St. John’s East

This district includes the northeastern part of the Avalon Peninsula, including the northern half of the City of St. John’s, and the eastern half of CBS. It also includes Bell Island, Little Bell Island and Kelly’s Island.

Talking to the candidates for St. John’s East.

Craig Westcott
Conservative Party

Who are you?
I’m Craig Westcott, I was born and raised in St. John’s, Topsail, Kelligrews. Father of three children and happily married. I’ve been in the media business for 21 years—I own two newspapers, The Business Post and the Irish Loop Post. I work too much, and I think it’s very important that we participate in this election.

Why should we vote in this election?
We are at a turning point in Newfoundland and Labrador’s history. We are being asked to isolate ourselves from Canada for the next four years. It’s very likely that the Conservative party is going to form a majority government and our premier, for reasons which only he understands, wants us to sever our ties with the rest of the country, which can’t be good for Newfoundland and Labrador. I’d really like to know what his end game is. Is the end game to make things so bad that we end up eventually looking at leaving Canada? If that’s the case, we’ll end up like Quebec, which is half in and half out of Canada. It’s economy has suffered and its cultural life has suffered and I don’t want the same thing for Newfoundland and Labrador…

Why should we trust you?
Why should you trust me? Well, I’ll tell you, I’ve been 21 years in the media business and I think anyone who is attracted to journalism has to have some kind of obsession and focus on the truth. That’s always been what I’ve aspired to and if I’m privileged enough to be elected, then I’ll still apply that ethic to seek the truth, tell people the truth, and just do the right thing.

How would you address the shortages of health care professionals in the province?
Health care is a provincial issue. It is strictly the provincial government. However, in addition to the money we get from equalization and all the other federal government’s funding sources, we also got over half a billion dollars in what’s called the Health Transfer. So that’s money that Ottawa just hands over to Newfoundland to put towards health care. In exchange for that money I would like to see some accountability for it. We want to know that its being spent properly so that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are getting the very best health care that they deserve.

What measures would you take to improve access to post-secondary education?
That’s another provincial government issue. If you look at the federal government, they’ve been pretty good to us in that area. They’ve put millions and millions of dollars into research chairs in universities across the country. There’s all kinds of money going into research foundations and research institutes, funded by the federal government, which employ grads and post grads and undergrads. …I think you can never give enough money towards education. Humanity’s greatest hope is education.

What is your position on using lakes and ponds such as Sandy Pond as dumps for mining waste?
Sandy Pond was approved by both the federal government and the provincial government. Any time you’re dealing with toxic pollutants and dealing with other kinds of harmful effluence, you really have to pay close attention to how they’re being treated and how they’re being contained. I really don’t know enough to know whether that’s the best system but the fact that both the provincial and federal environmental departments have approved it would suggest that it is. However, I would not have a problem with giving those regulations on both sides a closer examination to be sure that we have the very highest standards.

What is your opinion on gay marriage?
Absolutely no problem with it whatsoever.

Do you differ from the Conservative party here?
I don’t think the Conservative party has a problem with it, maybe individual members do… the only caveat I have for it is that I have no problem with a civil union, but I think it should be left to the individual churches whether they would recognize a marriage. That’s freedom of religion. But I don’t see any problem with two gay people getting married if they can find someone to perform the ceremony.

What’s your opinion on the recent $40 million cuts to arts funding?
If you look at how much arts funding is coming into NL, we’re getting way more arts funding than we’ve ever received in our history. That said, there have been some small individual programs, mostly pertaining to artists traveling abroad, that have been cut or tinkered with. What’s happened there is that in the last federal budget, everything that the government touches, whatever it spends money on, has to be reviewed. What they’re looking for is a way to improve the efficiency of things. If something is not meeting its targeted purpose it could get eliminated or modified and that’s what’s happening here. There just hasn’t been time, because of the election, to take a look at improvement or replacement of these funds.

Jack Harris
New Democratic Party

Who are you?
I’m a guy who grew up in St. John’s and went to school here and university at MUN. I was involved, at an early stage, in student union politics at the university and was very engaged in that in the late 60s. …After that I went on to do a variety of work until I went to law school. I worked for CBC for a bit and on Shea Heights as a community development coordinator and I worked in Toronto doing various thing from labourer to surveyor for Stats Canada. Then I went to law school in 1976 in Alberta, then I came back and did a Masters in Economics and lived in England for a year or so and then I came back here and started practicing law. I was admitted to the bar in 1980, and I was elected to parliament in 87 and that was sort of the beginning of my formal political career, I suppose. I was defeated in ’88. This riding has mostly been PC since Confederation. …After I was defeated federally, I ran in 1990 in St. John’s East which has been renamed Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi. So I’ve spent 16 years in the legislature and became leader of the NDP in 92 and went through five elections, elected and reelected, then retired as leader of the party in May of 2006 and resigned my seated to be succeeded by Lorraine. Those are the broad brush strokes…

Why should we trust you?
I think I’ve been involved in public life for more than 20 years and I think people generally speaking seem to accept I have a good reputation for trustworthiness and responding to the needs of people. I guess people have to make their own mind up on that issue….

Why should we vote in this election?
I’d reverse that and put that question on its head. The consequence of not voting is to basically drop out of a major way to register your interest in public life in the future. To not vote is to say I’m not going to have any influence, or I don’t believe at all in elections. I think that that’s an advocation of an opportunity to register your comment. I’d rather someone go and spoil their ballot than not go at all…

How would you address the shortages of health care professionals in Newfoundland?

One of the things the NDP has already announced—Jack Layton announced a program that would increase the number of medical school places by 50%, putting the number of doctors up every year and making it possible for the five million Canadians who don’t have family doctors to have one. That’s a very important step. Canada has about half as many doctors per capita as the United States, or even Cuba, which is a very poor country. Obviously the need for medical attention shows when family doctors leave. You see the line ups in place like Gander. But I think the other thing is there are some provincial aspects of course. One of the things that’s happened over the past dozen years or more is that the federal contribution to health care has diminished and that started to happen in the mid 90s with Paul Martin’s various budgets and lack of transfers for health care. And that shows on the provincial side. The feds have the responsibility to ensure we have some equality of results on the provincial scale and we can’t compete if our salaries are less than other provinces.

What measures would you take to improve access to post-secondary education?
The New Democrats in parliament tabled a post secondary education act to help the college and university system and link federal funding to provincial commitments improving the quality and affordability. But the fixed student aid campaign has a number of elements: to lower student loan interest rate, national needs based grants, a national omsbudsperson and also for those of you who have student loans and are having trouble paying them—protection against predatory collections agencies. These are elements of that. As someone that went to university a generation ago and came away with a relatively light load of obligations, I think that’s one of the biggest failures of this generation—to leave students finishing university with the kind of debt they are carrying. Yes, they have an education to show for it, but it’s a hard way to start off a life, and it forces choices on students that are graduating, or even students that don’t manage to graduate but end up with the debt load anyway. This is an awful legacy to leave to a generation who we want to see do as well as we have done.

What is your position on using lakes and ponds such as Sandy Pond as dumps for mining waste?
I was the person who blew the whistle on the situation involving the Duck Lake Project in central Newfoundland, and we tried to stop this from becoming a precedent. Our party in parliament exposed this loophole which allowed mining companies to use these lakes as tailings ponds. We’re opposed to it. This was an exception which was allowed, and it seems a lot of mining companies across the country are lining up to drive through here. And we’re opposed to it. It’s wrong, and we’d like to change that legislation and ensure that this is not allowed to happen…

What’s your opinion on the recent $40 million cuts to arts funding?
Well, it’s a very cynical act by the Harper government. It was interesting to note that just in the wake of that announcement was a report for the conference board of Canada showing that the role of the arts and the economy, never mind the cultural aspect of it which is obviously very important to us here in Newfoundland and Labrador. It’s a no-brainer to say to cut back in arts is a stupid thing to do and is almost pandering to some anti-arts feeling that must be somewhere in the country…

What is your opinion on gay marriage?
I think our party has been the most supportive of the rights of gays and lesbians to have a legal marriage and across the country the law has recognised that and we’re fully supportive of that law. Our own provincial law was changed while I was in the house of assemble and from day one we were at the forefront to seek amendments in the human rights code to include sexual orientation as a prohibitive ground for discrimination. That was a campaign that went on for over 10 years and eventually was successful.

student loan interest rate, national needs based grants, a national omsbudsperson and also for those of you who have student loans and are having trouble paying them—protection against predatory collections agencies. These are elements of that. As someone that went to university a generation ago and came away with a relatively light load of obligations, I think that’s one of the biggest failures of this generation—to leave students finishing university with the kind of debt they are carrying. Yes, they have an education to show for it, but it’s a hard way to start off a life, and it forces choices on students that are graduating, or even students that don’t manage to graduate but end up with the debt load anyway. This is an awful legacy to leave to a generation who we want to see do as well as we have done.

What is your position on using lakes and ponds such as Sandy Pond as dumps for mining waste?
I was the person who blew the whistle on the situation involving the Duck Lake Project in central Newfoundland, and we tried to stop this from becoming a precedent. Our party in parliament exposed this loophole which allowed mining companies to use these lakes as tailings ponds. We’re opposed to it. This was an exception which was allowed, and it seems a lot of mining companies across the country are lining up to drive through here. And we’re opposed to it. It’s wrong, and we’d like to change that legislation and ensure that this is not allowed to happen…

What’s your opinion on the recent $40 million cuts to arts funding?
Well, it’s a very cynical act by the Harper government. It was interesting to note that just in the wake of that announcement was a report for the conference board of Canada showing that the role of the arts and the economy, never mind the cultural aspect of it which is obviously very important to us here in Newfoundland and Labrador. It’s a no-brainer to say to cut back in arts is a stupid thing to do and is almost pandering to some anti-arts feeling that must be somewhere in the country…

What is your opinion on gay marriage?
I think our party has been the most supportive of the rights of gays and lesbians to have a legal marriage and across the country the law has recognised that and we’re fully supportive of that law. Our own provincial law was changed while I was in the house of assemble and from day one we were at the forefront to seek amendments in the human rights code to include sexual orientation as a prohibitive ground for discrimination. That was a campaign that went on for over 10 years and eventually was successful.

Walter Noel
Liberal Party

Who are you?
Who am I? [Laughs] I’m a person who has been dedicated to contributing to political life in Newfoundland and Labrador ever since I left university. I’ve run a number of times for various offices and won some and lost some. I’ve been particularly interested in contributing to getting the kind of change that our province needs in Canada.

What kind of change?
One thing I did do was help get the changes to the Atlantic Accord that Paul Martin agreed to in the 2004 election. When I was a provincial MHA—which I was for fourteen years from 1989 to 2003—I spent a lot of time working on federal provincial issues and making the case that Newfoundland contributes a lot more to Canada economically and otherwise than we get credit for and that we deserve to get better treatment from the federal government.

Why should we trust you?
Because I was an elected member of provincial legislature for almost fifteen years and people saw the kind of representative that I was. I held many public meetings, I worked closely with the constituents, I was known as a good politician, I’ve had strong support from many of my constituents over the years and still do today…

Why should we vote in this election?
Why should you vote? Well, it’s up to people to decide if they want to vote or not, if they want to let other people make the decisions, I guess that’s their own business. But they should care because everyone that I come across has views about the kind of country they want to live in, and the only way they can move it in the direction they want it is by supporting people who will commit to doing so if they’re given the responsibility.

How would you address the shortage of health care professionals in Newfoundland?
One thing we have to do is look at how the medical school might contribute more, and see if things can be done to encourage the people who graduate from the medical school to remain in the province. And then we need to look at whether we can make agreements with people who are studying in the medical profession elsewhere to come to the province. And of course we have to offer a competitive income these days, because medical people can work anywhere in the world, and the only way you’re going to get enough is if you make your offers competitive.

What measures would you take to improve access to post-secondary education?
From the federal level, I think we need more dedicated funding to assist students in paying for their education and to assist the provincial government in providing the highest quality of education that they can. I think the federal government has not contributed enough in the past and they have to do so. Our party has planks in our platform for this election that will commit us to doing so, to putting more money into education, to increasing funding for research, and things like that, to make it attractive for people to want to study in these fields…

What is your position on using lakes and ponds such as Sandy Pond as dumps for mining waste?
Well it has to be done properly and in an environmentally-friendly way. We can’t expect to keep everything pure if we want to develop our economy and do things in the mining and forestry industries and that sort of stuff. You have to be prepared to make some compromises but we should not do any more damage than is absolutely necessary.

What is your opinion on gay marriage?
I’m quite happy with people deciding to lead the kind of life they want to lead, and I don’t think society should interfere any more than necessary with the lives of people who are living the kind of life they want.

What’s your opinion on the recent $40 million cuts to arts funding?
We’ve already committed as a party to significant funding to help not only replace those funds, but to provide even more funding. We think it is very unfortunate that the Harper government has made those cuts, and it’s the kind of thing opposed by the Liberal Party.

Howard Story
Green Party

(by e-mail)

Who are you?
[From his Bio]
Howard Story was born in St. John’s, Newfoundland on March 2, 1952. He attended Memorial University of Newfoundland. … Howard Story had a 11 year career with IBM Canada Ltd. in Newfoundland, Ontario and other regions of Canada. … Mr. Story also established and ran a group home for foster children in B.C. between 1991 and 1995. … More recently he has help build and sponsor an orphanage for Tibetan street children in Katmandu, Nepal currently run by Buddhist Monks. … Mr. Story has a passion for Newfoundland, the environment and the future of our province and our planet. He has travelled extensively throughout the world and has lived in Africa, Middle East, Asia and Canada. He continues to be active on Asia, Economic and Canadian issues.

Why should we trust you?
I have a life time of community work with orphans, foster children, foster homes and parenting support groups. Those who know me know I am about being a contribution to others lives and making a difference in those lives.

Why should we vote in this election?
You should vote in this election because you owe it to those people in the world who cannot, and for them, you should celebrate that right. You have the freedom—just do it!

How would you address the shortage of health care professionals in Newfoundland?
Increase the enrollment in Medical and Nursing Schools by 50%. Subsidise tuition in those schools, make loans forgivable for graduates after seven years practice in Newfoundland and Labrador. Remove the self -governing, self-regulating and self- monitoring right of the Medical Association, and create a public board to which Medical Association reports and to which the Association is responsible. Implement a national wage scale for nurses, empower nurses with higher salaries, better working conditions and increased power in improving quality of care.

What measures would you take to improve access to post-secondary education?
Increase funding, and increase capacity of post secondary institutions. Generate more on-line education. Provide better counselling, coaching, goal setting and life skills awareness in school curiculum. Add “usable” life skills to curricullum, such as money management, budgeting, wealth generation, taxation, and “wisdom” courses taught by the retired.

What is your position on using lakes and ponds such as Sandy Pond as dumps for mining waste?
Any pollution of ponds, lakes, streams or pollution of our water systems is not acceptable and non-negotiable.

What is your opinion on gay marriage?
It’s not good, and it’s not bad, it just is. It’s personal choice—the state has no business in it.

What’s your opinion on the recent $40 million cuts to arts funding?
Arts are our unique expression of ourselves as a nation and as a province. I disagree with this cut.

Shannon Tobin
Progressive Canadian Party

Who are you?
My name is Shannon Tobin and I’m running for the Progressive Canadian party in the district of St. John’s East. I’ve been involved in politics for a long time and have been promoting my political views since I was ten years old, speaking in debates and speak-offs. I used to be a member of the Conservative party but at the age of 18 I asked my parents for my birthday for a membership in the Progressive Conservative Party. That was the party that I believed in—they stood for ethics, they stood for integrity, and they stood for respect. As a member of the Conservative party, I saw those three words change significantly. History showed that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians don’t like the Reform party and that they don’t like the Alliance, and that’s what the Conservative party has turned into.

Why should we trust you?

Because I believe in being trustworthy. My word is that if I ever act in a manner that is against this province or against the best interests of my district, I’ll immediately resign.

Why should we vote in this election?
Because this is one of the few times in our history that this election will be a pinnacle in our future. We have a rift between the Conservative government and our province because of promises they made to us which were not fulfilled. We also have a Liberal party who are now saying that they helped get the Atlantic accord here, which, unless my history is wrong, I believe they denied to us and John Efford told us we were going to get less than half of what we were promised initially. So it comes down to what you believe in, what you believe is right.

It doesn’t matter who you vote for, just go to the polls and vote.

What is your opinion on gay marriage?
The Progressive Canadian party, which is the Progressive Conservative choice, has decided that our public has accepted it and we don’t believe in regressing.

What measures would you take to improve access to post-secondary education?
What we’re proposing is to open the loan program whereby anybody who wants to have access—regardless of their parents’ income bracket—can access… We also propose interest -free loans for [students]. The government should not be in the business of making money off students. We also want to see a reduction in tuition by eighty percent over the next few years. It’s going to take a while, yes. We also want to separate post secondary education funding from the Canadian Social Transfer.

How would you address the shortage of health care professionals in Newfoundland?
Again, increased funding. Right now, the thing that everyone is complaining about is that we don’t have competitive wages. We need to increase the funding from the Canadian Health Transfer. And we don’t need to keep going on about how great our surpluses are when we’ve cut health care to the bone, we’ve cut education to the bone and we’ve cut all our social services to the bone.

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