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Western Newfoundland election candidates prioritize issues

Western Newfoundland's provincial election candidates.
Western Newfoundland's provincial election candidates. - Contributed

Politicians no doubt get an earful from many of the voters they engage on the campaign trail and need to be ready to provide the electorate with their position on various issues. As the campaign progresses, trends start to emerge as to what seem to be the most prominent issue on the minds of constituents. For some candidates, there are certain issues that are close to their own hearts.

Question: What is the most important election issue in your district?

Dwight Ball, 62

  • Occupation: Incumbent MHA
  • Hometown: Deer Lake
  • Liberal, Humber-Gros Morne
  • Health care. It’s coming up at every door and in every community. What we’re promoting is community-based care with the necessary infrastructure improvements. It’s supported by primary health-care teams throughout the district and some very significant changes in wait lists for mental health. It’s about health care and having access to health care professionals in their communities. It’s front and centre in everybody’s mind.

Wayne Bennett, 62

  • Occupation: Retired
  • Hometown: Howley
  • Independent, Corner Brook
  • To me, the most important issue to voters is the element of trust. Previous governments, whether Progressive Conservative or Liberal, have betrayed the people’s trust. For example, we’re now hearing the radiation unit may not be in the (request for proposals for the new regional hospital in Corner Brook). People don’t want to go to St. John’s for that. It’s too far to travel and some can’t afford to live while out there.

Gerry Byrne, 52

  • Occupation: Incumbent MHA
  • Hometown: Corner Brook
  • Liberal, Corner Brook
  • Completing the health-care campus in Corner Brook is the single most important issue I’m hearing. The long-term care facility is nearing completion. Bids are being evaluated for the acute-care component and it will be awarded in June. If we alter that schedule in any way, we could incur significant legal liabilities. Saying the new hospital won’t have radiation (treatment) is complete falsehood. The radiation bunkers are included in the requirements of the (request for proposals).

Brian Dicks, 63

  • Occupation: Contract business consultant
  • Hometown: Corner Brook
  • Liberal, Humber-Bay of Islands
  • No one issue stands out but, if I had to pick one, I would say that people are concerned about their power bills doubling. The Liberals have committed to rate mitigation which will ensure that people’s access to electricity is not going to be impacted by the cost of the Muskrat Falls project. If power rates double, there’s a good percentage of the population who would be in a lot of financial stress. It just can’t happen.

Mary Feltham, 22

  • Occupation: Personal care attendant
  • Hometown: Corner Brook
  • New Democratic Party, Corner Brook
  • In such a post-secondary heavy community, and being a recent graduate myself, a big issue for me is ensuring education is affordable and accessible. A big thing will be funding our future and ensuring students are able to come to Newfoundland, participate in school and be able to stay here after. Implementing jobs that are full-time and permanent will help continue to better this province’s future.

John Finn, 36

  • Occupation: Incumbent MHA
  • Hometown: Stephenville
  • Liberal, Stephenville-Port au Port
  • The most important issue I hear is the need to continue to grow and diversify our economy and I couldn’t agree more. We need to create opportunities for residents to stay, work and raise their families here. We see job growth in our aquaculture sector and a fine example is the Northern Harvest facility in Stephenville, doubling in size. The new College of the North Atlantic Heavy Equipment Center of Excellence in Stephenville will open its doors this fall. We need to use the Port of Stephenville and Stephenville Airport to our advantage. Our tourism industry in the district continues to grow and holds tremendous potential. We must work with Indigenous and Francophone communities to showcase our unique and rich culture.

Shawn Hodder, 52

  • Occupation: Photo specialist, Altronics
  • Hometown: Corner Brook
  • New Democratic Party, Humber-Bay of Islands
  • Our health-care system is in shambles. I honestly believe we need to invest more money into front-line care, in order to cut down on wait times when you go into the hospital and to give better care when you’re in there or in long-term care. Nurses are overworked, which is unacceptable. Trying to get in to see a specialist can sometimes take months or years. We need to spend money so people are taken care of when they need it.

Michael Holden, 48

  • Occupation: Atlantic Canadian regional manager for EF Go Ahead Tours
  • Hometown: St. John’s
  • Progressive Conservative, Humber-Bay of Islands
  • I think the Bay of Islands can be a gold mine for tourism, but it’s not. There is so much more we can do. It’s one of the more beautiful places on the island and tourism could bring lots more people and prosperity to the Bay of Islands. The region needs it and tourists will love it when they get there. Air and ferry access have to be improved and made more affordable. People see these great tourism commercials, but they still have to get here.

Eddie Joyce, 62

  • Occupation: Incumbent MHA
  • Hometown: Corner Brook
  • Independent, Humber-Bay of Islands
  • What I’m hearing at the doors is the hospital and the radiation unit and for it to be built by local workers. Every second door, they ask about when it’s going to be built and how is it going to be built? This is something I’ve been fighting for and want to see it to the end. We included a radiation unit and that will be the happiest day for me when people in western Newfoundland don’t have to go to St. John’s.

Tom O’Brien, 61

  • Occupation: Businessperson
  • Hometown: Stephenville
  • Progressive Conservative, St. George’s - Humber
  • The most important issue I’m hearing about is jobs and employment, and rightfully so. If there’s employment here people can stay at home and work. Employment is one of the three pillars the PC Party is putting out there which results in jobs and hope, with one coming out of the other. There needs to be more emphasis and focus on growing our agriculture industry with farm loan guarantees in the blue book. There are portions of the industry that can be year-round, like Growing for Life in Black Duck Siding, which could be done in different areas in the district. You have to be creative and get this stuff up and running.

Greg Osmond, 56

  • Occupation: Businessman
  • Hometown: Woody Point
  • District: Progressive Conservative, Humber-Gros Morne
  • I think people here just want honest, strong representation. That’s what I’m listening to at the door. They’re not pleased and they don’t feel well represented and they want something different. It’s not just because (the current MHA) is the premier and doesn’t have as much time for them. A lot of people worked on his campaign and then saw gas go up and all these extra taxes. They don’t feel that’s what they were promised in the last election

Scott Reid, 56

  • Occupation: Incumbent MHA
  • Hometown: Stephenville
  • Liberal, St. George’s-Humber
  • The most important issue is quality of the roads and the need for improved roads. The Codroy Valley and areas of Bay St. George South are particularly bad, but plans are in place to attend to them in the next two years. There is also rutting on Katarina Roxon Way on Indian Head and down through Stephenville Crossing, which needs to be attended to, as well as the Trans-Canada Highway between Corner Brook and Pasadena, where I hope to see some work done this summer and next year. Improved roads is something I’ve been working on for years and is starting to line up.

Shane Snook, 32

  • Occupation: Unemployed
  • Hometown: Flat Bay
  • NL Alliance, St. George’s-Humber
  • The top issue in the district is health care. We all have somebody who is on a waiting list that shouldn’t exist. I have a loved one waiting on a list for medical attention who is worried about what will happen in the meantime and most of us have someone like that and it’s just not right. There is no easy solution and a lot of it deals with how funding is distributed. We need to listen to the front-line workers, as they know the problems and what the solutions area, and take instructions from them.

Tom Stewart, 50

  • Occupation: Educator
  • Hometown: Corner Brook
  • Progressive Conservative, Corner Brook
  • Our economy needs a boost and it needs something that can help drive us in the future. I think tourism in this town and region is underutilized and we could develop it more. All the players are in place and we have the natural beauty of the Bay of Islands. I think sports tourism could bring people into the city almost on a weekly basis with needing a big investment. They don’t have to be big events.

Tony Wakeham, 62

  • Occupation: Retired health corporation CEO
  • Hometown: Kippens
  • District: Progressive Conservative, Stephenville-Port au Port
  • I think the most important issue in this election for this district is the economy. People want to have more disposable income and we must find a way to do that. We have an underutilized airport and seaport in Stephenville and need an airport/airline strategy and get creative about how we utilize our airport. Our big priorities should be in our strong farming and fishing communities and that’s spoken to in our blue book. There needs to be a strategy to replace aging infrastructure in Stephenville. Our biggest challenge is our province has a spending problem, not a revenue problem. Once we get back on track, revenues should not be used to increase expenditures but to pay down our debt and lower our taxes, resulting in more disposable income and spending.

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