I’m not sure when the canyon opened up between us and our government, but we are at risk of falling in unless the government formed after the September election is committed to bridging it. The secrecy must end, the attitude has to change, and trust must be restored. The edge of the cliff we are standing on is a democratic one, and we must not go over it, as they did in the USA.
There should be little sunlight between those who are elected and those who elected them. This is not the case today.
The view that politicians are not governing for public benefit is widening. Increasing numbers of people no longer see their elected representatives or their public servants acting out of concern for the common good. Why? Both public services and public assets have been allowed to deteriorate.
The wait times in the ERs of our city hospitals are excruciatingly long, so much so that they put some patients’ health at risk. Once admitted, seriously ill patients get stuck in hallways because there are no beds available. ER doctors have told their managers what they need to eliminate unsafe wait times, but their solutions are rejected.
Older seniors have heard repeatedly from both Conservative and Liberal governments they want to help them stay in their homes for as long as they are able. The Tories even drafted a plan, which was adopted by the Liberals. But when seniors actually reach the point where they need a little help, they have difficulty finding it.
There is a veritable epidemic of anxiety and depression among children and youth. Yet the wait times to access mental health care are dangerously long. The Chief of Psychiatry for the Fredericton region was concerned enough that she wrote the Minister of Health, and copied every MLA in the Legislature, asking that the cap on Medicare billing numbers for psychiatrists be lifted, so more could be hired in the region. The silence from government was deafening.
The 50% of forest lands that are held in trust by our government as Crown lands are being clearcut, and increasingly sprayed and turned into tree plantations. The top priorities we all hold for our forests; to ensure they protect our rivers and provide habitat for wildlife, were abandoned by the Tories, and the Liberals have done nothing to change this.
We fear that our children and grandchildren will face unmanageable environmental and fiscal challenges unless we have a government that actually tackles the big problems such as climate change and our debt – head-on.
It is no wonder so many people no longer see government as working for us. It is one of the reasons I decided to enter politics at the age of 55. Things need to change, and they need to change now.
Leadership can’t be about personal agendas or the pursuit of power. Leaders should have the courage to resist being captured by the private agendas of others. Leadership is to serve, to listen, and to act out of a genuine concern for the common good.
If we are to successfully face our challenges, government and citizens must be pulling together. This can only happen if government stops seeing citizens as liabilities on a balance sheet, and its public servants as political servants.
It is for you to decide, in the upcoming election, who has the integrity and honesty to serve New Brunswick well. It is for you to decide who will involve you in tackling the challenges we face. We can do this, but we must do it together.
David Coon is the Leader of the Green Party and the MLA for Fredericton South.