SASKTODAY.ca staff reached out to the candidates in all of Saskatchewan's ridings with a universal questionnaire. We will be publishing these results in order they were received.
Name: Susan Cameron
Running for: Liberal Party of Canada for Regina–Lewvan
Profession: Former teacher, most recently Community Investment Consultant, Farm Credit Canada (FCC)
Currently residing in (city or neighbourhood): Regina
Previous political experience: First campaign for public office
My Mom. While she never held public office, my mother has been involved with politics in Saskatchewan for more than 50 years, mostly as a campaign volunteer in countless elections. Politics is a passion in my family. I was raised to value the importance of public service and the need for all of us to make a contribution to our community.
What inspired you to enter the election race?
Two reasons. First, when another woman asked me to step up and put my name on the ballot, I knew that I could not say no. I knew how much it meant to my community around me. Secondly, Regina–Lewvan has never had representation on the government side of the House of Commons. I’m running in this election because Regina–Lewvan needs a strong, informed voice and representation at the table where decisions are made.
What topics are most important to you in this federal election?
With the fourth wave of COVID taking hold, the most important job of the federal government is supporting Canadians as we finish the fight against the pandemic. Canadians need help with their mental, physical and economic health. I’m committed to providing that help.
Are you concerned about the short campaign time line for this election?
I always like having more time, because I love hearing from constituents first-hand about their priorities and needs. That said, in these uncertain times, I think it’s important for the voters in Regina–Lewvan to have a chance to quickly decide who they want to lead as we continue the fight in this once-in-a-century health crisis and lay the groundwork for a robust recovery.
What supports, if any, do you feel are needed to help businesses and residents with the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic?
The federal government has stood for Saskatchewan since day one. 85 percent of COVID-19 response measures came from the federal government, and only 15 percent from the provinces. Funding for Regina? Also from the federal government. Most of those supports went straight to keeping our businesses afloat.
As we move forward, a re-elected Liberal government is committed to protecting public health; providing mental health supports for the many Canadians who’ve faced mental distress as a result of the pandemic; and reforming the long-term care system to protect our seniors. I also feel that supports are needed for small businesses, in particular, and women, in general, both crucial engines in powering our post-COVID economic recovery.
What, if any, agricultural federal programs and initiatives do you feel are necessary to help support farmers and ranchers in this year’s conditions?
Immediate support was provided by increased funding of the AgriRecovery and AgriStability programs, in partnership with the province. The Liberal government is urging the province to accept the federal offer of raising the compensation rate from 70% to 80%.
With climate change and its impact, a long-term strategy is needed and we need all ideas to be brought forward. I fear that this year’s drought is not an anomaly and we need to be proactive and open to creative solutions. Existing programs are there that could be expanded to have grain producers and livestock producers working together for feed solutions.
The real crisis is water. Thousands of farms across the west have abandoned water wells with no power access. The federal government has invested in cleaning up abandoned oil wells, and rightly so. I would like to explore another program, for abandoned and untapped water wells, to assist in accessing water, with solar-powered water pumping, for example. On many farms there is a good water source available, simply requiring the technology and investment to get at it.
And finally, during a crisis such as this, farmers facing the stress and uncertainty of providing for their families may suffer serious mental health impacts. I recommend the Do More Ag Foundation, a non-profit focusing on mental health in agriculture and recipient of federal funding through FCC.
Is there an issue that people are focusing too much?
I love following 338Canada as much as the next person, but I think we need to remember that projections such as 338’s and polls are very different from each other. Regina–Lewvan has been framed by some as an NDP/Conservative riding, but that does not at all reflect what I am hearing at the doors, our engagement with social media users nor the overwhelming demand for Liberal lawn signs this election. This year’s vote in Regina–Lewvan is looking more and more like the three-way race in the 2015 election.
Is there an issue that doesn’t get enough attention?
If you feed children and teach them to read, our society will be enhanced. Having worked with food banks for years in my role with Drive Away Hunger, and as a former teacher in several community schools in Regina, I know that hungry children have trouble learning. Just this last week, the Liberal Party platform promised to develop a National School Food Policy and work towards a national school nutritious meal program with a $1 billion dollar investment over five years. This is a great much-needed initiative that I would love to champion.
Why did you choose to run for your particular party?
The Liberal Party has always made sense to me, being the centrist party. You need to be able to listen to different perspectives and reach consensus. While this is sometimes more difficult in practice, this is genuinely who I am.
What is the biggest issue facing your party’s chance at success?
I believe that the biggest obstacle is the perception that the Liberal Party doesn’t understand Western concerns. People here are concerned about economic prosperity and growth and how that can be balanced with environmental protections. I believe that has been and still is the issue raising the anxiety level across Western Canada. Global commodity prices, access to trade markets and unemployment are all involved. These issues require Saskatchewan input at the national level. We must elect MPs to speak for our concerns in government.
How will you engage and encourage young voters to participate in this election?
I am a teacher and coach at my core, so engaging young voters is a great fit for me. We are out on social media every day and host weekly Facebook Live events to get to know my voters a little bit better and for them to learn more about who I am. My own kids are 23 and 20 and I am so proud that they are embracing the campaign. Many of the fantastic kids I have coached and mentored over the years are now following along. I am so uplifted by their feedback and words of support! Youth are not the leaders of tomorrow, they are the leaders of today. The advocacy for climate protection and social justice from this generation of youth is truly inspirational.
What is your party’s leader’s biggest flaw?
As the candidate for Regina–Lewvan, I would say that he can be polarizing in the Prairies. I hear about this on my social media. I saw this in 2019 when we lost representation in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
I believe that my own greatest strengths are also my biggest weaknesses, and perhaps this is magnified for leaders on a national stage. This could be the case for our Prime Minister’s legendary family history, his way of connecting with people, his ability to switch easily between languages, or his bold leadership style. The very qualities that some admire in him most create the highest disdain in others.
Once elected, your job is to represent your entire riding. How do you plan on representing individuals who didn’t vote for you?
I vow to be present for my constituents, not just during an election. I have gained new supporters who previously belonged to the NDP as well as people who have contributed to the provincial Saskatchewan Party. You need to work with everyone, and that is my unique super power. I love connecting with people. I love finding solutions. Regina–Lewvan has never had a government MP — has never had a voice in the room where policy is shaped and decisions are made. As the next MP for Regina–Lewvan, I’m committed to representing Regina in that room. If elected as MP, I’ll make my government colleagues aware of the entire breadth of views held in Regina–Lewvan — even those they might prefer not to hear. I won’t necessarily agree with all of those views and I won’t support them all, but I will make them part of the conversation.
What informs your political stance? What books, publications, relationships or experiences?
I consume a fair bit of news — The Leader Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, CBC’s The National, occasionally La Presse. The Herle Burly is a recent favourite podcast, both for the interviews and the panel, and my old faithful to listen to as I walk the dog is The Current, although I haven’t had the time recently.
Truly, my family has been the most powerful influence on me. Family suppers have a very high volume level, everyone voicing opinions with passion although we all agree on the bold lines of federalism, strength in diversity, trust in science and the importance of public service.
What local project or service would you advocate for more federal spending?
I would join our new mayor in advocating for a new Aquatic Centre for the City of Regina. The need is three-fold: we need it for our competitive groups, for swimming lessons and to increase access for marginalized populations. The need was great before COVID-19 and with the closure of the downtown YM and restrictions at the U of R, pool time is very difficult to come by. As a past President of Water Polo Saskatchewan I know how desperate the aquatic groups are for a centre that would meet national competition and training standards. I also recognize that swimming is a life-saving skill and Regina parents struggle to enroll their children in lessons. I also clearly see that Indigenous athletes and athletes of colour are missing from aquatic sports. I believe that increased access to a facility and inclusive programming can be a first step in correcting this. Regina needs a great pool.
What is something people don’t know about you?
I am fully bilingual and I chose to learn French as an adult! I honestly love learning languages and I know it would be a very helpful asset to advocate for Regina’s interests at the national caucus table or the Cabinet table.