Last night, I participated in an all-candidate forum for Halifax Citadel-Sable Island and Halifax Chebucto on Vision and Values.
I would like to thank the different faith communities and other organizations that came together to sponsor this forum at the historic St. Andrew’s United Church (a fun fact that I didn’t share at the forum: Jamie Baillie and his wife Sandra Crowell were married here!).
It was great to be on the same stage with my Liberal and NDP opponents (as well as our counterparts from Halifax Chebucto). While we disagree on many issues, I was touched by the stories they shared, including Labi Kousoulis’s heartfelt tribute to his late immigrant parents and Glenn Walton’s open dialogue with his students at Saint Mary’s University in the aftermath of the Quebec City Mosque killings.
For those who weren’t able to attend, here are some of the things I touched on in my remarks and responses to questions on the topics of poverty, the environment, a welcoming community, housing and mental health:
Action over words
My parents taught me that deeds matter more than words. They set an example by action, not talk. That’s the approach I have taken in my work and in my volunteer experience to help people. Good ideas can come from anywhere. After a lot of divisiveness in Nova Scotia politics, we need MLAs who can work across party lines. When I was President of Neptune Theatre, I didn’t criticize the NDP when they cut our funding. I worked with then Culture Minister Leonard Preyra (a New Democrat) to get a reinvestment back into Neptune. When I was chair of the board of the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, I worked with Immigration Minister Lena Diab (a Liberal) to pursue and support federal and provincial policy changes to increase the number of newcomers to Nova Scotia.
Poverty can’t be solved by government policy alone. You need private sector economic growth (particularly in a province like Nova Scotia that had the worst rate of economic growth in Canada last year and has seen employment drop over the last eight years) to generate the revenues for government to invest in policy solutions, working together with our valuable not-for-profit community groups.
Focusing on the Environment
Nova Scotia became Canada’s leader in greenhouse gas reductions because of all-party support of a previous PC government’s Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act (EGSPA), followed by hard caps on emissions imposed by the former NDP government. With EGSPA about a decade old, we need to modernize it and set climate change goals for the next 30 years, working with all political parties, the environmental movement, industry and other partners.
Welcoming and Supporting New Nova Scotians
Except for our Indigenous peoples, we are all immigrants to Nova Scotia. One of the best things about Halifax Citadel-Sable Island is the diversity, skills and experience brought by our international students. When I meet those students campaigning, I always tell them: thank you for choosing Halifax, Nova Scotia and Canada – as MLA, I will work for you, even if you can’t vote for me. As chair of the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, I have urged the provincial government to respond favourably to the request of Mayor Mike Savage and Council to extend municipal voting rights to permanent residents, since they pay taxes, let’s give our new members of the Canadian family a voice in our democracy.
My faith community has also sponsored a Syrian refugee family of six to Halifax. Evidence shows that the best way to connect newcomers to Canada is through private sponsorship. Unfortunately, the turmoil caused by the government in our classrooms have made it more challenging to integrate refugee children.
We need a more aggressive approach to all forms of housing, including seniors housing, particularly with the failure of the NDP and Liberal governments to work with the community on an affordable housing approach to the former Bloomfield school. There continues to be concerns with our seniors.
Prioritizing Mental Health
Everyone is touched by mental health – ether personally or with a loved one. All political parties support action on mental health. Whether it’s a majority government or minority government, let’s get on with the task at hand to invest in better mental health services without delay, starting in our schools.
I can’t wait for a Halifax Citadel-Sable Island only candidate forum on Wednesday, May 24, at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21.
You can learn more about the PC Team’s vision for Nova Scotian – including the issues raised above by reading through our platform.