Can NDP candidate Don Paulin challenge Liberal MP Wayne Long in Saint John-Rothesay? Paulin, a healthcare worker and CUPE member, is nipping at the heals of the Liberal incumbent, and leading the charge for a strong NDP in New Brunswick. Don has been endorsed by CUPE National President Mark Hancock and CUPE New Brunswick President Steve Drost.
Paulin is challenging the Liberal’s voting record and his actions within his party. Long has often voted for NDP bills that would support Saint John workers, but he has failed to push his party to the Left. Touting himself as a constituents’ MP, Long’s signs tell us what he stands for: climate change, families, or just “I stand for you.”
But does he?
This might depend on your view of climate change.
Saint John is home to one of Canada’s largest oil refineries, so it is not surprising to find Liberal support for proposals that further the interests of the company—Irving Oil.
Long supported the Trans Mountain pipeline through First Nations territory in BC. That in itself is enough to throw some shade on his climate change bona fides. Regarding the expansion of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, Long told the House of Commons on June 1, 2017, “I think that our government should do what any responsible government should do, much like the government across the House would also do, which is to approve the pipeline. We will support the pipeline and we will do everything in our power to make sure that the pipeline moves forward.”
Building the pipeline, however, may make it impossible for Canada to meet its climate commitment under the Paris Accords of maintaining global heating to within 1.5oC above pre-industrial levels, the maximum level scientists say we can allow without risking a dangerous climate future.
Long also supported Energy East pipeline—as did most of the Saint John establishment. He is also a supporter of controversial Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRs), which will produce long-lasting nuclear waste, which will have to be managed for hundreds of thousands of years, if not longer. According to the Nuclear Waste Management Organization, a not-for-profit established by Canada’s nuclear electricity producers, spent uranium fuel from Canadian reactors will still be almost 100 times more radioactive than naturally occurring uranium 5,000 years from now—the entire span of recorded human history.
Despite being seen as a maverick to some in the Liberal Party, he has comfortably towed the line drawn by Saint John’s energy establishment.
Paulin, by contrast, argues that he is more focused on people.
He has complimented Long on his NDP-friendly voting record, but has also criticized his silence within his own caucus. According to Paulin, Long takes positions for which he does not have the support of his party, and he has been unable to change their minds on key issues affecting Saint John.
Paulin says that he would vote along the same lines as Long, but he’d have the backing of his party. Long has a lot of power as a Member of Parliament because his government is in office. He could have used his influence to change the position of his caucus colleagues, but according to Paulin, he hasn’t. About Long, “he votes for what’s right, but he sits back and allows what’s wrong to continue,” said Paulin.
Paulin began his career in finance and accounting, but later moved to focus on helping people, and devoted himself to a career in healthcare. He is a nurse and has worked in different areas of our healthcare system, be it public, private, acute and currently with our elderly veterans. “It has helped me see people at their most vulnerable and truly see what people need from government and that has taught me the difference between empathy and sympathy,” said Paulin.
As home to one of Canada’s largest oil refineries, Saint John-Rothesay is a potential source of significant working-class support for the NDP. Paulin says he is focused on helping people, not companies.
Paulin is especially concerned for oil and gas workers as we transition our economy towards green jobs. These workers will need retraining to find jobs in the new, post-carbon economy: “We need to get buy in from workers, we’re looking to train for preferably well-paid union jobs in green jobs.”
Saint John will have choices to make in the upcoming election. With the Conservatives looking to pick up seats in the province, the Liberals have long been weary of a strong Left candidate in the NDP. In Don Paulin, they appear to have found a strong candidate who is set to show the town just how progressive and pro-worker it really is.
Long was asked for comment on the election, but had not returned the NB Media Co-op’s query at the time of publication.
Lynaya Astephen is a Saint John-based social justice and environmental advocate.