For NDP hopeful it's the Wright time to run

Kingman’s Cove resident Jenny Wright is hoping to turn a career of social activism into a political one with her run for the NDP nomination in the riding of Avalon and potentially a seat in parliament.
Wright, 49, is the executive director of the St. John’s Status of Women’s Council, a job she took just over a year ago. Before that she worked with Choices For Youth and the Child and Youth Advocate’s Office.
“I’ve done that work most of my life – advocating for women’s rights, homelessness, anti-poverty work,” Wright said, during a phone interview on her way to Cape St. Mary’s Bird Sanctuary. She is in the middle of a two week holiday, time she is using to explore the nooks and crannies of the riding. It includes the Southern Shore from Mobile southwards, both sides of St. Mary’s Bay, and both shores of Conception Bay – as far as Salmon Cove in the north and Paradise in the south. That gives it some of the province’s largest municipalities in Conception Bay South, Paradise, Bay Roberts and Carbonear, and some of the smallest, unincorporated ones.
“I’ve never run for politics before,” Wright said. “I’ve always worked for advocacy organizations, fighting for people’s access to government services. But if there’s a time to run, this is it. It’s time for a real big change. I’m really concerned about where the country is going and after Bill C-51 I thought, ‘This is it, I’m going to have to take a stand.’ And I want to run. I really want to run in Avalon. My heart and soul is in it and I live in it and it’s a diverse district.”
Wright is using her vacation time to meet with people throughout the riding and ask about their issues and concerns. “Everyone is saying to me, ‘We need change.’ People are unhappy,” she said.
Wright has been struck by the number of people who told her they’ve never voted before but want things to change. “It’s very positive,” she said. “People are very activated, very stimulated… so I’ve just been having a wonderful time talking to people seeing what the issues are.”
Bill C51, the Conservative government’s ‘Anti-terrorism Act,’ was tepidly supported by the Liberals in Parliament, but opposed by the NDP. It allows for “preventative detention” of terrorism suspects before they commit a crime and the sharing of personal data among government agencies. Security experts have warned the new provisions could lead to abuse of suspects while in detention and the possibility of innocent people being detained. There is also concern the new Act will criminalize some protesters and restrict free speech. Canada’s spy agency, CSIS, has also gained new powers.
“We can’t allow government and CSIS and our police systems to have that much power, to have surveillance monitoring and arrest powers over people with absolutely no oversight,” Wright argued. “I mean this is unheard of in Canada and it has so many repercussions for advocacy groups, even for groups like Greenpeace or First Nations people who are out protesting. Under this new law, everyone who is out protesting for change against the government could be hauled in and charged. This is not the Canada that we’re used to. I just think Bill C-51 pushes that too far and for me that was the final straw. I thought, ‘I don’t recognize my country anymore, this is not the country I grew up in.’”
Among the other issues important to Wright is “detangling the mess that is the DFO,” she said. “I live in a very small fishing community and the rules, policies and procedures that are coming down when it comes to managing the fisheries are just a mess and it’s getting in the way of us working on a good resources management plan.”
Affordable child care, is also important, Wright said, because the lack of it is stopping some people from being able to take jobs outside the home. Economic development, including support for small businesses, is also on her list.
“And I’m absolutely passionate of course around women’s issues,” Wright added. “I’ve been a strong feminist voice in this province for a while. We need a strategy to end family violence, we need much more women in government in leadership positions in the province. And all of those issues are not just women’s issues, they’re family issues and community safety issues and they become economic issues with the drain on the economy that happens around family violence and the drain on the economy when women can’t work because of the lack of childcare.”
Wright said many people she has talked to were unaware the Harper government has raised the qualifying age for Canada Pension to 67, up from 65. Many rural residents are worried about being able to retire with dignity, she said, especially when it comes to accessing health care. “If you want to keep people staying in their communities, and get the population growth up, which is a huge issue that we’re dealing with, people need access to health care and to be able to retire with some kind of dignity,” she said.
Jeannie Baldwin, a senior vice president with the Public Service Alliance of Canada has also announced her intention to seek the NDP nomination. In a press release, Baldwin described herself as a “born and raised” Newfoundlander, though she now lives in Nova Scotia. Wright is originally from Wiarton, Ontario, home of the famous weather prognosticating groundhog, Willie. Whoever wins the nomination will face Conception Bay South Mayor Ken McDonald, who is the Liberal Party candidate. Scott Andrews, the incumbent MP who was kicked out of the Liberal Party after an internal party investigation into reports of sexual misconduct towards a federal NDP member from Quebec, is also expected to run. The Conservative Party of Canada is without a candidate since it blocked the nomination of St. John’s lawyer Ches Crosbie.
The NDP nomination is set for August 26 with ballot boxes at the Royal Canadian Legion in Kelligrews. There may also be voting stations in Trepassey and Placentia. In order to vote, you have to be a member of the party for at least 30 days prior to August 25. That means anyone wanting to cast a ballot must sign up as a party member by July 25. Membership is free and can be obtained online.
“Hopefully they will come out and vote for the candidate that they want,” Wright said. “I think a lot of people are going to come out. I’m so pleasantly surprised talking to people all over the region. I’ve been absolutely everywhere and people are really engaged, I’m having fantastic conversations, people want change and they’ve definitely had enough of Harper.”

Posted on July 24, 2015 .