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Candidates, L-R: Sarah Stoodley, Sheilagh O'Leary, Andrea Newbury, Damian Follett.

NL Election 2021 District Focus: Mount Scio

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With candidates from four parties—and one independent—running in one of the province’s most diverse districts, Mount Scio is a race to watch in the 2021 provincial election.

Mount Scio encompasses Memorial University’s St. John’s campus, the Health Sciences Centre, commercial hubs like Kelsey Drive and the Avalon Mall, and residential areas such as Kenmount Terrace in St. John’s and Elizabeth Park in Paradise. The district is made up of a cross-section of society: low-income residents in public housing, seniors, students, and dual-income families all call the district home.

Incumbent Sarah Stoodley of the Liberals was elected as the district’s MHA in 2019. She was Minister of Digital Government and Service NL in Andrew Furey’s administration, and was instrumental in bringing about a change in the legislature to allow elected officials to bring their babies to work.

Stoodley is up against Sheilagh O’Leary, Deputy Mayor of St. John’s, who is running for the NDP. 

Andrea Newbury is running in the district for the NL Alliance, a party formed in 2018 which calls for democratic reform and a move away from party lines. 

Damian Follett is a local singer/songwriter and newcomer to politics running for the Progressive Conservatives.

Larry Borne is running as an independent in the district. He has a background in poultry processing and retail and believes that more independents are needed in provincial politics.

The five candidates shared their ideas for Mount Scio and the province over phone interviews this week. Read on for their perspectives on issues ranging from climate change, minimum wage, the needs of constituents, and the role of government.

Why are you running in Mount Scio?

Sarah Stoodley (Liberal)

Well I live in Mount Scio, and I’m the incumbent after running a year and a half ago. I personally wasn’t happy with the direction everything was going in, and I wanted to do something about it. So I ran and I had no idea what I was doing last time. The people of the district gave me the opportunity to represent them, which is amazing. So we’ll see this time if people are happy with my work. But I want to continue to help all the constituents that I’ve been helping. That’s been a huge part of the job every day. Even though I’m in election mode I’m still getting 10 to 20 issues or questions from people in the district a day that I’m working to help solve. That’s the most important part of the job.

But also, now I’m in the Premier’s cabinet. And I personally, honestly have been very impressed with Premier Furey. As we look to reimagine the provincial government, I want to be a part of that and I hope Mount Scio wants their representative to be a part of that as well. 

Sheilagh O’Leary (NDP)

Mount Scio is an area that I am extremely familiar with. Presently I am actually representing, as the Deputy Mayor of St. John’s, a large portion of that district. The area itself constitutes a lot of what was formerly the Ward 4 area which I was the representative for several years ago. But certainly as the Deputy Mayor of the City I deal on an ongoing basis with constituents of much of that area.

Andrea Newbury (NL Alliance)

I’m running because I feel like we’re at a point in our politics here in Newfoundland where we need to do things differently. We need to make drastic changes in policy, we need to not be afraid to try something new. We’ve tried the same thing for over 70 years and we’re now in one of the worst financial positions we’ve ever been in. I know the pandemic is putting salt in the wound so to speak, but we have to come up with ways where we can work together regardless of party colour. That doesn’t seem to be happening. So I want to offer myself as a voice for the people of Mount Scio, but also as a person in the House of Assembly who will challenge the current government and challenge the opposition as well, because they’re not being as effective as they could be. 

When it comes to parties, it seems that if you go against your party, that you’re sent to the corner or you’re kicked out of caucus and need to sit apart from your party. And I don’t feel that that’s a democratic way to go about doing things and we need to change, to me, the entire system in order to see any progress in this province.

Damian Follett (Progressive Conservative)

It’s my home district. I’ve lived there for the last fourteen years. Raised my boys there, they’re 16 and almost 14 in junior high and high school. I want to give them a shot of living here and having a future here in the province. Obviously there’s a lot of work to be done for that, so I figured why not try to be part of the solution. 

The first inspiration for me running is my mom who is 89 years old. She’s been in a nursing home and, boy, it’s been a tough time for seniors. I just want to be a better voice for seniors. Because I think they could have been helped out in a few more ways. I mean, everything was taken away from them and it’s been pretty sad.

Larry Borne (Independent)

I’m running because there’s not enough accountability with the old parties, like the PCs and the Liberals. And with the amount of money that they throw away there should be more accountability for the people that are running.

Who are your constituents, and what are their specific needs in this district?

Sarah Stoodley (Liberal)

So there are geographically three distinct areas. There’s Elizabeth Park in Paradise, with some retirees and a lot of working families. Then we have Kenmount Terrace in St. John’s, and that’s primarily working families. And then we have the area around the university and the area around the Avalon mall. There we have a lot of low income residents and seniors. Their challenges and situations are extremely different than my constituents in Kenmount Terrace and Elizabeth Park in Paradise. Of course, everyone struggles with money, don’t get me wrong. But in this part of St. John’s there’s a lot of residents on income support, for example.

So I’ll start with the low income residents first. It’s common sense, but they are just struggling with [having] enough money to live and buy groceries, [getting] their driveways plowed if they’re in a single house. So one of the things we’ve done that I’m extremely proud of is the low income bus pass. Giving a bus pass to anyone on income support, which the majority of the low-income residents in this district are on. I worked very closely with Ian Froude of city council on that program, so I’m very pleased about that. Hopefully that reduces that barrier and just makes it a bit easier for people. That’s just one thing, but we do have a lot more work to do in terms of helping the low income residents of our province. A lot of my work as an MHA has been helping them overcome different challenges they have, like navigating the healthcare system or navigating specialized educational needs that they have or things like that. 

Then Kenmount Terrace and Elizabeth Park, and throughout the district, we have working families in the daily grind trying to make ends meet. So one of the things I’m most proud of to help those residents is the $25 a day childcare program which is amazing. It’s a great step towards what we need to do to help families with childcare. They are [also] impacted by taxes. They would be very much against any raising in tax, which I would be as well, because that hurts their overall family bottom line at the end of the year. 

We also have a lot of small business owners in the district. I worked with them throughout the pandemic, particularly, trying to identify how the Covid rules applied to them and their business. The other one I’d add is a bit of a small issue, but for the people it impacts it’s their whole world: diabetes. There are so many families impacted by diabetes and if you have to pay out of pocket for those costs, that’s like your whole world. So one of the things that I’ve been advocating for with Dr. Haggie for example is expanding the insulin pump program.

Sheilagh O’Leary (NDP)

Mount Scio actually embraces an incredible diversity because of course you’ve got the university area, you’ve got a lot of seniors, you’ve got Elizabeth Park in Paradise. You take in a large circle of commercial area when you’re talking about Kenmount and Thorburn Road. And of course you’re dealing with older, more traditional suburban neighbourhoods. As well as certainly a lot of Newfoundland and Labrador housing units. So it’s a very diverse socio-economic area.

Andrea Newbury (NL Alliance)

I think Mount Scio has a wide range of different needs. I know there’s a lot of young families here like myself who have schoolkids. I know that there are challenges specifically when it comes to getting French services in schools when you want them. There’s demand growing for that every year and we need to look into that and how we can work with the school district to learn how to implement the French immersion programs and core French more in the schools.

I know that there are a lot of elderly people here who feel forgotten. There are people that are wondering how they’re going to pay their bills. And then they see people going around pre-election announcing all this different funding, but they’re constantly being told that there’s no more money to support our seniors. People who are deciding to go into long-term care, they’re wondering how their needs are going to be met. Our current staff-to-resident ratios are not great. And we need things like Lillian’s Law legislation to be put in place where the ratios are down from 3 residents to 1 staff member. I know that there are a lot of low-income residents in this district and they feel like their needs are not being met. The Metrobus rollout had problems with it and it wasn’t as beneficial as it could have been to the constituents. I know that the income support programs need an overhaul. It is such a wide ranging district with so many socio-economic issues. 

Damian Follett (Progressive Conservative)

The constituents are, I’ll tell you, they’re regular folks like me. Trying to raise their families, trying to make sure that their kids have a future here. They’re just a lot of regular folks, and when I’m going to the door they say “we like the fact that you’re one of us. You’re here with us, you raised your kids, you know the district.” I’ve volunteered at the school for the last decade, I’ve been driving the schoolbus for the kids. We all have the same concerns about the future. They want the economy to come back around somehow.

Honestly, I don’t know the solutions. I’m not an economist. I’m a musician by trade as you know. I’ve always tried to make the world a better place through the music. And all I’m trying to do now is, you know, hopefully bring some of that energy to the House of Assembly. I think they need it.

Larry Borne (Independent)

This district needs a lot more work for one thing. This district is in the city of St. John’s, right? So the city takes care of most of the big issues like snow clearing and housing and development and stuff like that. So most of your sewer water, that’s all controlled by the city. So the province hasn’t got much to do with that, only when they’re putting in grant money.

Many residents of Mount Scio are international students. How would you represent the people who don’t get to vote in this election?

Sarah Stoodley (Liberal)

I’ve had lots of conversations with international students and I’ve helped a lot of international students. To me there’s no difference between an international student and a working family. A lot of them have challenges for example with things like MCP or different programs like that. So I’ve helped a lot of international students with what they need. Many students have contacted me and I’ve reached out to the university on their behalf or the school system. There’s no real difference in terms of how we help international students versus how we help anyone else.

Sheilagh O’Leary (NDP)

Well, you know, that’s very interesting. Because I’ve knocked on many doors over the past several days where I’ve encountered newcomers and international students who are unable to vote. Just because they can’t mark an X on the ballot, that [doesn’t mean] they don’t deserve to be represented. They certainly do. Because they are bringing an incredible asset to our community. And we’re certainly hopeful about attracting and retaining newcomers to our province not only for the economic aspects that could be of benefit to the province, but also for the cultural benefits that happen as a result of having a diverse community.

So I would be very proactive. I’ve had a long history of supporting multicultural communities. I identify as Indigenous, my mom is french Miꞌkmaq from the west coast and I have an understanding of some of the issues that face people in terms of prejudice and stigma. And I’ve been very proactive, I’ve been involved with First Light, formerly the St. John’s Native Friendship Centre, as a board member. But also I was very active with the multicultural women’s organization as well. So I’ve got a long history of being supportive and having a lot of collaboration with the Association of New Canadians, new immigrants and farming communities there. I’ve got a wide spectrum of experience dealing with various cultures, and certainly they need to be represented. 

Andrea Newbury (NL Alliance)

We need such a diverse representation in our politics. I think it’s important. Unfortunately if they can’t vote it’s a bit of a different situation, but they need to be seen and for people who are moving to the district from another country, from another province, they need to know that where they’re moving, they’re gonna have opportunities. We see oftentimes people who have immigrated here move to another province because they didn’t feel like they could prosper in Newfoundland. And it’s unfortunate that that happens. So we definitely need to support them when they come here, make sure they’re connected to other people in the community who have had similar experiences. I know I’ve spoken with someone in the past with regards to immigrants and even refugees—which are completely different categories—who have come to Newfoundland and are basically just thrown to the wolves. They don’t know how to get the services that they need. They need more support in that area. Healthcare, of course, would be the number one priority before everything else. Once that’s in place everything else can fall into place.

Damian Follett (Progressive Conservative)

I’m basically gonna have to start getting to know those folks and probably spend a bit more time. I’m already conversing with them at their doors. Where some of them are not as eligible to vote they’re excited to meet new people, they appreciate you coming to see them, but again they’re not part of the whole system yet which is kind of tough.

One of the problems is that over half the population doesn’t even vote—let alone international students. But folks are telling me that they’re not voting because they’re pretty upset with the system and how it’s not working for their families. And to me, again, I treat everybody equally. That’s what I’ve tried to do in music. Just listening, educating yourself, and realizing that this person is just as important as the next person.

Larry Borne (Independent)

Well I think there should be special cases where they can vote. Because they’re in this district. And if they’ve been here for, say, 30 days, they should be entitled to cast their ballot.

How will you support the well-being of your district’s most at-risk and low-income residents?

Sarah Stoodley (Liberal)

In our district we have for example the Rabbittown Community Centre. And they are amazing. They provide service to some of the most vulnerable low income residents in the district. And on Empire Avenue, there’s a lot of Newfoundland and Labrador housing there. So I personally have developed a great relationship with Lily Lodge who runs the Rabbittown community centre. We keep in contact, if they have a problem they send people our way. Or if we have a program I make sure that she’s aware of it so that they can promote it to their clients.

We also have some low income residents up around the mall, like the Wigmore area. I got to know a lot of the residents up there. For example there’s a seniors’ bingo up there every sunday. During non-Covid times I usually make a point of going every second week. So the residents there know that I’m going to be there every second week and they kind of line up. They do call me outside of that, but sometimes there’s a lineup of them waiting to chat with me. I can help them with approval of a new medicine their doctor wants them to take, or maybe they have a damp issue in their apartment, a whole range of things. 

But I guess those are the two ways that I’ve tried to be as successful as possible and stay on top of the needs of the low-income residents in our district.

Sheilagh O’Leary (NDP)

Be responsive. I think it’s extremely important to be a good constituency person. And that’s a track record I’m very proud of in my last 10 years of service in the municipal sector. I think it’s extremely important that you are present, that you engage in the community, and that you are responsive when people reach out when they have issues or problems. You have to be very on your toes about that.

And I’m also, in my present position at the city of St. John’s, the lead for affordable housing. So I have been boots on the ground in regards to trying to address issues of livability and making sure that everybody has safe and adequate housing. I’ve worked collaboratively on many committees and boards which deal with this particular issue of safe housing. So I would just extend that and bring it up to the provincial level.

Andrea Newbury (NL Alliance)

A living wage. Let’s just put that out there right off the bat. I am an ardent supporter of a living wage. I don’t understand why our government is not fighting tooth and nail to get that in place. That would cover a whole lot of issues. I know that some people feel like it’s a barrier for getting a job. Mothers would probably get out to work sooner if they knew that their job offered a living wage and they could afford childcare. I just feel like that is the first step to solving a lot of issues. 

I know that there are some struggling with mental health issues. I’ve said that, just because we’re building a new shiny hospital, it’s not going to take care of the issues in this district. We need to support the programs and the people that are fighting for these people. We need to make sure that wait times to be seen for people with mental health issues are lessened. I’ve heard stories of people waiting over a year and that is just ridiculous. The stories that we’ve seen of people unfortunately losing their lives to mental health issues, that should never happen because of the system. So I’m going to support anyone that proposes improvements to the system for low-income and mental health and addictions.

Damian Follett (Progressive Conservative)

Listen, I’ve always tried to—through the music—[be] there for those types of people who are struggling. I mean you try to help them out with all the charity work I’ve done over the years. Again, [I will] listen to concerns, and try to change some of the ways that government deals with them.

I’ve spoken to a lot of seniors, and their stories are pretty heart-wrenching. I can relate because my mother is a senior. But my mom is fortunate, she’s in a nursing home in Placentia with Eastern Health. On one hand, there’s a lot of medical needs being met there, it’s the hospital and the senior’s home. So they’re telling me that basically housing is way too expensive. They’re struggling, some are having to decide between paying a light bill and getting food, and it just breaks my heart.

Listen, in a province like this, in a country like this, it’s just wrong. It’s just wrong the way people are being treated. So try to be a voice. I’m one person, but one person can start a chain of events that might make a difference.

Larry Borne (Independent)

I know they want to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour. That’s too much of a jump to begin with. Like, at McDonalds they’re paying a little over $13 an hour right now. That’s a fair wage, but they always say it’s indexed to the inflation rate—no, that don’t cut it. Because your inflation rate is always going higher and your wages are not keeping up with it. So $15 an hour is too much of a jump right now, it should be in increments of maybe $0.75 an hour for the next year and a half and that would bring it up.

And the provincial government should have—when Dominion was going out on strike and they found out that most of their employees were making just above minimum wage—that’s when they should’ve increased the minimum wage to $13 an hour and they wouldn’t have had to go out on the picket lines. So they would have still been contributing to the income tax.

Do you support raising the minimum wage to $15/hour?

Sarah Stoodley (Liberal)

That’s a difficult question. Right now there’s a lot of programs for low-income people and people who make minimum wage. My constituents, if they make minimum wage, get fully funded childcare—because if your household income is under $35,000 a year you get 100% fully-funded childcare. You’re also eligible for a Newfoundland and Labrador housing subsidy for example. That also gives you a bank account with money in it to pay your Newfoundland Power bill.

I’m ok with increasing the minimum wage, but I think you have to consider the balance of supports that are in place for people on a certain income. I wouldn’t want to say yes to $15 minimum wage, but then not have a childcare subsidy. Personally, I think the childcare subsidy, and having free childcare for people who make minimum wage, is far more important than a $15 minimum wage. If we could have both, great. But then we also have to balance the business needs and what they can afford. 

So, I think that it’s too simple a question. Do we then have to have more funding programs for businesses? Fine, but that comes from the government. So how much money do we have to put in funding programs for businesses, and we can do that—but where does that money come from? So if raising the minimum wage meant that we were not going to fund fully paid daycare for people with low incomes, then I would be against it. So I guess overall it’s the mix of programs for people. 

Do we need to do more for people on low-income? One hundred percent. But you also have to consider the whole picture beyond just what they make.

Sheilagh O’Leary (NDP)

Absolutely.

Andrea Newbury (NL Alliance)

One word: yes.

Damian Follett (Progressive Conservative)

I support giving people a better way of making a living for sure. Because I’m there with them—I’m a musician. We lost a lot of income last year. I’ve gotta learn more about businesses and the cost of running a business.

But there’s gotta be a way. Like the bigger operations, like Dominion, Loblaws, Sobeys, all the bigger corporations, maybe there’s a way of those companies supporting the workers a little better. I know you probably can’t separate the minimum wage in different businesses, small and large. But maybe that’s an idea that could be thrown on the table. I mean, they say there’s no such thing as a bad idea. You just throw it out there and try to discuss it. Again, for me, coming from the music industry, trying to learn as much as possible about how the system works, that’s all I can do for people. Just ask the questions and try to learn and try to give them the answers that I learn.

Larry Borne (Independent)

Not right off the bat. It should be in increments to keep up so that the employers have a chance to counterbalance with what they’re going to have to come up with to make it right. Well, you can go up to $15 an hour, but it’s too much of a jump. If you take the minimum wage here, now, if you increase that by say $2.50 an hour right off the bat, there’s a lot of small businesses that’ll never handle that. Or, if they do, they’ll be cutting back on their staff. So they’re losing instead of gaining.

How will you address climate change through your work as MHA?

Sarah Stoodley (Liberal)

That’s something personally that I care a lot about. It’s a challenge because this is where as an MHA your personal views conflict with some of your constituents’ views. I do have a lot of constituents who are fully concerned about climate change, a lot of students obviously and a lot of residents. And that is an interesting juxtaposition with the oil and gas workers in our province. 

We have an oil and gas industry that, without it right now, we’d be in a very bad place. We have these conversations in Cabinet: how do we, long-term, transition off an oil and gas economy into, say, a tech economy where there is no impact on climate change? Because I think we all recognize that oil and gas is not going to be around forever. But I have a significant number of constituents in Kenmount Terrace and in Elizabeth Park in Paradise who work in the oil and gas field. They want more oil and gas jobs. 

I mean, really, what they want is to work hard, make a high salary, and provide for their family. Right now that’s in oil and gas. So I found that an interesting line, because personally I think we should be moving away from oil and gas and investing in technology, and having programs to retrain oil and gas workers for tech jobs. And I’ve been pushing for some of that. That’s not an instant fix, and hopefully we’ll see some of that in the next term if I’m re-elected. 

So overall, I do push for the long-term solution—for a transition away from oil and gas. But because so many of my constituents work in oil and gas, it has to be done with them being able to retrain but continue the lifestyle that they’re used to. What will that transition look like? We haven’t figured that out yet, but people are working on that.

Sheilagh O’Leary (NDP)

Climate is actually one of my first loves and my main passion. In the municipal sector, I was a very vocal advocate for a cosmetic pesticide ban, the plastic bag ban in the province, and as well developing tree development regulations which were not in place in our city’s development regulations. All of these things are things that play into, on a smaller scale, on a municipal level, how we deal with the environment. Climate action is something I’m extremely passionate about.

It’s extremely important that we support the workers that are working within the oil industry right now. But we still have not developed a cohesive plan of transition into an alternative and green energy economy. That’s something that I would be extremely vocal on. It’s important, we’re well behind, and it’s time for the province to come out with a plan. I’m somebody who is not afraid to speak up on issues. Oftentimes I’ve been the sole voice on many of these issues at a municipal level. I want to take that to the provincial level. And I certainly plan on taking government to task and holding them accountable on these issues.

Andrea Newbury (NL Alliance)

I’m definitely a supporter of having a climate change initiative in government. There are a lot of groups out there that we can rely on to come up with options and suggestions on this. I know there are businesses around that are trying to go more green. We maybe need to give them incentives in the form of funding or tax incentives to continue on this path. I think a lot of them would be probably more keen to go carbon neutral if we gave them incentives from government. So we’re headed in the right direction in that area, but there’s so much more that we could promote and, like I said, give incentives for businesses to do that. I think that’s the right way to go. If we support businesses, others will follow.

Damian Follett (Progressive Conservative)

There’s oil and gas people in this district that want the industry to come back. Actually, I heard a good quote the other day from a person working on climate change. His response was “in order to go green, you need green.” And I was like wow, that makes sense. He said you’ve got to have supports to implement the plan of going green. And a lot of people here are talking about how the oil and gas in Newfoundland’s industry is some of the cleanest on the planet, so they want that to continue. I mean, for my kids and grandkids, of course climate change is important. But again, I’m trying to learn more about it.

I never expected to be running in an election to be honest with you. It came fast, and I’m trying to educate myself as much as possible. I mean, there’s so many issues. There’s so many things to address. You try to look at the things that you’re passionate about. For me it’s seniors and kids, but then there’s so many other things that people are concerned about. So education, and listening.

Larry Borne (Independent)

Well, I’ve been saying this all along. Right off the bat, Newfoundland has thousands of gallons of water. Why does this province have to import bottled water from the mainland? You stop and think about the diesel fuel that it costs to bring that water in when they could bring other commodities that are lighter. And there’s thousands of bottles of water sold in this province that’s coming from Ontario, Nova Scotia, and probably Quebec, so why waste diesel fuel to bring that bottled water in? Why can’t we have a bottling plant here? Bottle our water, sell it in the stores and create jobs.

And same with agriculture. This island could be self-sufficient in food. They’ve got tons of land, they’ve got people who are willing and looking for land to raise beef cattle on. I know a fella who’s been trying for three years, he can’t even get a look in the door because the provincial government won’t even acknowledge what he wants to do.

What is your vision for the future of Mount Scio, and the province at large?

Sarah Stoodley (Liberal)

So Mount Scio, right now, I don’t think a lot needs to change. We’re kind of urban and we would have the same challenges as the other St. John’s city districts generally. In terms of the province, we need to change the way our government works. We need to do more with what we have essentially. I think there’s a huge culture change which needs to happen with the provincial government. We need to be more nimble. We need to be more customer-service focused. This is a lot of what I’ve been doing in my ministerial role as well. I do think that we need to make some big changes to save money without reducing services. So I’ve been thinking a lot about what those are and what those could be, and speaking with my colleagues about that as well.

I am really excited about hopefully working with Premier Furey if I get re-elected and there is a majority or a minority Liberal government. I think we are doing work to look at what government looks like. I have my ideas—I’ve suggested some of them publicly, not all of them—but we are getting there. I hope that the people of Mount Scio give me the opportunity to be a part of that on their behalf. But I’m also happy to discuss those with anyone who wants to chat individually. 

Sheilagh O’Leary (NDP)

I love Newfoundland and Labrador. I was born and raised in the city, both of my parents are from the west coast. I’m very passionate about this place. I’m a great outdoors lover. We have incredible natural resources here. And I really feel that the downfall has been at the leadership level in terms of planning how we can be a sustainable society—how we can create a sustainable economy for everybody. That means taking care of the most vulnerable in our society, as well as trying to push the economy of the province forward. That can be something that goes hand in hand. 

Unfortunately, we have seen both with the Liberals and with the PCs over the years, the back and forth [that is] really only benefiting a certain elite sector of society. I think that we could come up with a plan that benefits everybody. I think one of the issues at the municipal sector that we have still not addressed and has been a big topic and point of lobbying from municipalities and from municipalities NL as an organization, is the idea of regionalization. How we need to start working more collaboratively together to ensure that all the areas around the province can prosper. 

In Mount Scio district, of course, with the diversity that we see in that area, I think it’s extremely important that we have a strong voice. And I certainly hope and plan to be that.

Andrea Newbury (NL Alliance)

I have said to several people that the current MHA, she’s done a great job and I’m not going to deny that. But she is only as effective as her party allows her to be. I feel that my approach would be more beneficial to the district and the province as a whole if we got more candidates with my same approach. Right now, party candidates are concerned about their district, yes, but when they present things to the House Assembly or to their party first, they are told what they can present and what they can support. I don’t think that’s a good position for our elected representatives to be in because our constituents elect us to represent them, not to represent their party. [Because] before an election, after an election, during the four years, [parties] are constantly in election mode because it is all about keeping their party in power. And when that is the main focus things get put on the back burner. Peoples’ needs kind of fall to the wayside.

My vision for this district is to have someone in the House of Assembly—hopefully me—that will bring every single issue to the House of Assembly with good intentions with no ties to party, to big business, to anything other than the people who elected them to get there. At NL Alliance we do not accept corporate or union donations. And we’re going to fight to get that reform in our politics because we feel that once that happens, once campaign finance reform happens, and party finance reform happens, things will improve when it comes to representing the voters—not party or business.

Damian Follett (Progressive Conservative)

Hopefully a vision of cooperation. Because, again, one of the biggest concerns I’m getting at the door is people are really disheartened and disgruntled at the whole system—and the lack of cooperation in government and in opposition parties. For them it always seems to be about the power struggle and who’s gonna get in, and who’s gonna be in charge. I just believe that cooperation and teamwork, you know, these things are what gets things done.

So my vision, and I’ve always had this vision for the world, is a better place for all of us. You can quote one of my songs ‘One Human Race’: “if we just be kind to each other, we’re all sisters and brothers, on this rock in time and space.” You know, open up your heart and listen to others. I believe in listening to people and cooperating. I mean, arguing yes—constructive arguments, of course—but you can’t just be fighting with each other because you’re wrong and I’m right. It’s not about that. It’s about trying to get the right solution for your people. So that’s the mission. It’s a big one. I’m a hopeful person, but I’m also realistic of the fact that you can’t change the system in a day. But you gotta put your foot forward and try to make a difference somehow.

Larry Borne (Independent)

I know there’s a lot of development going on. And I disagree with the amount of natural forests that they’re ripping up. And they just shred it up. They don’t let people go in and cut it for firewood. And these developers, they should be paying a stumpage fee for every tree that they cut. Or, they should be made to replant them elsewhere so that our forests can still be sustainable for our younger generation coming up. And you can drive around, you don’t see no wildlife anymore. You don’t see rabbits, you don’t see squirrels. Everything’s being drove out. And if you don’t have wildlife, mankind will not survive because you’ve got to coincide with everything. And wildlife and humans counteract, and then your whole diversity is imbalanced.

What is your view of the role of government?

Sarah Stoodley (Liberal)

I think the role of government is firstly to help people when they need help. Fundamentally, it is our safety net.

After that, there’s the customer-service part. Because I’m the minister of Digital Government and Service NL—which is essentially the customer-facing arm of the provincial government—we need to be much more customer-focused. Less about press releases, less about writing speaking notes, more about delivering efficient customer-service support. So that when people need to work with the government they can do that clearly, efficiently, friendly, easily, simply. We should not be hard to work with.

The provincial government I also think needs a bit of a culture shift. The province should have a group of hardworking public servants who are dedicated. I think that is one area of opportunity within the provincial government in terms of just doing things in old ways. We could be motivating people a bit differently: team-based work instead of everyone in cubicles, trying new ways of doing things. I do think there’s a huge opportunity for the provincial government to do more with what they have and be more responsive and flexible in terms of what a modern government should be. Which I think we are far from yet.

Sheilagh O’Leary (NDP)

The role of government is to create policies that enable people to have a safe, healthy, and prosperous lifestyle. In Newfoundland and Labrador, we know that we have incredible resources. Within Mount Scio district itself, we have Pippy Park. All these issues of how we protect open space areas, which are such an asset. And how we do that in conjunction with development. Of course, that’s more a city issue, but the province obviously does it as well.

One of the things that I’ve been very, very vocal on is about sustainable development in floodplains. When we talk about climate action we know that flooding is something that’s going to impact so many people. And it’s not just an environmental issue. This is something that’s going to affect people in their pocketbook as well when people see their basement flooded. And I think there’s been some very poor decisions made on behalf of the existing Liberal government right now to actually defy the regulations of the City of St. John’s and proceed, without any consultation with the City, to build the mental health facility in a known flooding area. That is not sustainable development. And I’ve been very vocal on that issue and that certainly is one of many many issues that are happening in the district of Mount Scio.

But again, the diversity. We see a lot of Newfoundland and Labrador Housing, and even City of St. John’s housing units. But we’re not just talking about people who are actively and presently living in housing. We’re talking about people who are now challenged. People who have had sustainable incomes who are now facing a similar scenario. It’s extremely important that we start moving in the other direction. Everybody deserves to have an affordable lifestyle. There’s a lot of natural resources that we can draw upon and protect. Taking care of our seniors who are often overlooked, and fighting and being an advocate and standing up to the government is extremely important to me. 

Andrea Newbury (NL Alliance)

I think the role of government is there to support the people. The role of government should not be to keep their party in power. They should be there to support small business instead of only supporting big business. I know big business plays a role in our economy, I’m not denying that, but unless we support people—unless our government is people-focused first—then we will never see progress on the level that we need to in this province. The role needs to be out of the House of Assembly—the government needs to focus on the districts, not just the House of Assembly. We need more collaboration with the voters and with businesses within the district.

Basically I’ll just boil it down to this: like I said before, we need government representing their people. Not their parties, not big business or donors that support their party and who are looking for favours down the road. We need just someone in the House of Assembly who knows what’s going on in real life situations, not making decisions in secret behind closed doors with the few select members of a business community. We need people on the front lines helping us make decisions and I think that would be a better move for Newfoundland right now.

Damian Follett (Progressive Conservative)

Well the role of government: just like what I’m doing now, if I’m elected then I’m elected by the people, for the people, to serve the people. There should be no other concern. It’s like—this is what you’re doing. You’re not in there for a power struggle. You’re not in there to have more power than one party or the next party. You’re there for the kid down the street who has special needs. Or the senior who needs better housing. You’re there for people. That should be the one and only mission of every single person who’s running in this election. Look at your people, listen to them, get their concerns, bring them to the people who have the knowledge to make a difference and have an impact in a positive way on your people.

People: that’s it.

Larry Borne (Independent)

You can’t have one party doing it all. It’s got to be split. And as Paul Lane said, you’ve got to have independents in there so that you can vote the way you want to vote. Not what your party leaders say. Because this has been going on since Confederation. If you’re a Liberal, if you don’t do what your leader says you’re out of the caucus. If you’re a PC, same thing. NDP, same way. You’ve got to vote the way your leader tells you. That should never be. You should be able to vote to your own way of thinking, how your constituents would want you to vote. The Liberal government will say, ‘oh, we’re gonna give this guy a million dollars as a settlement because he worked for us for years’—no, that should never be. Should never be. People should be able to say no, it’s not worth that. And that’s the way it should be.

Independents: they’ve got to have people sitting on the fence so they can vote against stuff that don’t make sense.

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

UPDATE: This article has been updated to include the responses of independent candidate Larry Borne. [Tuesday, 26 January 2021, 3:59 P.M.]

Main Photo: Mount Scio candidates, L-R: Sarah Stoodley, Sheilagh O’Leary, Andrea Newbury, Damian Follett.

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