IN THE NEWS- A perfect storm for mental health needs and care in the economic downturn

In The News- Rising Costs of living are having a major impact on the mental health of millions of Canadians. 

Written by Gord Johns, he states that the mental health of Canadians continues to worsen with alarming numbers of the population experiencing higher levels of anxiety, depression, mood disorders, and suicidal ideation in this economic downturn. 

We know this from recent research by the independent Mental Health Research Canada (MHRC), and from warning from the Canadian Mental Health Association (CHMA). 

We also know this from our own families, friends, and co-workers. Members of Parliament know this from constituents, including heartbreaking stories from parents faced with mortgaging the family home to finance substance use disorder treatment for a child, or from a low-income worker unable to afford a private practitioner and stuck on a months-long wait list to see a hospital psychologist.


MP Gord Johns rises in the House of Commons to speak on CEBA loan extension for small business

October 30th, 2023

Madam Speaker, it is a privilege to rise today on a really important issue that is impacting small businesses through Canada. Throughout the pandemic, small businesses closed their doors to protect public health and the people in our communities. They are the unsung heroes that are not talked about enough in this House or in this country. Obviously, many of them took a major hit financially. 

I have some stats from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. It cites that 60% of small businesses are still struggling with pandemic debt. In fact, the average pandemic debt is $126,827. Forty-seven per cent of small businesses are operating with sales that are below normal, and 19% are at risk of closure. This is a significant number of small businesses, which are one of the economic drivers in our communities. Many workers are employed by and rely on small businesses to succeed.

My colleague, the member for South Okanagan—West Kootenay, has been pushing the federal government to extend the CEBA loan for one more year, for the full-fledged, forgivable portion. We have been calling for a CEBA extension. Right now, 250,000 businesses are at risk of closing their doors.

As New Democrats, we understand the critical need to support small business. We are glad to see the Bloc join in our call for a full-fledged extension to the end of next year. We are glad to see the Greens support our call to action. 

Read the rest down below ↓

IN THE NEWS – Substack – MP Johns reflects on his recent self-funded trip to Portugal & substance use stigma

IN THE NEWS- Opioid toxicity is the leading cause of death for British Columbians aged 10 to 59. 

In total, within just the seven years since BC declared a public health emergency due to opioid deaths, more than 12,000 have died here. 

Grace Golightly talks to Gord Johns as one person whose eyes have been opened to the realities of the toxic drug emergency in her insightful Substack essay. As the Member of Parliament for Courtenay-Alberni since 2015, Johns has seen his Vancouver Island community hard hit.

He’s seen deaths from toxic drugs within his extended family, his circle of friends and acquaintances, and at every level of society, including community leaders.

Government is “not acting with a sense of urgency,” Johns said in a recent interview. “They come up with excuse after excuse, blaming jurisdiction. But they didn't do that when Covid hit.”

MP Johns statement on 2023 NDP Convention

MP Johns statement on 2023 NDP Convention

"A very successful NDP Convention in Hamilton this past weekend, our first in-person convention in 5 years. It was wonderful to be back with party members from across Canada. Thanks especially to our delegation from Courtenay-Alberni. We adopted resolutions for a better Canada and reaffirmed our confidence in Canada's most popular federal leader, Jagmeet Singh. 

As we were arriving in Hamilton, we were all digesting another report by the independent Parliamentary Budget Office Confirming that Canada can save billions while extending comprehensive drug coverage to every Canadian through single-payer universal pharmacare. This has been recommended on clinical, ethical and economic grounds by royal commissions and dozens of committees and advisory councils dating back as far as the 1940's. Following this Convention, we will continue to push hard for the Liberals to stop dragging their feet and finally deliver a legislative framework to build this urgently needed program". 

IN THE NEWS- MP Gord Johns speaks on Canada joining to stop exporting plastic waste entirely

In the News- 

The mountains of trach from foreign countries seen piling up around homes and temples in Myanmar are renewing calls for Canada and other wealthy countries to deal with their own plastic garbage at home, instead of exporting waste- and the problem- to the developing world. 

New Democrat MP Gord Johns, who successfully pushed a motion in Parliament five years ago calling for a national strategy to address plastic pollution, said it is appalling that Canada is not among the 103 Basel countries that agreed to stop exporting plastic waste entirely. 

"We need to be a global leader instead of creating plastic slums where children are playing," Johns said. "That's absolutely unethical and it needs to stop, full stop". 

NDP MP Gord Johns Statement on World Mental Health Day

NDP Mental Health and Harm Reduction Critic Gord Johns made the following statement: 

"Today, Canadians observe World Mental Health Day. It's a important day to recognize that sound mental health is a universal human right, as declared by the World Health Organization. 

Food security, housing and the best possible start in life for our children are all important for good mental health, but many are going without. It's the responsibility of the government to make sure all Canadians can access these needs. 

But still, 1 in 2 Canadians will experience a mental illness by the time they reach 40 years of age. Yet, getting the help they need is extremely difficult in Canada. Therapy can be extremely costly without private insurance, and waitlists remain long ever if people are able to afford coverage. 

It is our time for our federal government to accept the responsibility of ensuring full and cost-free access to mental health services for all Canadians. And, it is time to achieve parity of mental health care with physical care through hospital and community-based services throughout Canada. Diagnostic and treatment services for anxiety, depression, mood disorder or other mental health illnesses must be as easily accessible. 

New Democrats promise not to give up the fight to make mental health care affordable and accessible and to fight against stigma. No one should have to suffer in silence, and together we can support one another". 

IN THE NEWS- Inadequate funding calls for association's calls for fulfilled mental health transfer

A nationwide suicide crisis hotline launching in November could save lives, but will also create greater demand for community-based mental health supports that are already under strain, according to mental health advocates. 

NDP MP Gord Johns, his party's critic for mental health and addictions, told The Hill Times that the 988 suicide crisis helpline is important and will save lives, but agreed it may create more need in terms of community-based services. 

"Hopefully, more people are going to use it and we're going to be able to save lives, but of course, when someone calls and they need help, we need to make sure that there's community-based care... to help people in their time of need,' he said. 

Rolling out investments promised for the mental health transfer could help "absorb some of the new demands that are going to be on the system", according to Johns. 

NDP MP Gord Johns statement on Mental Illness Awareness Week

At the beginning of Mental Illness Awareness Week, NDP Mental Health and Harm reduction critic Gord Johns made the following statement: 

"As Mental Illness Awareness Week kicks off, it's important that we think of all those who are struggling with mental illness and those who've lost their lives to it. 

The ongoing cost-of-living crisis and impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to affect many Canadians' mental health and wellbeing. It's never been more important for us to work together to ensure people receive barrier-free mental health support and to better understand the lived experiences of people who suffer from mental health illnesses. 

1 in 2 Canadians will experience a mental illness by the time they reach 40 years of age. Yet, getting the help they need is extremely difficult in Canada. Therapy can be extremely costly without private insurance, and waitlists remain long eve if people are able to afford coverage.

IN THE NEWS- NDP MP Gord Johns brought motion to protect public land and build more affordable homes

OTTAWA – On Thursday, NDP Public Service and Procurement Critic Gord Johns brought forward a motion to determine which government buildings could be converted into housing and to ensure that public land isn’t sold off to rich private developers, so that more Canadians have a safe and affordable place to call home.

“Canada is experiencing one of the worst housing crises we’ve ever seen. Rent is astronomically high in every city across the country, and it’s become harder for people to buy a home,” said Johns. “It’s well past time for the Liberal government to do something to lower prices and build more homes. People feel sick and tired of the Liberals' plans, which always come too late and benefit luxury condo developers.”

Johns’ motion would call the Minister of Housing, the President of the Treasury Board and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) to participate in a Parliamentary study on the Government of Canada’s real estate portfolio to build housing. Johns is hopeful that the committee will support initiatives to turn government property into non-market, social housing while also ensuring that the government doesn’t sell off public land to rich housing developers, like has happened with the Greenbelt in Ontario, under Conservative Premier Doug Ford.

IN THE NEWS- NDP calls for full-fledged CEBA extension in wake of Liberals baked plan that hurts small businesses

OTTAWA- NDP MP Gord Johns called on the Prime Minister to extend the Canada Emergency Benefit Assistance (CEBA) loan deadline by a year, while maintaining the promised $20,000 loan forgiveness so small businesses can get the relief they need. Johns says the Liberals current plan for the extension, which scraps the loan forgiveness is "half-baked" and doesn't provide the help small business owners need. 

"Small business owners have spent the last few years taking hit after hit. They went through a global pandemic, followed by supply chain issues and a cost-of-living and inflation crisis", said Johns. "For many, one of the only things that helped keep the doors open, and workers on the payroll, was CEBA. They're counting on the promised loan forgiveness. But now, the Liberals expect small shops to pay everything back, despite how touch the cost of living has been, and the impact of their sacrifices during COVID- it's absurd." 

After more than six months of calls to extend the loan's deadline by a year from the Canadians Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB), small businesses and the NDP- the Liberals finally granted one, except its only 18 days unless businesses forgo the promised loan forgiveness or refinance the interest rates. 

Without a full-fledged extension- that maintains the loan forgiveness, more than 250,000 Canadian businesses are at risk of having to close their doors. 

"The Liberals are really off the mark with this one. The Prime Minister is telling media how good this extension is and patting himself on the back, while local businesses are trying to scrape the money together", added Johns. "And Pierre Poilievre isn't talking about CEBA, because his only real concern right now is helping his mega rich donors make their next billion. 

New Democrats want to see real help given to the small businesses that are so important to our communities- that's why we're fighting to get local shops a full-blown extension that keeps the promised loan forgiveness. With how high costs are right now, it really is the least Liberals can do". 



Gord Johns visit to Portugal- IN THE NEWS- Island MP visits Portugal in search of solutions to Toxic Substance Crisis

Thanks to Susie Quinn and the Alberni Valley News for covering my recent visit to Portugal to investigate its approach to preventing and treating problematic substance use. As Susie reports, we are losing so many people in our communities to the toxic drug emergency and our federal government is moving "at a snail’s pace." More than 36,000 Canadians have died since 2016 and, as I told her ““the government should be learning from others who’ve seemed to handle substance use, and prevention better than Canada has.” Tragically, this has not been our government’s approach which is why I went to see for myself.

Portugal was once one of Europe’s worst countries for substance use but “they have seen a sharp decline in overdoses and substance use because they had the political will to make necessary investments and policy changes.” I met with Dr. Joao Goulao, considered to be the architect of Portugal’s national drug response program and saw its policies working first hand. In a nutshell, I learned that a patient-focused integrated approach has been responsible for the decline. Harm reduction support is provided to users of illicit substances and access to recovery and treatment programs is available without delay or cost. Prevention is a critical component of this integrated approach and--contrary to disinformation pushed out by some politicians--forced or mandatory treatment is not practiced. I’m looking forward to getting back to the House of Commons in the fall when I can share lessons learned.

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