St. Thomas University Bachelor of Social Work interns Rebecca Arsenault, Jalen Borden, Jamie McNeil, Alex MacAulay, and Megen Gaudet are working in my constituency office on two projects. The first addresses bringing the voice of youth into the Legislature, the second concerns poverty. Youth comprise a significant part of our population that are without a voice on issues that concern them in New Brunswick. Youth often feel dis-empowered and ignored when it comes to political matters. Jamie and Alex are developing a proposal for a Youth Assembly that would formally interact with the Legislative Assembly, and a campaign to raise awareness of the importance of the youth voice to the development of government policy. Young people care, and they have crucial and valuable perspectives to share concerning the problems within our city and province. Rebecca, Jalen, and Megen are working to raise awareness about poverty in the Fredericton area and the many barriers and challenges people face when on social assistance. They are planning a media campaign that will describe the reforms needed in social assistance policies. This will include a commentary to explain the difficulties in accurately measuring poverty and indescribing how poverty is experienced differently by those who live it.
On April 13, 2019, a full house packed the Community Gathering on Waste Management, ready to “Talk Trash” Joining me on the panel were Don Fitzgerald, Executive Director of the local Regional Service Commission, Brett McCrea, Manager of the Fredericton Regional Solid Waste Commission, Lois Corbett, Executive Director of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, as well as the four City Councillors in the Fredericton South Riding: Kate Rogers, Greg Ericson, Stephen Chase and John MacDermid. Recycling and waste management have been recurring issues that emerged at every community gathering I have hosted, making trash a natural choice of topic for an issues-based community gathering. The main concerns or ideas raised by the audience included: Need for recycling services for apartments; Lack of glass recycling; Lack of curbside composting; Mandatory sorting system like in PEI; Smaller recycling bins in more convenient locations; Banning plastic bags. The panel provided useful information about the current waste management system and explained why glass recycling and composting were not currently offered. Some of their main ideas and information included: Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) to make producers pay for and be responsible for recycling their packaging; The need for City Council to pursue recycling options for apartment buildings; The need for incentives to promote more waste diversion and disincentives to reduce dumping in landfills; Fredericton’s system captures methane gas from organic waste to use as energy, rather than composting it A provincial ban on plastic bags may be likely; The need for a provincial waste strategy. Names and contacts were collected at the end of the meeting to form a community committee to follow up and pursue outcomes from this meeting. You may view the final report for the Talking Trash Community Gathering here. For further resources, see below: Draft Garbage and Recycling Program Review and Summary and Recommendations 2017 Powerpoint presentation to Fredericton Council-in-Committee on Recycling in Multi-unit Buildings UNB Engineering report to the City of Fredericton on Glass Recycling 2013 Powerpoint of Glass Recycling proposal by UNB Engineering
Over the winter, I toured the province to better understand what barriers exist to expanding the use of renewable power in New Brunswick. A growing number of municipalities and First Nation communities are looking to utilize renewable sources of electricity. This would reduce the costs of their power bills, contribute to local economic development, and help reduce their carbon footprint. During the tour, I met with mayors, councillors, municipal electric utility executives in Saint John, Perth-Andover and Edmundston, solar energy entrepreneurs, home builders and designers. I also made a point of visiting solar, wind and micro-hydro power facilities. I met willing buyers for renewable power, as well renewable energy developers and renewable energy investors. Since then, Saint John Energy has tendered a contract to generate wind power themselves at a price much cheaper than it costs to purchase electricity from NB Power. The potential for expanding the use of renewable power in New Brunswick currently rests on NB Power’s willingness to purchase power from local renewable power producers. They have done so in the past but have little interest in acquiring more renewable power. The future of renewable power in New Brunswick depends entirely on the willingness of NB Power to buy and re-sell that power. This has stopped the further development of renewable power, despite proposals from numerous municipalities throughout New Brunswick. To address this barrier, I tabled a bill to make a small amendment to the Electricity Act that would allow municipalities and First Nation communities to buy electricity from community-based renewable power producers, paying NB Power for the use of their power lines. Unfortunately, my bill was defeated at the Legislature during the committee stage. Another barrier to expanding the use of renewables is structural. Currently the only energy development group in the Department of Energy and Resource Development is mandated to develop petroleum resources, not renewable energy resources. It is essential that Minister Mike Holland establish a Renewable Energy Development division in his department.
By David Coon We need to build compassion back into our public services. To be clear, I’m talking about the system, not the people who work in it. Some months ago, I attended a forum about youth in care, which brought together youth, whose guardian is effectively the Minister of Social Development, with social workers who work in the system. At one point, out of frustration, a young person proclaimed that the system sucked, and a social worker chimed in to agree that it does. Both felt trapped by a system that is serving neither the youth, nor the professionals charged with serving them. The same could be said for those who have been waiting in the ER for hours and the doctors and nurses that serve them. Or the seniors who need some help to be able to stay in their homes but can’t find it, and the personal service workers who serve them. The list goes on. The institutional systems that developed in the ’60 and ‘70s to protect and empower New Brunswickers, have become too focused on their own needs, rather than those of the general public. This is the result of Liberal after Tory after Liberal after Tory government trying to run government services like businesses, rather than as public services. In my mind, the turning point was when former Premier Frank McKenna infamously proclaimed that the idea of people first, ended when the money ran out. Government after government cut budgets for front-line services and they deteriorated. More and more of us are feeling poorly served, while those delivering the services are feeling overwhelmed and are burning out. The problem is the system treats the public and public employees as liabilities – costs to the system – rather than people who are citizens and public servants. It’s why we need system change. It’s my goal to ensure citizens are well-served and public servants are able to provide the public services we need with care and compassion. Todd Leader, a psychologist and social worker who teaches at St. Mary’s University, has written a book called “It's Not About Us; The Secret to Transforming the Mental Health and Addiction System in Canada”. I heard him speak at the annual meeting of the New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes, and his message was inspiring – a call to action really. He makes the point that we need to stop delivering public services from an expert and management perspective, and establish a system that treats the general public like we would want our family members to be treated. It is the system itself, that is preventing the transformation we so badly need. Other parties talk about transforming the way we do things in health care or seniors care, but without transforming the system itself, the results will continue to be nothing more than cosmetic. Too many people will continue to be poorly served, or fall through the cracks of the system altogether. Those who deliver our public services will continue to burn out, and it will become ever more difficult to recruit new employees. I want to change this. We need to change this, but we have to come together as people with a common cause. There is no room here for the politics of division. There is no room for the politics of blame, or for the politics defeatism. Our challenges have continued to grow because we have had government after government try to make change by doing more of the same. The traditional parties themselves are trapped in a system, of their own making, that actually prevents the change we need. In this election, you have the opportunity to make a difference by changing your vote. We need a Legislature that is as green in its make-up, as our beautiful province. David Coon is the Leader of the Green Party of New Brunswick and the MLA for Fredericton-South.
By David Coon My first real memory of politics was Pierre Trudeau’s advocacy for a just society. As an eleven year old, this vision for our county inspired me. If politics was capable of bringing about social change, it was something I wanted to know more about. This was also the era of Louis Robichaud’s program of social equality, continued by Richard Hatfield, which ultimately lifted so many out of poverty, and laid the groundwork for the Acadian and francophone minorities to become full participants in New Brunswick society. Indigenous peoples figured nowhere in the social change of that time. Reconciliation, the recognition of the treaties, and the resolution of land title must be today’s political priority. As Greens we embrace this, and as MLAs we will act on it. There are corrosive forces at work in New Brunswick that seek to undermine the progress made to ensure the language and culture of Acadians and other francophones are safeguarded. This threatens to turn us against each other. New Brunswickers have had the right to be served by their government in either English or French for almost half a century now. It’s been 37 years since the Legislative Assembly recognized the equality of the anglophone and francophone communities in New Brunswick. And it has been a quarter century since these rights were entrenched in our Constitution.So what is going on? Fear seems to be at the root of it. Many are fearful about the economy and the future of our public services. This is being used by some to argue that we cannot afford social equality. Repeat this enough, conjure up scary stories about going over an economic cliff, and fair-minded people can become fearful. Just look at the crisis in recruitment and retention of paramedics. The deteriorating ambulance service in rural New Brunswick is a result of poor management.Medavie has allowed staffing levels to fall far below what is required to keep our ambulances on the road. Blaming it on decades-old requirements to provide public services in English and French is to miss the actual problem altogether. There are also more than a hundred paramedics who are off work because of work-related health problems. Paramedics are burning out, they are suffering from PTSD. Improving ambulance service in New Brunswick should be a cause that unites us. What about the stories making the rounds aboutunfair hiring practices in the public service. This should have been put to rest a long time ago by government. Open and transparent governance should mean open and transparent hiring practices. Yet we have witnessed a string of governments who seem to believe that their work is their business, not the business of the people of the province. If there is nepotism in hiring practices, let’s root it out. If a bureaucratic one size fits all approach to second language proficiency requirements is being taken, no matter the job, let’s bring some good sense to bear. Which brings me to second language training. It is not available for most adults, whether English or French. Second language training must be readily available, accessible and affordable. If second language training in the school system is not producing the results we want, then we need to heed the advice of educators on how to improve those outcomes for both English-speaking and French-speaking students. If we are to successfully navigate the future, we must do so as people united with a common purpose. This is only possible if we all feel secure and respected.This requires good leadership, and an unwavering commitment to engaging New Brunswickers in pursuit of a just society. David Coon is the Leader of the Green Party of New Brunswick and the MLA for Fredericton-South
We Need Maritime CollaborationBy David Coon To hear Liberals and Tories talk about our future as New Brunswickers, one could be forgiven for thinking we, like Robinson Crusoe, have been cast away on an uncharted island, solely dependent on our individual capacity to survive in enforced isolation. As Maritimers, we are well aware that our sister provinces of Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia grapple with exactly the same demographic, social and economic challenges we do. The same goes for our cousins in Newfoundland and Labrador. Yet there is precious little collaboration in finding solutions to our common problems. The Premiers couldn’t even find the wherewithal to present a common front to Ottawa in demanding an adjustment to our health transfer payments to reflect the reality of our aging population. The Council of Atlantic Premiers, originally created in 1972 as the Council of Maritime Premiers, was conceived as an intergovernmental body to foster greater cooperation among governments, institutions and the peoples of the region. Today its outward appearance gives it the impression of a private men’s club. Journalists give the meetings barely a passing mention, content to dutifully reprint their press releases. A visit to their website reveals precious little. At a time when our peoples, institutions and governments need to be networking, exchanging and collaborating on the challenges of the day, the current arrangement for regional cooperation is failing us. Last week, I attended the annual meeting of the Cooperative Enterprise Council in Dorchester to hear a presentation from the Nova Scotia-based Centre for Rural Prosperity, a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering an approach to economic development that strengthens local communities. This impressive organization is working throughout the Maritimes, networking with other groups in civil society. The centralization and consolidation that has already taken place in New Brunswick has left people and their communities with little ability to shape their future, whether it is how economic development takes place and who benefits from it, or how their needs for health care, education and transportation are met. I was quite inspired by a recent presentation on collaboration among the five Nordic countries, including Iceland, a country with half the population of New Brunswick. The Nordic Council is a body that brings together elected representatives from the parliaments of those countries to establish common priorities for collaboration. I would like to see such discussions take place among the parliamentarians of our region. Ten years ago, the four Premiers and their cabinets met together in Sackville at Mount Allison University, but this happened behind closed doors and included no representation of MLAs from the opposition parties or government back-benches. If we are to collaborate on a regional basis in ways that are transparent and accountable, then it is the Legislatures that must encounter one another, not the cabinets. Our challenges of an aging population, access to health care, transitioning away from fossil fuels, local economic development, and poverty reduction need to be examined on a regional basis to inspire the public policies needed to support local solutions, while strengthening regional cooperation where it will be most helpful. We must avoid creating regional institutions which would serve to further concentrate decision-making in the hands a few big companies and remote bureaucracies. This seems to be the direction the Council of Atlantic Premiers has taken in recent years. It is time for it to be democratized, so it can serve as an effective secretariat to the parliamentarians of Atlantic Canada, to truly foster greater cooperation among governments, institutions and the peoples of the region, as was originally intended. David Coon is the Leader of the Green Party and the MLA for Fredericton South.
Fighting Climate Change Means Burning Less and Leaving More in the GroundBy David Coon Its Father’s Day as I write, and I can’t help but think about what the world will be like for our children in the coming decades. The environment within which we live is changing so rapidly now, yet political leaders fail to act; even when we have agreed to do so.Doug Ford, the new Tory leader in Ontario seems poised to repudiate his Province’s signature on the agreement provincial premiers signed with the federal government to cut carbon pollution. This was to be our contribution to the Paris Agreement to prevent the world from warming by 2 degrees C. Blaine Higgs, New Brunswick’s Tory leader has already signaled that he will make the agreement, which puts a price on pollution, an election issue. Our climate is being thrown off-kilter by the build-up of waste in our atmosphere from burning too much gasoline, oil, coal and natural gas. The solution, obviously, is to burn less. To achieve this, governments can use regulations to cut carbon pollution, or they can make fossil fuels increasingly expensive to encourage industry and vehicle owners to use less. Ironically, it was industry that argued long and hard in favour of pricing pollution as the way to fight climate change so they would avoid provincial and federal regulations designed to achieve that end. In New Brunswick our carbon pollution largely comes from refining and burning gasoline and diesel, as well as from burning coal to produce electricity. The Tories offer no solution to burning less fossil fuel, in fact, they want to put more on the market by opening up fracking for shale gas. Their solution seems to be to put blind faith in some future world where some unknown technology will allow us to stop burning fossil fuels. The Liberals seems to think we can have it both ways, cut carbon pollution here but expand production in the oil sands so there is more to burn elsewhere. On this the Liberals and Tories agree. The kicker is that we are already burning more gasoline, oil, gas and coal than is safe to use now. Extracting and burning even more will lock in a future that we do not want for our children and grandchildren. This means leaving much of the oil and gas we know about in the ground. Ironically, it was industry that successfully lobbied for pricing pollution as the way to fight climate change in order to avoid provincial and federal regulations that might otherwise force them to cut their emissions. At the moment, 80 percent of Canadians and businesses in our four largest provinces are now paying a price for whatever carbon pollution they create. To burn less fossil fuel, we need to use it more efficiently and substitute clean renewable energy. The Alward Tories dismantled the Province’s renewable energy programs while starving out Efficiency New Brunswick. The Gallant Liberals killed off Efficiency New Brunswick while failing to bring any substantial amount of new renewable energy on-line to power our homes or vehicles. To burn less fossil fuel, we need to get serious about energy efficiency and making the transition to new clean renewable energy sources. These are clear goals of the Green Party. These are the goals of the increasing number of new small businesses being started by young New Brunswickers, but we need to have a government that will create policies that will support growth in these sectors. The green energy transition offers a wide horizon of opportunity for New Brunswickers, but it will mean burning less gasoline, oil, gas and coal, as we become super energy efficient and use more solar, biogas, and renewable electricity from the wind and sun. This will not come about through wishful thinking, but requires a strong caucus of Greens elected to the New Brunswick Legislature. David Coon is the MLA for Fredericton South and Leader of the Green Party of New Brunswick.
My grandfather graduated from grade six, and he was one of the smartest men I have ever known. In our family, getting Papa, as we called him, to complete grade six was always talked about as a success – something to celebrate. My grandparents ran a small successful farm, and they were immersed in their community, like many of us are today. I learned from them that a vibrant resilient community is fundamental to our quality of life – and that you have to treat the land with care and respect, just like you treat your neighbours, if you expect to live an abundant life.In the Greens, I found a political party that understands these things. We must manage our society and our economy in the same way, so that prosperity is shared and lasting.Being Green means believing in the power of community to create change for the better. It means unleashing local wisdom and ingenuity to tackle the challenges we face. To make this possible, the good of the community must always be put ahead of corporate interests. Practically speaking, it means localizing decision-making about health-care, education, development and resource management. To do so, means harnessing local creativity and engagement, and requires effective community-based organizations. And it means a provincial government must stand with our communities to provide them with support and resources they need to thrive.The old-line parties have been dragging us in the opposite direction with the one size fits all centralization of health care and education, and the corporatization of community-based nursing homes and health care in the home.Local decision-making about resource management means tying local resources to local economies, like the forest resources on Crown land. Can you imagine if lobsters were caught by a corporation and shipped away for processing? It would be the end of our fishing communities, but this is precisely what we have been doing in forestry which has undermined forest communities. Local communities must have a say in the management of local forest resources, to create meaningful work for local people. And this must be done in a way that engages with and respects local indigenous communities.To be able to focus on the local means two things. The provincial government has to see itself as a collaborator with us, not the boss of us. And it has to have our back if we fall on hard times for health or financial reasons. We have neither.Liberals and Tories have been captured by the interests of the few, whether corporate or political, for so long that they find it almost impossible to act in the interests of the many. It is why governments have gradually damaged the quality of our essential services, be it health care or our roads. It is why we are so often left with the question: for whose benefit have they been running the province.We are a small province, and we need to become the very best at being small. After all, small is beautiful, as long as we make a place for everyone in our communities, and we keep our sights fixed firmly on long-term – living within our financial and ecological means. But it starts here, at home. The idea that New Brunswick’s deliverance will come from away needs to be put aside. We are the people we have been waiting for.Any farmer will tell you after they run into a rough patch, that things will be better the next year. But they don’t wait for it, they work for it. Papa taught me that. And his life proved it. That’s why I’m a Green. David Coon is the Leader of the Green Party of New Brunswick and the MLA for Fredericton-South.
It doesn’t get more fundamental than food. As the old saying goes, you are what you eat. But most of us don’t know what’s in our food, or where it came from. If more of the food we eat was produced in New Brunswick, we would have a better idea. There is something fundamentally wrong when you can’t even find something like New Brunswick potatoes in the grocery story, though we grow far more than what we consume here. And if you are looking for potatoes organically grown in New Brunswick, you’ll most likely find them in farmers markets, not supermarkets. Things are not much better for poultry and meat, despite the fact that the scale of our agriculture lends itself to raising grass-fed cattle and free-range chickens. The challenge here is that the rules governing the production of poultry and meat are designed for big industrial operations, not ecologically appropriate mixed farms. For me, the problem is that our starting point is not how best to feed New Brunswickers with healthy food produced through ecologically sound methods. The starting point is what commodities does the global food market demand, and how can they be produced in large volumes at low cost. The local food movement provides a counterbalance to this. And it is the local food movement that has attracted growing numbers of young people to take up farming. My family buys its poultry from a young man who moved away to the big city where he worked as bicycle courier, but returned to raise small livestock on a corner of his parent’s farm. Both of the Green Party’s candidates from Kent County, Kevin Arseneau and Allain Rouselle are young farmers, who together with their young families, are producing food for New Brunswickers using organic practices. Our candidate for Albert, Moranda Van Geest, ran a dairy farm with her husband to supply milk to New Brunswick families. Now they raise sheep, pigs and chickens in their retirement. The potential to expand local food production in New Brunswick is considerable, and to do so in a manner that is ecologically sound. This requires government to adopt self-reliance as a policy goal, one of the key guiding principles of the Green Party. It means thinking about community development as the intersection between economic and social development that is rooted in a particular place. It means thinking about development occurring in an ecological context. And it requires a commitment to policies that would encourage food import replacement with local production, as well as a commitment to support the development of small enterprises all along the supply chain from field to table. Imagine for a minute if government stopped supporting extraordinarily profitable enterprises with millions of dollars in forgivable loans and payroll rebates, such the $21 million it has committed to the TD Bank over the past decade. Imagine instead that it refocussed its efforts to provide small business loan guarantees to help grow the enterprises we need to ensure we can feed ourselves with healthy, locally produced food. On a recent visit to Saint John, I had a delicious lunch in a wonderful café run by a social enterprise called Stone Soup on the ground floor of that city’s Social Enterprise Hub. When I was last in Bouctouche at dinner time, I had an enjoyable meal in the café of the La Société Culturelle de Kent-Sud. In Moncton, Dolma Food can always be counted on to serve up a superb lunch. What links these enterprises is a strong commitment to community and the desire to offer healthy meals based on local food. It is our communities which are moving New Brunswick forward. Greens believe it is the role of a provincial government to foster and facilitate local development so families can flourish in thriving communities. David Coon is the Leader of the Green Party of New Brunswick and the MLA for Fredericton-South.
I am hearing from more and more people that care seems to be a dwindling resource in our health care system compared to a decade ago. Despite the $1.3 billion that we spend on the delivery of hospital services every year our city hospitals are stretched to the limit, operating at full capacity with inadequate levels of staffing. Staff are feeling disrespected by the administration. Burn out is a real concern. Those who chose the caring professions are frustrated with a system that gets in the way of good care. Patients suffer. It doesn’t add up. We have a nursing shortage, but newly minted nursing graduates cannot get permanent full-time work, so they leave the province. Emergency departments are operating at 100 percent capacity without a single ambulance delivering a patient in urgent need of emergency care. Wait times are putting patient safety at risk, but ER’s are not being adequately staffed. Nurse practitioners can’t get sufficient work to keep their licenses, so they are leaving the province. Surgeries get cancelled for lack of beds. Patients are in hallways for lack of beds. And if you need treatment for a mental illness in Fredericton, psychiatrists are a scarce resource, limited by an inadequate number of billing numbers. Physicians and nurses are venting their frustration in the media, and in letters circulated to MLAs. Patients and family members of patients are doing the same. What could account for this deplorable state of affairs? The past decade has seen government after government obsessed with what euphemistically is called efficiencies. We have had a fiscally-driven health care system, rather than a patient-centred system of care. As a result, our front-line health care services lack the money they need to meet the demand. On the flip-side of this, nowhere near enough has been done to reduce the demand for health care in the way of health promotion and prevention, an approach that is central to the Green Party’s agenda for health care reform. The other big change to health care in the past decade was centralization. In 2008, Shawn Graham’s government collapsed four health authorities into one called Horizon. Four others were folded into Vitalité. The objective was to save money and improve the health of New Brunswickers. Ten years out, the verdict is in. It didn’t work. Centralization has become the problem, not the solution. Nurses are now even scheduled centrally, out of Saint John. A nurse calls in sick in Miramichi, and a decision is taken in Saint John about who to replace them with. It’s time to move back in the other direction, creating smaller health districts with local advisory councils. Interestingly, Vitalité never fully consolidated the four health regions it encompasses, leaving some local decision-making authority in each. A more decentralized system would be better equipped to deliver health promotion and disease prevention, responding to local priorities rather than a one-size fits all approach from a central authority. The New Brunswick Health Council has carried out community health assessments across the province, but the health care system is too centrally organized to make effective use of their findings. Greens believe that decisions should be made as close to the people who will be affected by them, as is practical, whether it is patients, health professionals or communities. This means those at the centre of government must be prepared to relinquish some of the power and authority that has been handed them in the rush towards the centralization of decision-making. Whether it is health care, economic development, or forest management, it is time for a provincial government that is committed to empower our communities and regions to be able to shape their futures. This is an essential part of the Green vision for New Brunswick. David Coon is the Leader of the Green Party of New Brunswick and the MLA for Fredericton-South.