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.
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