New Brunswick Green leader David Coon says his party has already begun planning for the 2024 provincial election.
“One of the things we have to do a better job at communicating across the province is why we are distinct from the other parties, why our program is unique,” he told a group of about 25 supporters earlier this month at the Open Sky Co-op in Sackville.
Coon, who is marking 10 years as leader, said Greens not only fight for things that would improve people’s daily lives, they also respect the natural environment in ways the PCs and Liberals do not.
“We’re different that way,” he said. “We work to defend the commons, land, sea and sky.”
Coon listed a number of the party’s achievements in the legislature when the Higgs Conservatives were governing with a minority of the seats and depended on support from opposition parties.
He said the Greens successfully pushed the government to provide free flu shots for everyone in the province and persuaded the PCs to index welfare benefits to the rate of inflation.
“[Inflation indexing] to protect that meagre income that people who are living in poverty have to try and get by on,” he said, “but unfortunately, we were not yet successful in getting income assistance raised substantially.”
Coon expressed optimism about building the party’s momentum.
“Look at the last election in 2020,” he said.
“I didn’t know how to run a snap election, so we were learning by the seat of our pants in a pandemic…but despite that, all three MLAs were re-elected and Megan and Kevin [Arseneau] increased their margins dramatically.”
Coon added that, aside from holding the three Green ridings, the party also made significant gains.
“We were New Brunswickers’ second choice in 15 ridings,” he said to a round of applause.
“We’re the only party that grew our vote in both Francophone and Anglophone New Brunswick in the 2020 election.”
Coon said that New Brunswick voters are increasingly looking to the Greens for policies that sustain families, communities and the environment.
Saving rural hospitals
“New Brunswick can’t, in my opinion, afford to have another majority government,” he said referring to the PC victory two years ago that gave the Higgs government a slim majority of the seats.
Before that, Coon said, the government was forced to abandon its plans to convert six rural hospitals, including Sackville Memorial in Mitton’s riding and Stella-Maris-de-Kent in Arseneau’s riding, into long-term care facilities for patients waiting for nursing home beds.
“In the minority government, we were able to convince the Premier to reverse his decision to abandon those hospitals, that was the Green caucus that did that,” Coon said.
“We were skeptical and I remember the day I had to get the Premier to come into our anteroom outside the Chamber and meet with Megan and Kevin to give them his word that that’s what he was going to do.”
During her speech at Open Sky, Megan Mitton said she’s proud of the Rural Health Action Group which has been fighting for full services at the Sackville hospital since Higgs announced the cutbacks in 2020.
“I know I don’t trust the government, but there are efforts happening, there are some nurses being hired; they need to move faster on physician recruitment [and] there are still issues with our hospital,” she said.
“I’m going to keep fighting and I know people in the community are too.”
Mitton said she met recently with Minister of Health Bruce Fitch and sensed what she called “a lack of urgency” from the government on fixing problems such as recruitment and retention of health care professionals.
“They came out with a health plan last year that doesn’t have recruitment and retention as one of its pillars,” she said.
“I don’t know how you could do that.”
‘Bucket with holes in it’
Mitton, who serves as the Green party health critic, referred to the Vitalité and Horizon Health Networks’ appearance before a legislative committee this month.
“They were trying to paint a picture around recruitment and retention in the province, ‘Oh, we’ve got 270 new RNs (Registered Nurses) hired since April 1st’ and so I asked, ‘Well, how many have left?’ [and they said] ‘188 have left in that same time period.’
“That’s a net gain of 82,” Mitton said.
“That’s a really different picture to paint of what’s going on, you know, pouring water into a bucket that has holes in it is really what’s happening right now.”
She said it is especially important for her and other members of the community to continue holding Horizon’s “feet to the fire” as shortages of medical staff continue to force closures of hospital emergency rooms.
“We need change,” she said. “We need that sense of urgency.”
Open Sky: you’ve crossed the line as a registered charity/non-profit. I’ve given my time and money previously but since you’ve chosen to “go partisan”, then no more. Yes I know you can say “we only rented a public space” – then you’ve chosen to go political (would you rent your space to the PC Party?). Best wishes for your great programming and people.. If your Board of Directors is fine with this, then so be it.
Politicians are always making appearances on private property for various reasons. Dominic LeBlanc appeared at the opening of Mt. A’s Environmental Centre. Why shouldn’t our MLA appear at Open Sky Co-op when they’re breaking ground for a new building?
The federal government supplies less that 5% of Mt. A’s funding (most is provincial, and tuition). The province provides funding to Open Sky for some of its programs, and the federal government provided funding for others. Why shouldn’t politicians make appearances there?
If Higgs hasn’t bothered to make any appearances in town, maybe that explains why people here aren’t voting for his party.
Agreed that politicians are often at PUBLIC events cutting ribbons, presenting oversized cheques and the usual “grip and grin” photo ops that take place. This was not that. This was a partisan, election readiness event with their elected team and party supporters. My comments would remain the same whether it were the Liberals, PCs or NDP. I’m simply saddened that an outstanding community organization, a gem (Open Sky) would so willingly attach itself to a clearly partisan event. Nothing more implied. I’m not a member of any political party nor am I a betting man except for the occasional lottery ticket. I’m confident our MLA will be easily re-elected.
Hi Mike! As the chair of the board at Open Sky Cooperative (OSC), I am happy to address these concerns. Based on your comments above, I have no doubt your criticism is coming from a good place. In fact, we sincerely appreciate your taking us to task on renting our space to the Green Party. We would hate for someone who truly believes in our organization and the work that we do, to just walk away silently disappointed or dismayed by a misunderstanding.
Let me first say thank-you for your past support of OSC and for your kind words in your comments above. My hope is that you will consider my response and see fit to continue supporting this “gem” of a place as you so well described it. Having worked with OSC at the board level for the past 7 years and being the parent of one of its participants for the past 3 years, I have witnessed firsthand the positive and tangible impact this organization is having on the lives of our participants, staff, volunteers, and the broader community.
With respect to the concern around political or partisan motivations in hosting the Green Party, I will just offer a few of counterpoints:
1. Megan Mitton is our current MLA and has been a longstanding proponent of OSC both as a community member before running for office and as a sitting member of the provincial legislature. Megan and her colleagues will always be welcome at the farm.
2. In this particular circumstance, local organizers looking for a suitable space to gather and our property was well suited for what they were looking for. They were going to rent a space somewhere in Sackville, and they chose to have their dollars go to an organization that embodies some of the values they aspire to uphold.
3. OSC is an organization that depends on the support of others who recognize the importance of its existence to so many people in our community. The “others” I am referring to include good citizens like yourself; families, friends and neighbours of our participants; local and regional charitable organizations as well as many local community and faith-based groups; private sector businesses, entrepreneurs and philanthropists; and last but certainly not least, elected officials at all levels of government and all political stripes. All that to say that we would welcome any elected official or candidate of any legitimate political party to come to the farm. We have had political leaders and government officials from every party visit at one time or another. Our experience has been, that if they care about people and they are interested in innovative community solutions to complex issues, they tend to be interested in our success.
Blaise Dobbin -Board Chair – Open Sky Cooperative
Thank you Blaise for your very kind, passionate and logical response. I have no doubt whatsoever in the professional staff, dedicated volunteers and your chair of the governance of this fine organization. In my former career I was obligated to be nonpartisan and I remain so in retirement. My concern was to what appeared to me, the potential for OS to tarnish its good name and goodwill. Politicians come and go, governments change hands but non profits have to weather that cycle. My concern remains that by renting space to partisan gatherings although generally harmless, can lead to perceptions that can affect the hosts reputation. However, I no longer volunteer there and don’t serve on the Board, so my only “vote” if you will allow, is in the public/digital town square. At times in this publication I’ve been disappointingly not so eloquent and others such as this, I hope I’ve been at least polite and proper. Thank you again for your kind and professional response. Mike
Mike Gallant: Open Sky was founded by Margaret who ran as a Green in 2010 and lost.. the entire operation is collectivism/co-op grifting nannystate dollars which flows perfectly into the green agenda of people who rely on the community organizers to plan their lives and give them their political ideologies… its a gentle kibbutz system they are building.. try not to think of it as centralized planning, not yet anyway.
I completely disagree with your characterization of Open Sky as some type of grifting organization. They do fantastic work there with young adults who are facing various challenges in their lives – I volunteered there and witnessed the many great programs, acts of kindness and positive change in peoples’ lives. There is no nefarious, communist plot going on. But don’t take my word for it – talk to the dedicated staff there, pay a visit during one of their numerous open houses or buy some of their great farm produce.
Thanks for letting us all know that the Open Sky were actually paid by politicians to use their farm space… it does help for us all to understand how the money flows… your questions brought forth some honesty here in the public forum. Now, as far as the farm goes it is a funded venture called nannystatism by me because it would not exist without government support and lots of volunteers… and other promoters such as Megan Mitton the politician… and her friends in the town… I do not and have not and have no plans to support this venture. I hope this clarifies any confusion you may have had about me and my ‘vote with your money’ mentality… yes, you said communism there I did not because it is not communism it is a radical third way called communitarianism – not capitalism and not communism .. you could learn more about this ‘ism’ by studying the work of the late Niki Raapana which is available on the web, if you choose to educate yourself as I have.