by Edward French
Five candidates are seeking to replace a longtime member of parliament who is not seeking reelection for the Southwest New Brunswick seat in the Canadian general election on Monday, May 2. MP Greg Thompson has held the position since 1997, and except for when Liberal Harold Culbert defeated Thompson in 1993, after Thompson was first elected in 1988, the Conservatives have held the seat since 1968. Those running in this election are Christian Heritage Party of Canada candidate Jason Farris, New Democratic Party candidate Andrew Graham, Green Party candidate Janice Harvey, Conservative Party candidate John Williamson and Liberal Party candidate Kelly Wilson.
While Thompson was a strong advocate for Canada's position opposing the passage of LNG tankers through Head Harbour Passage to proposed facilities in Passamaquoddy Bay, all five candidates state they would take the same position. They were also asked to respond to questions concerning economic development and the use of pesticides to control sea lice at fish farms.
Christian Heritage Party candidate Jason Farris of Keswick Ridge works as a website designer and programmer and is an active volunteer in his community. Concerning economic development, he says, "As a primarily rural riding, we have strong ties to the farming, fishing and lumber industries. We need to strengthen these areas and support our local producers. Imports might be a little cheaper, but the long‑term effects of saving a few cents are lost jobs and businesses closing. This in turn means less money in the local economy, which affects us all."
As for the LNG proposals for Passamaquoddy Bay, Farris says, "According to the LNG industry itself, the area in question is unfit for an LNG facility. These tankers cannot transit through Head Harbour without subjecting residents in numerous communities to the 2.2‑mile 'Hazard Zone' defined by the U.S. government that accompany these ships. Using this passage is in violation of the industry's own best safe practices. I choose to err on the side of caution and proper stewardship of our environment."
On the question of the use of pesticides at fish farms, he states, "Where I'm not in commercial fisheries nor do I have experience in this area, I would need to refer to the expert opinions of aquaculturists. I would also seek the council of local fishermen, as I strongly believe they would know more about the real‑world effects of such chemicals."
Farris adds, "Our federal government is wasting our money hand over fist. We need someone who will actually put a stop to the rampant spending and work to pay off our debt. If we keep electing the same people and parties, we will keep getting the same results. People can't complain if they don't demand change. I'm offering an option of morality, honesty and integrity in government."
NDP candidate Andrew Graham, a community activist and volunteer, works as a woodworker, carpenter and instrument maker in West Saint John, although he previously lived in St. Andrews.
"We need to rebuild the family farms, the local food supply," he says, along with more processing of fish and farm products, which would include local market initiatives. He also believes the forest products industry needs to diversify beyond just pulp and softwood lumber. "It's too narrowly focused for the swings in the market."
Concerning Canada's opposition to LNG tankers in Head Harbour Passage, Graham says the country should voice its opposition more strongly than it has. "It threatens the fisheries on both sides. The sooner the government can weigh in with more force against it, the better."
As for the use of pesticides at fish farms, Graham says the Bay of Fundy should be viewed as a common resource that is shared. Those who used cypermethrin, a pesticide not allowed for use at fish farms in Canada, showed "a disrespect to other fisheries." He also notes that courts are not forced to impose tough penalties for breaking environmental laws in Canada. He believes that fish farms are trying to grow too many fish in their pens, which hurts other fisheries and makes for a less desirable product. "There have to be more stringent measures so the fisheries and fish farms can work together without threatening the lobster stocks."
He believes the political system is at a crossroads in Canada and has descended into mean-spiritedness, secrecy and manipulation, particularly through the use of attack ads. "It's a dark path that we have to turn away from."
Green Party candidate Janice Harvey of Waweig is a PhD candidate at the University of New Brunswick, studying ecological economics and political science. She previously was a leader with the Conservation Council of New Brunswick.
Harvey states, "The Green Party advocates for a conversion of our economy from one that degrades the environment to one that protects it. The most important sector to tackle is energy since our fossil fuel addiction is driving global warming and nuclear power poses unacceptable health, environmental and financial risks. The first priority must be to dramatically cut energy waste." A recent report showed that a $690 million investment in energy conservation in the province would, over 10 years, eliminate growth in electricity demand, create 30,000 jobs, leverage $3 billion in private investment, and dramatically reduce energy costs for homeowners and businesses.
Harvey has been actively involved in the campaign to keep LNG out of Passamaquoddy Bay from the beginning. "I have been to Ottawa lobbying for a federal regulation under the Canada Shipping Act to permanently ban the passage of all dangerous cargoes through Head Harbour Passage. I will continue with that advocacy. In the longer term, however, we need to pursue a protective designation for the Quoddy region, which is one of the most important marine ecosystems on the Atlantic seaboard."
"Toxic chemicals of any sort, including pesticides, should not be allowed to be dispersed in marine waters," she states. "If you don't protect the water you lose what lives in it. In the case of salmon aquaculture, the Fisheries Act has been ignored." She believes that open net pen aquaculture makes sea lice infestations, diseases and the release of thousands of tons of solid waste directly into the coastal waters inevitable. "The only way to solve that problem is to fund the transition of the industry to a closed system sustainable technology."
Harvey supports the free run of alewives up the St. Croix River. She adds, "There needs to be a political voice for a new way of doing things that supports people without destroying the ecological foundations that underpin our immediate communities and beyond. Any party that ignores this imperative is living dangerously in the past."
Conservative candidate John Williamson of St. Andrews served as Prime Minister Stephen Harper's communications director from 2009 until April 2010. He has been active in federal politics throughout his life.
He states, "The most important issue in this election is jobs and the economy. A newly elected Conservative government will continue to lower taxes paid by families and businesses to maintain jobs and create new ones. The other parties all propose higher taxes, which will hurt job creation and put our economic recovery at risk. To ensure the recovery continues, we should fulfill the prime minister's economic plan by focusing spending on infrastructure programs that create jobs today; reducing taxes on working families; and lowering taxes on businesses so they can create jobs (higher taxes, for example, will not help a company like Connors compete in a tough international market)."
Williamson says he would advocate for Canada to continue its opposition to LNG tankers sailing through Head Harbour Passage. "And voters should realize the only political leader in the House of Commons to oppose LNG tankers in Head Harbour Passage is Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff and the New Democratic leader Jack Layton have failed to take a firm public position against LNG traffic in Canadian waters. This is because they think it is an unimportant local concern when it is really an issue of Canadian sovereignty. In addition, they do not understand the negative impact it will have on the fisheries."
Concerning the use of pesticides at fish farms, he says, "The biggest problem is the illegal use of pesticides that threaten the traditional fisheries, and we need government officials to enforce existing regulations. Aquaculture provides jobs and opportunity, but it must coexist alongside the traditional fisheries, which similarly provide a living for many hard-working families. With proper enforcement of the rules and greater use of well‑boat treatment, we can manage this resource in a way that reduces its environmental footprint."
Williamson states, "Only the Conservative Party is committed to repealing the failed, costly long‑gun registry. We believe laws that are designed to make Canadian streets safer should target criminals, not law‑abiding farmers and duck hunters living in rural Canada."
Liberal candidate Kelly Wilson of Beaver Harbour previously worked as director of the John Howard Society and was a small business owner. She volunteers in many community projects and programs, including ones involving youth and women at risk and eastern Charlotte County flood relief.
Concerning the high unemployment rate in the area, she says she would work with the Enterprise Network in the province for labor market information concerning what industries would be interested in moving to the area. She notes that high unemployment rates for youth also need to be addressed, and she would want to address the cuts in grants to the province from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency for silviculture projects.
Wilson would advocate for Canada to continue to oppose having LNG tankers sail through Head Harbour Passage and is opposed to LNG terminals in Passamaquoddy Bay.
She has met with one of the larger aquaculture firms to speak about the use of pesticides, and she says the industry, in other areas, has been using alternative products to control sea lice outbreaks so that there is no impact on the local environment. "I don't support using harmful products," she says, adding that the fish farming industry is heavily regulated. She notes that if the use of pesticides is harmful to the environment, the fish farmers would be hurting themselves.
Wilson says the Liberal platform includes a new strategy to address poverty in the county, a national affordable housing framework to help the poor, and a "Rural Canada Matters" strategy. She notes that this area has been affected by cuts by the present Conservative government, including in the areas of rural postal service, the forgiving of debt for doctors and nurses, and high-speed Internet access.
April 22, 2011
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