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.
“There’s no money.”- I hear this over and over again. It is a common refrain when people hear new ideas that would make life better for New Brunswickers. But I can’t understand why anyone would expect that spending money in the same way year after year is going to produce different results. On Tuesday, government brought down its budget, which is largely a repeat of last year’s. We spend more than $9B each year to serve New Brunswickers and our communities. The biggest ticket item by far is health care at nearly $2.8 billion. You would think there would be a huge emphasis on prevention and health promotion in the budget to reduce the incidence of illness. There is not. This money is primarily going to treat people when the fall ill. Liberals and Tories argue over whether or not to close hospitals, but closing hospitals doesn’t reduce the number of sick people. We have to look upstream to do that. The conditions into which people are born, grow, live, work and age, largely determine whether someone falls ill or develops chronic diseases. Even the vast majority of cancers are caused by these conditions. A decent income, financial security, secure housing, sufficient and healthy food, a sense of belonging, mental wellness, an education, a healthy environment in the workplace and at home, and clean air and water are what keep us healthy, and therefore, avoid health care costs. Let’s look at just one determinant of health – poverty. The budget fails to tackle poverty head on – it in fact, perpetuates it. The level of income assistance is inadequate to meet even the most basic of needs. A single person receives $537 a month, which is not enough to pay for food, shelter and other necessities of life. Once on social assistance, single mothers are not allowed to keep their child support, the disabled cannot keep disability pensions, and indigenous people living off-reserve lose any meager income from their band. If you are on income assistance and try to make you money go further by sharing accommodations, you are immediately cut-off and lose your health card so you can’t fill your prescriptions. The failure to address the social determinants of health has driven up health costs, as has the way we deliver health care. Our health system was designed to address acute health problems, but a huge portion of our health care dollars is spent on treating chronic conditions and minor ailments. Greens believe we can improve access to health care, at a lower cost, by moving more health care into the community and incorporating a wider array of health professionals. Pharmacists can treat many minor ailments and issue prescriptions, but unlike most other provinces, Medicare will not cover those costs. Instead of being treated by the local pharmacist for common infections, people are forced to use the expensive machinery of the emergency departments in our hospitals, waiting hours for a doctor to write a prescription, when this could have been done in the local pharmacy in a matter of minutes. Nurse practitioners could become the primary care provider for many without family doctors, but this government will not permit them to establish private practices and be reimbursed by Medicare. Midwives can provide pre- and post-natal care, and deliver babies at a lower cost than obstetricians, freeing up the specialists to concentrate on high risk pregnancies. Yet there are only three midwives funded to practice in the entire province – all in Fredericton. We have to do better. Greens embrace community-based and preventative health care. This will mean better chronic and acute care for people in our communities, better employment opportunities for the trained medical professionals living here now, and savings that can be diverted to addressing other determinants of health, including poverty. We have what we need to change the face of health care, right here, right now. There is enough money. It’s a question of how we spend it. David Coon is the Leader of the Green Party of New Brunswick and the MLA for Fredericton-South.
"In the early 20th century, New Brunswick was a very big deal. . . . But over the decades, New Brunswick slipped back into relative obscurity." This how the largest travel book guide publisher in the world, Lonely Planet, begins its introduction to our province, noting most travellers simply drive-through the province. The problem is for most Canadians - never mind those from outside our - borders - New Brunswick is the dark matter on the map of the country. Dark matter makes up much of the universe, but it cannot be directly observed as it emits no light or energy. Canadians know were here, but they just can't see us, even as they traverse the four lanes that whisk them from Quebec and Maine to the Confederation Bridge or the welcome centre at the Nova Scotia border. It's no wonder. Our newest welcome centre, just off the four lane, bringing travellers into New Brunswick at St. Stephen, is astonishingly non-descript. If you can see past the signage for the American fast food restaurants, the Irving station and convenience store, you'll spot a big question mark - no New Brunswick logo or sign - just a giant question mark, subtitled Visitor Information. I kid you not.This is how we are branding New Brunswick at our newest government visitor information center. At a recent community meeting in my riding, constituents gave voice to a concern shared by many about our lack-lustre efforts to promote New Brunswick and give our visitors a memorable experience. I could dine out on the money I'd make if I had a loonie for every time someone has asked why we can't have TV commercials like those produced by the government of Newfoundland and Labrador. To be fair, the good folks at the Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture have created an excellent tourism website and have devoted much attention to create an on-line presence for New Brunswick. When you google New Brunswick, their site comes up on the first page, but so does the Lonely Planet reference and a CBC story about New Brunswick being the only province with a shrinking population. Every last one of us knows the potential for tourism in our province is huge, but mostly untapped. The provincial government has included tourism in its growth strategy, but we have to generate some heat and light for it succeed. We need to effectively brand New Brunswick to shine through the dark matter that obscures us from view for most Canadians. And we need to create tourism infrastructure and services that actually encourage tourism. Both of these requirements go beyond the capacity of the Department of Tourism to deliver by itself, and require a long view. The St. John River Valley scenic drive, for example, is wonderfully scenic, but feels like the land that time forgot as the four-lane propels visitors through region. The pavement has been neglected, there are few services along the road, no scenic turnouts, no tourist infrastructure besides King's Landing, and no promotion of Woodstock, Fredericton or Gagetown as destinations. In a word, the drive would be bleak if it weren't for the majestic views. Our cultures, our food, our craft beer and ciders, our artists, and our history are all things that visitors speak glowingly about when they come across them, but too often we fail to make it easy, or attractive for such encounters to occur. The new performing arts centre planned for Fredericton provides a unique opportunity to provide a tourism anchor for the region if we created a summer festival of musical theatre along the lines of the Charlottetown Festival. Audiences could experience our cultures, our music, and our history from theatrical productions based on iconic New Brunswick stories. This would create opportunities for our playwrights, our composers, musicians and actors. Visitors could build their vacations around the summer festival. Opportunities abound across the province to significantly increase tourism, but it requires that government make this a priority, invest in infrastructure and services, and work with our regions to achieve this goal. New Brunswick is one of the best kept secrets in the country, but to let our fellow Canadians in on the secret requires creativity, collaboration and some pluck. Fundamentally, we need to believe in ourselves to make this work. Those were the ingredients that led to our decision to unite with Nova Scotia and the Province of Canada to create a country 150 years ago. That's what went into Louis Robichaud's social equality program 50 years ago. Compared to those revolutionary changes, with the right leadership, turning New Brunswick into a tourist destination should be a cakewalk. David Coon is the Leader of the Green Party and the MLA for Fredericton South.
It’s Environment Week, but what does that mean beyond community and school clean-ups? We are continually told by the powers that be that we must balance the environment and the economy. Which I have come to understand means accepting widespread collateral damage to our climate, to our soils, to our oceans, to our forests, and to freshwater and air in order to grow the economy. The problem is we are fully embedded in and dependent on the environment. Undermining the environment to grow the economy is a fool’s errand, but we continue to tolerate this. Consider plants. They definitely are part of the environment. Plants soak up energy from the sun and turn it into food. It’s really quite astounding when you think about it. Sunshine is converted into food by plants. I think it was Johnathon Swift who said pickles are really just bottled sunshine. But there’s more. Plants scrub carbon dioxide out of the air and give us oxygen. Some plants even provide us with wood to build our homes. Many plants lift our spirits, whether it’s the beauty of blooming flowers or the majesty of towering trees. Plants are indispensable to life, and with the right growing conditions they bear food to eat, air to breathe, wood for shelter, and balm for the soul. And if that’s not enough, they also support our entire food chain. Given the indispensable role of plants, you would think that our societies would be mindful of their growing conditions. Good soil, plenty of bees for those plants which need their assistance to reproduce, and a climate conducive to growth. In other words, we need to protect their environment, which we have failed to do. The increasing production and use of oil, gas and coal is a case in point. We ran out of space to put the pollution that results from burning these fossil fuels a long time ago. The ever increasing amount of fossil fuels we dig up and burn have swamped the ability of nature to recycle this pollution, allowing it to build-up in our atmosphere and ocean waters, destabilizing the climate and acidifying the sea on a global scale. This is why it is urgent to lessen our need for burning oil, gas and coal by consuming less and by switching to enduring and renewable energy sources such as the sun, wood fibre, wind and tides. While Premier Gallant released a strategy to do this last December, we have yet to see any concrete measures. The Department of Energy and Resource Development has neither a renewable energy development branch, nor a section dedicated to energy efficiency and conservation. There is no one in the Department of Energy to champion the development of renewable energy. Government hasn’t moved the bar for renewable energy, whether for space heating, water heating, electric power generation, or fueling vehicles since the Shawn Graham years of the last decade. Young entrepreneurs and some cooperative enterprises certainly have been trying, but the public policy environment is unsupportive. There are a remarkable number of start-ups where New Brunswick entrepreneurs are building low energy homes, looking to generate solar and wind power, manufacture and market wood pellets, supply energy storage systems, develop innovative tidal power technologies, and create clever controls to run these systems. It’s time that government catch up and establish helpful policies to support the development of the renewable energy sector, but to do so we need people in place who have the responsibility to do so. The federal government is championing the development of renewable energy across Canada. Our renewable energy resources are abundant. Their development will enable us to reduce our consumption of coal, oil and natural gas so we can do our part to reduce carbon pollution. Premier Gallant has set a target of cutting carbon pollution by 4 million tonnes over the next dozen years. He needs to make the development of renewable energy a priority if we are to ever achieve that target. I introduced a bill in the Legislative Assembly to help achieve this, but it was defeated. It’s time to be bold and build the economy of the 21st century, which must be powered and fueled by enduring renewable sources of energy. That’s something worth thinking about during this Environment Week. Plants can turn sunlight into food. It’s time we use it to power and warm our homes, fuel our cars, and run our economy. David Coon is the Leader of the Green Party and the MLA for Fredericton South.