GUYSBOROUGH – Nominations for the August 17 provincial election closed last week and, while the riding of Guysborough-Tracadie can typically expect candidates from the three main parties, it doesn’t always get a Green Party candidate.
This year, Gabriel Bruce, a Dalhousie University student with family roots that go back more than 200 years in the Guysborough area, Port Shoreham specifically, has decided to translate his interest in Green politics into a bid for the seat in the riding.
Bruce has spent most of his life in the Halifax area, with frequent trips to Guysborough. When The Journal asked him why he chose to run in the Guysborough-Tracadie riding he said, “I care a lot about this place, and I spent a lot of my childhood here learning about the wilderness – it’s one of the places I go to develop myself and my skill set as an outdoorsman.”
Healthcare is always top of mind in rural Nova Scotia, a concern that has been heightened by the pandemic and frequent closures of emergency departments across the province. Bruce said that there is no one solution to fix the ailing system, “The government has been trying for years now to alleviate it through better recruitment, investing more, and it just hasn’t been working out so far.
“I think we need to do a non-partisan review of the centralization of the health authority that has happened over the past few years … we are losing doctors who are retiring in rural areas, and we don’t have any supply to replace them. I would be an advocate for investing more into scholarships and subsidies for Nova Scotian students who want to study medicine. And also, I think all of the candidates would agree, we have qualified doctors in Nova Scotia [foreign-trained] and we should think about how to work with the Nova Scotia College of Physicians and Surgeons to make it easier for them to gain qualifications in Nova Scotia – and work in our communities.”
As in most areas of rural Nova Scotia, ambulance response time is a major concern.
“I think there has been good work done over the last few years in regard to the ambulance service in Guysborough,” Bruce said, pointing to the recent opening of a new EHS station in Sherbrooke as an example.
One of the issues facing the provision of service in the riding of Guysborough-Tracadie, he said, is its geographic size.
“It is a huge area and has a very low population density, so it is difficult to cover such a large area with ambulance services. Maybe the solution is something other than the traditional ambulance services that are used in areas with a higher population density … I would definitely be interested in researching, as an MLA, alternatives to traditional ambulances – like mobile health units that can operate more freely across the county or in more inaccessible rural areas.”
As the pandemic has brought an unexpected real estate boom, fewer houses and apartments are available for rent. Finding accommodations, in any price range, has become a quest akin to saving the princess in Super Mario Brothers.
Bruce said the easiest answer to the housing shortage is to build more houses, “but the question is how are we going to fund that and where are we going to build them? In Guysborough, I would be a proponent of developing affordable rental properties. People can’t find places to rent or places to buy in Guysborough County. I think if the provincial government were to invest in subsidizing the development of small scale affordable rental properties that would be the direction I would take things.”
When asked to address the perplexing issue of reduced hours at the Eastern Counties Regional Library branches in Guysborough, Canso and Sherbrooke Bruce said, “I was pretty disappointed to hear about that. When I was in Guysborough, especially when I was younger, I would go to the library and what particularly stands out to me is that the library is more than just a library … they were innovators – they had gotten 3D printers which was something I hadn’t seen in the city yet and they were teaching people about technology and giving youth the opportunity to learn about this new technology. Additionally, they had an electric vehicle charging station and I thought it was incredible that a rural library had that – I thought that was a great step.
“I think that our libraries are something that we can use as a community centre. I’m disappointed that rural libraries aren’t getting the funding to keep the doors open for people to use them as gathering centres,” he said.
Bruce has not knocked on many doors yet, but he said, “Some of the things I have heard are mainly about the doctor shortage, healthcare issues, access to long-term care. It’s well-known that that is one of the biggest issues facing the county.”
As a Green Party candidate, he said, “I have been speaking to more young people concerned about environmental issues and climate change … Sometimes these big issues seem kind of distant and like they don’t affect us, but they will.
“I am a proponent of stricter environmental regulation and potentially revaluating some of the commitments that have been made regarding industrial projects in Guysborough and moving toward sustainable development rather than rushing into large-scale, potentially disruptive, industrial developments,” Bruce said.
Guysborough County needs economic development, but Bruce said, “I think environmental issues are a big deal in this province, in the country. We have all these huge industrial projects going ahead … And I feel like we’re working with a bit of a backwards mindset believing that we’re only going to get a lot of people here by rushing into these big destructive, non-sustainable industrial projects which I don’t think are environmentally sound.”
Everything comes down to the ‘X’ voters make on the ballot. Bruce said, “This is my first foray into politics. I’m trying to learn a lot very quickly. I’ll admit I don’t’ have all the answers and I don’t have a full grasp on all the issues effecting the people of Guysborough-Tracadie. What I do have, I have a younger perspective and fresh ideas and I’m very passionate about the county and trying to help Guysborough succeed and find its place in Nova Scotia, Canada and the world.
“I am interested in trying new approaches to our economic development and our social development that maybe hasn’t been done before,” Bruce said, adding, “if you’re a voter whose concerned about environmental issues affecting the county, you can take solace in the fact that if I’m elected, I will fight to create sustainable economic development.”
Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal