Vic Sahai (NDP) studied at Queen’s University in the 1980s and returned to Kingston with his wife and children in 2007 to work in public health as a Queen’s professor and research director at Hotel Dieu. He has 30 years of senior management experience, focusing on strategic planning, policy development, public health research, and epidemiology. He has volunteered with HIV/AIDS Access Sudbury, Heart Health, Run for the Cure, and he helped the community work towards establishing the Northern Ontario School of Medicine.
1. What made you decided to run in this election?
I’ve dedicated my life to answering questions from a multi-disciplinary approach. If you don’t understand the foundations of a problem, then it’s like painting a house that is falling down: the roof is leaking, there are electrical problems, you just paint it and say, “Look, we fixed the problem.”
2. What is it about The New Democratic Party (NDP) that made it a party you wanted to be a part of and represent at the federal level?
I’m an epidemiologist and social determinants of health — poverty, education, where you live, the colour of one’s skin, being indigenous — all of these things affect our health. And the only party that really pays attention to that is the NDP because we are very social-minded. I remember, when I first came to Canada, I was so impressed with the words that Pierre Trudeau said, “Canada needs to be a gentler and kinder nation.” We’ve lost our way from that philosophy.
3. In your opinion, what are the top three most critical issues needing to be addressed at the federal level?
Reconciliation with our indigenous people — building trust.
If the environment is not taken care of, it doesn’t matter what social policies we have in place, if we don’t have a planet it doesn’t matter.
Social determinants of health. We need pharma-care, dental care, mental health care, and housing.
4. In your opinion, what are the top three most critical issues for Kingston and the Islands you plan to address?
Housing needs to be the top priority. We have over 1,000 people in Kingston per year who are homeless. It’s just completely wrong.
It doesn’t matter where you are in this world, the environment is important. It is important to take local action.
Food security: our citizens should not have to rely on food banks.
5. How do you plan to provide better representation for Kingston and the Islands?
Listening to people: if we don’t hear from the people who are the most vulnerable in our society, we will still continue making policies that only benefit the rich and big businesses. That is not going to be the case when I am elected.
6. Do your views align with those of your party leader? How well do you think you could work with Jagmheet Singh?
They do for the most part, however, not just Mr.Singh but the party needs to ensure that our environmental policies are not just good on paper, but are actionable. We have to say that we are going to do this, and this is how your lives are going to be better because of it.
Also, a guaranteed livable income is a floor that secures everybody from falling through. And as an epidemiologist, I can tell you right now that the upstream investment in that policy is going to pay off in strides. I will make that case through the principles of health economics.
7. What is the number one issue raised so far by the constituents you’ve spoken with, and how do you plan to address it?
Affordable housing: I don’t think people fully understand the impact it has. We are going to invest in reimbursing first-time homebuyers up to $40,000 through grants, rent subsidies of $4,000. We are going to work with the CMHC to amortize mortgages for up to 30 years and build 500,000 new zero-carbon affordable homes.