On a sunny September day, Beauséjour Conservative candidate Shelly Mitchell is contemplating the beauty of Sackville’s Waterfowl Park as she watches dragonflies darting over one of its main ponds.
“This kind of environment is exactly what needs to be offered in every community,” she says.
“People need to have a place to come to walk in clean air and have clean water and nature all around them, it very much invokes peace.”
Mitchell is familiar with the park because she was posted to Sackville in 2003 as a newly minted RCMP officer.
“I worked in the area of District 4 which also included areas throughout the Beauséjour riding, places like Shediac, Cap-Pelé, Dorchester, Memramcook, all the way to the P.E.I. bridge.”
About seven years after arriving here, Mitchell joined the RCMP in Moncton and on June 4, 2014, she was the third officer despatched to a neighbourhood where someone called 911 after spotting a man dressed in camouflage walking down the middle of a road carrying what appeared to be military-style guns.
Three Mounties, armed only with pistols, died and two others were wounded in the gunfire that followed.
Medal of Bravery
In 2017, Mitchell was awarded a Governor General’s Medal of Bravery for commandeering a private vehicle to rush a wounded colleague to hospital.
But the whole thing leaves a bitter taste in her mouth.
“I think everyone who was on the ground that day deserves a medal of bravery,” she says.
In 2017, a Moncton judge found the RCMP guilty of failing to provide high-powered rifles and training to the officers who responded to the call.
Two years later, Mitchell and three colleagues launched a lawsuit accusing the federal government of negligence in failing to provide proper equipment and citing the severe psychological trauma and other medical ailments they had suffered.
Mitchell, who left the RCMP in 2018, says the lawsuit is still wending its way through the courts, but she is feeling a lot better now after a long, slow recovery.
“It did take some time to get myself back to where I feel like I can now get involved in my community again and move forward trying to help people,” she says.
When rumours started flying in August that the Liberals were about to call a federal election, Mitchell decided to run for the Conservatives in Beauséjour.
“I felt like, you know what, the people of this area are looking for change, the people of this country are looking for change and we can see that resoundingly in the way that things are going with the election and the popularity of the Conservatives,” she says referring to polls showing her party running neck and neck with the Liberals.
She says she was impressed with the thoughtfulness of the Conservative platform as well as the openness, honesty and integrity of party leader Erin O’Toole who served as a helicopter navigator in the Royal Canadian Air Force.
“The fact that he has served for 12 years tells me that he knows what a veteran is and he knows the sacrifices that veterans make in helping our country and protecting people’s lives,” Mitchell says.
When asked how Conservatives would bring change to the country, Mitchell refers to the five points in “Canada’s Recovery Plan” printed on the back of her campaign flyer.
She says all are important, but the fifth one is especially so.
“The biggie is securing the economy, so getting the economy back in shape when it comes to debt and spending; I would say that the Liberal government has run rampant for far too long,” she says.
“That means our children and our childrens’ children will be holding on to a bag of debt if we don’t put emphasis on repayment of debts.”
Mitchell acknowledges the importance of implementing measures to protect people’s health during the COVID-19 pandemic, but advocates a “balanced” approach.
“First and foremost realizing that yes, the vaccine is the best and safest way to protect ourselves against the virus and also in terms of transmission rates,” she says.
Mitchell advocates encouraging everyone to get vaccinated because scientists agree that vaccines are effective in keeping us safe.
“[But] when it comes to people possibly having health issues and concerns that they may not be able to have the vaccine, we have to be able to provide alternatives that will still keep people safe as best as possible and make sure that these people aren’t treated as outcasts or isolated in our society in such a way that they’re made to feel they can’t go places,” she says.
“We have to be able to achieve a balance.”
‘Sense of abandonment’
Mitchell acknowledges that she’s facing a strong Liberal opponent in Dominic LeBlanc who has held the riding for the last 20 years.
But she says that in her door-to-door canvassing, she’s hearing what she calls a “sense of abandonment.”
“A lot of people feel in the Beauséjour riding that they haven’t been heard and represented in Ottawa,” she says.
She adds she decided to run for the Conservatives here because she didn’t think anyone else was going to.
“And I said, ‘that would would be a terrible thing not to offer people the opportunity for change.'”
This is the third in a series of reports on federal candidates in Beauséjour.