SPIN will be highlighting each of the major party’s candidates ahead of the 2021 federal election. Questions were composed with the help of you, the readers. Voting day is Sept. 20 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and can be done at the Sun Peaks Grand hotel in Sun Peaks.
More on how to vote can be read by clicking here.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
SPIN: What is your connection to or knowledge of Sun Peaks and do you feel issues affecting rural and remote communities like Sun Peaks in the Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo region are reflected in your platform? How will you ensure rural issues aren’t overlooked in Ottawa?
Jesse McCormick: My family [and I], we presently reside in Sun Peaks, we have been up here for a little while. We’re in the housing market in the Kamloops area and have been for nine or 10 months now. Sun Peaks is where we [are] for the moment but we’re spending an extraordinary time up here in Sun Peaks enjoying the trails, enjoying the people, the restaurants, the lifestyle, the market, everything Sun Peaks has to offer. It’s beautiful to spend time here. And actually, my wife’s great uncle, around the turn of the century, had a ranch in Whitecroft. He was from the White family and he died when he went out on his horse one day to tend to the ranch, his horse came back and he didn’t. He was found a few days later and had unfortunately been mauled by a bear.
In terms of the rural effect, I’m originally from a small rural community I was raised in the middle of a bunch of cornfields and from that experience I’ve learned to love and appreciate all that rural life has to offer in terms of communities, solidarity, the value of working with your hands and the soil, the energy that goes into making community events happen, and helping to build a strong sense of community through that. [I’ve] always been appreciative of the opportunity to spend time in rural spaces; I’m also a hunter, a fisherman [and I] spend time on the land.
I am First Nations, and do my best to participate in ceremonies and other activities that are really connected with the place, with land. Being in a rural spot it’s often much easier to do those types of things, than it is to do those things when you’re in an urban space. So I love rural spaces; [I] plan to raise my children in rural space. And my wife Brandi was an emergency physician at Royal Inland. Similarly, she’s from Lillooet [and] grew up on the side of a mountain in Texas Creek. [we’re a] very rural couple.
In terms of rural issues in the plan, I think the Liberal Party platform is for everyone. It’s certainly reflected, rural issues are captured, some of the issues that are pertinent to all Canadians: affordability, housing, the need for better services and quality of life, our commitments around fighting climate change, and reconciliation often have a significant rural dimension. But, we’ve also had some specific rural commitments and one of the ones that really stands out to me is increasing forgiveness that we put in place for medical professionals to help encourage them. And by forgiveness, I mean forgiveness of student loans to help encourage them to set up their practice. That helps to ensure that we have adequate medical services for rural communities where they need the most.
We have created a universal broadband fund to connect rural communities to high speed internet. With quality internet we can have more effective businesses, kids can participate in school, it brings a lot of benefits to rural communities. We’ve built community centers, recreation centers in 97 rural communities across Canada. And I think we’re very much dedicated to continuing to invest in strong economic development for rural communities through Canada’s regional development agencies, continuing to put money into helping to ensure that rural economies are thriving.
SPIN: Our readers have told us they are interested in combating climate change , and have raised issues regarding stopping the Trans Mountain pipeline, dealing with wildfires and a transition to net-zero emissions. How would you address these concerns in our riding?
Jesse McCormick: I was previously the director of policy and Indigenous relations to the honorable Catherine McKenna, the former minister of [environment] and climate change. Approximately one month after she represented Canada at the convention of the parties to sign onto the Paris Agreement, I joined her office in Ottawa and supported her in relation to major project infrastructure decisions, Indigenous relations, and in helping to advance the fight on climate change.
During our time in that work, I was helping and supporting work that she and other colleagues in the office we’re doing to set in place a price on carbon which is well accepted to be the most effective means of influencing individual behaviour to choose less carbon intensive outcomes for society. We implemented a clean fuel standard, we changed the federal environmental assessment processes to require mandatory consideration of climate impacts and we helped to establish the Indigenous peoples and local communities platform as part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC. That helps to ensure that Indigenous people specifically have a voice in the international discussions around climate change and solutions that we need to address: transitioning to a low carbon economy, adaptation mitigation and all the other elements that we need to take on community work to fight climate change.
So with that, I’m confident that out of all the candidates in Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo in this election, I have the most experience and knowledge in relation to fighting climate change. And I think that experience matters, and I encourage readers to put their confidence in someone who has the ability to walk in Ottawa on day one and have an impact. I am one of only 35 candidates across the country who have been recognized as an environmental leader by GreenPAC, which is a nonpartisan independent organization that utilizes a panel of experts to assess which candidates across the 338 ridings in the country are most likely to have a positive impact on environmental policies.
SPIN: The tourism industry has been significantly impacted by the pandemic; Sun Peaks businesses are understaffed due to a reduction in temporary foreign workers and facing steep declines in revenue. What is something you would do for these businesses in Ottawa?
Jesse McCormick: Well, first off [I want to give] my confidence and appreciation to everyone who’s been working hard to keep businesses afloat and functioning during the pandemic. We’ve faced an extraordinary set of challenges here in Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo, both in the form of wildfires, smoke, but also in responding to the pandemic, which is one of the most significant crisis we’ve faced.
Businesses, especially small businesses, were significantly impacted by public health measures requiring limitations on visiting venues, on workers coming to work, on doing business as they needed to do. The Liberal government took immediate steps following the outbreak of the pandemic to provide the necessary supports to Canadians in the form of income support, workers support, caregiver support, supports for individuals who were sick and all of that was designed to ensure that recognizing we were going to face a challenging economic time as we came out of it, we would come out stronger and better. And recent job numbers have shown that we’ve returned 92 per cent of jobs [compared] to pre-pandemic levels. We’re seeing those investments have the fruit of a strong economy, on the tail end, hopefully.
With relation to how do we support small businesses, how do we continue to ensure that they’re well placed to benefit from tourism here in Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo? We need to continue to make things competitive. I was pleased when, in the last mandate, the Liberal government reduced the small business tax bracket. We also need to ensure that as a priority we’re fighting climate change. It becomes a less desirable vacation location when we are all stuck indoors because of smoke from wildfires, or climate change has resulted in temperatures that are not comfortable from participating in the outdoor activities that people from Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo love to participate in. So, we need to take the necessary steps now to fight climate change, so that we’re helping to respond to these impacts [and] create a better future for Canadians and for businesses here.
SPIN: Affordable housing is a major issue in Sun Peaks. Development is ongoing but that doesn’t necessarily mean minimum wage workers can afford standard living situations. Does your party have a platform on this issue and how would you like to see it implemented in a place like Sun Peaks?
Jesse McCormick: Affordable housing is an issue across the country and it’s something that is reflected in the Liberal Party of Canada platform in our values and in our commitments to Canadians. In order to effectively address the challenge for affordability, and as I mentioned earlier, my family are among those trying to secure affordable housing within Kamloops, we’re looking for a place to live or purchase. We’re first time homebuyers and we’re facing significant challenges in terms of being able to purchase a property, enormous amount of competition for very low supply. In order to address the challenges in housing, we need to do two things. One is [to] make life more affordable for Canadians, and two, we need to increase supply. The Liberal Party of Canada has the plan to do both of those things for those things, for those under 40 we’re proposing a new investment vehicle that will help them to save the necessary money to make a down payment on a home. We’re also looking at measures to increase the stock of housing supply that means [implementing] an accelerator program through more supply being built. And we’re helping Canadians to continue to see opportunities to purchase homes by contributing generally to affordability.
SPIN: What would you like Sun Peaks voters to know about you?
Jesse McCormick: I am very proud to be raising my children here in Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo. My wife is a local emergency physician and like many families here, we love the outdoors. We love the experience of this beautiful place we live in. But, we’re very alive to the opportunities to improve lives in the Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo. I‘m First Nations, I’m very dedicated to reconciliation and advancing and improving lives of Indigenous Peoples in Canada. I am very much focused on environmental protection and climate change. And I believe that we can build a stronger economy by helping to ensure training and support for trades people and everyone who’s working to build a better country to ensure that we have a thriving local economy.