Ottawa-Vanier Conservative Party candidate speaks on youth employment, mental health, climate change and reconciliation
This interview is part of our series of articles 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.
Heidi Jenson is the Conservative party’s candidate in Ottawa-Vanier and is looking to defeat incumbent Mona Fortier and end the Liberal’s hold on the riding since its creation in 1935 (known at the time as Ottawa-East).
Jenson specializes in trademark clearance, protection, and enforcement. She has founded her own firm that specializes in protecting trademarks.
The Fulcrum: Why did you decide to run for the Conservative party?
Heidi Jensen (HJ): Most people don’t understand the true values of the Conservative Party, which I feel embody what is important to me. And one of them is direct community involvement in issues to make things better.
So the concept of big government: “the government knows best, the government makes the policies the government gives the money out.” The concept of small government doesn’t mean losing jobs, it means the government’s job is not to decide what’s best for people who need new housing. The best people to decide are the people who need housing, the people who work directly with those people, and then the people in the marketplace, contractors or whoever, who are going to provide them. So they’ll work together with government framework and funding. But we’re not the ones making this decision.
So I don’t know, personally, what the refugee who has landed in this country needs? I mean, I think I know that they need a place to live that’s safe. I know they need to be able to have a family. I don’t know exactly what they need, where would they best be? You know, where would they live, that’s the most suited for them, what type of counseling, the people who know are the ones who are working face to face with them on the ground. And so those are the people that need to get the funding and the empowerment with government oversight and collaboration, but not direction. And so that’s the concept of small government.
People don’t understand that part of conservative — they just think slash government jobs. That’s what small government is: government jobs. Small government means the people and the communities being involved in solving and addressing the problem with government assistance. So that’s for me why I’m running as a conservative.
The Fulcrum: Back in January 2020, the City of Ottawa declared a housing emergency. I want to know how you plan to work with municipal and provincial politicians on the housing crisis in the city of Ottawa?
HJ: So the housing crisis that we’re experiencing here is experienced all over. My son goes to Dalhousie University and in Halifax, it’s the same. And that’s for a few reasons: one, we legitimately do not have enough places for people to live for our population that’s grown. And two, there is a degree of foreign investment that is coming into this country, because that’s now the assets of the world is our physical right. And so countries who are well known for going and buying assets — and they’ve bought up London, they bought up Paris — Canada is now on their radar, and they’re buying up chunks of property around here, which is reducing the inventory.
With respect to housing, building new suburbs, four-bedroom houses for the nuclear family, out in the expanding areas of Ottawa and other places — that’s not going to help students or vulnerable populations and the homeless a bit at all. One of the things that is in our plan is looking at government-owned buildings, which are in every city, not just in Ottawa but everywhere. Most of them are underused, costing taxpayers money. They’re an old and environmental nightmare in terms of how they’re heated, etc… In collaboration with housing groups, student organizations, local community housing organizations, and the builders, who are going to have to go in and retrofit to make them livable as a home but also environmentally friendly we will look at maps and then establish which buildings are the ones that are on the table. Then the Student Housing and Community Housing groups might say, well, the one over here, not gonna work, and the contractors, this one’s not gonna work. So by process of elimination, and working to there, they will be able to identify, those places and then by bringing in environmentally friend infrastructure and people to work in them, which is going to create jobs, and help the environment, we will be able to turn those into places where students and people who need housing can live, and they exist already in every city.
The Fulcrum: The Conservative Party is proposing a boost in federal funding for mental health to provinces. I want to know if that includes any provisions for increasing services on post-secondary campuses.
HJ: It doesn’t expressly say that, no, and that’s because it’s a provincial jurisdiction. It doesn’t, but one of the things that is very delicate when you’re talking about money transfers, etc, is the idea that the federal government can dictate to the provincial governments the specific mental health areas they will address and within which regions, etc… But they can’t say that it’s going to be dedicated right to the students, but I can tell you that the conservatives recognize you guys are our future.
The Fulcrum: Many students and their parents relied financially on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) programs in the first year and a half of the pandemic. What would the future of those programs be under a conservative government?
HJ: Sure. So those were essential, right, no question, they’re essential, but their time has come. Businesses need people to be working to get themselves going.
In some ways, it feels like the pandemic was there and then all of a sudden, in many ways, we went back to a hundred. And businesses weren’t prepared, they weren’t staffed up. The conservative plan is to move from Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) to a direct support of employers to help pay so employers can afford to hire five people because they’re still making up for the lost money, etc. By phasing out CERB, they will top up the salaries. And there’s a sliding scale that’s detailed in our plan. So they will top off the salaries so that the parents and students can get back to work and get paid, because that’s what I believe, that most people just want to get back to work, if the jobs are there. You know, the fear is, well, if I get off, it’s going to be hard to get back on. We’re making sure that if something happens, and God forbid we have to go back into a lockdown, that getting back on it is going to be okay. So there’s a plan.
The Fulcrum: Even before the pandemic, for many university students and recent grads it was difficult to find work that leads to a career permitting them to enter the middle class. How do the conservatives plan to reduce unemployment for 20 to 30 demographic and help them find meaningful jobs after graduation?
HJ: So pandemic-wise, the government has said we are going to create a million jobs, the million jobs that were lost. But as you said, even before the pandemic, the quality jobs that you’ve studied for, and the industries, are not there. And that’s because we lack innovation in terms of how we’re going to support entrepreneurialism in this country. And our business practices are discouraging businesses from coming in and investing here.
So this government will remove red tape, for example, to allow investment into Canada, but they’re also going to support businesses like mine, that generate jobs and bring in wealth. This will help create more, we’ve got an educated population in this country, right, we speak both languages, which means we can communicate in business around the world. There’s no reason why we don’t have more private sector skilled jobs for people in all industries.
It’s because there’s a lack of business environment in this country. As I said, that’s one of the reasons I got into this.
The Fulcrum: On a constituency basis, what does climate action look like to you?
So we’ve got the big plans that are all articulated really well in our platform. But one of the things that is articulated in here that has an impact here in Ottawa is the dumping of raw sewage into our river. So if we have too much rain, they have no way to process the water: it gets dumped in the river.
Our plan would make that illegal, and would stop that. Now, that means you have to work and make sure there’s the infrastructure to get there. But we have the technology to do that in this country and in the world — it exists. We just haven’t put it in. Because we’re spending money on things that don’t have a real impact on our environment. I’m very tired of politicians talking about money, and they’re going to do it here. It all sounds good, and it never trickles down to results. So this is what we need, we need results. And so that’s an example of one thing that we would do here to make things better.
The Fulcrum: What is the Conservative Party’s plan to move to greener energies and divest from fossil fuels?
HJ: So there’s no question that that is the future, right? And there’s no question that it needs to happen. At the same time, as we’re taking advantage of the last few years that we have of being able to sell the oil — we have billions of dollars in the ground in this country that we are not using.
Instead, what we’re doing is we’re shipping it from countries like Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela, right, that have human rights issues, and bringing it over in the nightmare way of tankers, that is much more environmentally risky, than pulling it out of our own ground. And our industry out west is actually one of the leaders in the world in figuring out how to capture carbon that comes out of it with clean tech, but we never get a chance to do it. So while we use the money that we have in the ground to fund things that we need to fund socially, but also for the clean tech, we can do it, we are leaders, but we can’t use our technology, because we’re not allowed or able to get it out of the ground. There are countries in this [situation] that we can model ourselves after, like Norway, right. So Norway has used all its oil, and is at a point now where it’s used the money from the oil to say, we are no longer going to be investing in that, because we’ve managed to move away. But we haven’t done anything.
The Fulcrum: 2021 has been a tough year in terms of reconciliation with the Indigenous Peoples of Canada. I want to know how the conservatives plan to address reconciliation?
HJ: In my bio, I said the issues that are important to me are immigration, supporting refugees, and then the Indigenous issue, because we have been talking about this as a country for a long time. Now, my generation (X), we didn’t learn about it in school. The generation now (Z), they are learning about it. And it’s, it’s tough, it’s tough for people to be able to face the truth, what has happened in this country.
The discovery of those mass graves was a turning point. I really feel this turned for people because people could not look away, they could not deny it. And you know, you hear people saying, “oh, well, it was, you know, what the schools were for,” or whatever. Let’s just go back to the very basics: children were taken from their families. It’s every child’s worst nightmare. It’s every parent’s worst nightmare, what happened to those poor families.
We need to make some meaningful progress. This government made promises and they raised the hopes of our Indigenous people and they did not follow through.
We are going to approach things like the Indian Act, which is old and was constructed in a way that doesn’t work. So we can’t work with broken things: we have to work and start something new. And in our plan, we talk about, handing land titles over, it needs to happen, it’s going to be painful and difficult, but it needs to happen. Recognizing self-governments of different areas, the conservatives are absolutely prepared to start doing this. And it’s going there, there’s a lot of work ahead. But we have to start someplace and do something real. So we can move forward slowly and not give lip service, which is what’s happened over the past six years.
The Fulcrum: Why do you believe Erin O’Toole out of the four major party leaders would make the best Prime Minister?
HJ: So it’s interesting, because I have got to know Erin. So there’s two things that I rely on. I rely on what he’s done with his life before, you know, before this. And so what has he done? So he went to RMC, he was a disciplined student. And then he went and served this country for us. So he has seen what happened in Afghanistan, he’s seen it face to face. He got into politics after having a career and exposure to what happens in the real world and in Canada. And so I’m going to go back to the things that we’ve talked about, which are unless you’ve experienced it, unless you have either directly experienced it, or somebody very close to you experienced it, you really don’t understand what the issue is, and what’s involved. And that’s what we’re missing with our present Prime Minister right now.
The Fulcrum: Why do you think the voters of Ottawa-Vanier should vote for you?
HJ: I think that they should vote for me because this riding needs somebody who’s different. Who actually gets out there and meets people, right? I’ve been going door to door, people are surprised you’re the candidate, like yes, I’m the candidate. I’m going to work for you today. And I’m gonna work for you when I’m in government.
So this riding has had liberals as representatives for 170 years. Has there any been any improvement in the past six years, for example, in the way that people are, their livelihood, people have less money, they have more crime, they have more homelessness. So at some point, in any relationship, people start to get taken for granted If you just continue. And so I will not take it for granted.