Anna Roberts: “We need more houses and infrastructures”

TORONTO – Anna Roberts, MP for King-Vaughan, north of Toronto, paid a visit to the Corriere Canadese offices last week, thus giving us an opportunity to engage in a free-flowing conversation about the country, its promise, its future and how her Party relates to the aspirations of Canadians. She was both idealistic and practical. While deferential, she held back no punches. 

Anna Roberts, is a daughter of Italian immigrants and she has first-hand experience of what it means for a family to arrive in a new country and build a new life. We talked about this with Anna during a brief interview in our newsroom.

You were an accomplished individual in the private sector. Why did you abandon that for politics?
“Canada can become the same country, for opportunities, my parents found when they came years ago. But we have to work on it, seriously. The federal government is not. You need a job, a house and the necessary infrastructure to organize your days. But today, in Canada, houses and infrastructures are lacking”.

Housing and affordability have become national issues, federal issues. How do you think your party, ‘your government in waiting’, intends to address these issues?
“We need to build more, obviously. More homes and infrastructures. I have lived and worked in Toronto city until I moved to Richmond Hill in 1994. We were supposed to construct a Richmond Hill Subway Station to connect a widening population. More than twenty years later, we still do not have that subway. It took a lot of time and a lot of money, for me, to go and come back, go and come back, everyday. We have to provide infrastructures, so that people don’t have to spend their life driving between work and home, especially if they move away from the downtown core.
Another related issue is that every time you try to build, there is a municipal regulations and provincial issues pushing projects further into the future. Their bureaucrats compound the issues! We have the [second largest] largest land mass in the world. Why are we not building more homes that people can afford? When our parents came here, what did they do? They worked; they built this country. That’s not happening today, and this is disappointing”.

Talking about immigration: the federal government often says ‘we need talents, we need new citizens…’
“And we also need immigrants to build this country. If we can provide them a place to live, yes, we can draw those talents. Now we want people to come to this country, and we don’t provide them a place to live. We want immigrants in this country, but how do we enable them to come here if we don’t build affordable houses and infrastructures?”.

So, what can we do to have more houses?
“First, there are a lot of affordable buildings in our cities, but we don’t use them. Why? And why are we keeping lands that we are not using? We have lots of them. Why don’t we build there? I agree we need ‘green’, but we can’t want people to come here without giving them a place to live. It doesn’t make any sense! We need doctors, nurses, engineers… how do we attract them to come here without offering an affordable place to live?”

Do you think Canada is still a place where people want to live?
“Well, I hear a lot of people saying, ‘Canada is not where I want to be’. That’s really sad. We need to do something to make them say ‘Canada is the place where I want to be’. Why can’t we use the technology and the knowledges of other countries to try to build this country? Canada can become the same country, for opportunities and services, where my parents came years ago. And I add this: what defines community? We help each other. Young people help older people. That was our culture – the way of our community. The federal government must do the same: it must take care of its citizens”.

Do you think your Party is able to put into practice all of this?
“Yes, of course I do. We only have to be able to make the right decisions so that people have the opportunity to live in this country. How? We have to go back and think practically. I don’t think the federal government is doing it now. My party will. And I will”.

Anna worked for over thirty years in the banking industry and during that time also volunteered locally, particularly with organizations such as the Salvation Army, Toronto Sick Children’s Hospitals and King City Lodge. She believes that those who profit from a community should “put back into that community” as a sign of good citizenship.

In the pic above, Anna Roberts with the Publisher of the Italian newspaper Corriere Canadese, Joe Volpe