In the six-way race that will soon decide who is sent to the House of Commons representing Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing, Christian Heritage Party candidate Clarence Baarda brings years of political, business and community experience to the voters.
As a side note, on the current hot button issue of vaccine campaigns, Baarda says his family has been vaccinated for COVID-19.
That said, he feels the COVID-19 vaccine issue is one of informed personal choice. "It seems to be good to travel and interact with people, you can't argue with that," said Baarda.
The general election will take place on Sept. 20.
As to the advantages of political incumbency and the fact that New Democrat MP Carol Hughes is seeking her fifth term in the riding on voting day, "I don't know if she's got anything new to bring forward for the NDP," Baarda says.
Shifting gears, Baarda commented on the price and affordability of housing, "We are concerned about the shortage of housing and, of course, we look at the price of building products."
To produce more affordable housing, CHP advocates a reduction of foreign purchases of Canadian homes, businesses and farmlands.
The party wants to strengthen the family unit, which it says would cut the divorce rate, thus reducing the necessity for one family maintaining two homes. The CHP also advocates for making stay-at-home parenting more affordable.
As a long-time northern Ontario resident, Baarda has some observations about people living here, particularly those in Algoma.
"We respect each other more, especially First Nations people," he noted.
That said, he has a number of regrets on the state of First Nations communities among us. "The intent seems to be there, but nothing has really changed. There are still more First Nations children in foster homes, more than 50 per cent, and that needs to be corrected. First Nations children are only a fraction of the population. They should not be torn from the parents who care for them."
He continued, "Their parents have problems that need to be addressed. That's one of the big issues where the First Nations need to be helped. First Nations families suffer from discrimination and yet they were the First People here. Now we're telling them what to do and how to raise children. They can do that best themselves. That's one thing I wouldn't be worried about."
CHP policy states the Indian Act must be replaced with new legislation to recognize prior occupancy by Canada's First Peoples.
Also needed are restitution where appropriate and reconciliation resulting in full First Nations participation in Canadian life, according to the CHP.
Baarda also feels that seniors in the north need more support than their counterparts in other parts of the country, especially in cities where the cost of living is generally higher than in smaller centres.
The CHP contender also stresses the importance of making changes in the way that opioid abuse is dealt with by the health care system, law enforcement and the judiciary.
Baarda narrows his focus down down through his own experience as an adoptive parent of First Nations children.
"We need to work on less discrimination for Native children. We have two First Nations children who are adopted, so I know exactly what the people are going through."
Baarda is challenging five other candidates in the race for the MP's seat in Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing, including Ms. Hughes.
The other contenders are Conservative candidate John Sagman, Green Party candidate Stephen Zimmermann, PPC candidate Harry Jaaskelainen, and Liberal Duke Peltier.