Spring is almost within reach! I am sure everyone is looking forward to saying good-bye to this roller coaster of a winter. I have heard plenty from Fredericton seniors about the difficulty in navigating our sidewalks, and from both seniors and students about the interminable long waits for cabs. I passed both concerns on to the mayor during our most recent meeting. I asked him if the City could look at what would be involved in maintaining sidewalks in areas with a high density of seniors to the same standards as is used in the business district. I expect he and his councillors are hearing these concerns from many directions.
I have broadened the membership of my Youth Round Table to include interested youth, in addition to the official representatives of the student councils from our local high schools, colleges and universities. Adrienn McAdam-Sears, a student intern from UNB, is working in my office on youth engagement. My Seniors Round Table also continues to meet monthly to help me understand how best to pursue the interests of seniors in the Legislature.
In March, I will have social work students from STU working on a social action placement. Their efforts will be to raise awareness about the gaping holes in the social safety net for those living in poverty.
The report from my fall round of community meetings is available on-line, including the actions city councilors and I are taking in response to the issues raised. I also held a special meeting for Syrian families and some of their First Friends to see how they are making out in Fredericton. A number of issues arose which I have brought to the attention of staff at the Immigration and Settlement Branch of government, and I will follow-up with a meeting.
Fredericton High’s principal Shane Thomas has been chosen as one of Canada’s outstanding principals. As MLA and the father of a graduate of the class of 2016, I can attest to the excellence that Mr. Thomas brings to his work. Congratulations Shane!
At the Legislature, I have been raising plenty of issues that constituents have brought forward. These include unfair funding for St. Thomas University, a lack of family doctors, and a lack of funding to cover the health care that pharmacists can provide. You can watch the answers I received in question period on my website, DavidCoonMLA.ca
St. Thomas receives far less provincial funding per student than Mount Allison, a comparable university. Mount Allison receives $9,388 per student, while STU only receives $7,263 per student. This is just unfair. At the time of writing, STU was still negotiating with the provincial government for a better deal.
Pharmacists can diagnose a number of minor ailments, and prescribe the appropriate medication, but these services are not covered by Medicare. If they were, people could avoid the far more costly treatment provided at the Chalmers’ ER, not to mention avoid those long frustrating wait times. The good news is that during Question Period, in response to my questions, the Minister of Health said they are considering covering these services under Medicare. Now if he can just be convinced to bring nurse practitioners under Medicare, everyone would have a primary health care provider. It makes no sense that so many are left to doctors at the ER or after-hours clinics, when nurse practitioners are leaving the province for lack of work.
My bill to help families and businesses cut their heating costs and install renewable energy systems was defeated by the government members at Second Reading in February. Efficiency New Brunswick did so much to help people cut their heating costs until the government eliminated it. In Nova Scotia, Efficiency One, which was inspired by our own Efficiency New Brunswick, continues to be extremely effective in assisting Nova Scotians to reduce their energy costs. My bill would have created a similar agency. NB Power offers programs to upgrade your insulation.
When I attended the annual meeting of the Agriculture Alliance in Fredericton earlier this year, a senior civil servant spoke about how the government was looking at bringing local food to our hospitals, as they are beginning to do for our schools. This is good news. Perhaps the increased ambition to use the purchasing power of government to expand the market for food produced here at home, was inspired by the public popularity of my local food bill.
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My next round of neighbourhood meetings will be held in April and May. You will receive a notice in your mailbox. If you do not, please contact me. If I can be of help in any way or you want to let me know your views on an issue important to you, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call or drop by the constituency office at 133 King St, 455-0936.
All the best