Health care, flood mitigation among new Green MP's priorities

Health care, flood mitigation among new Green MP's priorities

Health care, climate change and Indigenous reconciliation are among the top priorities for the Green Party's newly elected Jenica Atwin when she heads to Parliament.

Canada elected a minority Liberal government Monday night and Atwin, who came first in Fredericton riding, is one of only three Greens to win seats. 

Still, Atwin is looking forward to collaborating with the other representatives. 

"We have to work as a collective and … make sure we get the job done," she said. "People don't want to go back to the polls."

 

Atwin was elected with 33 per cent of the vote. She made history in three ways: as the province's first-ever Green elected to Parliament, the first Green candidate elected east of British Columbia, and the first female MP for Fredericton.  

The Conservatives received about 30 per cent of the vote in Fredericton, while former Liberal MP Matt Decourcey was third with 27 per cent. 

Flooding, and a flood of support

Atwin suggested the significant flooding that slammed the province two years in a row has people thinking more about climate change and played an important role in Fredericton's election results. 

"People are starting to see those effects first-hand," she said. "They're not at arm's length anymore. They can't ignore it when it's coming into their homes, into their basements." 

Flooding has also contributed to high levels of stress, anxiety and depression among her constituents, Atwin said. She says New Brunswick is facing a mental-health crisis.

"We need far better resources, far better services," Atwin said in an interview with CBC's Information Morning Fredericton on Tuesday, adding the country needs a Health Canada mandate specifically focused on mental health and well-being. 

Shane Fowler/CBC

Atwin would also like to see an increase in health-care funding to the province, more funding for community health clinics and a national suicide prevention strategy.

Improving health care for seniors is an opportunity for New Brunswick to "step up and take care of those who have been part of our economy for such a long time," she said.

Pushing for reconciliation with Indigenous peoples is also important for Atwin. She wants the new government to act on the recommendations brought forward by the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. She'd also like Canada to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 

"We really need to start putting Indigenous people's voices at the forefront of our conversations and not a consultation down the road." 

Atwin said she was overwhelmed by the show of support for her last night at Picaroons Traditional Ales, where she went to give her victory speech after she found out she won.

She's thankful for her team, and for the youth who came out to vote. 

Mike Heenan/CBC

"They told their friends, they talked to their parents. They talked to their grandparents. This is as much their success as it is mine."

Atwin isn't sure when she'll head to Ottawa yet, but she will be speaking with federal Green Party Leader Elizabeth May later in the day.

The first-time MP expects navigating Parliament Hill will be difficult, but she's looking forward to the challenge. 

"I really have not been within the walls of Parliament, so it's going to be about navigating and negotiating and seeing, you know, how the wheels turn and how I can grease the wheels for Fredericton."