Editorial note: As Ontarians head to the polls for the Thursday, Jun. 2, 2022 provincial election, we want to be your one-stop home base for everything you need to know in the Kingston area ridings. As part of this coverage, we’ve created profiles for each candidate (pending candidate availability) in Kingston and the Islands, Hastings-Lennox and Addington, and Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston. For these profiles, each candidate was asked the same list of questions, the responses to which we’ve compiled into an easy-to-read Q&A format, with additional links for more information. To view all the profiles and additional election coverage, visit Kingstonist’s Provincial Election 2022 page.
Laurel Claus-Johnson is the Consensus Ontario candidate in the riding of Kingston and the Islands. Claus Johnson moved to Kingston in 1986 and attended Queen’s University as a law student for a year and a half. During her time at Queen’s, she connected with Patricia Monture, whom she lovingly describes as an “Indigenous whirlwind and force,” and through their friendship became instantly and intrinsically involved in the Indigenous community in Kataro’kwi (Kingston). Claus Johnson, Bear Clan of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, sits on the Kataro’kwi Grandmother’s Council and involves herself regularly in local environmental issues, such as Belle Island land protection and restoration. Although she did not complete her law degree, she is still very passionate about humanitarian and environmental law.
What made you decide to run in this provincial election?
I received an email from Brad Harness, the Ontario Consensus party president. I called him and asked him, “What’s this all about? Why me?” He never did say why [he chose] me, but I did learn about the Consensus Party in a phone-in candidate meeting… As soon as I heard ‘people power’ rather than ‘party power,’ I just saw how it flipped over… from ‘Which party are you voting for?’ to ‘Which person are you voting for?’ The person that you’re voting for is actually personally responsible for the things you want and need as a person… People politics personalizes the process of party politics. I found what I believed were pre-existing, current, ongoing, and valiant ways of governing the people who want what they need.
What, in your opinion, is the most important issue being discussed during this election?
I would have to say the environment. I do read and listen to what [Premier Doug] Ford is up to, and I am concerned with something other than Kataro’kwi. And when I read that the new 413 highway is going to take four or five different wetlands and cut down trees… just so that the driving people in Toronto would get 10 or 15 minutes less driving… I just thought, ‘How could he? How can he denigrate what gives you life?’ More than the highway or more than the people that pay taxes, what you are destroying is what actually provides your life: the water, the trees, and the whatever. I’d have to say the environment is the number one issue in Ontario.
What’s the single most common thing that constituents are bringing up to you going door to door?
I would say, if not the environment, then homelessness. I did support the 10 tiny homes, and Chrystal Wilson [executive director of Our Livable Solutions] is a really good friend. When I go down the street with my electric scooter, I don’t speak to hardly anybody, other than [if I see someone] sitting on the street begging, I’m stopping. I’ll stop and say “How’s it going?” I give my voice and value and presence. [Homeless people] carry a lot of personal trauma… I just continue to love them. They’re my favourite people on the street. They know I care, too, for sure. It’s a real thing.
What do you feel is one of the most overlooked issues in our riding?
Prisons. I was involved with prisons right from the get-go when I arrived in Kingston in 1986. Trish Monture and I were involved with the Prison for Women. There were many that died and took their own lives there. I still think there are deep reparations that need to be made there, before the development happens on that land, other than our annual memorial on August 10th. Not only that, but I believe in the spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional well-being of prisoners. There are 10 prisons in the area; certainly that should be on our minds. Prisoners are people, too.
Is there one particular issue that you would like to champion, if elected to represent Kingston and the Islands?
Climate and the environment. That’s my number one issue because [it impacts] 100 per cent of the people. Every baby born, every person that lives, dies, is impacted by the environment, by the oxygen, the sun, the wind, the rain… I adopted the Grandmother Oak tree on River Street, for example, which is on a piece of land that’s part of the Cataraqui River known as the Ribbon of Life, which is protected land. There are some of us who are willing to chain ourselves to the tree or the fence to protect that tree and that land. There’s a huge amount of people who are concerned with the [expansion of the tree] canopy, the quality of air, the planting of trees, the cutting down of trees, the misuse of land. So, the environment, to me, is focus number one.
What’s the biggest issue with the current makeup of the provincial government?
When party politics overrule people priorities. I’m running with the letter P here [laughs]. I’m proud of the concept of consensus — the concept and its application. Because people matter; parties don’t matter.
For more information about Laurel Claus Johnson and Consensus Ontario, visit their website.