My father was a coal miner’s son from Donkin who was hired by CN Express at the age of 16. A number of my other relatives were miners as well. Some years later, Dad was the express agent In Pictou, where he met and married my mother, and where I was born in 1956. After Pictou, we lived in Glace Bay for a couple of years, and since then, I have been a visitor to Cape Breton, not a resident. My wife and I visit Cape Breton as often as possible, and we try not to miss Celtic Colours or the Broad Cove concert in Inverness. I’ve been married to Jane for 43 years and we have 2 sons. We’ve lived in West Dover, a village near Peggy’s Cove in HRM, since 1996. I have a varied work and educational history. For a decade I was a research assistant in the Psychology Department at Dalhousie University, and spent 11 years as the constituency assistant for Maureen MacDonald, the NDP MLA in Halifax Needham. From 1999 until now, most of my energy has gone to environmental organizations such as the Ecology Action Centre, and to politics. I was the President of the NS NDP from March, 2016, to November, 2017, and the NS NDP candidate for Sydney River-Mira-Louisbourg in the 2017 general election. I cancelled my membership in the NDP in September of 2018, and joined the provincial and federal Green Parties on January 1st of this year. I am currently managing the federal campaign of Jo-Ann Roberts in Halifax, as well as serving as a part-time organizer for the Green Party of Nova Scotia.
This by-election, and the general election to come, are about recognizing that climate change is a crisis, and everyone will be affected, no matter where they live or what industries our economies are based on. We need dramatic and immediate change . It is also about recognizing that the three traditional parties, which require that MLAs vote as their leader or the Premier tells them to, have not provided the responsive, accountable government that Nova Scotians want and need. A Green MLA can vote based on conscience and consultations with constituents, without being penalized by the leader. Voting Green in this by-election is a way to tell the older parties that change must come.
Provincial governments have done poorly by former coal-mining communities, including Donkin. Cape Breton could be a green energy hub. There’s huge capacity to work towards employing the workers of the area in green energy, and to diversify the economy in general. However, successive governments have done so little that everyone was basically forced to cheer the return of coal mining at Donkin. Coal mining is one of the most dangerous industries on Earth. We should never wish it upon the young worker of Cape Breton, but when a government has done so little to facilitate a transition to anything else, is it any surprise that opening a new mine was welcomed? We must do more to ensure that we work to develop green industry precisely where old hydrocarbon industry formerly was, so that the next time someone proposes to set up an operation that will simultaneously destroy the planet and our children’s lungs, we have the economic strength to be able to say “No thanks, we’re good.”
Health care is, as always and everywhere in Nova Scotia, one of the most important issues in this election. Throwing money around on the same day that by-elections are announced is not a sound basis for providing the services and facilities needed in communities here. We need effective consultation with community members, and evidence-based, well costed, plans for today and the future.
I am concerned that people here who believe in the Green Party’s vision of the future would not be able to vote Green unless someone stepped up to give them that option. My father’s family are from the area, and I am interested in the future of this region. I want to provide an option for people who want to vote Green but haven’t been able to in Sydney River-Mira-Louisbourg for the last two elections. By the next general election, we intend to have a strong locally-based candidate everywhere in Nova Scotia, and I intend to be part of growing the Green Party in Cape Breton. My presence on the ballot gives an option in this by-election for people who believe in fighting climate change, in a Universal Basic Income, in democratic reform, and in an MLA free to make independent decisions.