Ottawa-Vanier Green party candidate speaks on importance of community building, guaranteed affordable living, and meaningful consultation with Indigenous peoples.
This interview is part of the Fulcrum’s series profiling the Ottawa-Vanier candidates for the upcoming federal election on Sept. 20. Candidates were asked questions based on the issues and concerns of University of Ottawa students. Answers have been edited for length and clarity. The inclusion of opinions expressed by candidates in this series are not endorsements by the Fulcrum.
Christian Proulx is the Green Party’s candidate for Ottawa-Vanier. The father of three has always been involved in his riding’s community in some capacity, whether that be as a scout leader, coaching hockey, or enjoying his current pastime, softball.
Proulx is a plumber by trade, and has been a supervisor of plumbing and piping for the past twelve years. His first project was for the University of Ottawa’s science building in 1991.
The Fulcrum: What compelled you to run, and why did you choose the Green Party?
Christian Proulx (CP): What compelled me to run is just that going through my work experience, I’ve developed a different approach at work where it’s like, I’m not the boss, they’re not my subordinates, we’re coworkers, and we just have different responsibilities. And that’s the kind of approach that I find is lacking [in federal politics].
Everybody always seems to want to elevate themselves. It’s not really about that. I’ve been asked, ‘how do I prove that I’m not in it for myself?’ Seriously? I’m close to retirement, I can have a cushy retirement… but I know there’s something missing, and I have a way of contributing.
I joined the Green Party, because I’ve been a member since 2006 — it best represents my values about working together, about what is important. Personally, I find what is important is the individuals. We should all be treated equally, and be treated on the same level playing field. I’m really focused on communities and the neighbourhood approach — [if] you start small, and everybody starts small everywhere, then the combination of all the efforts add up to something big.
The Fulcrum: How do students stand to benefit from the Green Party platform and you as a representative?
CP: I think it’s society’s responsibility to educate your population. And it should be free or close to free, as much as possible for education.
I find education should be more focused. And it starts at an earlier age. If we want to stay on the topic of post-secondary education, I went to Algonquin College, back in the day. The fees were much lower back then, it was a lot more feasible for anybody to join. And I found that when they focused on getting student loans, then that just increased the fees.
The Fulcrum: Many students and their parents were recipients of CESB and CERB. Could you tell me what the ideal future of those programs would be for the Green Party?
CP: I’m a strong proponent of guaranteed livable income. If you have a guaranteed livable income, it gives you protection to shocks like we just had in the pandemic. We would already have had a safety net in place.
So I look at it in the view that if your basic needs are looked after — and basic needs, is not just about having food. It’s about having access to anything that would help you to develop and to become a participant in the overall economy and the overall system that we have. It’s mainly about being a participant.
The Fulcrum: Due to the pandemic, it has been very difficult for recent university grads to find employment. How does the Green party plan to reduce unemployment for the 20 to 30 year old post-secondary educated demographic?
CP: Well right now, because of the system we have and the conditions we’re living in, you help those most in need. A longer-term solution would be to focus more on the community, on a 15-minute neighbourhood. The neighbourhood, the community that you live in, within a 15-minute distance, it’s a place where you can work, you can play, we can live.
The livable part of this is important too, because if you have restaurants or local pubs within your community that you can walk to, it gives you the community spirit, and then you’re supporting your local economy, and that’s where the jobs would come up. And the jobs are within where you live. So it gives better access to jobs, if it’s spread out within the community.
I think it’s about the community focus… but the plan goes with a guaranteed living income also for the current time, and it’s prioritizing the needs of the ones that need the most, right now. It’s not necessarily blanket policies for everywhere.
The Fulcrum: In January 2020, the City of Ottawa declared a housing emergency. Rideau-Vanier is arguably the riding that has been hit the hardest by the lack of affordable housing. How do you plan on working with local politicians to create more affordable housing?
CP: Well, for one thing, is that there is a plan in place and that’s Housing First.
Housing First means that first of all, you provide a home for everyone. It could be a hotel room just to start. And you have four days to assess a person to see what services their needs require, whether it be addiction, mental health, or physical health services.
If you put [homeless people] all in shelters, the only thing around them is desperation, and people in the same situation, it’s not going to help them to get out. [Housing First] has been successful, where it’s been tried with a lot of success in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, and many cities in the States also. And this approach is not dependent on care. Hotels within the community, or maybe someone opens up a room — you could even compensate these people that are willing to take them in almost as a shelter.
And then you do that until you find a permanent place for the person. And so that way, when they’re ready to be housed on their own while they’re ready to take on and take care of themselves on their own, also, so there’s less of a likelihood of them to fall back into the same trap that they were in.
And then the second prong is working towards prevention. So you help the homeless before they become homeless. You don’t wait until homelessness is a problem before you do something about it. It’s pretty basic. We’ve applied that everywhere in our lives. It’s funny how sometimes the solutions are very simple, it is just about the willingness to take them on.
The Fulcrum: How does the Green Party plan to address and prioritize reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous peoples?
CP: Well, first and foremost, without reservation, you accept every [Indigenous] recommendation. You implement that right away. This is based on human rights, human rights were a Canadian ideal, to begin with. It’s ridiculous to think that we still have trouble with reconciliation today. It’s so obvious, the harm and the trauma that we caused in the past. It is time to bring it forward and you need meaningful consultation.
It’s about all working together. Indigenous people are experts in sustainability. They lived sustainably for thousands of years prior to us arriving here. They have a certain experience and what we need to do is to modernize that experience.
You have to offer equal opportunity, everywhere. And I think the biggest idea you can focus on is that a person is a person. We all have the same basic needs. And we need to take that approach. As I said, it may seem really simple, but oftentimes, it is that simple. We were all part of the same system.
The Fulcrum: Additionally, how will the Green Party seek and be mindful of Indigenous consultation when it comes to environmental protection?
CP: Well, meaningful consultation is a nation-to-nation consultation. It’s the system of nations, it’s not the political system that we have, that they’ve adopted, which is ‘our way of doing things.’ Politicians can be planted there just to go after their own causes. They’re just there to focus on the needs of whoever put them there and not invest in some of the people themselves. The Indigenous system of representation, it’s homegrown. They were born into it, grew up into it, so they have that wisdom. So it’s meaningful consultation, but nation to nation, not “well, we consulted them.”
The Fulcrum: Finally, why do you think constituents in Ottawa-Vanier should vote for you?
CP: I’m a strong proponent of taking a simple approach. I’m focused on just getting some work done, and getting the job done. If you’re spending your time or self-promoting online, when do you find the time to actually do any work?
And when you say you consult your neighbours, or you know, ‘I consulted my constituents,’ it’s not your neighbour across the street or the one next door. Ottawa-Vanier is so varied — we have Beacon Hill, Rockcliffe Park, the Market area… they all have different needs and different backgrounds. So you got to represent the entire riding.
I’m very much a people person, I look for solutions that are in the best interest of everyone, and that will be sustainable. It’s not about the issues of the day, it’s about building a solid foundation. If your foundation is crumbling, the house is coming down… So you build the foundation. That’s my approach.