By David Coon
COVID-19 has tested us in ways that we haven’t been for generations. New Brunswickers have shown immense personal strength through these times. Poet Fred Cogswell captured this in his poem, appropriately entitled New Brunswick.
“Not soft soil where we root together,” Cogswell wrote. But “To grow up slow and endure for long . . .All our beauty is our stubborn strength,” he concluded.
As I have travelled the province this summer, I have been reminded how we are rooted together in this place by geography, history, and our stubborn strength.
During a meeting with Chief Bill Ward in Metepenagiag, he told me that his community had been inhabited continuously for 3,000 years. Our host at La Maison Mer de Cocagne, told me how Cocagne is where the very first Acadian families to own their own land after the deportation settled. This summer I walked the land on Grand Manan that my wife’s loyalist ancestors settled to establish successful fisheries after being exiled by the American government.
When we were in lock-down, our incredible sense of community, and our willingness to take care of each other loomed large. The road to recovery will challenge us once again.
As we develop a path to recovery, we must keep in mind that government is the political institution that we created for the purpose of service our collective needs. It is not a business. The wellbeing of people and the communities to which we belong, must be at the heart of every decision government makes.
For the recovery, Greens would first focus on supporting the most vulnerable, such as the elderly, single parents, young people unable to begin careers, the disabled, the poor and homeless.
I believe most people’s needs are best served at the local level, so a Green government would decentralize, and forge new partnerships with non-profit organizations to complement government’s efforts to restore the social fabric of society.
The pandemic has been eating away at our mental and emotional health and delayed medical treatment.
We must not shut down our health care system during a second wave of COVID-19, but improve it to provide the services people need, where they need them, when they need them.
The pandemic revealed how neglected seniors care has become over successive governments. In order to keep costs low, seniors in long-term care have been deprived of a dignified life, and housed in conditions that are unsafe in a pandemic. In New Brunswick, the base budget for nursing homes has not been reviewed since the 1970s, and Blaine Higgs has refused to provide the funds needed to facilitate family visits during the pandemic.
A Green government will make life with dignity a priority in nursing homes for both residents and caregivers. This will require better wages, more funded hours of care, and renovations to create safe residences, and family members are fully integrated into the circle of care for their loved ones. And we are committed to pursing the expansion of non-profit community-based nursing homes, rather than profit-making residences.
The road to recovery for our economy, must be a departure from the failed route that successive government have followed. Lowering taxes on corporations and the rich and avoiding new social spending to minimize deficits has widened income disparities, and ignored environmental constraints, fuelling the climate crisis.
A Green government will implement a different economic model that is sustainable and better suited to a small province like New Brunswick.
We will facilitate development, by region, that is more consistent with the needs and values of local people, more focussed on security and stability. Instead of policies that seek to create more millionaires, our focus will be on ensuring there is meaningful work to support a middle-class lifestyle for all. To achieve this, we will focus on building New Brunswick’s capacity to take care of more of our needs locally.
Greens will increase our local supply of renewable power, heat and transportation fuels, with the aim to have 100 percent of our electricity generated by renewable energy by 2035. We have abundant wind and solar resources for electricity, and the wastes created in processing seafood, produce, and wood fibre provide us with the resources to create renewable natural gas and biodiesel fuel.
We need to be able to feed ourselves. Local food security based on expanding local food production and processing to help us become more self-sufficient in food will be an important goal.
To increase our ability to take care of more of our needs locally, we will institute an import replacement strategy, that will help guide the development of policies and legislation to enable New Brunswick business, cooperative and social enterprises to supply more of the goods and services that we currently import.
Local small and medium-sized business are the backbone of our economy, and they provide most of the jobs. During the pandemic, our small businesses need to survive, in order to thrive following recovery. To this end, Greens will implement a program to postpone, and in some cases, forgive property taxes during the pandemic.
To support small businesses in the recovery, we would target improving the energy efficiency of their buildings and operations to cut their costs, while looking at how best to support the application of new technologies.
The details of how we achieve what I have presented here can be found in our platform.
The choice is clear in this election. You can vote for the traditional parties, imprisoned by the old way of doing things, supported by the few who they have benefited greatly. Or you can vote Green, assured that we will place your well-being at the centre of every decision we make.
David Coon is the Leader of the Green Party of New Brunswick. He was first elected to the Legislative Assembly as the MLA for Fredericton South in 2014.