He/Him • Portland-Simonds • NDP
About the interview
We have reached out to all candidates in Saint John-Lancaster, Portland-Simonds, Saint John Harbour, and Saint John East ridings. All candidates were contacted via email, phone, and social media. 10 out of the 22 candidates responded, and each was interviewed by phone. Candidates were not provided with the questions in advance, as our objective was to give each candidate an equal opportunity to provide honest, unscripted answers. Candidate interviews were transcribed in full, edited, and emailed back to candidates to confirm accuracy. Below is the recording of the interview followed by a transcript. We invite candidates, the media, and everyone from the public to download and share these interviews freely.
All candidates were asked the following questions:
Section 1: Get to Know the Candidate
- Why are you running in this election?
- Describe how your time living in your riding has informed your qualifications as a candidate?
- Describe how your time living in New Brunswick has informed your qualifications as a candidate?
- How does your experience (ie. education, lived experience, workplace) contribute to your qualifications as a candidate?
- If elected, what will be your top 5 priorities for your riding?
Section 2: FLIP Areas of Priority
What are your thoughts on the following areas? When applicable, please provide examples and solutions.
- LGBTQ+ and reproductive healthcare
- Access to mental health and/or addictions services
- Glyphosate use in New Brunswick
- Access to affordable housing in Saint John
- Police funding in Saint John
- Reporting and investigations of sexual assaults
- Municipal and Industrial Tax reform
- Access to public transit in Saint John
- Access to affordable childcare in Saint John
- Media Ownership in New Brunswick
1. Why are you running in this election?
So the reason I’m running in the election is to help reduce poverty and address challenges that are presented to low-income individuals or families. These are issues that I’ve personally experienced. In the past I’ve been homeless. I’ve worked minimum wage jobs and had trouble keeping a roof over my head or putting food on the table. I’ve had to go to food banks. I’m very thankful that I’m in a much better situation now personally, but I see a lot of other people and families in Saint John who are not enjoying those same benefits. And I don’t really see a lot of other people in power really doing anything to change that situation, or if anything, the changes they’re making are making it worse. So I wanted to do something to help basically what it comes down to.
2. Describe how the time living in your riding has informed your qualifications as a candidate.
So I’m going to be completely upfront with this. I do not live in Portland-Simonds, specifically. I actually live right at the edge of uptown. I’m about a five minute drive outside Portland-Simonds, so I’m not totally disconnected from the area, but I’m also a relatively recent immigrant to Saint John and New Brunswick. I moved here about two years ago from a rural Nova Scotia, the Annapolis Valley. So I find that the Annapolis Valley, rural Nova Scotia in general has a lot of the same socioeconomic issues that we find in lower income communities within Saint John such as Crescent Valley or Old North End. And it’s not limited to those areas. It’s kind of across the board to some degree, but I am familiar with the issues, I have experienced them firsthand and I see them happening here as well.
3. Describe how your time living in New Brunswick has informed your qualifications as a candidate.
So, I am relatively new to New Brunswick as well, but where I’m seeing the same issues, you know, poverty, it doesn’t really change its form all that much between different areas. It kinda ends up with the, the same things, underfunded, public transportation, which restricts people, people’s ability to go to job interviews or hold down jobs, getting healthcare even just getting groceries. You know, if you’re in a situation where you’re struggling to make ends meet, the car is often completely out of reach. So you need that well-functioning, and high coverage, public transit option. And as I said, that’s something that I’ve seen an issue with here in New Brunswick and in particular Saint John right now.
4. How does your experience (ie. education, lived experience, workplace) contribute to your qualifications as a candidate?
So I have been homeless. I have dealt with being in a low income situation that was very difficult to get out of. And honestly, I wouldn’t have gotten out of it without help from people outside the system that I was working in, which I’m very thankful for, but I also have other experiences as well. So I’ve run a small business back in Nova Scotia. So I have some experience with how things can affect small businesses when you’re talking about things like increasing the minimum wage, which, other parties are, my opponents would often argue is something that a small business would not be able to financially deal with. And from my own experience, running a small business, I very much disagree with that assessment. So in my opinion, if you are unable to pay your workers or your employees, a living wage, you are unable to have employees at that point, your expanding your business too quickly, and you’re exploiting other people in order to do it, which is something I strongly disagree with, from our running my own business, I know that it is possible to run a small business in a way that is socially responsible. I’ve done it.
5. If elected, what will be your top 5 priorities for your riding?
Number one, increased funding for public transportation. We’ve had our public transit in Saint John cut back quite a bit in the recent years, we need to not only undo the damage that was done by that, but we need to increase funding beyond that, cause it was still lacking even at the precut level.
A focus on tax reform particularly on heavy industry. Our heavy industry is taxed at a much lower rate than similar areas throughout Canada. So they’re definitely not paying their fair share and it’s causing issues with city funding. And, you know, public transportation is a municipal controlled issue, but the province can help by allowing that tax reform as well as allowing municipalities to keep more of the taxes generated within them.
I’d want to push for an overhaul of our social assistance program, that is wholly unethical, even compared to our neighboring Nova Scotia. As I said, I’m quite familiar with how the Nova Scotia assistance program works. Having experienced it firsthand. New Brunswick for a single mother with child, the maximum amount you can get per month is $861. If you’re spending about a quarter of your income on housing, that would only leave you with about $200 to $300 for somewhere to live. And that is just something that you cannot find in Saint John… it just doesn’t exist. So we need to increase social assistance rates, but also the way our social assistance works is that if you manage to find a job and start bringing some money in, that comes out of your social assistance at a hundred percent first. So if you were to make $500 with a part time job in a month, you are actually worse off than when you hadn’t been working at all, because you’re still working with the same amount of income, but now you have the increased costs of having to get to and from work. In Nova Scotia, the way it works is there’s a certain amount that you just keep 100% of, like it doesn’t come out of your socialist systems at all. I believe it’s up the first $500. I believe that you make in a month. It just does not detract from your social assistance at all. And then after that you keep 30% of whatever you make beyond that $500. So you never end up in a situation where you’re worse off by working. You’re always able to work towards improving your situation and that also incentivizes people to go find work if they can, which is something that our current system does not do in any way, shape or form it actually disincentivizes finding work.
6. LGBTQ+ and reproductive healthcare
So that’s actually been a big issue that’s been being talked about recently, even among the [party name hidden] specifically focusing around the Clinic 554, and Fredericton, essentially the conservative government is refusing to fund it, the abortions there, and as far as I can tell, that’s actually a violation of the Canada Health Act to start with. His response has been to take him to court, which I feel like is an unnecessarily hostile stance to be taken with the people that you’re supposed to be leading. But honestly, I feel like not only should we be funding 554, but I think what they’re doing and how they’re doing it is actually a really good model for expanding healthcare throughout the province. Because right now we have a very centralized system that’s a very general catch-all. It doesn’t really focus on the specific issues, particularly in neighborhoods, whereas with a clinic model, if there’s somewhere that just having a particular health issue, they can pivot to provide a healthcare that is more focused on what the people in the neighborhood need rather than trying to do everything and having increased costs because of that.
7. Access to mental health and/or addictions services
Again, somewhere that we’re currently very weak. We definitely need to expand those options. And I feel like that can kind of roll into that local health clinic model, where if it’s an area that is having a lot of mental health issues or a lot of addiction issues, then that’s giving them that flexibility where they’re really focused on those issues and provide really good care in that direction.
8. Glyphosate use in New Brunswick
01: So on this issue, I admit that I’m not particularly educated on it. The party as a whole is definitely supporting banning. There seems to be quite a negative impact on wildlife and natural areas in the province. But beyond that, I don’t know enough to really comment in specifics.
9. Access to affordable housing in Saint John
So that’s something that we’re definitely lacking on, even where I actually have a fairly well paying job right now, even I am having difficulty finding a house that I could actually afford to purchase. Obviously there’s also apartment living, that’s what I’m currently doing, but buying a house in the longterm generally is much cheaper than renting. So I feel like we should be investing in more housing that is available to people on lower incomes because that can itself be a path out of poverty, just owning your own home and having those lower payments is, a lot of the times after you get past the initial down payment, which is the big stumbling block, or like getting the mortgage in the first place, the payments themselves are usually about half of what you’d be paying for rent and like a similar accommodation, right? So that obviously frees up a lot more finances. But if you’re at a low income situation, it’s really hard to get the down payment or get the mortgage in the first place to get out. That said, I also think that we should be building more, mixed income neighborhoods. And this is something that I mentioned in my interview with the HDC on a Friday when we segregate different income levels into different neighborhoods, that there becomes a tendency to pretend that issues that are happening in low income neighborhoods don’t exist, and I understand why the impulse is to do that, at least for me, it’s heartbreaking seeing what to go on in some low income neighborhoods, just, you know, because they’re desperate, it’s hard to keep a roof over your head. It’s hard to keep food on the table. You’re worried basically all the time. And you’re just living with stress and fear 24/7. But that’s something that we really need to actually pay attention to. We need to stop avoiding uncomfortable truths about our society in order to prop up a few. We end up throwing a lot of people under the bus, so to speak.
10. Police funding in Saint John
This one, I have some admittedly mixed feelings on, I’ve been doing a fair amount of reading on it. The amount that we’re paying for police do seem really high when I look at them in isolation, but when you compare them to similar areas, it starts looking more like we’re underpaying them, if anything. And then when you mix that in with the financial troubles that the city has been having, it kinda creates this miasma of uncertainty as to like how to handle that situation. I think what I mentioned earlier with the increases, the heavy industry taxation and reforming, how much money municipalities get to keep from the taxation that happens within them would help alleviate some of those issues. I had also done a little questionnaire from Paula Radwan-Donovan is running for counselor and work for the next municipal specifically regarding the binding arbitration reforms that the city has been asking for, and I do support binding arbitration and reform some of the things that they’re asking for actually make a lot of sense to me, and don’t really understand why they’re not already a thing, such as transparency and why decisions are made in particular ways so that, you know, all parties can be like, okay, so this is why this amount is being given or denied with evidence to back up, why that decision was made that way. I do think that the binding arbitration should take into account, whether it’s fair based on other municipalities. So know if we’re talking the big three cities, Fredericton Saint John Moncton, we should be trying to keep a fairly similar compensation package between them. However, I don’t agree with them trying to make ability to pay. And I’m doing air quotes on that, core reason that has to be taken into account in the binding arbitration. Mostly just because I feel that to pay is something that is easy to manipulate. It’s easy to throw a bunch of money into a big infrastructure project, like a granite court building, and then suddenly say, oh, look, we have no money, so I feel like it lets them off the hook a little too much for fiscal responsibility.
11. Reporting and investigations of sexual assaults
Right. Okay. So I don’t know a whole lot about this issue personally. I do think they should, like any sort of reports of sexual assaults should be taken seriously and should be investigated. But yeah, I also think that we should have some sort of watchdog for the police forces to ensure that things are actually being investigated properly. So, which is something that I don’t believe we currently have in New Brunswick.
12. Municipal and Industrial Tax reform
Right. So as I mentioned already, I would want to increase taxation on heavy industry. And sometimes people say that, Oh, well, if you increase taxation, they’ll just leave. I feel like that’s an empty argument way too much money in heavy industry for them to be willing to just drop it. Even if they did, someone else would swoop in, like one of their competitors would swoop in, in very short order to pick up the torch, so to speak. So I’m not particularly worried about, you know, that getting abandoned. And then also, as I mentioned, I would push to allow municipalities to see more of the taxes that they generate within themselves to help alleviate the squeeze that’s been being felt really across New Brunswick as a whole.
13. Access to public transit in Saint John
So that’s gone back right to the, to the beginning there, you know, we need to increase our public transit you know, both in amount of area it covers, but also in the times that it’s available. We’ve had to cut it recently because we don’t have enough money. So with the proposed tax reform, we start getting more revenue into the city in order to reverse those cuts while even expanding it further, which is something that’s come up a lot as I’ve talked to constituents in the area.
14. Access to affordable childcare in Saint John
So one of the platform commitments for the [party name hidden] is provide affordable childcare. The plan behind it is really to integrate it into the school system, both before and after school, provided at a flat cost of $10 per day, per child, which is a lot easier to swallow than most daycares that are out there right now. Obviously those private daycares would still be able to operate, if that’s where the parents wanted to send them, but this would be a public option that would be available for people that either can’t afford those private daycares or, you know, just want them to be at the school and where their friends may very well be as well.
15. Media Ownership in New Brunswick
There’s a little bit of an extra nugget of fun there for me because I actually work for Brunswick News. So running as an [party name hidden] candidate has been interesting, we’ll describe it that way. They haven’t discouraged me from running by any means at all, it’s just what some people in the company found out, but I was running, I’ve been finding myself in a lot more political conversations that were cause I’m used to. Honestly I do think that we need more diversification of media ownership in the province. I’m sure most people are aware that Brunswick news owns basically all of the English newspapers in the province and a good chunk of the French ones. That is in my opinion bad. And I’m hoping that I don’t, you know, get into much trouble for saying that, but it’s what I believe. What it comes down to is we need to have more diverse viewpoints represented in the media, in the province.