Conservative candidate wants to rebuild bridges

     Under normal circumstances, Lorraine Barnett would have a pretty even chance of winning the federal election as the Conservative Party candidate in Avalon Riding - assuming she won have gotten the nomination over the usual line of pretenders who might otherwise have sought it.
     But there has been nothing normal about federal politics in Newfoundland since 2007 when then Premier Danny Williams launched an Anything But Conservative campaign against Prime Minister Stephen Harper, scorching the earth of any chances of the Conservatives electing a member in this province for years afterwards. 
     With nearly 10 years working in the federal minister’s Newfoundland and Labrador Regional Office and years behind her before that working with the Fish Food and Allied Workers Union and a development association on the Cape Shore, nobody in this election is better placed than Barnett to know the details of federal-provincial files and projects.
Reached by telephone in Trepassey where she was campaigning, Barnett said the election has been a great chance to reconnect with people she has met throughout the riding during her career.
     But with the Big C for Conservative on her chest, Barnett knows she is facing a tough battle.
“It has been tough,” she allows. “But for me it’s about leadership, it’s about balanced budgets, low taxes and more money in the pockets of families. It’s campaigning not on running deficits but steady as she goes in tough economic times.”
     Barnett says it’s important to have someone at the table in Ottawa. According to most polls, if the election was held this week the Conservatives would return to power with the most seats, though slightly behind the Liberals in terms of overall vote count. That leaves the prospect of Newfoundland going another four years without anyone to speak for it in the federal government.
     “I don’t think we’ve been forgotten about,” Barnett says, reflecting on the lack of a political representative in the government for the past seven years. “I think what’s lost are the good things we are doing. The media has a tendency to report the negative stuff. I’m talking about the new CAT 3 instrument landing system at the airport that the federal government invested in that will make accessibility go from 93 per cent to 99, investments in Marine Atlantic, the new Canadian Coast Guard headquarters that is going to be built on the Southside in St. John’s to open in 2018, the loan guarantee for Muskrat Falls, the New Horizons for Seniors program, the funding that we get through ACOA. On a daily basis I see what is coming to this province. I think what is missing is someone at the table not only to push for more, but who can let people know we are doing okay. We could be doing better, but we need a voice at the table.”
     Barnett says it’s impossible for Newfoundland to be best served by having a regional minister from another province.
     “We need to have our voice heard,” she says. “Not only that but to rebuild that bridge between the province and feds. We need to rebuild our relationship, that’s very important. And I think if we got the right person, someone like myself – I’ve seen the tough times, I’ve lived through the tough times with the ABC - I know I can rebuild the relationship between the federal government and the provincial government and that needs to get done. Nobody is gaining anything from the way that this relationship has transpired.”
     Barnett is hoping people realize the consequences of potentially going 11 years without a voice in the federal cabinet. “That’s my message at the door – it’s very important to have a Conservative elected,” she says. “And Avalon has a good chance to do that. I’m not a voice of inexperience. I know the files, I know the Avalon, I’ve lived here all my life, I know the people, I could be a good representative at the table.”
     Barnett proved at the CBC Radio candidates’ debate that she isn’t the type to be pushed around. By many accounts she was the strongest performer during the event.
Like the frontrunner, Liberal Ken McDonald, Barnett comes from a humble background and has lived in the riding all her life. A single mom who went on to carve a career in economic development and government administration, she grew up in Patrick`s Cove on the Cape Shore, has lived in Holyrood and now makes her home with her husband in Paradise, which is also in the riding.
     “I knowwhat it’s like to live in a rural community, where jobs are scarce and very seasonal,” she says. “I know what it’s like to be a single parent, struggling and trying to make ends meet. I know what it’s like to have the ear of ministers and to get things done. I’ve come up through the system, I know how things work.”
     If the Conservatives are not re-elected October 19, Barnett’s job as the head of the regional minister’s office is gone. There is also no guarantee that she will get it back if they win and she is not elected. “There is no guarantee,'” she says. “It’s at the discretion of the next regional minister... I haven`t been promised one thing, nor would I want to be promised anything. I want to look people straight in the face and say at the end of the day I’m not being taken care of or compensated.”
     Barnett says if she is elected she will be a voice for the people of Avalon and will be visible. “People first, government second,” she says. “But you don’t have to be stupid about it.”
Barnett admits she was disappointed to see Danny Williams emerge again to attack Newfoundland Conservatives. Williams made a public plea this week for people not to vote at all rather than vote Conservative.
     “It was very disheartening,” Barnett says. “People have fought and died for the right to vote. I am asking people to vote for me, I would love for them to vote for me, but if they choose not to, at least get out and vote. Don’t let anyone dictate to you that you shouldn’t vote.”

Posted on October 7, 2015 .