NB election 2020 – Meet the Candidates: Fundy – The Isles – Saint John West

Welcome to the Meet the Candidates edition of the Courier. Here’s how it works. The candidates from Fundy-The Isles-Saint John West were sent a series of identical questions, and we did the same for the candidates for Saint Croix. The candidates were given word count limits, and we are not editing questions for anything other than syntax and punctuation. If a response exceeds the allocated word count, candidates were informed the response would be cut off at the designated word count, even if it was mid-sentence.

All candidates from both ridings were sent the questions and invited to engage. All candidates responded aside from Tony Mann, Liberal candidate for Fundy-The Isles, and Sharon Greenlaw, NDP candidate for Fundy-The Isles.

In effort of being as fair as possible, responses are being listed in alphabetical order of party. The posts online will be separated by riding.

If you need to know where you can vote, go to the Elections NB website.

editor@stcroixcourier.ca

Lois Mitchell, Green Party

1. Why are you running for the position of MLA in Fundy the Isles Saint John West?

I really had no intention of being a candidate in this election until shortly before the deadline. I teach courses at St. Stephen’s University on the Politics of Advocacy and on Sustainable Living (among others). I encourage students to figure out what their values are and then to get engaged on issues that matter to them. I don’t want them to give up on the possibility that they can make a difference by getting involved, and of course I hope that their education will help them to be better, more effective advocates and citizens. I want them to understand how decisions are made that affect their lives, but also how those decisions affect the lives of other people in their communities, in the present and into the future.

With this election being called quite suddenly, and with only two days to go to the deadline, I wanted there to be a Green Party candidate on the ballot and there wasn’t one. I have tremendous respect for David Coon as the leader of the Green Party, I support Green Party principles – Living Within our Ecological Means, Local Self-Reliance, Participatory Democracy, Social Justice and Equality, Self-Determination and Citizenship, and Non-Violence – and I know that there are Green Party supporters in this riding. In the end, I felt compelled to step into the void, and also to use this as an opportunity to encourage people to not give into cynicism but to work toward a better political system in our province.

I decided that I would do my best to let my optimistic nature lead, become a candidate and then do my best to be the kind of political candidate I would like to vote for. And just like that, here I am, running in a riding with a very strong incumbent and three other candidates who have all taken this plunge with very short notice, all of us (I suspect) scrambling to catch up while learning the nuts and bolts of how to run a campaign. Fortunately I have a very strong, supportive and encouraging Green Party team to help me, including especially Joy Green who agreed on short notice to be my campaign manager.

2. What do you believe is the most important issue in the riding?

If I were to ask 100 different people in this riding what the top issue is, I might get dozens of different answers and most of them, no doubt, would highlight a particular issue in a specific community or industry, or they might identify a complex chronic problem like generational poverty, addictions, mental health services, lack of public transportation, inadequate but expensive internet service, affordable housing, local impacts of climate change, etc. These are all real issues that need to be addressed. But I would suggest that an issue that affects (perhaps) everyone in this riding is the anti-rural bias in our government, which is reflected in policies and practices that impact our lives every day.

3. What is your position on the spraying of glyphosate in the province?

I support the Green Party platform which calls for a ban on the spraying of herbicides such as glyphosate on Crown forests. I think it’s important to realize that the ban is only part of an overall vision for the restoration of New Brunswick forests and a management plan that puts the health of our natural environment, including our forests and streams, at the heart of our future together.

4. Cooke Aquaculture is struggling to fill jobs in the region. What do you see as the root cause? Why are local residents not applying for the positions?

This is a complex issue. The employment profile of individuals in the riding of Fundy the Isles Saint John West is often not a simple matter of getting a job and staying with it. Many people in our communities have worked for Cooke or for other fish processors at some point but they are often quick to leave those jobs if they get a better opportunity – that is, a higher paying job or a job that is less demanding. They move in and out of the job market and in and out of employment insurance, and perhaps in and out of the province. For some who have good seasonal employment or Labour Union jobs, supplemented by EI benefits in the offseason or between contracts, taking a “permanent position” with Cookes may be less appealing even if it is more stable.

5. What will be the first issue you tackle if you are elected as MLA?

This is an interesting question. I suspect that there would be chaos in the Legislative Assembly if 49 elected MLAs show up to work with one issue that they want to tackle. I would assume that those elected for the Green Party would work together to determine a path forward that puts the platform to work. A key aspect of that platform is good governance and the issue that I identified as a foundational concern in this riding, is the anti-rural bias in our government. My priority would be to challenge that bias on every issue.

6. Who is your favourite Marvel movie character?

I really don’t have a favourite. I grew up watching Spider Man and Batman (and Robin) and loved those. But that’s been more than a few years ago!

Vincent Edgett, People’s Alliance Party

1. Why are you running for the position of MLA in Fundy the Isles Saint John West?

I believe in Kris Austin and his common sense approach. Also, the majority Government has not worked well in the past. I believe the minority government leads to better decision making.

2. What do you believe is the most important issue in the riding?

As is expected from you and I as responsible adults, the Government has to be held accountable. I believe a minority government will result in better decision making.

3. What is your position on the spraying of glyphosate in the province?

The use of chemical spraying is not a fine art and has always made me nervous. The 35,000 signatures on the stop spraying petition presented in the Legislature are the people speaking and is a good indicator that this needs to be addressed.

4. Cooke Aquaculture is struggling to fill jobs in the region. What do you see as the root cause? Why are local residents not applying for the positions?

In short my answer would be CERB. One doesn’t have to look far to see when and how this shortage of workers became a problem.

5. What will be the first issue you tackle if you are elected as MLA?

There are many however the safety of our children has me concerned as the return to school under a whole new set of rules. I heard from a concerned citizen on Grand Manan who has been told that children who live less than 1.5 km from the school will have to walk. Although parents are anxious for their children to return to school, this decision has created a lot of stress and anxiety. In some areas the roads these young children are expected to walk are not equipped with side walks or cross walks. This decision needs to be addressed immediately.

6. Who is your favourite Marvel movie character?

In my senior years I seem to have lost touch with the Marvel characters however in my younger years I was always a fan of Spider-Man.

Andrea Anderson-Mason, Progressive Conservative Party

1. Why are you running for the position of MLA in Fundy the Isles Saint John West?

I originally put my name forward to run in 2018 because I felt our area was not receiving the attention it deserved. We have an amazing community of people in Fundy-The Isles-Saint John West who want to be part of the Provincial conversations. I have spent my career representing the interests of others in the Courtroom and I felt my voice would be better used speaking up for the people of our riding at a Provincial level.

I had many misconceptions about government. I thought no one understood how language issues impacted our area. Government didn’t know we needed internet and I thought no one cared that our children were moving away faster than we were having them. We seemed to be getting the short end of the stick in education with all decisions being made in Fredericton. I thought no one understood the value of access to quality rural healthcare. I was wrong. I rapidly learned that Fredericton was full of people passionate about New Brunswick and the biggest threat to our Province was politics itself.

I still get frustrated that decisions are made by people who do not fully understand our area. Since 2018 I have made it my mission to insert the concerns of Fundy-the Isles-Saint John West into every conversation I have in government. It is working. I feel however that I am just getting started and I am asking the people of the riding to let me finish what has been started because truly…we are just getting started.

2. What do you believe is the most important issue in the riding?

If you dig in and converse with all segments of our diverse population you will hear concern about Covid recovery. People are concerned about a second wave. People are worried about how and when to open up to the rest of Canada and the US. They are worried about protecting the vulnerable. People are concerned about how we will educate our children and if our economy can recover. The concerns I hear are varied. Some people speak with fear and others are skeptical but the theme is always the same – how we have been impacted by Covid and how we will recover.

3. What is your position on the spraying of glyphosate in the province?

The issue of Glyphosate is clearly an important issue to the people of our riding. It was one of the issues that motivated me to run myself. I chose to run for the PC party because they recognize the full scope of the topic where some parties have chosen to focus solely on the use of this product on Crown land. I come from a family with a long history of working in forestry to put food on our table. As a child, I was introduced to the seasonal routines of hunting and fishing and developed a deep appreciation for our natural environment as a place to be respected and preserved for future generations. But I also saw too many loved ones leave us to soon and I am concerned about the health and safety of our residents.

I have to ask, why would we only look at it’s use on Crown land? Why would we not look at it’s use in agriculture? Why would we not look at it’s use in landscaping and why would we not look at it’s use in commercial applications?

All four parties in the Legislature voted to work together to prioritize a review of all pesticide used in the Province, in all applications. Now during an election, some parties are choosing to narrow the topic to the use of the product on Crown Land only and I fear they are missing the big picture.

We are already tackling the concerns of the outdoor community. Their voices have been heard. We have doubled the conservation forest. We are growing deer habitat. To put that in context, we have more area protected in NB than we have ever had before. More land is now protected than is used by industry and we continue to grow. We have reduced spraying in the hydro lines and increased buffers to waterways. We are showing that the protection of our natural landscape is a top priority but we cannot stop there and we must pursue the impact of pesticide use as a whole, in the Province of New Brunswick.

4. Cooke Aquaculture is struggling to fill jobs in the region. What do you see as the root cause? Why are local residents not applying for the positions?

Many people may be surprised to learn that a shortage of workers is not unique to Cooke Aquaculture. As I travelled around the riding and the Province it was a common theme. Whether you have a small construction firm or a large commercial venture, business owners are struggling to find employees.

In the next 10 years, 120,000 New Brunswick residents will leave the workforce and we are already seeing the impact here in Southwest NB. The PC government has focused on this crisis with the development of a population growth strategy. We are working to identify what we need to do to attract and retain employees in New Brunswick. We can see many gaps. There is a need for adequate affordable housing, transportation, recreation and culture. In order to have quality employees in NB we have to provide a place where people want to live, work and play.

5. What will be the first issue you tackle if you are elected as MLA?

This may be the most difficult question for me to answer. Having been elected on September 24, 2018, appointed to Cabinet on November 9, 2018 and the faced a global pandemic late February 2020, we have only approximately 16 months in government. Truly, we were just getting started and on Day 1 after the election, I intend to keep going with our incomplete to do list.

During an election, government goes into “caretaker” mode which means that we are not allowed to work with civil servants in the same way to solve the problems we are faced with from constituents. But we have been keeping a list. On Day 1, we will go back to work. The list includes people who are in need of housing, families with bussing issues, seniors who need financial security, patients navigating gaps in the healthcare system, employers in search of employees, employees in search of employment, citizens who in general need help with issues that are the within the jurisdiction of the Provincial government.

As for the broader issues that impact a multitude of constituents, I will be pushing hard to solve the challenges of rural internet access. I was knee deep in this file before the election call and I am ready to dive back in. Other critical files I was working on are: the development and implementation of a population growth strategy specific to our area; increasing access to justice for those in family court; infrastructure investments for southwest New Brunswick, one of which will bring over 2,500 construction jobs to our area in the next two years; an innovative way to attack child exploitation; access to mental health and addiction services; facilitating conversations regarding the gaps in recreation to our area and just speaking up when it is necessary and being the voice of riding.

Please let me continue to check off my to do list. We are just getting started!

6. Who is your favourite Marvel movie character?

Hmmmm. I love Groot. I feel I can relate. Groot doesn’t always have much to say but sure knows how to get his message across when necessary. That’s me. I listen. I observe. I don’t always move the fastest but don’t think for a minute that I am not hear, watching, waiting, ready to respond. Plus Groot always has a twinkle in his eye and enjoys a little fun.