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Milton Mayor stands with Liberal candidate during campaign office opening

By Ryan O’Dowd: Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

August 23rd, 2021

MILTON, ON

 

Things are changing in Milton.

Gord Krantz was a Conservative from the moment he drew his first breath a long long time ago. His next election will be his 21st.

Last week he stood beside Liberal candidate Adam Van Koeverden Main Street and said:

Milton Mayor Gordon Krantz standing with Liberal candidate Adam Van Kouverden during the opening of the campaign office.

“People are probably well aware I do not need a microphone, I have a built-in one. And of course I’ll be turning my microphone over to Adam in just very few moments. When Adam invited me here I accepted his invitation without any hesitation whatsoever. And one of the main reasons is just to say thank you for putting your name forward to run for public office, such as Adam has.

“This job is not easy. He goes around knocking on doors to find out what people are thinking. Hopefully most of it is good, some not and I’m well aware of that. Now, how do I know that my last election was my 21st election? ”

“Adam and I work well together” said Krantz. And if that isn’t an endorsement – then just what is an endorsement?

When Van Koeverden got the microphone he spoke about pandemic recovery in the form of his Sports for All Initiative, how Canada can afford $10 a day child care, where Erin O’Toole and the Conservatives really stand on abortion, mental health, and a disputed bill to ban conversion therapy.

One of the main reasons Van Koeverden got involved in public service he said “was to champion physical activity and recreation”. To those who know him as an Olympic Gold medalist this comes as little surprise. He cited this inspiration speaking about his new Community Sports for All Initiative which invests $80 million to help communities with the lowest sports participation recover from the pandemic. Van Koeverden’s focus on sport and activity is not to groom his kayaking successor – the Liberal candidate’s primary concern is health: physical and mental.

Adam Van Koeverden opening his campaign office on Main Street in Milton.

“Sport, physical activity and recreation represent physical health, mental health, social cohesion, and development. I’m not pushing competitive sport, I’m not pushing for more high-performance sport funding. What I’m pushing for is a change to how and why we fund sport in Canada, and that’s to achieve better health outcomes for Canadians. Sports are expensive in Canada.
“There are numerous barriers between access to physical activity and people, and it’s my obligation as an Olympic athlete as a champion for sport, and as a legislator to ensure that those opportunities to live your healthiest life, to learn physical literacy, and to develop, are universally available,” said Van Koeverden.

COVID-19 hit the entire sports and recreation sector hard. Van Koeverden cited “devastating” research from Canadian Tire Jumpstart indicating at least one of the four young women and girls involved in sport will not be returning post-pandemic, a figure representing 365,000 young women and girls. The study acknowledged lower but significant figures for boys as well.

While Adam Van Koeverden is not shy when it comes to talking about his Olympic achievements – and they were substantial – he is sincere about the need to introduce more sports activity at all age levels but especially young people.

Studies have shown youth have been at high risk of experiencing poor mental health during the pandemic, particularly relating to concerns about social ties. Mounting mental health issues and loss of prime developmental years demand a return to normalcy, and Van Koeverden suggests available community sport would play a part.

The program also focuses on inclusivity with Van Koeverden mentioning safe environments for racialized groups, LGBTQ plus groups, Indigenous youth, and people living with disabilities as a priority.

Van Koeverden tied $10 a day child care to pandemic recovery as well, and when pressed on expenses the Milton incumbent insisted the program pays for itself.

“It’s so important that women get back to work, and if they can get back to work by knowing that their little ones are in early learning and childcare programs which are good for their social development, good for their education and also affordable, and that’s a win-win-win. Programs like this pay for themselves because when women get back to work the economy benefits.

“COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted certain groups, that’s women, that’s racialized, that’s LGBTQ plus individuals, that’s lower-income families who were struggling before the pandemic, it’s small businesses and restaurant owners who haven’t been able to serve a meal in almost a year and a half. It’s been challenging, but our government’s been there for people who needed a helping hand, we’ve listened and we’re addressing any gaps found in our programs,” said Van Koeverden.

The Liberal candidate accused Conservative leader Erin O’Toole of “talking out of both sides of his mouth” on abortion. Van Koeverden acknowledges that while O’Toole may vote pro-choice himself he still needs support from the Campaign For Life Coalition, and other anti-abortion groups. Asserting it’s irrelevant if O’Toole is personally pro-choice if 81 of his MPs aren’t and a vote for O’Toole is a vote against pro-choice, regardless of where the federal candidate stands himself.

There was a time when we didn’t talk about these issues – today they are front and centre – but the divide between the political ideologies is still far too wide.

“O’Toole needs to stand up and say clearly that his party will not allow for any legislation that restricts access to women’s reproductive rights, women across the country need to hear that from them. There’s a lot of women who are considering voting Conservative but want to know that their rights, to safe and available abortion, will not be restricted. And we’re seeing it in New Brunswick where clinics are being closed and access is restricted.

“It’s not an all or nothing thing, just because O’Toole voted on a pro-choice level a couple of times to demonstrate that he’s pro-choice there’s a lot of gray area, and the gray area is going to far-right groups and social conservative groups to ask for their support and to tell them that he’ll act in their best interest, he’s talking outside of both of his both sides of his mouth,” Van Koeverden said.

Van Koeverden said he’s happy to hear conservatives talking about mental health but condemns more than half their caucus voting against a bill to ban conversion therapy as hypocritical.

“I’m a huge advocate for mental health and more funding for mental health, but they’re very selective about who gets these mental health services, because any conservative that voted against Bill C-6, which is a bill to make conversion therapy, and I don’t even like to use the word therapy because it’s not therapy, gay people don’t require therapy, they require love, what’s missing in that equation is compassion and empathy, and support, so they don’t feel like they’ve got to change.

The lasting impact of the pandemic will be the damage done to mental health. The first big step is accepting that people suffering from mental health issues are sick – not weak, and they need treatment.

“If any Conservative MP voted against Bill C-6, and then spoke up in the house about mental health services that is a very very clear contradiction and indicates they’re hypocrites because the group that is most vulnerable to things like suicide are disenfranchised LGBTQ plus youth who don’t have the support of their families and feel like outcasts in society. And those youth, and especially the youth who have been subjected to the horrible and horrendous practice of conversion practices, those youth are disproportionately likely to try to commit suicide. So if we’re going to be putting a five-point plan together as the leader of the Conservative Party has, and one of those pillars is to talk about mental health, I welcome that, but I say, mental health for everybody, not just people who vote Conservative. Especially groups that are disproportionately impacted by mental health issues and aren’t supported in many groups in society,” said Van Koeverden.

Bill C-6 on conversion therapy has been contentious, when the bill was debated Conservatives who voted against Bill C-6 asserted their issue was with the definition of conversion therapy. Many Conservative objectors began by stating they support banning conversion therapy but not the proposed legislation. For their part, Liberal members suggested they had been open to re-write the definition but the Conservatives had stalled and functionally squandered that opportunity.

O’Toole voted for Bill C-6 and his platform proposes to re-introduce legislation to ban conversion therapy with the amendment that the ban does not criminalize non-coercive conversations which addresses unclear language the Conservatives objected to.

Bill C6 amends the Criminal Code to, among other things, create the following offences:

(a) causing a person to undergo conversion therapy without the person’s consent;
(b) causing a child to undergo conversion therapy;
(c) doing anything for the purpose of removing a child from Canada with the intention that the child undergo conversion therapy outside Canada;
(d) promoting or advertising an offer to provide conversion therapy; and
(e) receiving a financial or other material benefit from the provision of conversion therapy.

It also amends the Criminal Code to authorize courts to order that advertisements for conversion therapy be disposed of.

Speaking to the public, Van Koeverden spoke about being there for his neighbors focusing on COVID-19 response, work done within the Region of Halton, and climate change as a top priority.

“I have a youth committee and they would never let me forget about climate change,” said Van Koeverden.

Adam Van Koeverden takes a selfie with part of his campaign team

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