why I want to be your champion in Ottawa. 

Melissa Jean-Baptiste Vajda is a community legal clinic lawyer who practices in University-Rosedale. Melissa is Canadian, of Haitian descent, and is fluent in French and English. She lives in Toronto with her husband.

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Tags: Annex · Opinion