When Hamilton Centre MP David Christopherson announced last July that he would retire at the end of the current parliamentary term, Matthew Green chose to forego seeking re-election in Ward 3 and to instead seek the federal nomination for the NDP.
“As a City Councillor there was only so much I could do to change the systems that were leaving people behind,” he said. “I felt that the issues most impacting our neighbours were the best solved by the federal government.”
Since the riding was established in 2004, it has been held by Cristopherson as an NDP seat, but Green is taking nothing for granted. Since launching his campaign in April, he has assembled a team and he has been out knocking on doors promoting pharmacare and speaking to voters about what matters to them.
In most federal elections, politicians separate the local issues from national issues. Green is having none of that. When asked what he thought were the most important issues locally and nationally, he gave the same answer: Climate change, housing, and a “just transition to a fair economy”. Green sees these issues as being intrinsically linked. In April, he sat in on a panel discussion at the Spectator building called A Green New Deal for Hamilton. The discussion focused on climate change and economy and how to better communicate the risks and opportunities to the public.
While he views climate change as an existential threat that must be addressed, he becomes most passionate when speaking about housing and the economy. “What we call the working class is what our parents called the middle class and the middle class is gone,” he said. When pressed on what that means, he said: “There was a time when someone could graduate, buy a house, raise a family, and retire.” He asked rhetorically: “Why can’t people retire at 65? How does people working into old age impact young workers entering the job market?”
Green argued that today most Canadians are precariously employed and are only a pay cheque or two from disaster. It has been reported that 44 per cent of Canadians live paycheque-to-paycheque and it was also reported in May of this year that the debt ratio of Canadians is at a record high. Green says Canada’s economic priorities are “out of whack”. He highlights the Stelco pension fight and Hamilton Specialty Bar. He said a priority of his and the NDP will be protecting pensions. “Bankruptcy law needs to be changed and workers need to be put at the top rather than the bottom,” when it comes to settling outstanding debt obligations of businesses that enter bankruptcy.
Hamilton Specialty Bar on Sherman Avenue North closed in 2018, tossing 200 workers onto the street at Christmas. Efforts were made to keep the plant open but ultimately they failed. The plant had been purchased by the vulture capitalist firm, Bain Capital, that was led by former US presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Green said the corporate capture of the economy is focused on shareholder value rather than economic fairness and justice. He says the priority must be “people over corporations”. He said Canada needs to invest in education and provide access to financing to allow workers to resume production, in a more ecologically sustainable way, in industries like steel.
On housing, Green is calling for “a major investment” building 500,000 homes across the country. He said the responsibility for housing has been downloaded to municipalities “without the ability to pay for it”. He said, “It is not lost on me that year-after-year Hamilton reports record numbers in building permits all while simultaneously people are living in tents in record numbers.” He said unless there is a direct investment for housing in cities, municipalities will sell off their stock and privatize affordable housing to the charitable and religious sectors. How to pay for it? “Tax the rich to serve the poor,” he answered.
“The tax burden has been shifted from corporations on to workers,” he said, adding, “We left it to the banking class to decide who, when and where people can buy homes and that’s wrong.”
To address climate change, Green is calling for a new deal arguing capitalism “has failed” the environment. “If we redirected the time, energy, and research into a renewable economies and technological innovation, we wouldn’t have to talk about the commodification of basic needs,” he said. “People assume that corporate capitalism is the default of democracy. It is not. The more the economic benefits are shared, the more democratic we are,” he argued. “Things don’t have to be this way. There can be a more compelling future for the country.”