by KATIE SMITH
April 26, 2015
It’s time to fix politics and make New Brunswick’s provincial legislature more representative of the people in the province, said Green party Leader David Coon.
Coon, who represents Fredericton South as an MLA, was in Rogersville on April 25 for the party’s annual general meeting and public forum.
During an interview with the Miramichi Leader, Coon said fixing politics and local food sustainability are two key issues his party would like to see addressed.
Part of fixing or changing the current status quo includes lowering the voting age to 16 and changing the electoral system.
“That’s important so we get the kind of makeup in our legislature that’s representative of the population, of how people vote.”
Coon,who was elected to his seat as the province’s first Green MLA,said there are issues with the party system, and said it’s time to get back to grassroots politics.
“If you look at the Green party as a grassroots party with a clear commitment where we want to be sure that in elections,we want at least half of our candidates to be women”he said.“And that’s what should be reflected in the legislative assembly. To be truly democratic and representative of New Brunswickers, how can you have a legislative assembly dominated by men?”
The MLA said during a recent session in the legislature, Premier Brian Gallant brought up the issue of his government’s success at increasing the percentage of women on advisory boards and commissions by 54 per cent.
“I looked up and the sea of men across the aisle, with the exception of the four women on the government’s side,” he said.“When I was responding to his statement in house,I stood up and I said,‘Well this is great, but it would be nice if 54 per cent of the people sitting across the way were women’”
It’s time for change, he said.
“I think the move to more grassroots democracy would be propelled, would speed up, if there were more women elected to seats in the legislative assembly, engaging their constituents and doing their best to be representative of their constituents view and be willing to vote according to their conscience when it came to that as well,” he said. “It’s important that we change that culture so the legislature becomes functional again”
Another issue Coon touched on was the importance of a sustainable local food culture in New Brunswick.
There is a tremendous interest in new jobs and in a new economy, he said.
“One of the things the Green party talks a lot about is building a new economy that is fairer and greener, and one way to do that is become more self-reliant for the fundamental things we need, like food and energy”
Coon said nearly $1.7 billion is spent out of province purchasing food, many of which could be purchased within New Brunswick borders.
“In doing so,a lot of the wealth currently leaves the province to pay for all the foods we import,or all the energy that we import. If that money stayed in the province then that would create jobs here, that would create development here, and that would contribute to building a greener, fairer economy,”
It is the idea of becoming more self-reliant and being able to take care of ourselves, he said, adding there will be items of want and or need that would be required to be purchased elsewhere.
“Where we have the opportunity to provide for ourselves and have a sense of control over how we do that, then that is a key piece of building a new economy in the province and food is a place to start. It’s already started in New Brunswick”
Coon put a bill forth in the legislature, Bill 11 – Local Food Security Act, which he thinks will help grow a larger market for locally grown food in the province.
The proposed bill would require the provincial government to give preference to local food providers to supply food for publicly funded institutions.
“We’ve got a strong local food movement and that is growing. The bill I brought forth is to help that grow more quickly and to bring some revitalization to our rural communities who certainly need it.”
The bill would increase the market significantly by requiring public bodies such as schools, nursing homes and hospitals to purchase a large amount of local food, he said, adding that will hopefully create a greater market for local farmers to expand and potentially attract new young people into farming to meet those market demands.
“So, it’s really a bill designed to build on the momentum that’s already begun with the local food movement in New Brunswick. The bill is the first legislative step to help it along the way.”