Green Party leader calls for better supports for small businesses during pandemic’s second wave

Fredericton – New Brunswick Green Party leader and MLA for Fredericton South David Coon is calling on the Higgs government to provide support for those small businesses, such as cafés, restaurants, pubs and bars hit hardest by the second wave of the COVID and the public health measures needed to fight it.

“Businesses in the hospitality and accommodations sector are really struggling, especially those dealing with orange phase rules.  Should any region have to return to red, businesses in the fitness sector will join them.” said Coon. “It is time for the Premier to help those businesses as his colleagues in Nova Scotia and PEI have done.”

Coon is calling on the Premier to do three things:

  1. Create a grant program of up to $5,000 per month to support small, independently owned dine-in restaurants, bars, and fitness and leisure establishments impacted by public health directives in the orange zones, or potential future red zones.

  2. Create a Workspace Adaption Assistance Fund to retroactively offer grants for small businesses for expenses that were directly related to implementing safety measures of a COVID-19 operational plan.

  3. Help small businesses reduce their costs by supporting energy efficiency upgrades with targeted loans and technical advice designed to achieve 15% to 35% savings on their energy bills.  This will also create work for local trades people and business for local suppliers.

“It is in the public interest for our local economies to weather the COVID storm, so public investment in the small businesses most affected by COVID measures is urgently needed,” said Coon.  “Small businesses are the backbone of our local economies and need our support.

Green Party leader says committee work blocked by Legislature shutdown

Fredericton – David Coon, Green Party leader and MLA for Fredericton South, says that by shutting down the Legislative Assembly, the Higgs government is preventing important committee work from happening.

“The government with the support of the Liberal opposition has brought the work of the Legislative Branch of government to a screeching halt,” said Coon.  “There are seven committees that cannot begin their work because the Legislature has yet to approve their membership or chairs yet.  Without the ability for members to participate in the sitting of the Legislature virtually, I don’t see us reconvening until sometime in the new year.”

To date, the Legislature has approved the membership of only one committee, the Economic Policy Committee responsible for studying government bills. Committee membership must be established by a motion put to a vote by MLAs, which requires the Legislative Assembly to be in-session.

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Green Caucus to propose emergency debate in Legislature on hybrid or virtual sittings

Fredericton – In the Legislative Assembly this afternoon, Green Party MLA for Kent North and Acting House Leader Kevin Arseneau will move a motion calling for an emergency debate on hybrid or virtual sittings of the Legislative Assembly. A hybrid system is in use in the House of Commons. Since September, Members of Parliament have the option of participating in debate and voting virtually.

“My caucus colleagues and I have been consistently calling for virtual or hybrid system for Assembly sittings since April,” said Arseneau. “The Legislative Assembly has had over six months to study and implement such a system that would enable the MLAs who cannot be in Fredericton for public health reasons to represent their constituents by participating in debate and voting on important legislation.”

Section 45 of the Legislative Assembly’s standing rules allows for an emergency debate for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter requiring urgent consideration. Arseneau says that allowing the Legislative Assembly to continue to function during a pandemic is vitally important to democracy.

 “We cannot afford to suspend our democratic institutions in times of crisis, especially when there are proven and safe alternatives, as have been convincingly demonstrated in the House of Commons,” said Arseneau. “The Legislative Assembly has only sat for 12 full days of routine business out of 328 this year.”

“While Members of the Legislative Assembly are being asked to stay home, the government is asking workers across the province, including teachers, retail workers and healthcare workers to go to work every day,” said Arseneau “Democracy is an essential service.”

Green Party leader tables bill to protect tenants

FREDERICTON – In the wake of steep rent increases experienced by some New Brunswickers this year, David Coon, Leader of the Green Party of New Brunswick and MLA for Fredericton South will introduce an  Act to Amend the Residential Tenancies Act on Friday to establish rent controls to protect tenants from unreasonable rent increases.

“New Brunswick renters have fewer legal protections than other Canadians,” said Coon.  “This is why I tabled a bill to strengthen our weak Residential Tenancies Act almost two years ago.” 

The bill, which mirrors sections of Coon’s 2018 bill, will:

  • Ensure that a tenant’s rent will not rise within the first year of a tenancy,
  • Ensure that a tenant’s rent can only be raised once per year, and
  • Establish an annual rent increase cap

“Four provinces, including PEI, have rent control to protect tenants from large increases, while New Brunswick is the only province that allows landlords to raise rent multiple times a year,” said Coon. “We need to ensure that tenants who cannot afford large increases in their rent are not left out in the cold without housing this winter.”

Green MLAs announce their critic roles and areas of focus

Fredericton – On Wednesday November 18th, the Green MLAs announced their critic roles and their priority policy areas.

David Coon, Leader of the Green Party of New Brunswick and MLA for Fredericton South will be the critic for Aboriginal Affairs; Executive Council Office; Intergovernmental Affairs; Natural Resources and Energy Development; Postsecondary Education Training and Labour; and Social Development.

Megan Mitton, MLA for Memramcook-Tantramar, will be the critic on matters of Healthy and Inclusive Communities, Climate Justice, and Education. The government departments she will be responsible for are Education and Early Childhood Development; Environment and Climate Change; Health; Service New Brunswick; Transportation and Infrastructure; Women’s Equality; Human Rights; and the Premier’s Council on Disabilities.

Kevin Arseneau, MLA for Kent North, will be the critic on matters of Developing and Strengthening Communities, Food Sovereignty and Fiscal, Economic and Social Justice. The government departments he will be responsible for are Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries; Finance and Treasury Board; Justice and Public Safety; Local Government; Official Languages; Rural & Economic Development; and Tourism, Heritage and Culture.

“Our team is ready to get to work,” said Coon. “We are going to hold the Higgs government to account, while pushing forward on important files with ideas and solutions.”

Green Party leader calls for a more ambitious affordable housing plan

FREDERICTON - Green Party leader and MLA for Fredericton South David Coon is calling on the Higgs government to be more ambitious when it comes to providing affordable housing. The current commitment is to increase the subsidized housing supply by just 1 percent by 2022.

“There are 5,668 households on the Department of Social Development’s waiting list for subsidized housing, including an increase of 758 since July,” said Coon. “The government’s target of adding just 151 units over three years is a drop in a leaky bucket.”

In 2018, there were 28,000 New Brunswick households in need of affordable housing according to CMHC, defined by the number of households paying more than 30% of their income for housing. Yet funding for the Affordable Rental Housing Program has remained stagnant over the past three years, at less than $1 million per year.

“I was appalled to learn that the not-for-profit housing developers have been informed that the Province will no longer contribute to projects with federal government funding,” said Coon. “When the need is so great and the cost of borrowing is so low, government should be making major new investments in affordable housing now. That means budgeting far more than their obligations under the bilateral agreement they signed with Ottawa as part of the 2017 National Housing Strategy.”

Green Caucus calls on Higgs government to establish rent controls

FREDERICTON - Green Party leader and MLA for Fredericton South David Coon is calling on the Higgs government to establish rent controls to protect New Brunswickers against unreasonable rent increases.

“New Brunswick renters have fewer legal protections than other Canadians,” said Coon. “This is why I tabled a bill to strengthen our weak Residential Tenancies Act almost two years ago.” 

Coon’s bill spawned a concerted lobby effort by some rental property developers to convince the government and Official Opposition to vote it down. The bill did not reach second reading before the end of the spring sitting.

Since the Greens’ effort to strengthen legal safeguards for tenants, the ownership of rental properties in New Brunswick has continued to shift to out-of-province corporations.

Coon and Megan Mitton, the Green critic for Service New Brunswick and MLA for Memramcook-Tantramar, are calling on Service New Brunswick Minister Mary Wilson to introduce legislation this fall to better protect New Brunswick renters from unjustifiable cost increases.

“Housing is a human right. Large, unjustifiable increases in rent will have negative consequences such as increasing homelessness and deepening poverty,” said Mitton. “Government must establish rent controls to protect tenants and avoid these negative consequences.”

Green Party leader says NB Nurses Union report on nursing homes is a wake-up call

FREDERICTON – Green Party leader David Coon and his caucus are calling the New Brunswick Nurses Union’s investigation into the long-term care sector a wake-up call for political leaders in New Brunswick. 

Entitled, The Forgotten Generation: An Urgent Call for Reform in New Brunswick’s Long-Term Care Sector, the report found that 73% of nurses surveyed say resident care has declined in their nursing home over the last 5 years.

“The Nurses Union investigation has torn off the veil on what amounts to systemic neglect of seniors in care by successive governments,” said Coon. “Government after government has failed to provide even the bare minimum funding necessary for nursing homes to comply with provincial standards of care, inadequate as they are.”  

Nurses working in nursing homes reported that residents fail to receive the emotional support they need 62% of the time, missed out on regular exercise 71% of the time, and did not have timely access to toileting 31% of the time.

According to the report, in 2019, nearly half the homes were unable to meet minimum staffing requirements.   Reliance on casual staffing has risen to unacceptably high levels of more than 75%.

“The system is broken. There is no direct link between the level of funding and the health needs of nursing home residents. This means that most residents do not receive the 2.89 hours of care, as staff tend to those with the most extreme needs,” said Coon.

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Green Party Leader Wants Government Commitments on Mental Health Care

This is Mental Health Week in Canada, which culminates in World Mental Health Day on Saturday October 10th.    Green Party Leader and Fredericton South MLA David Coon is calling on the Higgs government to rapidly implement its campaign commitment to opening walk-in mental health clinics around the province and take further steps to improve our mental health care system.

“It is shocking that less than five percent of our health care budget is devoted to treating mental illness,” said Coon.  “In addition to establishing walk-in mental health clinics, sufficient funding must be provided to transform our Mental Health Mobile Crisis Teams into 24/7 first responders, and to cover the costs of psychotherapy through Medicare.”

The regional health authorities operate mental health mobile crisis teams in the province, but their hours of operation and geographic reach are limited by their funding, leaving police to respond to mental health calls, for which they have no training. Coon says that the mental health mobile crisis teams must be funded to serve as a new class of first responders so they there will be trained mental health professionals responding to mental health or “wellness” calls, around the clock, rather than police.

Medicare does not pay for psychotherapy, leaving many with mental illness untreated.

“If you need chemotherapy to treat cancer, or physiotherapy to treat an injury, Medicare pays the bill.  If you need psychotherapy to treat your mental illness, you pay the bill, and that is indefensible,” said Coon.

Coon says that walk-in clinics to reduce the insufferable wait times for mental health care, mental health first-responders, and the pubic funding of psychotherapy would go along away to improving mental health care in New Brunswick.

Green Party Leader Calls on Premier to Open Negotiations on Wolastoqey Land Rights

Once again, First Nations in New Brunswick are being forced to resort to the courts because of the refusal of successive governments to recognize and implement their rights to land and resources, despite the Supreme Court’s admonition of provincial governments to recognize and negotiate the implementation of these rights.

Yesterday, Wolastoqey chiefs announced they will be seeking the Court’s recognition of the Wolastoqey Nation’s title to their traditional territory. This follows the 2016 court filing by Elsipogtog seeking the affirmation of the Mi’kmaq Nation’s title to the Sikniktuk district in eastern New Brunswick.

“Liberal and Conservative cabinet ministers in successive governments have routinely acknowledged at public events that First Nations in New Brunswick never ceded their lands, but any attempt by First Nation leaders to negotiate the implementation of land and treaty rights has been shunned,” said David Coon, Leader of the Green Party and MLA for Fredericton-South.

 “I am calling on Premier Blaine Higgs to open negotiations around the implementation of land rights to avoid a costly and unnecessary legal battle that inevitably will end up in the Supreme Court,” said Coon. 

 

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