Churchill-Keewatinook Aski candidate questionnaire: Niki Ashton, New Democratic Party

The Flin Flon Reminder sent 13 questions to all of the candidates running to become the next Churchill-Keewatinook Aski MP in the Oct. 21 election. Four of them provided answers. People's Party of Canada candidate Kenneth Klyne did not respond.

What do you feel are your qualifications for federal office?

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As someone who is from our North and lives in our North, I know many of the challenges we face. As MP for our region, I have held Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau to account. I believe strongly that the North has given a lot to Canada, but Canada has not given much back. Whether it’s advocating for good jobs, for healthcare, like reopening the birthing services in Flin Flon, or for northern housing and infrastructure, I have experience in standing up for our region.

What is your plan for the future of the economy? What role will industry/mining play in that plan?

We must ensure that good mining and mining related jobs stay in Flin Flon and the surrounding area. We also need to invest in the public services that people need, investments that would also boost the economy. Flin Flon is a hub when it comes to healthcare and that must include reopening the birthing services. Affordable housing, especially for seniors, is also important. The NDP has committed to a bold housing plan which would make a real difference.

What have been the main issues you’ve heard from people in this riding?

People are disappointed in Trudeau and his broken promises. He promised a real improvement to healthcare, yet kept in place Harper’s funding freeze. I have heard many concerns about the ongoing lack of housing including seniors housing. I have heard from many people about the loss of good jobs in the mining sector and across our north.

What measures to benefit Northern Manitoba would you wish to add to a federal budget?

Rather than using the Infrastructure Bank created by the Liberals that hasn’t worked and has fundamentally ignored our North, we would create a public northern infrastructure fund focused on improving northern infrastructure like roads and telecommunications, issues that I’ve repeatedly raised in Parliament. We would also invest in healthcare, investments that will allow to reopen Flin Flon’s birthing services.

What is your plan regarding northern health care? What role can the federal government play in health issues?

Harper cut health care transfers and then Trudeau maintained those same cuts. We’ll do the opposite. After all, the NDP is the party that brought in medicare. We’ll expand coverage to include mental, dental, pharma and eyes. We’ll also make it easier for northern communities to retain doctors and nurses and work to reopen Flin Flon birthing services.

What are your main concerns regarding environmental conservation? Do you support a carbon tax?

Those of us who live in the North are seeing the reality of climate change. We’ll stand up for our environment without leaving people behind. While the carbon tax has a place in our plan, we wouldn’t let big polluters off the hook like the Liberals. We’ll also end the billion dollars Trudeau currently gives oil corporations and invest that money in communities.

Where do you stand on immigration to Canada? What impact do you think immigration could have for the north?

Immigrants have helped build our North. We want to make the rural and northern immigration pilot a permanent program. We also want to make it easier to recognize accreditation achieved abroad, which would help us attract and retain medical professionals.

What is your stance on electoral reform? Would changing Canada’s electoral system be a priority for you?

Trudeau promised 2015 would be the last election under first past the post. He lied. The NDP is committed to replacing our electoral system with a mixed member proportional representation system that better represents how people vote. We would also like to see the voting age lowered to 16. But democracy isn’t just about voting. We recognize the need to do a better job of engaging people who don’t feel represented.

What measures would you propose to help remote Indigenous communities?

Indigenous communities across our region have been let down by Liberal and Conservative governments. We must put an end to the housing crisis. We must also ensure better support for healthcare and education. These investments would benefit our entire North.

We must also support and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

How do you feel about negative campaigning? Would you consider you and/or your party to be running a clean campaign? What about your opponents?

I believe it is important to put forward our positive vision for our North. While for the most part, the tone locally has been positive, I believe it is important to be upfront about the way our region has been ignored by Liberal and Conservative governments.

What policy or practice do you disagree with your party on and why? Would you consider breaking rank with the party on that issue?

As a northerner and a New Democrat I have one advantage: the NDP’s policies and principles are in line with our concerns in the North. I have been able to be a strong voice within the NDP and in Parliament for policies that would bring real change in our North.

In 30 words or less–what is your elevator pitch for undecided voters?

We need a strong voice and a clear choice to fight for our North. From jobs and education, to healthcare, housing and infrastructure, we need an MP that is on our side.

What question do you wish we would have asked?

Who will you side with, the rich and well-connected that always seem to have the Liberls' and Conservatives' ear, or people who are struggling to get by? The NDP has always fought for all of us, and we always will. We want to expand social services and we'll do it by making the ultra-wealthy pay their fair share.*

The final asnwer was not included in the original version of this article or in the print version in the Oct. 18 Nickel Belt News because of an error that prevented the Flin Flon Reminder from receiving it along with Niki Ashton's other answers.

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