Richard Cannings is running for the NDP in South Okanagan - West Kootenay. Photo: Campaign website

Election 2021: Richard Cannings — NDP candidate for South Okanagan – West Kootenay

Cannings is the incumbent in the riding

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?


Three generations of my family have graduated from Penticton’s high school and I married into a family with equally deep roots in the Kootenay – Boundary. I have spent my life advocating for our region and the past six years as MP have been a privilege, allowing me to further understand our businesses, organizations and individuals.

My existing relationships and networks will ensure my next four years as MP will be focused and effective. Yes, our riding is large, but our communities share similar concerns — housing, climate change, the opioid crisis and affordability. Balancing priorities is not difficult as many of the concerns have solutions that help everyone.

Supporting innovations in our forest and industrial sector in the Kootenays helps to address the concerns of those fighting our climate emergency. Advocacy for the agricultural sector in the South Okanagan – West Kootenay helps sustain our larger economic health. Childcare advocacy helps businesses everywhere. For the past two years, the NDP held the balance of power and we punched well above our weight to push for the supports Canadians needed during the pandemic. I can best represent our region as Jagmeet Singh and I do not answer to the powerful. We fight for the people.

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?


The crime level in our communities is unacceptable.

Everyone has the right to feel safe, to know their property is safe and their businesses are safe. It may feel good to call for tougher penalties, but best practice has shown us the “lock ‘em up” approach does not work. We need to address the root causes of crime.

I have spent countless hours engaging with individuals, businesses, police and policy makers. There is consensus — crime in our communities is overwhelmingly caused by drug addiction. I have long advocated for the decriminalization of small amounts of drugs. We need to provide a safe supply of medically regulated alternatives to poisoned street drugs.

Revolving doors of prolific offenders relates to those with addiction almost always being granted bail due to their medical circumstances. We need to treat addiction like the medical problem it is and not a criminal one. We need more rehabilitation spaces and more mental health supports. RCMP are understaffed, underpaid and morale is low. The federal government needs to play a positive role in increasing wages for RCMP to recruit officers into training. It is clear that what we’re doing now is not working. We need change.

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?


Of course I would, but in six years I have never come across that problem.

The NDP values and my values are shared by most of our country. We are always fighting for what is best for Canadians. I got into politics to work across partisan divides. I feel I have the trust of this region to act with integrity on their behalf. I know there are folks in our riding that don’t agree with me on all issues.

Gun control is one. National viewpoints on gun control often come from an urban perspective, but we live in a rural riding with different concerns. I continually bring the concerns of rural gun owners to my caucus meetings. I don’t always agree but I want to make sure the voices of my constituents are heard. Those conversations frame how NDP policy is made.

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?


Vaccinations are the best tool we have to end this pandemic.

I support proof of vaccination programs to keep businesses and schools open and not go backwards to more restrictions. Everyone should have the right to choose whether or not to be vaccinated, but if they choose not to get vaccinated, they should realize that some of these restrictions may not be lifted for them until enough people have been vaccinated overall.

We all want to put this behind us and protect our exhausted health care workers and our vulnerable loved ones. The best way to do that is for enough people to get vaccinated. But the pandemic has exposed cracks in our health care system and we cannot just return to how things were.

From the neglect of seniors in long-term care, to the lack of affordable childcare, decades of Liberal and Conservative cuts have left us all vulnerable. Meanwhile, billionaire wealth has gone up $78 billion during the pandemic. The super-wealthy need to pay their fair share with a one per cent wealth tax for those with assets over $10 million.

The cost of our recovery should not be on the backs of those that have struggled so much.

Question 5

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


I got into politics to be a voice of science in Ottawa while fighting the climate emergency we’re facing. Though this battle is always top of mind and dominates all my advocacy and decision-making, another crisis is impacting our riding in such significant ways.

Finding affordable housing is the top concern I hear from my constituents — young families can’t afford new homes, no-one can find rentals and businesses are struggling to find workers because there is no place for them to live. Consecutive Conservative and Liberal governments got out of the affordable housing game 30 years ago, leaving us half a million units behind.

The NDP will bring us back to where we should be with 500,000 units of rental, cooperative and social housing while also fighting for immediate rent relief. We will commit federal lands for affordable housing and work with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to purchase affordable rental housing to keep rents low. We will implement a 20 per cent levy on home purchases from wealthy foreign speculators who drive up the housing market. By ending this free ride for the ultra-rich, we can fight the housing crisis and help ensure everyone has a safe, affordable home.

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