Hitting the campaign trail is nothing new for Yasir Naqvi. On June 12 the Liberal incumbent, who has held his seat for the last seven years, is up for reelection for a third term as MPP for Ottawa Centre. During his time in office he has focused on community healthcare and neighbourhood safety. Xtra chatted with Naqvi at his campaign office in Hintonburg about the issues and what he will focus on if reelected. Here’s what he had to say.
Naqvi was a strong supporter of Bill 13 and remains a supporter of GSAs in both name and practice. “What name a group should be called is totally up to the students,” he says. “We know that peer-to-peer support helps reduce incidences of bullying [and] creates that supportive environment.”
Despite the strides made by Bill 13, he says it’s important to remain vigilant and to continue to work with schools to make sure they remain supportive of their students. “We need to continue to do more education, more awareness, make sure that people recognize that we must and we shall respect all students, and it’s our responsibility to ensure that students are protected.”
As far as a single-stream public school board in Ontario, he says he doesn’t get the sense from constituents that it’s a pressing concern. “What parents are talking to me about and what students are talking to me about is they want to make sure that their schools are in good shape,” he says. “They want to make sure that there is more green space for younger children, in particular, around their schools. They’re talking about smaller class sizes; they’re talking about having good, quality teachers and education support workers in our schools.”
“I think part and parcel of having a good learning environment is making sure that schools are safe places for students to learn. Schools should be places where they are free from harassment, free from discrimination, free from any kind of bullying.”
Naqvi says his time on the board of the Centretown Community Health Centre helped him understand the issue of harm reduction and some of the ways it can be implemented in Ottawa. “[I] worked very closely with Centretown Community Health Centre and Somerset West Community Health Centre making sure that back in 2007 when the City of Ottawa stopped funding harm-reduction programs that we got provincial funding so that we could continue those programs,” he says.
He says harm-reduction measures also save millions of dollars for the healthcare system. “The key always is to have the right partnerships, to make sure that we are working with community health centres, make sure that we’re working with public health units, make sure we’re working with municipalities and communities. All those pillars need to be there for these programs to be effective.”
He says that he remains an active participant in conversations about a safe injection site in Ottawa and that community education and awareness are key. “I am part of those conversations to make sure that whatever decision is made, when we make that decision it’s the right decision for the community and actually helps people.”
He also says that he no longer feels there is a need for SCAN (Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods), the private member’s bill he introduced in 2008. SCAN would have allowed municipalities to shutter residences for 90 days if communities identified them as having an ongoing problem with criminal activity.
“The bill was introduced in my very first term, and I did not introduce it in my subsequent elections,” he says. “The main impetus behind that bill was to make sure we are creating safe communities, and I think we have been able to do a lot of work at the community level to do so. I would argue to you at this stage we don’t need a legislation like this because of the very strong partnerships that we have been able to build over the last seven years.”
PEP and PrEP
Naqvi says he would have to become more familiar with PEP and PrEP to be able to have an informed stance on whether he’d support their availability in Ontario. He says that he maintains a strong relationship with the Centretown CHC and that he’d be glad to open up the conversation to include a discussion about PEP and PrEP.
“One of the things that I do is I’m very accessible; I work very closely with various LGBT groups in our community to make sure that we understand what the issues are and how we can find the solutions . . . In those conversations I’ll be sure to speak to [health groups] more about PEP and PrEP and see what we need to do next.”
LRT and transportation
“I think this is a very exciting time for our city, and I’m thrilled that we’re building the first phase of the LRT,” Naqvi says. He says the Liberal Party is committed to the second phase of development and wants to see a world-class transit system in Ottawa. He says the party will work with the city in terms of funding to continue the development.
“Part of that is also building the right cycling infrastructure so that people have more options and opportunities as to how they travel,” he says. “A lot of us have decided to live in the centre of the city, and it’s because we don’t want to drive our cars. We need to continue to build all those infrastructures.” The Liberal government has committed $25 million for more pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure in Ontario.
“One of the projects that I’m really focused on that I want to get accomplished in our community is the foot bridge between Clegg and Fifth by Lansdowne Park,” he says. “I think that is going to be a great addition, joining those two distinct communities [the Glebe and Old Ottawa South] together through a pedestrian and cycle-friendly bridge.” He says he is working closely with Councillor David Chernushenko to try to secure funding from all three levels of government for the project.
Naqvi says he wants community voices to have increased importance when large developments are being planned. He also wants developers to be responsible for planning more green spaces. Development needs to be inspired by the community and fit the character of the neighbourhood, he says. “One of the challenges that I think our community is having, which is not against intensification, is that they find that they don’t have a voice as development goes up.”
As part of its platform, the Liberal Party has made community engagement a mandatory part of the development process, he says. “What we want to do is bring legislation that will require communities to be engaged and be consulted from the very beginning of the process and their points of view to be considered all along the process so that we get good development from the beginning, as opposed to bad development that we’re trying to fix through the appeal process.”
He says the proposed change also includes a master parks plan, which would require developers to create new green spaces and would protect existing urban green spaces from being developed.
Downtown and the Village
“It was a long time coming that we have a Village,” Naqvi says. “We all knew there was a Village. To actually recognize and accept that we have a Village is very exciting.” He says he has been working closely with the Bank Street BIA to ensure the area remains vital, citing the newly created Bank Street Glowfair as an example of a positive community engagement initiative.
Another project Naqvi has championed is securing provincial funding to install lights around the Canadian Tribute to Human Rights Monument, which he says he sees as the gateway to the Village. “[The lights] will allow that gateway to be illuminated at all hours and really sort of welcome people to come into the Village and celebrate our diversity and the vibrancy of the Village.”