Meet your candidate: Tara Howse for South Okanagan-West Kootenay

Meet Tara Howse

Casey Richardson

Castanet is conducting a Q&A with each candidate running to represent the South Okanagan-West Kootenay riding in the upcoming Sept. 20 Canadian federal election. Look for one each day this week. Each candidate was asked the same questions, with some additional personalized inquiries.

Green Party candidate Tara Howse is running for a Member of Parliament seat for the second time and hopes to earn it through her stance on fighting for what's best for local constituents.

Q: Let’s start with the basic question: Why should you be chosen to represent this riding?

A: The biggest reason is because I actually can represent constituents, we have what's called a no whipped voting policy. So this is unique amongst the Green Party and amongst all federal parties, we're the only party that doesn't force their caucus and their members to vote the way the leader tells them to. So if there is something that I disagree with in our platform, because it's in better needs of the constituents or it's with constituents want, I'm actually able to voice that opinion and bring that forward, whereas the other parties have to tow the party line and basically just be the party lap dogs.

Q: What's the biggest issue locally that has not been correctly addressed by the federal government?

A: Locally, the big things I'm hearing about are housing and this is something that's occurring across the nation. So housing is impacting everything from our vulnerable populations and homelessness issues, all the way up to housing and the economy. So we really have to start taking this as a natural national approach to this, declare it a crisis and start working together to address this.

The second thing I'm hearing, and it's going hand-in-hand, is climate action, particularly in relation to the forest fires, there really hasn't been any action happening. It's all just political rhetoric and spin. So it's really time once again, to bring a voice into Parliament, that can actually stand up and start implementing actions like canceling Trans Mountain expansion.

Q: Speaking of housing, it's a major issue for many people in this riding - it's unaffordable for many to buy, and there is limited rental stock. What specific plans do you have to help the average person in the South Okanagan-West Kootenay achieve housing stability?

Well, there's two things that I really bring forward. One is once again, as a federal MP, I really would love to advocate for an actual housing advocate to address this issue on a national level.

However, at the local level, I'm really excited. I finished up some really in depth housing research very recently, for the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary. And so this includes looking into the Okanagan looking at best practices on how we can actually address rural housing needs, because what's going to work here, you know, in the riding, whether we're talking about in Spokane City, or Penticton, it's going to look very different than what it will look for in Vancouver or Ottawa or Toronto.

We need this locally-based approach which includes addressing increased service costs, we have a lot of unserviced land in this area. So things like septic, some communities are on a septic system, so they may need sewer or water infrastructure upgrades. So, recognizing that we don't typically have that large developer that you may see in Vancouver or Kelowna, we have builders that are acting as developers.

We have to develop a new financing system to actually allow them to carry the risk to do housing developments, because they may be able to carry a one-off house, but to do even a 10-unit housing development is really, really difficult for a lot of our small builders. These are just a couple of the small local ideas I'd love to implement.

But of course, there's the federal issues of things like allowing the CMHC to go back to its mandate and supporting things like cooperative housing, and allowing tiny house mortgages. So lots to talk about and I could talk your ear off for hours on housing.

Q: As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, what in your opinion needs to happen in order to get it under control? Do you support vaccine passports?

So I'm just going to touch on the second piece there, vaccine passports right now is a provincial issue. And so it's a provincial health order and it is actually not something the federal government can really get into.

But what I'm hearing from people on their passports, particularly with local organizations and businesses, are concerned about the administration involved in it. I think it's a really great example of a top down approach without looking at the individual and smaller community needs. So where I would like to shift the strategy, whether we're talking about vaccine rates overall or the vaccine passports is community based health support.

We have to start looking at our communities, start supporting our local organizations, get away from the institutional mandates that are happening.

We have whole populations that have been historically oppressed or just completely treated horribly. Indigenous people, our queer communities, have been treated horribly within the health system. And so we have to start looking again at how we can encourage vaccine uptake, while at the same time respecting people and, again, looking at a community-based approach that differs from this top-down hierarchical structure.

Q: Moving forward in this pandemic, that's really the key goal for you, encouraging those vaccination rates and encouraging communication between all levels of business for what they want to see?

A: Businesses, governments, organizations, like I said, there's more than just the federal government or the provincial government. We've got local governments, municipalities, regional districts, we've got First Nations governments to consider.

So these are just all things we need to have these greater conversations and while at the same time also talk about encouraging protocols still. We still have to wear masks, ensuring social distancing, or physical distancing, and washing our hands. These are really good infectious disease protocols that we should just be mindful of and keep moving forward.

Q: This summer the Interior has been gravely impacted by wildfires and an unprecedented heat wave. What should be done to better protect the area and its residents, and where does climate change action land on your list of priorities?

A: As the Green Party, we're very strong with climate action. There hasn't been any. And as a Green Party member, it's been frustrating seeing a lack of action in government. You see this with the three big political parties, Liberals, Conservatives and NDP. I go back to the whip voting where they're just not able to bring forward these ideas. When we talk about local and the Interior, forest fires are absolutely intimately tied with forestry mismanagement practices.

Green Party MP Paul Manley, he brought forward a motion to halt old growth logging, this shouldn't be a big question, this should be easily supported, or, and if there's miswording in it, then another member should be able to come forward and reword and support this. But that's not happening.

We're not having that cross-party collaboration and that's where the Greens excel. We are able to bring forward ideas work across party lines and you see this again, with Green MP track records with co sponsoring bills, they are constantly co-sponsoring bills and seconding motions in order to move forward good legislation.

So if we want to talk about climate, we have to start talking about cross party collaboration. We have to bring forward a national caucus that's an arm's length from the government, and has representatives from the science community, youth and Indigenous leaders in order to really bring forward policy ideas that can once again be implemented because our MPs are able to work on them locally, and work on them together.

In the Interior, again, forestry is a big issue and so we have to halt those growths. We have to stop this and we have to review how we are managing our forests and this involves international trade agreements, that also involve local economies. But we have to start taking a stand and saying these things.

And as far as the heat dome goes, you know, this is hand in hand with climate change and it's devastating. I think it was 600 deaths occurred during the heat dome, I may be a little off on that number. This is just not acceptable and it's happening amongst our vulnerable populations. We have to realize the impacts on different populations and how climate is going to be impacting us locally and globally.

It is our Indigenous populations that are going to be typically in poverty, if we're senior populations that don't have air conditioning, or long term care homes, these are the people that are at greatest risk right now and we have to start taking care of them.

Q: How do you plan to work with Indigenous communities in the area and address their needs and concerns?

A: So in regards to truth and reconciliation and the [Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls], reconciliation has always been a huge core for me, and it's something that we all have to recognize is an internal process.

We can have federal government mandates which are needed right now and I will touch on that. But as individuals, we also have to take the independent responsibility to understand what colonization has done to people in this country. I'm really proud that the Green Party was the first federal party to support and endorse all calls from both the [Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls] and Truth and Reconciliation and it was a big reason for me joining that party as well.

When we look at local initiatives, again, it's working with the organizations that are here, like COINS (Circle of Indigenous Nations Society) and with our First Nations bands in this region. There's a number of overlapping and unseeded territories in this area and we have to work locally to address how they see reconciliation moving forward.

It's going to look different for every organization and for every nation, for our Metis communities as well. At the federal level, once again, we just have to recognize that there have been atrocities committed, health atrocities, social atrocities, economic atrocities, and we're still feeling those impacts.

Obviously, the unmarked graves havr raised this to a greater awareness to the general public. I'm really, actually happy because I've been on the doorsteps and people are asking you this question and I didn't get that in 2019. People didn't understand what reconciliation meant or why it was really important. So I'm really happy that I'm able to actually talk about it.

As a white settler, I feel I have a greater responsibility and I'm willing to take on that responsibility to help share and place that burden on myself, instead of placing it on our Indigenous populations. We need leaders to help share the information and that shouldn't be taken upon a First Nations or Indigenous person. It shouldn't be their burden of responsibility, it shouldn't be on them.

Q: Is there anything else you would like voters to know about you?

Just in general I'm really excited to be here. I really am. I've really enjoyed this process. I do firmly believe in democracy and I firmly believe in choice. We have to really start considering, where is your vote going and how is your voice being counted? Because I can be your voice and I can do that.

We need these strong voices in Parliament that can work across party lines. And so really consider has your voting strategy been working for you? And if not, it's time for change. It's time for the Green Party. It's time for myself as a green MP to bring forward your concern and your voice.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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