T.J. Harvey, the one-term federal MP, doesn't see his lack of profile on the provincial political scene as a hindrance. He said his political experience dates back years, holding executive positions with the Liberal Party. Working at organizational and fundraising levels, Harvey said he understands politics at the grassroots levels.
"I think that's a good basis to start from," he said. "It gives me a strong appreciation for the work that goes in by volunteers at the grassroots level."
Harvey believes the best policies are built from the bottom up, not from the top down.
He said party growth requires connecting with three specific groups — longtime members who remain involved; new party members, including small c conservatives and those moving from greener perspectives; and former Liberals who felt the party left them.
Harvey said connecting with all three groups will play a central role in building policy representing all New Brunswickers.
He acknowledged the province's widening social, geographical, and linguistic gap, but all groups face the same challenges.
"It doesn't matter which part of the province you are in," Harvey said. "The problems remain the same."
He said the cost of living affects everyone.
"They are worried about fuel and food prices, how to set money aside for retirement or to help aging parents. And how can they afford to get their kids a high-quality education," Harvey said.
Like all four candidates, Harvey sees the province's healthcare crisis as his biggest challenge but acknowledges the problems aren't limited to New Brunswick.
He said fixing the problems requires "reinventing" the health system with a focus on modernization of equipment and systems and improved recruitment and retention of health professionals.
Harvey said the government must listen to frontline workers and develop ways to ensure graduating doctors, nurses, and other medical students return to New Brunswick.
"If they get more money and full-time work elsewhere, why would they come back to New Brunswick," he said.
Harvey said preventative medicine is a key to making healthcare affordable. He also called reductions to health services in rural New Brunswick will not save money over the long term.
"It doesn't cost us an extra dime to maintain rural health care," he said, describing protecting quality healthcare throughout New Brunswick as a "no brainer."
Harvey said his first step as leader would be re-engaging with party members and the entire N.B. population using his "collaborative leadership style."
"My strength has been bringing the right people to the conversation and listening to them to help formulate policy.
Harvey said the province wants a new approach to politics.
"People are tired of partisan, divisive politics," he said.
Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, River Valley Sun