St. John’s South-Mount Pearl

Includes the south end of St. John’s, plus Mount Pearl and Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove.

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

Merv Wiseman
Conservative Party

Who are you?
Oh, well, you want to start with the name, Merv Wiseman, obviously the candidate for St. John’s South-Mount Pearl. I’m a person who’s been intimately involved with agriculture—in the rural economic development initiatives associated with agriculture. And I’ve been really a huge advocate in my capacity as Federation of Agriculture president to try to develop an agriculture industry here that really serves the people of the province—not just farmers, but the consumers as well. We looked at the huge issues of public good in agriculture, above and beyond economic development. By that I mean we want to secure, in a self-sufficient way, the ability of our province to be able to produce food products. It’s something that can contribute largely to us being masters of our own destiny… There’s also a part of me that people don’t know that well, and that’s the fact that I worked with the Canadian Coast Guard in Search and Rescue for the last 32 years—saving peoples’ lives and being involved in fishing peoples’ safety. I was a maritime search and rescue coordinator. I’ve taken a leave of absence there now from that job. 32 years in the public service, and I was given special status there to work with safety in the fishery…

Why should we trust you?
Well, you know, trust is something that you have to earn. I believe that, by and large, Newfoundlanders—I am speaking largely from my perspective as a Newfoundlander, and I suppose it pertains to all of humanity—I think we extend trust to everybody, so it’s up to us to disprove that we’re worthy of that trust. So I’m at the juncture now where a lot of people don’t know me, and in some cases there will be a leap of faith, and in other cases there will be people because of a natural inclination to be somewhat cynical… I know that people will want to take a leap of faith on me, and then it would be up to me whether I could maintain that trust. Where I come from, on that front: when you lose that, it’s something very valuable that’s gone.

Why should we vote in this election?

That’s a very broad question, and I’m seeing, to some dismay, quite frankly, that politicians have been all tarred with the same brush of skepticism and cynicism, and that really torments and bothers me. …We always like to trumpet the word “tolerance”, and many of the people who have no time for anyone who is intolerant are themselves very intolerant of politicians. Of course, there will be some politicians that will pass the test and perform the way they’re expected to perform, and there will be others that will not be. We have a tendency to be lowered to the lowest common denominator. … We take it for granted, but it is our ultimate weapon…

How would you address the shortage of health care professionals in Newfoundland?
The shortage of health care workers is something that’s systemic to the entire country. In fact, it goes beyond our borders. But sticking with the province, it falls under provincial jurisdiction, and what’s done on that front is primarily something that’s done in that domain. I think that nationally, we should at least consider giving the financial wherewithall to allow the province to level the playing field and provide the right kinds of care; to make sure that people are equipped, coming out of our universities. Certainly, on that front, I look at the performance of the Conservative party and over the last 30 months of the Harper government we’ve seen the highest level of federal transfer payments on the federal-provincial agreements on health care than we’ve seen at anytime in the past and there’s been record levels. …I’d like to go a little bit farther and see what I can do to contribute to health and move that line as efficiently as we can to make sure we’ve got our fair share.

What measures would you take to improve access to post-secondary education?

Again, we have to look at the ‘show me the money.’ …Education falls under provincial jurisdiction… The Millennium Scholarship is something that’s important, and the idea of the Conservative government to remove the taxation from scholarships is a big thing for people who want to move to different levels of post-secondary education, and so on. That’s been significant for a lot of people…

What is your position on using lakes and ponds such as Sandy Pond as dumps for mining waste?
My position fundamentally is to protect our lakes and ponds and streams and environment. It speaks to a large issue that we have right across the board. …I’m not sure which hill we stand on and we have to defend, but the Sandy Pond project is one that causes a little bit of concern for me. Not a little bit, no, that’s wrong. It causes a lot of concern, because symbolically, it says we can sacrifice our environment to move projects along.

But you know I do have to balance that with the need for economic development, especially in rural areas where this development is taking place. I have to put some level of faith in the environmental process. I know there has been immense environmental study going on in that particular area. If the recommendations of the department or departments involved, and the scientists and scientific work for what we’re finding; if all the intelligence that we gather allows us to proceed, then we have to mitigate that against the needs of the people on the economic side. And if it’s something the people in that area want, without causing any undue and long term damages, then I would have to say I would have to go for it…

What’s your opinion on the recent $40 million cuts to arts funding?
The number, the 40 million, maybe we can park that and deal with the bigger picture here. The bigger picture from the Conservative government, and reconciling my support for a Conservative government, and wanting to jump into this race has been done on a number of fronts—including many of the questions and areas we’ve just covered. I know on the arts front the government has put more into arts than has been put into by governments over a number of years. … I have great respect for the arts and I have a great passion for it as well. I would be very keen on understanding and drilling much deeper to the issues and programs where the arts community feels it has been deprived. I’m not the world’s greatest expert on the programming that’s there right now. I’m trying to understand it the best I can but I think essentially we have to take stock in a serious kind of way the things the arts community is trying to tell us. I know from working in my own industries, in my own organisations on the fronts than I’ve worked that there’s nothing worse than someone trying to come in and be prescriptive in how they approach arts, agriculture or otherwise. I would want to really engage myself with the arts community of where the priorities should be…

What is your opinion on gay marriage?
I’m for gay rights. Whatever form that takes. If that’s in the institution of marriage and all that entails, I take a strong stand on that one in favour. I’m not gay myself but I’m certainly a strong advocate and would do anything to defend the rights of gays among the rights of many other people. The time has come in our society to throw that down in any serious mindsets that there shouldn’t be rights along these lines. The day is long gone. It’s time for people to get with the times and be accommodating and tolerant in a true Christian way.

Ryan Cleary
New Democratic Party

Who are you?
Who am I? I’m a father. I’ve got two boys. One’s twelve and one’s nine. One’s an actor, and one is a hockey player. I love being a father.

I am a journalist, even though I’ve been told I’m officially a politician now, because I’m running, but I’m still a journalist at heart.

I am a writer. I’ve been working on a book for around 10 years, and I’ve got to wait for certain people to die before I can put it out, I suppose.

…I’m a Newfoundlander. I was born in Gander, and I grew up in Harbour Grace.

I am a resident of St. John’s. I live at the base of Signal Hill. There’s no place I’d rather live. Right at the foot of a National [Historic Site]. I’m all of that, I suppose.

I’m a politician now, I suppose.

Why should we trust you?
That’s a tough question to answer, because people hear “trust” from a politician and they think “what the hell’s that about?” It makes you think twice. You should trust me because I love this place, Newfoundland and Labrador, and I’ve kind of made it my life’s mission to make it a better place. When I was a newspaper editor—I still feel bad when I say that—myself and everybody I worked with tried to put this place’s best foot forward. Because I care, and I want to make this a better place. And that’s what I get off on. That’s what I’m about. That’s the answer.

Why should we vote in this election?
I think every Newfoundlander and Labradorian should vote in this election because I see it as a very important one. I’m a politician, of course I’m going to say that, but I think that we’ve got seven seats out of 308, and we don’t have any power in the House of Commons. I think the Senate is absolutely useless, and I think that the premier of our province has to stand out on a national stage. And if you think about it, the only way this place can ever really get ahead on a national stage is if the premier takes the bull by the horns and does it. I think that MPs haven’t been doing their job. The premier’s probably been better than any MP in recent years outside of, say, John Crosbie. And the best thing that he did was bring in the fish aid programs. I think that’s it’s important to vote because I think all of the country is looking to this province in this election, and they’re looking to this province because the premier’s been ranting and roaring and I think it’s important that we stand behind the premier. And I think it’s important to vote. I’m not saying that because I’m looking for the Tory vote in the riding. I’m saying that because I believe it to be true. That’s my answer.

How would you address the shortage of health care professionals in the province?
Well, how the NDP would address it is by hiring more doctors and more nurses across the country, everywhere. The NDP brought in—this is the party line, now—the NDP brought in Medicare and it needs to be fixed. I personally think the best party to fix that is the NDP.

How I would fix it here? The obvious answer is that’s the province’s jurisdiction. They hire the nurses and the doctors. I would set aside more money to make sure that we have the right professionals in place to look after people. Maybe we should think outside the box. Maybe for nurses or doctors, since they want the starting wages to be higher, maybe you can do that as long as they sign on for a particular period of time. Maybe that’s the best way to do it. I don’t know. We have to start thinking of solutions to these problems…

What is your position on using lakes and ponds such as Sandy Pond as dumps for mining waste?
I wrote about that in The Independent. I don’t like that idea. There are allegations out there that the reason they’re using Sandy Pond is because it’s cheaper. Hundreds of millions of dollars cheaper than creating another dump site. If that’s the reason, I’m obviously against it. That’s obviously ridiculous. You have to build your economy, but at the same time, you’ve got to protect your environment. You’ve got to avoid poisoning the lakes and ponds around you. But there’s also the argument that by using the natural pond, the contaminents are less likely to leech. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? If it’s because it’s the cheaper thing to do, I’m absolutely against it.

What is your opinion on gay marriage?
Absolutely. If you’re gay and want to get married, go for it.

What’s your opinion on the recent $40 million cuts to arts funding?
Ridiculous. We need to put more money in the arts. If you read The Independent, you knew we were strong on news and the arts. I believe that arts and culture is the essence of who we are, and we have to celebrate it. That’s what we’re known for, and we have to nourish it and cherish it. I’m a writer too, right? I always wanted to be a writer…

Siobhan Coady
Liberal Party

Who are you?
[laughs] I’m a business leader in the city of St. John’s, I’ve been president of the St. John’s board of Trade, chair of the Regional Economic Development Board, and chair of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. I’ve been heavily involved in business, economic development and social groups in the city of St. John’s. I currently sit on the board of Genome Atlantic, Public Policy Forum of Canada, I sit on the Genesis Centre board, the Institute of Chartered Accountants, I’m on Children’s Wish and the Regatta committees… so I’ve been involved with the community for quite some time. I’m a business person. I’m president of Bonaventure Fisheries, a fish harvesting company and I have an investment in Newfound Genomics, a biotechnology company.

Why should we trust you?
I have a record. Maybe I shouldn’t say it like that, should I? [laughs] I’ve worked very hard in the community and most people in the community do know me. In the last number of years since I’ve been seeking office I’ve become known in other parts of our community that I haven’t had outreach in before and I think people will tell you—never mind that I tell you—that they found me to be a hard worker and someone who gets the job done.

Why should we vote in this election?
I think everyone should vote. I think it’s a horrible day when our voter turnout is not where it should be. This is about our country, the future of our country, the vision we have for our country. We all have to at some time reflect on what kind of country we want to have and we have to think about what role it is that any of our communities in the province have in that country. I think it’s very important that we take note of that and look at the leaders of the parties and the individuals running and say I want to have the country they’re talking about. I can’t encourage people enough to vote and use the opportunity to make the changes that they’d like to see.

How would you address the shortage of health care professionals in Newfoundland?
The Liberal Party of Canada has actually just come out with a big policy on that—rhey’re looking at investments in nurses and doctors, creating more spaces, training more people and encouraging more involvement in the health care industry. We need to have more people going into those professions and right now we only have so many seats. We need to open up more seats and have more people going into them. We also have to make it easier to have foreign credentials, for people who want to come here from other countries that have the same quality and standard of health care, their applications need to be processed in a more timely manner. Health care is a critical issue and it has kind of fell off the agenda nationally and it just can’t.

What measures would you take to improve access to post-secondary education?
The Liberal Party has come out with a new policy on post sec education that I think is quite good. It’s offering, for example, needs based grants. I met with the Canadian Federation of Students this week, before the announcement, and we talked about the need for needs-based grants, for lower interest rates on students loans and that the merit should be on the student and not what the parents earn and looking at payback times. One of the issues that needs to come up during this campaign is affordable housing, on a general level, not just for students.

What is your position on using lakes and ponds such as Sandy Pond as dumps for mining waste?
Well, of course that is a provincial issue. The Liberal Part of Canada has said that we have to be really careful with our environment and that we have to be really careful with climate change in particular, so we’re putting emphasis in that area, but that is a provincial jurisdiction.

What is your opinion on gay marriage?
We’ve gone past that discussion, it’s a reality.

What is your opinion on the recent 40 million dollar cut to arts funding?
That’s a simple answer, isn’t it? Don’t you think that arts and culture are very important parts of our society? I was more than surprised that they would arbitrarily do those cuts. People didn’t see them coming. They are subjective rather than objective cuts to funding, and I think they should be reinstated.

Ted Warren
Green Party

Who are you?
My name is Ted Warren. I’ve lived in St. John’s most of my life, I’ve been a journalist for twenty five or thirty years—at the Telegram for ten years—and I was the founding editor of the Navigator, for the last five years of my career. I was diagnosed with M.S. in the late 90s and in 2002 I had to essentially give up work. Since then, they found a drug that worked for me, and I rode my bicycle across Canada to celebrate. I’ve been doing some motivational speaking and some freelance writing in the last year or two.

Why should we trust you?
[laughs] Probably the biggest reason to trust me is the nature of our message as Green Party representatives. We’re not your traditional political party. I think you’ll find that the people involved in this party are involved because they are deeply concerned about environmental and other issues in this country.

Why should we vote in this election?

I think the element of participation is what makes democracy work, to whatever extent it does work. I think one of the things that undermines the democratic system in Canada, and North America generally, is that those who are at the bottom of the economic and social ladder very often don’t vote. They tend to be the groups that have the most to gain or to lose from election results, but because of the self-serving actions of politicians over the years, there’s a lot of cynicism built up. So I’d encourage people to vote and to vote their conscience. As participants we’ll never improve the system if we walk away from it.

How would you address the shortage of health care professionals in Newfoundland?
I think you can talk about putting more resources into the system and adding more health professionals but a lot of the problems in this province can be traced to our economic problems, which can then be traced to environmental mismanagement—be it in the fishing industry, the logging industry or the mining industry. Because communities have been undermined economically, they’re not as healthy and viable as they once were. So I think addressing the health care problem in this province goes beyond just throwing more money at the situation, I think we also need, as the Green Party has said, to look at shifting our focus away from caring for people once they become sick to promoting good health before they become ill. A fundamentally new approach to health care in the longer term is needed to encourage healthy lifestyles, healthy living and to help people avoid the sicknesses that require the technology and the professionals.

What about the short term?
In the short term, we need to pay these people a competitive salary. If salaries continue at higher levels elsewhere, then I think it’s common sense that many health care professionals will choose not to work in this province. Nationally, it would be nice if we had a salary scale for all of the health professions so that one province wasn’t constantly poaching from another based on the state of its economy. But I think we have to pay competitive rates and we need to be competitive if we’re going to compete in this market.

What measures would you take to improve access to post-secondary education?
One of the biggest barriers to post-secondary education these days is cost. In the Green Party, we have a clear policy position that we’d provide an immediate remission of fifty percent of any outstanding student loans and try to provide programs to assist former students in paying them off. We also have to look at tuition levels and if we do believe that education is the key to our future then I think we need to make an investments and further lower tuition rates to ensure that everybody has access to all levels of post secondary education.

What is your position on using lakes and ponds such as Sandy Pond as dumps for mining waste?
Well, that’s one of those things that you can almost describe as a “duh.” …It’s a philosophical thing, really. Rather than saying to a mining company “you are not allowed to pollute in the course of your business” they’re saying “try not to pollute any more than you have to, but you must maximize your profits.” …I blame the provincial government as much as the federal government for approving that plan.

What do we do instead?
I think the answer is that we don’t destroy our environment in the process of refining and extracting natural resources. If you simply make that rule number one, as it is in all areas of the green party policy, then the onus is on those who will profit from the development to find an economical way to make that profit without destroying the environment.

What is your opinion on gay marriage?
I don’t know if I have a right to an opinion, really. I think that relationships between people are a very personal affair and I hold to the late Pierre Trudeau’s belief that the government has no place in the bedrooms of the nation, and I don’t see a place for any policy on interpersonal relationships of any kind.

What is your opinion on the recent 40 million dollar cut to arts funding?
Typical! It’s a part of a whole larger scene. It’s about the economy, stupid. Well, with these governments that we’ve had in this country for the last number of years, it’s all about the economy, the bottom line, bean counting. It’s a really short-sighted view of the government’s role in the cultural industry. If you look at any reputable study of the cultural industry in this country, the economic return is actually huge compared to the levels of subsidies and assistance provided. It’s probably one of the more productive, in terms of generating economic activity, of any of the industries in the country. So not only is it short sighted in failing to recognize a key part of our lives, it’s short sighted in the economic sense.

Greg Byrne
NL First Party

(by e-mail)

Who are you?
Born in Howley, NL on Nov 11, 1964… Joined the Canadian military Combat Engineers in 1985… Has lived while serving his country in Nova Scotia, British Colombia, Quebec, Germany, Alberta, and New Brunswick… Did United Nations tours in the former Yugoslavia 1992, Eritrea/Ethiopia 2001… Did a work tour at Eureka, North West Territories… Honourably released from the Canadian military 2003… Moved to Kelowna, BC, 2007.

Why should we trust you?
I, nor will my NL First party have to toe the national parties line of doing what’s in the best interest of the majority of Canadians to win power, and since the majority 66% of Canadians live in Ontario and Quebec, no national party will ever have the best interests of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians at heart.

It is the systemically flawed political system of democratic discrimination against the minority provinces like ours by all of the national parties in favour of vote buying in the majority provinces. 66% of the Canadian population lives in Ontario and Quebec. The only equality amongst the provinces in confederation is between Ontario and Quebec.

Why should we vote in this election?
Well at least for the two, maybe three, ridings where the NL First party is running candidates, those constituents will finally have a choice. A choice between all of the national parties and their national parties line of doing and tailoring their policies to benefit the majority of Canadians who live in Ontario and Quebec, to get elected.

The priorities of the NL First party are
1) What is in the best interest of NL First. 2) What is in the best interest of the majority of the members/provinces of confederation. 3) What is in the best interest of the majority of Canadians.

Our priorities are polar opposite to all of the national parties.

Joey once asked “What is the first priority of a politician? To get elected.”

“What is the second priority of a politician? To get re-elected.”

How would you address the shortage of health care professionals in Newfoundland?
I would try and persuade the national party in power—either through discussion or by using the balance of power if we are in a minority government—not unlike what William Coaker did for the fishermen with the Fisherman’s Protective Union—to do away with the per capita social and health transfers to the provinces and take into account our province’s geographic and demographics circumstances in such a way that our difficulties with a small older population spread over a large geographic area entail. Not unlike what Premier Williams did for all of the smaller towns and communities in our province by changing the municipal funding program to a pro rated scale which takes into consideration population base…

What measures would you take to improve access to post-secondary education?
As you are fully aware, the NL First party, being a nationalist party and only running candidates in the province, can never make the laws or policy. What we would do is lobby and use our balance of power to benefit the people here.

In NL, while the cost of post-secondary is the lowest in the country, we have our own issues concerning affordability in that a lot of our youth have to move away from home and obtain lodging and the expense that comes with it in St John’s or Corner Brook.

I think a good way to tackle this expense would be to deal with the cost of lodging either by subsidization or by opening more universities and attracting foreign students to help offset the expense.

What is your position on using lakes and ponds such as Sandy Pond as dumps for mining waste?
I don’t believe this is in my riding but anyways. Personally not having access to the entire Voisey’s bay contract and all that it entails it is hard to make a judgement solely on environmental grounds.

There could be a clause in there that says if the smelter or hydromet facility fails due to environmental issues they could implement force majeur to opt out of the deal.

But on the whole I don’t agree with using natural bodies of water as dumping grounds for tailings or waste.

What is your opinion on gay marriage?
My personal opinion is “live and let live.” As long as they don’t impose their will upon people I’m willing to let be.

What is your opinion on the recent 40 million dollar cut to arts funding?
I find it very short-sighted and in keeping with his ideological views from his years as President of the NCC, the National Citizens Coalition.

2 comments

Music Saturday Mar 24

Another Taste of Labrador (Battle Harbour fundraiser) Dinner, slide show, silent auction and music w/ Fergus O’Bryne, Fergus Brown-O’Bryne & Drum Dancers, 7:30pm, $65, Johnson Geo Centre Annual River Dance (Friends of the River benefit) w/ Traces, Fairmont Newfoundland 754-3474 A Select Few (rock/punk) Distortion Bic and the Ballpoints, Club One Freshly Squeezed, GSBM Jeff […]

14 March 2007

  1. Shannon Lush · March 14, 2007

    I WAS going to vote for Greg Byrne, because he seemed a viable alternative to the ‘big two’ parties, both of whom I am just disgusted by. Except that, after a week of digging, this is the first example I’ve read of his opinions…or, rather, lack thereof. All his answers are nothing more than a smokescreen to hide the fact that he is not informed whatsoever! Spouting generic commentary and utilizing ‘big words’ and Joey Smallwood quotes don’t impress me. Tell me more than your military resume! I respect his years of duties for this country, however he is faceless thus far. It’s also hard to support a candidate who doesn’t even live in this province! I’d contact him…except that the long distance charges would be a killer! Oh, well. Guess it’s going to have to be the Liberals, at least Ms Coady appeared very insightful and didn’t state that they were ‘willing to let’ gay marriage go ahead (provided the don’t ‘impose their will’? What does that even mean?), and dodged a question simply because it wasn’t in his riding…which, I state again, is on the opposite end of the country than he is located. Has he even VISITED Mt Pearl?