Tara Howse is running for the Green Party in South Okanagan - West Kootenay. Photo: Campaign website

Tara Howse is running for the Green Party in South Okanagan - West Kootenay. Photo: Campaign website

Election 2021: Tara Howse — Green Party candidate for South Okanagan – West Kootenay

Howse is a founding member of the BC Climate Alliance

Unsure who to vote for? Want to know more about your local candidates? Black Press Media has you covered with profiles of the candidates for South Okanagan – West Kootenay. As election day nears, we will publish short profiles of each candidate who responds to our request. These will be published on a first-come-first-serve basis as soon as the candidate comes in for a video interview and completes our written Q&A. All written responses are straight from the candidate, with edits only for grammar and style.

Question 1

  • Given the size of the riding, and substantial differences in priorities among the communities, how will you balance and represent all of your constituents?

Howse:

While on the surface our riding may appear to have differences, on the doorsteps people are telling me the same thing: they’re concerned about forest fires and the increased likelihood of more if no actions are taken; that housing affordability and lack of housing are really impacting communities, both socially and for the workforce; and how COVID has truly revealed the gaps in our economic and social systems.

Solutions to these issues and the practical implications may look different — housing solutions in Penticton will differ from those in Burton and from those in Big White). This means we have to take a community-based approach that supports local governments, organizations, and businesses to define their needs.

We need to focus on listening to our constituents. What we can’t do is brush off and cite jurisdictional boundaries as an excuse to stick our heads in the sand: We must be having cross-governmental conversations. Forestry and resource extraction are not just a provincial issues. Everything from international trade agreements to local residents dealing with the aftermaths of watershed contamination or inhaling smoke from fires to all governments dealing with emergency management means we have to have cross-jurisdictional conversations.

Question 2

  • How will you address concerns by community members about how they see a revolving door in the judicial system benefiting prolific offenders? Do you feel there is a need for judicial reform and what will your party do to address that need?

Howse:

In order to address this question, we need to decide if the penal system is to punish or reform. To expect it to do both means that it will do neither properly. It is unreasonable to expect an offender to enter the system, do their time, and exit the system with a different mindset. In order to do any amount of significant time (over six months) requires multiple non-violent convictions over a number of years. A person in this situation is already well-ensconced in a criminal lifestyle and will need assistance in breaking that pattern. Current punishments do not address this during incarceration, nor are there significant attempts to assist post-incarceration.

It is easy to say that longer, harsher sentences will be beneficial, but that will do little to reduce the recidivism of prolific offenders. To change a lifestyle, an investment in supports to address root causes of mental health, addictions, and poverty need to be supplied. Addressing systemic racism in the entire judicial system needs to occur.

We cannot wait until they are prolific, genuine assistance needs to occur prior to criminality becoming a lifestyle. Punishment without previous attempts to reform is plain cruelty.

Question 3

  • If there is a bill that is supported by other members of your party, but is one that you feel will be detrimental to your constituents, will you vote your conscience against it?

Howse:

Yes — my job is to represent constituents, not be a Party leader lap dog or toe a Party line. As a Green MP, I am constitutionally bound to represent you, not just parrot the leader: we are not whipped. Party whips’ powers need to be minimized and likely eliminated.

Green MPs all have a set of core values we follow but due to the decentralized nature of the Green Party, we can focus on our local riding, constituents, and use independent and creative thought.

We are not bound to blindly follow directives from headquarters or a leader. We are expected to work across party lines to focus on implementing good legislation. Green MPs routinely co-sponsor and second motions from other parties. We are the only party to provide questions in advance to Ministers during question period to ensure real and substantive answer, not play “gotcha politics”.

Question 4

  • How do you plan to lead this riding out of the COVID-19 pandemic? Do you support the implementation of a proof of vaccination program or mandatory vaccinations?

Howse:

COVID has revealed massive gaps in our social and economic systems, including such horrifying stories from privatized long-term care facilities. We need a rehaul of how we envision Canadian economies and communities.

One area to start with is addressing the massive subsidies being given to large corporations (including COVID relief bailouts) and the fossil fuel industry. Green Party MP Paul Manly’s long-term care pricing motion was accepted by Parliament and priced out. It would cost approximately $13 billion to improve the long-term care system. The TransMountain pipeline cost is presently at $12.5 billion. For me, the answer is clear: providing dignity to seniors is paramount over-investing in dated ideals of energy use that will become obsolete soon and not provide any long-term security to our emerging workforce.

Vaccines are an important tool in combatting COVID and I encourage and support people to get them, there are populations (e.g, Indigenous, queer communities, low income, rural) who are not or have not been able to get a vaccine, some historically oppressed with legitimate concerns of the health authorities. Instead of top-down approaches, we need to provide supports to local and public health organizations to increase access and outreach.

Question 5

  • What do you feel is the most important issue in your riding, and how would you address it?

Howse:

Housing — everything comes back to housing. Vulnerable populations need safe, secure housing. Seniors need to live with dignity. The workforce needs rentals. Young Canadians need affordable housing options. Disaster events cause housing displacements.

The National Housing Strategy was a first and welcome step but this is now a national crisis level that affects the whole population. Housing is being borne on the backs of volunteers right now and local governments are feeling the costs and workloads. We need to address foreign ownership policies; empty homes; Air BnBs; allow mortgages on tiny homes; align funding with provincial energy codes; provide real supports to homeowners to improve energy efficiencies in their house to shift from fossil fuels; support cooperative and cohousing models; and address root causes of disaster events, such as climate change and industrial forestry and agricultural activities.

Rural areas face greater complications due to unserviced land plus greater distances mean increased costs; no major developers to take on capital risks; competitive labour environment; supply chain issues; fewer staff to assist in navigating the various systems; local infrastructure constraints (e.g., water; septic); and the need to have mixed-use and inter-generational housing for lower population densities.

Election 2021federal election