Earlier in this provincial election cycle, The Reminder sent questionnaires to all four candidates running in Flin Flon. Here are their answers, in full. The candidates are presented in alphabetical order.
1. The campaign process is essentially a job interview, so let’s start with a job interview question - What do you feel are your qualifications for office?
James Lindsay, Manitoba Liberal Party: I’ve been politically active since my teens and well versed on the functions of all 3 levels of Canadian government structures as well as First Nations and territorial governance models. I don’t discount sound and sensible ideas no matter what their source. Even political opponents can have good ideas. The differences are usually in the implementation of an idea to achieve a similarly desired result.
Tom Lindsey, NDP of Manitoba: I’ve been the MLA for Flin Flon constituency for the past three years. During this term, I’ve served as the NDP critic for several portfolios, including Labour and Growth, Enterprise and Trade, as well as Caucus Chair. I’ve consistently spoken out on issues affecting the north, while Liberal and PC MLAs have not.
Saara Murnick, Green Party of Manitoba: I have lived in northern Manitoba for 23 years and have worked in health care for 13 of them. I am aware of many of the issues facing our part of the world and am willing to listen and ask questions, to help understand challenges that others face. I can get along with people, even if I don’t agree with them. I try to be proactive, instead of reactive.
Theresa Wride, Progressive Conservative Party: If this is a job interview question, then I want to encourage everyone to read the full job description for a MLA (you can find it on the Manitoba Government website). Having read the job description, I feel that I am uniquely qualified to represent this riding. I have a track record of community involvement, of being engaged, of problem solving and of actively bridging the cultures of this constituency.
2. What is your plan for the future of Flin Flon’s economy? What role will industry/mining play in that plan?
Lindsay: Growing up in Flin Flon has always included a large amount of time walking on eggshells. The risk of mine closures is ever-present and we have seen how single-industry reliance has cost several communities in the region dearly. Flin Flon must diversify, and soon. Mining is ever-present in greenstone belts around the world and the industry won’t leave Flin Flon anytime soon, but having a secondary industry will be key to economic success and stability.
Lindsey: I want mining to remain part of Flin Flon’s economy. However, we need to diversify. I see health care playing an important role. We need to become a regional hub. Training for mine jobs needs to be expanded. We should expand the mining academy and use abandoned mines as training facilities. We also need to explore using process facilities and licensed tailing facility to train for mines other than Hudbay.
Murnick: We can’t make mining companies stay - industries that focus on extraction will eventually run out of things to extract. Green energy is the future. Green jobs can be a sustainable way forward for places like northern Manitoba. It’s time to diversify and look to the future.
Wride: The City of Flin Flon has long contributed to the economy of this province. I believe that the City of Flin Flon can and will capitalize on its pool of experience in the mining industry. This community can transform to a regional centre for future mining, focusing on increasing automation in the industry and mining development in other communities throughout the north.
3. What measures to benefit northern Manitoba and Flin Flon would you add to a provincial budget?
Lindsay: I would seek an increase in contributions to the Mining Community Reserve Fund (MCRF) and end expenditures from that fund that are currently being allocated to the Mineral Exploration Assistance Program (MEAP) and Mineral Prospectors Assistance Program (MPAP). A separate fund, industry supported, should be established for MEAP and MPAP purposes. I would also try to make the MCRF more accessible to the communities it is supposed to serve.
Lindsey: Funding for health care and obstetrics services in Flin Flon and throughout the constituency needs to be increased. Northern patient transportation should be properly funded too. Infrastructure spending on roads is always a concern.
Murnick: Many of the Green budget proposals would directly affect northern residents. The Guaranteed Income Assistance plan alone would go a long way toward ending poverty in children, the elderly and the differently abled in our communities. A Green budget would strengthen core services, make telecom services more affordable, improve transportation services and support small businesses.
Wride: Measures to continue support for the ongoing development and implementation of the Look North strategy and its mandate. Measures to continue support for the newly released mineral development protocol including the implementation of a faster permitting process and longer permitting periods for mineral exploration. Ongoing support and assistance for the arts in all communities. Supports for families and family programs.
4. Where do you believe infrastructure spending in Flin Flon should be focused? Should it be increased? Where will the funds come from?
Lindsay: I think infrastructure addressing the increasing substance abuse problems facing the city. The illicit drug problem is escalating. This needs an approach encompassing education, treatment, prevention, policing and harm reduction. There should have been a needle exchange or even a safe injection site in place years ago. Parents talk of needles in parks where children play. This is a very high priority for me. Funds will ultimately have to come from all three levels of government.
Lindsey: When it comes to infrastructure spending, decisions shouldn’t just be up to the province. I’ll continue to work with communities to ensure that their priorities are addressed. As for funding, the government only has limited sources. I’ll be a strong voice to ensure the north gets its fair share of the provincial budget.
Murnick: I don’t believe I’m the person to ask about where infrastructure dollars should be spent. Greens believe in giving more autonomy to municipalities to ensure that decision making is on a local level and they control their own purse strings. If we work with and listen to municipalities, they will let us know what they need.
Wride: Infrastructure spending in the City of Flin Flon falls under the purview of Mayor and Council. These decisions are best left to them. Like many others, I have personal opinions on how and where infrastructure dollars should be spent. Examples would include on UCN dorms, on short-term and emergency housing for young men and on long-term housing for our elders. The Manitoba government has recently boosted municipal infrastructure funding.
5. What is your plan regarding northern health care, specifically with local health care? What are your thoughts on the current state of Flin Flon health care?
Lindsay: Obstetrics services. Presently, as far as I am aware, the only locations in northern Manitoba where childbirth is expected to occur are The Pas and Thompson. Mothers must leave their families, communities and local supports during a time when those comforts are needed most. We have mothers who are remaining in their communities to deliver as ER patients at facilities that are not adequately equipped to ensure best possible outcomes for both mother and child.
Lindsey: The current state of health care is a disaster! I’ll work with the Saskatchewan and federal governments, northern communities and First Nations to turn Flin Flon General Hospital into a cross-border hub by adding more equipment, such as an MRI. Then, we’ll be able to attract more doctors. Ophthalmological services need to be available here too. We also need to look into expanding surgical and other services.
Murnick: The biggest thing we face in our riding isn’t unique to us and we should learn from communities that are seeing success with recruitment and retention of qualified staff (doctors, midwives and mental health clinicians for example). Bringing back birth services to Flin Flon would be an urgent priority to me. Lowering prescription drug costs and ensuring no more cuts to services and staff would round out my priority list.
Wride: I have always appreciated our health care services and providers. I strongly encourage everyone in the north to actively engage with the CEO and the Chair of the health region. They have a huge task in administering our region and they need our help. We are all working toward a common goal, a common purpose – the betterment of lives. I will actively represent our riding’s interest at the provincial level.
6. How do you plan to improve education in small, northern school divisions?
Lindsay: Children are a bit like canaries in a coal mine; they are indicators of larger social and economic problems. If children experience better nutrition, live in economically stable households and in neighbourhoods where they feel accepted, valued and loved, they perform better academically. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of studies that support this. The challenge of improving student success is directly related to making larger socio-economic improvements to the lives of their families.
Lindsey: Northern school divisions should be able to negotiate collective agreements that meet their unique need to attract qualified teachers. The small class size initiative that the PC government killed needs to be reinstituted. We need to work with indigenous communities to expand educational opportunities. Frontier Collegiate needs to have its facilities upgraded and expanded so they can meet the needs of northern Manitoba.
Murnick: The biggest school division in the province (Frontier) operates many schools in this riding, but this question seems directed toward the Flin Flon School Division (FFSD) specifically. The Green plan is to give equitable funding for all schools so that every child in the province will receive the same level of education, whether they live in Brochet or Wolesley. Greens would also consult with teachers and communities to address community-specific needs.
Wride: I know first-hand the pressures that small, northern school divisions face. I have raised two children in just such a division. I have worked and volunteered in the schools in Flin Flon. I have confidence in our system of elected school board trustees. If school board trustees or management ask for my help, I will work tirelessly to achieve results for them. I will be solution minded in all things.
7: What are your main concerns regarding environmental conservation? Do you support taxation on carbon emissions?
Lindsay: I understand the impacts we have been having but I also see the need for a continued use of liquid fossil fuels for northern transportation. Electric vehicles are a benefit, but they don’t work well with northern distances or climate. This is a huge region. A very large portion of Manitoba remains very difficult to access. Northern communities are small and the availability of public transportation is declining.
Lindsey: The environment is very important. Whether we like it or not, we need to change what we do, whether it’s reducing plastic use, recycling, or reducing our carbon footprint. We need to ensure any price on carbon is actually used to reduce our carbon footprint. One way could be to help Manitoba Hydro sell green energy throughout Canada. Responsible mining can be an important part of a green future too.
Murnick: At the core of our platform is environmental sustainability. It informs every policy and idea we put forward. The Greens have thought long and hard on this issue and have realistic plans that prepare us for a future, free of carbon. We want to change how we think and act toward the climate crisis. By putting a price on pollution, we could use the money generated to reduce household taxes.
Wride: I believe we must practice environmentally responsible development. Leaders like Deb Odegaard should be commended for their role in educating us. I believe that the province and Hudbay should be commended for their work on the Reed Lake site. I believe that clean air, clean water and a healthy planet cannot be taken for granted, they must be paid for. I believe we should be good stewards of our resources.
8. How do you plan to work with the Saskatchewan government to help solve inter-provincial issues with Flin Flon and neighbouring communities?
Lindsay: Neighbours with mutual concerns must engage in frank, open and honest dialogue to resolve their differences. The old adage of good fences making good neighbours might appeal to politicians south of the border, but I’m a much bigger fan of discussion, negotiation and arriving at equitable solutions. Walls are meant to be pulled down, not put up.
Lindsey: Inter-provincial issues have been a bone of contention forever. I’ve already been working with my counterparts in Saskatchewan to find solutions. Things like sharing medical records need to be addressed now. If we form government, I’ll work diligently with the Saskatchewan to address these issues. There are no simple answers and we need to think creatively.
Murnick: Sharing resources in border towns seems to have become more of a problem in recent years - especially in health care. Greens believe that it’s important to put ordinary people ahead of political wrangling. Governments should work collaboratively to find solutions, so that people don’t fall through the cracks created by bureaucracy.
Wride: Our rivers don’t stop at the border, yet we have negotiated hydroelectric power agreements. Our minerals don’t stop at the border, yet the Flin Flon mineral agreement provides seamless regulatory coverage. Our health care catchment doesn’t stop at the border, yet we have relatively seamless health care coverage for residents of both provinces. When issues come up, I will work hard to help solve them – through communication and cooperation.
9. Do you plan on changing Manitoba’s tax structure? If so how? How do anticipate the change in revenue will be used?
Lindsay: Our tax structure is long overdue for a thorough review. Families surviving cheque to cheque pay a higher proportion of taxes than families with a higher income. To a degree, our current tax structure recognizes this, but families with the earning potential to utilize their disposable income shelter it from taxes. Less money is there to invest in programs and services that governments are supposed to provide.
Lindsey: The NDP believes in fairness. We’ll index personal income tax brackets and the Basic Personal Exemption Amount to inflation. We’ll ask the top one per cent of income earners to contribute a bit more and use those funds to invest in public services for all Manitobans. We’ll help small businesses by increasing their tax threshold to allow approximately 2,000 more pay no income tax. And we’ll never introduce a health tax.
Murnick: There are definitely ways in which the Greens want to change the tax system. First, by getting rid of the education property tax and going to a transparent funding model using corporate and personal income taxes. Second, by introducing a basic income which would be funded by the removal of certain tax credits and which could eliminate poverty in Manitoba.
Wride: The PC party has had success in reducing the provincial deficit, while restoring the rainy day fund, restoring the mining reserve fund, and increasing overall healthcare funding levels, all while new schools are going to be built, increased infrastructure funding has been made available, and supports to a myriad of social services have been increased. At the same time I am open to hearing new ideas and suggestions from constituents.
10. How do you feel about negative campaigning? Would you consider you and/or your party to be running a clean campaign? What about your opponents?
Lindsay: I do not like negative campaigns. I feel it distracts from the issues that are most important to the people we are trying to represent. I have publicly stated that, politics aside, the voters of the Flin Flon constituency would have a difficult choice to make September 10 because of the quality and caliber of the individuals I am running against. The voters will have to focus on policy, platform and past performance of all candidates to make informed decisions.
Lindsey: I hope that our campaign will remain clean while pointing out some of the downfalls of the PC government. Personally, I don’t want to see any personal attacks. That’s unfortunately not what we’ve seen from the PCs.
Murnick: I despise negative campaigning. Let your policies speak for themselves. If all you’ve got on someone is something from their past, or their style of hair, that does nothing for me. I haven’t seen my party doing politics that way.
Wride: I am a positive person. I am not a fan of negative campaigning. My campaign has been focused on reaching out and listening. I have great respect for anyone that enters public office and for anyone that runs for public office. There is room in public life for legitimate differences of opinion arising from a set of facts. Our differences and diversity give us strength and should be embraced, not torn down.
11. What policy or practice do you disagree with your party on and why? Would you consider breaking rank with the party on that issue?
Lindsay: In 2016, my only concern with the past Manitoba Liberal leadership and platform was the possible privatization of Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries, and made my position on that very clear as a deal breaker that cost them my vote last election. I agree with Dougald Lamont and the new position of the Manitoba leadership regarding privatization: Not on our watch. Privatization won’t happen on my watch, either, as long as Manitoba doesn’t elect a government who has its eye on privatization.
Lindsey: I plan to be a strong voice within my party and an NDP government for northern issues, as I have been so far. Our voices will be heard.
Murnick: The Greens don’t “break rank” - we don’t have ranks to break. The party is very clear about who they serve - the constituents who voted them in. That being said, I don’t think there’s been a policy or practice that I’ve read, over the years, that I’ve personally disagreed with.
Wride: There can seldom be consensus on all topics or on all issues. Sometimes in life reasonable compromises are made for the greater good. Sometimes in life principled stands are taken at great personal cost. I would ask voters to trust me to make these decisions on a case by case basis. If you don’t know me that well, I invite you to seek me out and get to know me.
12. In 30 words or less - What is your elevator pitch for undecided voters?
Lindsay: Voters have bought into, “Iceberg! Hard left!” and “No! Hard right!” for 50+ years. Insanity is doing the same thing the same way expecting different results. There is no iceberg.
Lindsey: Do you care about healthcare, education and jobs? We need to ensure that northern Manitoba resources benefit all northern Manitobans.
Murnick: Greens don’t do “politics as usual”. They believe in giving a voice to the people they serve & in finding a positive way forward that benefits everyone.
Wride: I’m not in the communities because I am running. I’m running because I’m in the communities. I have worked at a grassroots level and have a perspective that will enrich our communities.
13. What question do you wish we would have asked?
Lindsay: This is an old one that goes back to sitting around my grandfather’s table in Channing the mid-’70’s during the completion of PR 391: What do you think about having to travel 750 kilometres to arrive at a destination about 200 kilometres away and where do you think the best route for ground transportation between Manitoba and Nunavut should be located?
Lindsey: This was a great survey! It would have been nice to have questions on issues in other communities in our huge constituency.
Murnick: Proportional representation! Every vote should count, and the way things are done right now isn’t fair to the majority of voters. Greens want to introduce a mixed-member proportional system that would be more accountable to Manitobans. Possibly, if people saw that their vote actually counted, more might be persuaded to get out and vote.
Wride: How has your previous experience prepared you for public life?