Anthony Martin, a 19-year-old from Kingsley, N.B., near Fredericton, didn't expect to spend the end of summer campaigning as a candidate in the Canadian federal election, but that's precisely what he's doing.
Martin said the Green Party of Canada approached him to become the candidate for Tobique-Mactaquac, and he "felt it was the right thing to do."
Three days before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Rideau Hall to kick off the election, Martin officially became the candidate for the vast New Brunswick riding in western New Brunswick.
While only 19, Martin is aware of the issues and understands voters' concerns, especially young voters.
"It's only up from here," he said.
Martin understands he faces an uphill battle to win the hearts, minds and votes of Tobique-Mactaquac residents, but he firmly believes in Green Party policy and will happily share that message.
"I'm not going to lie, looking at the polls, this doesn't seem like a Green area, but the reception has been good," he said.
Soon after accepting the nomination, Martin said many people reached out to him, bringing support and volunteers.
Because of the late start, the teenage candidate took a while to get into full campaign mode. He said the campaign began with its first order of 50 signs, but they "blew right through those."
Speaking to the River Valley Sun on Thursday, Sept. 9, Martin said he and Xavier von Gröning, his partner and campaign manager, were on the road to deliver a new order of signs throughout the riding.
As he hits the campaign trail, Martin said the environment appears to be the pivotal issue, adding people understand the Green movement offers a solid environmental and climate change program.
He said climate change moved to the forefront of people's consciousness as they witnessed wildfires, hurricanes and flooding across the country and around the globe.
However, Martin said climate change is only one of the many voter concerns. He said the country and province face "a huge affordability issue."
"People are worried about putting food on the table," he said. "If you can't feed yourself, it's difficult to worry about climate change."
He said people watch prices rise without pay increasing at the same rate.
Martin said health care remains a considerable concern for Tobique-Mactaquac voters.
As a 19-year-old in good health, he doesn't always personally see the lack of health-care services.
However, he said, the process his grandmother, who has Parkinson's disease, faces when trying to renew prescriptions raises concern.
"I can only imagine how hard it is for someone new to the province or has lost their family doctor and trying to get a new one. It's a huge issue," he said.
Martin said New Brunswick's large senior population adds pressure to the provincial health-care system, but it also indicates broader provincial issues.
He said youth must leave the province to seek opportunities. Meanwhile, the entire province feels the impact of staff shortages in the health-care system and the entire workforce.
He said one of the reasons he chose to support the Green Party is because it is the only party to offer free tuition and the only party to forgive all federal student loan debt.
"I know that's a lot of money, but think about how many more doctors we could have if people could afford to go to school to become doctors," Martin said. "Plus, to grow the economy, business needs an available workforce."
As Canadian individuals, small business and industry, including farming and forestry, adapt to more environmentally friendly operations, they will require help, said Martin.
While he admits not having all the answers, he said the government must invest in innovative technologies and ensure that businesses can access those innovations.
"The reference I use a lot is we had to use candlelight to invent the light bulb," he said.
Martin welcomes the rollout of electric cars but says innovation can't stop there. He noted that the trucking industry, an economic force in his riding, constantly has transports on the highway.
Where there's no innovative technology available to replace what industry is using, he said, research must continue.
"We have to continue what we're doing, but doing it in a way that is less harmful to the environment," he said.
Beyond economic and environmental challenges, Martin believes MPs should represent the entire community, and be leaders in the fight against oppression.
He expressed disappointment in incumbent Conserative Tobique-Mactaquac MP Richard Bragdon’s decision to join 62 other Conservatives voting against Bill C-6, which would ban conversion therapy.
He said that decision demonstrates a lack of support for the members of the LGBQ+ community in his riding.
Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, River Valley Sun