June 10, 2015
After finishing third in last year’s general election, Andrew Clark is taking another kick at the can as the Green candidate in the Carleton byelection.
“Despite your experience with me last time, you seem pleased to have me as a candidate again,” he told the crowd of roughly a dozen Green Party supporters at Tuesday’s nomination convention at Hartland Community School.
“I’m honoured that you still think I’m worthy to be your candidate.”
Clark, a Simonds resident, was the only declared candidate for the Carleton Green nomination. But party members moved to have a vote, nonetheless, and they unanimously supported Clark for the candidacy.
In the 2014 provincial election, Clark received 750 votes, good for 10.5 per cent of the Carleton
Liberal candidate Thomas Reid was the runnerup with 1,588 votes – 22.2 per cent of the popular vote – while former Tory premier David Alward easily retained his seat with 4,061 votes, good for close to 57 per cent of the popular vote.
The byelection, which still hasn’t been called, became necessary after Alward resigned on May 22 to accept his new posting as Canada’s consul general in Boston. Alward had been an MLA since 1999.
The Green Party ran candidates in all but three of New Brunswick’s 49 ridings in last year’s general election, and Clark’s vote total was the fifth highest. His support was almost double that of previous support for the Green Party in the region.
Clark is a forestry contractor and woodlot owner. He is a founding member and past president of the CarletonVictoria Wood Producers’ Association.
Clark also has served as a past president of the New Brunswick Federation of Woodlot Owners, and he spent three years as a district education councillor.
In the byelection, Clark will challenge Progressive Conservative candidate Stewart Fairgrieve, longtime political staffer and Somerville businessman.
Emily Clark and Courtney Keenan – who both live in Woodstock – have announced plans to seek the Liberal nomination.
To date, no one has come forward with plans to run for the New Democratic Party or the People’s Alliance of New Brunswick.
In accepting his nomination to be the Green Party candidate, Clark said he was inspired to try again after visiting the legislative assembly in Fredericton with Sam Arnold, the Carleton Green riding association president, for the second reading of party leader David Coon’s bill to annul the province’s forestry plan.
The controversial plan increased the Crown wood harvest allocations for private forestry
Clark felt it was evident that MLAs stuck to their respective party lines while debating the bill.
“The intelligent part of that debate was when David called for a motion to be brought to the floor for the second reading,” said Clark. “He gave good reasons that were supported by academics and other experts as to why this legislation should have been adopted.”
Clark said the Progressive Conservatives and Liberals then exchanged cheap political shots about the Grits adopting a policy the Tories developed while they were in government.
Clark said Coon’s bill simply invited the government to reconsider the way Crown forests are managed and determine if the current model is best for all.
Clark also said the 1982 Crown Lands and Forests Act – which serves as the legal foundation of the province’s Crown forest management – is a failure.
“If its purpose was to stabilize industry in the province, we ended up losing pulp mills,” he said. “If guaranteeing wood supplies to industry was key to industry’s success and guaranteeing employment, this thing has simply failed.”
Clark pledged to introduce another bill that doesn’t simply amend the Crown Lands and Forests Act, but serves as a white paper that identifies where the province’s Crown forest management techniques have failed, and how to improve them for the future.
As for his experience with the district education council, Clark said he learned that many children struggled to read and write at the appropriate levels.
“If there’s anything we should succeed at in our education system, it should be reading, writing and basic math,” he said. “If anyone wants to work in today’s hightech health care sector, or be a mechanic working with electronic analyzers, basic education is absolutely essential for
economic progress and quality of life.”
Clark also expressed concern with a lack of opportunities for the province’s youth. He said he raised four children, and only one of them still lives in the Carleton riding. Two of them reside in different provinces.
“If economic opportunities had been here for them, a couple of them might still be here.”
Clark called for policies that support farmers and help them deal with large supermarket chains when it comes to selling their products.
“You give farmers a market and a decent price, and they’ll figure out the rest.”
Clark suggested having a marketing board similar to the CarletonVictoria Wood Producers’ Association in place to help farmers sell goods. He also said farmers want a fair taxation system that allows them to compete on a level playing field.
Clark pointed out that there is a market for organic food products in supermarkets, such as Atlantic Superstore and Walmart.
He also feels there are thousands of acres of potential farmland in the region that are being underused.
“We’re wasting our resources,” said Clark. “We have the ability to do much better.”
Clark said he has watched Coon as he has worked in the legislature as an MLA and as he was involved with the Conservation Council of New Brunswick for decades. Clark said he and Coon also crossed paths when he worked with woodlot federations.
“I learned to respect David for what he does, his integrity, hard work and push to make things better,” said Clark.
Coon was the guest speaker at Tuesday’s nomination meeting. He said the Carleton byelection is Clark’s to win.
“The water has changed on the beans quite considerably, and there’s a real opportunity here in Carleton,” said Coon. “The choice couldn’t be clearer.
“People can choose between a politico running for the (Progressive) Conservatives or a regular working guy who knows agriculture, forestry and trucking.”
Coon agreed with Clark that party lines may limit most MLAs when it comes to what they can do or say on their constituents’ behalf, which renders the legislature somewhat ineffective.
Coon said he and Clark could second each other’s motions, among other things, should Clark become the second Green MLA to be elected in New Brunswick.
“If we were to double our representation in the legislature, the things we could achieve would be incredible,” said Coon. “I absolutely need Andrew in the legislative assembly.
“I don’t want to be by myself any longer,” he added. “We’ve got to get Andrew elected so there’s two of us sitting sidebyside.”