Oriana Ngabirano discusses her life experience around addiction issues, housing, and living in the community
This interview is part of our series of articles profiling the Ottawa-Vanier candidates in the upcoming federal election on Oct. 21. Each candidate was asked the same set of questions. Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Oriana Ngabirano was president of the Healthy Transportation Coalition in Ottawa, sat on the Board of Directors for the Vanier Community Service Centre, and recently ran for Ottawa’s city council.
The Fulcrum: What’s something you want your voters to know about you?
Oriana Ngabirano: I’m a woman. I’m a mother. I’m a member of the community. I’m basically them and me at the same time. So I live here, I breathe here, I work here, this is my environment. This is where I call home. So, I understand their reality and the best way to represent people is to understand their reality.
F: How do your background and past experiences make you qualified to be a federal MP?
ON: The first is lived experience with the issues that people are talking about. That’s Number 1.
Second, my background is actually communications and politics. I believe that the politician’s role is to be able to clearly communicate the vision, clearly engage and be able to exchange with the citizens and be able to understand what their issues and challenges are. It’s also to be able to build relationships with experts; technical experts and policy experts as well as different stakeholders in the community to be able to fix those challenges. So it’s people-relation skills, basically, and that takes good communication skills. I believe I have those qualifications for that position.
With regards to lived experience, what we’re talking about is addiction, homelessness, and when I say lived experience, it’s not to have lived in that position necessarily but to have worked with those cases. I’ve worked with several community health centres across the city, so I know those realities. I know the way they’re addressing it. I know what’s successful because I’ve been a part of that work, and also with crime prevention. I worked with community members on that and community associations. So, there are techniques and programs that have worked and I have witnessed them.
F: Why did you choose to run under your party?
ON: I always speak of prevention. Prevention is better than cure. There’s so much that can be done in the way that we budget things. We usually budget towards reaction and not prevention. We often budget for policing, for example, by giving them a budget increase when necessary because we need more and more when the prevention side is being done through social services, and social services are always fighting for an increase in their budget. It’s that mentality: instead of correcting after the harm is done, you have to prevent the harm, that’s the mentality that the Green Party has. When I decided that I wanted to run for this federal election last year, it’s what I was looking for: a party that speaks of prevention and puts that forward. In terms of the environment, I understand that we’re not in the prevention phase. We’re reacting because we’re getting too late.
F: What are your plans for improving this riding by use of federal powers?
ON: The guaranteed livable income is a priority. The number one issue in this riding is poverty, and the consequences of poverty are homelessness, health issues, and crime because people resort to desperate measures to make ends meet. The three that I just mentioned, you can see them just by walking down the street. It’s becoming flagrant. It’s becoming something that we need to address as an emergency and if a solution should be a pilot project or a measure that’s being put forward, I want this riding to be a priority. We have 15 per cent of the population of this riding using food banks. That’s a lot. So I think, this country, as rich as we are, this should never happen.
Economy-wise, my priority is bringing diverse companies and organizations to establish their offices in this riding so we can have not only service employment but also jobs with access to higher salaries and a higher standard of living. While addressing the job portion of my platform, I need to address the discrimination portion as well because a lot of people in this riding are immigrants and it’s important that we have proper integration in place. Proper integration means being welcoming, being able to understand the difference in cultures and being able to accept them for who they are. It’s a strength to have all that diversity in our community.
The third priority is the environment. It’s something that we talk about here locally and it’s waste management. I want to bring more responsibility to the manufacturers in the cycle of waste management. Knowing that they are responsible for the whole cycle will be a great incentive to help them produce products that are more respectful of the environment.
F: How will your plans address issues that affect young people and students?
ON: In the Green Party, one policy is free education, even for post-secondary education. And locally, for the youth in this riding, I want to encourage more incubators for startups. I think we need that in Ottawa, and it’s obvious that there’s a lot of space for new businesses. So I want to open that space and allow that entrepreneurship mindset for youth to have. I think that also goes to the engagement. If you show people that there are opportunities, there’s a future, there’s something to look forward to, and that the opportunities are so wide, it’s exciting and that triggers engagement into the community. Those are two priorities for me if we’re talking specifically about youth and students.
F: Any final statements?
ON: I love this riding and I am here to fight for this riding so that we can try together, and I believe that it’s the heart of the city. There’s a mix of people here: French, English, it’s very representative, I think, of Canada in general.
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The Fulcrum will be publishing Q&A’s from other candidates in the Ottawa-Vanier riding throughout the week. The Fulcrum reached out to the Conservative Party of Canada candidate, Joel Bernard, and the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada candidate, Christian Legeais, but neither responded to requests for an interview.