Although born into a Dutch sea-faring family, I’ve been a farmer all my life. When we came to Canada in 1981, we had little more than a dream, a vision and a goal. We saw potential in a rundown, neglected farm in Elgin. Through hard work and attention to the needs of the land—and with strong community support—we restored it to a thriving dairy farm.
Watching our forests become clearcuts and our lumber profiting off-shore tax havens while people in my community struggled to earn a decent living compelled me to run for political office. To continue destroying our natural environment serves no one. Neither does repeating the same mistakes over and over, hoping for a different outcome.
There are lessons here for our province.
As I travel Albert County talking with residents, many say they feel helpless to create the change they want to see. But we are the government; we can take charge of our destiny.
By working together and reclaiming our right to local decision-making, we can build rural economies based on our strengths; we can manage our assets to meet community needs. A new forest management plan would enable woodlot owners to earn a living and allow communities to benefit from Crown resources, thus creating meaningful work. How long would our fishery remain sustainable if it was managed by a corporation instead of local fishermen?
Supporting local business keeps wealth circulating here instead of disappearing elsewhere. Local decision-making would give us greater control over infrastructure maintenance, healthcare and educational resources.
Because farming, fishing and forestry are inherent to Albert County, our programs should support our farmers and food suppliers. Tourism offers endless opportunities with a continually-evolving, expanding market. But tourism, too, depends upon the health of our environment. No one visits an industrial zone.
These principles are at the heart of Green Party policy (tinyurl.com/ybcgy8w3). We believe governments should be collaborators and supporters of sustainable, community-led goals and initiatives, not top-down dictators.
A community thrives when residents are able to meet their own needs and realize their full potential in a sustainable manner. It takes good governance—representing the people, not corporate interests—to realize this goal. We need old wisdom, forward vision and ethical leadership to make this happen. It’s time for change.