For the first time in years, provincial New Democrats in the Memramcook-Tantramar riding will be choosing between two candidates for the party nomination in the New Brunswick election on September 24th.
Local NDP members will choose between Hélène Boudreau and Evelyne Godfrey during a meeting at 2 p.m. this Saturday in the Activity Centre at Sackville’s Bill Johnstone Memorial Park.
They will also hear from Jennifer McKenzie who was chosen as the party’s new leader in 2017.
Hélène Boudreau ran for the NDP in Memramcook-Tantramar in the 2014 election and was also the party’s candidate in the riding of Beauséjour during the 2015 federal election. She served as a municipal councillor in Dieppe from 2008 to 2012.
Evelyne Godfrey, who grew up in Sackville, recently returned here from England to teach in the anthropology department at Mount Allison University after a teaching career in Britain and the U.S. She’s an archeologist who specializes in ancient mining, metallurgy and materials science. As for political experience, Godfrey says she’s been a long-time member of Britain’s Labour Party and she served as an elected Parish Councillor in Oxfordshire from 2011 to 2015.
In separate interviews, both Boudreau and Godfrey stressed the importance of electing NDP candidates as alternatives to traditional Liberals and Progressive Conservatives.
“For me personally, this election is about health care,” says Boudreau who has been a registered nurse for 33 years. During her career, she worked as an extra-mural, home-care nurse and as a nursing co-ordinator in a private, residential nursing home.
“When I saw that our provincial government, without the mandate of the people, privatized [the management of] extra-mural care to Medavie, being in there and knowing what efficiencies we could have done, I was appalled,” she says.
Boudreau adds that she attended meetings and news conferences during which Liberal cabinet ministers tried to explain why they handed management of extra-mural care to Medavie and she still can’t understand why they did it.
“It just does not make sense,” she says. “I think that’s why at this time that I’m putting my whole energy at least to make sure that we do have a proper health care system.”
Boudreau says she worries about the Liberal government’s plan to create up to 1,000 additional beds in 10 new nursing homes around the province.
Calling it “a plan that’s not a plan,” she questioned where the nursing home employees would come from and how long it might take before the Liberal promise becomes a reality.
Aside from health care issues, Boudreau says that she’s concerned about the need for federal-provincial action to prevent flooding in the Tantramar region and she promised to defend the historic Acadian Memramcook Institute against budget cuts in hard economic times.
“I think this time around, people want a change,” she says. “I hear people every day now for the past five, six months saying ‘we want a change’ and this time, the way they’re saying it, I’m hoping… it will translate into that X at the box.”
When asked why she wants to run for the NDP, Evelyne Godfrey says New Brunswick’s education system is one of her main issues.
“Higher education is my particular concern and the policy of the NDP going into this election is that we would lower university tuition fees by 25 per cent,” she says.
She adds that the NDP advocates free tuition for community college students.
“I think that’s what’s seriously lacking especially here in Sackville. I think there needs to be more lifelong learning and continuing and further education for adults,” she says, adding she would like to see community college classes provided here for free.
Godfrey points out that she left Sackville and moved to England in 1989 because of the lack of training and job opportunities in New Brunswick.
She advocates job creation strategies and supports the NDP promise of a $15 hourly minimum wage.
Godfrey says N.B. Power should focus on renewable energy instead of aiming to generate profits selling power to the U.S.
“If they were to invest, for example, in more hydro-electric, wind and solar power, it would not only create jobs in New Brunswick, but it would also lower electricity bills,” she says.
Godfrey adds the NDP would push for more investment in home care as an alternative to nursing homes and says she strongly disagrees with the Liberal decision to privatize management of extra-mural care that will remain funded by the government.
“You’re spending the money, but you’re not in control is what it means,” she says. “You lose the scrutiny of what’s going on.”
When asked what she has to offer to the predominantly Francophone areas around Memramcook, Godfrey says she feels people there are well-provided for with nearby services in Dieppe and Moncton. On the other hand, she says English-speaking constituents on the other side of the riding around Port Elgin are relatively neglected and she would focus on their concerns.
Godfrey says she knows the Memramcook-Tantramar riding well from the years that she spent here.
“I would be very proud to represent the place where I grew up,” Godfrey says.
“I went away because I had to, there were no opportunities for me to stay here, but I think I can come back and contribute,” she adds. “I have the perspective.”