The only declared nomination contestant for the Kings-Hants NDP for the next federal election is looking forward to a competitive race.
A nomination meeting for Stephen Schneider of Wolfville will be held at the Royal Canadian Legion in Wolfville on March 7 at 7 p.m.
Schneider, who has lived in the Annapolis Valley since 2003, said his opinion is that climate change has to be a central issue in the next federal election, both locally and nationally. This would contrast the different approaches of each of the parties.
He describes the Conservatives as “climate change minimalists” - opposed to the Liberals - who are in favour of a carbon tax while they simultaneously support building more pipelines. Schneider said the NDP and the Green Party are “pretty much on the same page” when it comes to rethinking our entire economy.
Schneider has been on the Kings-Hants NDP executive for several years and he was the NDP candidate for Kings South in the 2017 provincial election.
He has always been active as a volunteer but said being a candidate gave him a lot of experience with campaigning. It also gave him an understanding of the issues facing not only the provincial riding but the larger federal riding.
He said Kings-Hants faces an issue that a lot of Canada faces: how do we develop the rural economy. Schneider said this has to be a significant issue in the upcoming federal election, especially in the context of sustainable economic development.
“To me, you can’t separate the two of climate change and economic development because economic development has to be sustainable,” he said.
Schneider said we need a national strategy that addresses the urban-rural divide and rural economic development. This could include getting more immigrants settled in rural areas, reducing rural tax burdens and encouraging entrepreneurs.
“We need better high-speed internet for rural areas and I’m a big proponent of the basic income guarantee,” Schneider said. “I know the NDP talks a lot about minimum wage, I’d like to see it go straight to basic income guarantee.”
Research shows that providing people with a livable wage contributes to economic development; reduces health care costs and helps reduce child poverty rates.
Schneider said having a basic income guarantee – which in theory would be available to all Canadians - would also help establish entrepreneurs. He sees small business as the future of the rural and Nova Scotian economies and more has to be done at the federal and provincial levels to promote this.
Schneider said partnerships involving the private sector, government and universities when it comes to research and development has been a successful strategy in the Valley that he would like to see continue. Some examples of this include the apple and burgeoning wine industries and Schneider would like to see this extended to entrepreneurs and small businesses as well.
Schneider does a lot of work with young people who are at-risk, developing programs that involve mentoring and tutoring that assist in education and social development. He believes that this experience could also be beneficial if he is elected.
The former MP for Kings Hants, Liberal Scott Brison, officially resigned on Feb. 10. Schneider said that in light of Brison’s resignation; the current problems within the federal Liberal party and NDP candidate Jagmeet Singh’s recent byelection win in British Columbia, he feels the NDP has “a bit of a wind behind our back for a change.”
Addressing crime in Canada
Schneider is a professor of Criminology at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax. He said this expertise would be beneficial to him as an MP at a national level when it comes to addressing organized crime.
He said there is an “opioid crisis” in the country and fentanyl is a key factor in this. He said we’ve never seen an illegal drug in Canada as potent as fentanyl and this has changed the game as far as our understanding of how to deal with illegal drugs.
The main source of fentanyl on the black market is organized crime. The port of Vancouver is the main entry point into Canada for the drug, which mostly comes from China.
When it comes to illicit drugs, Schneider believes that we have to move away from the current prohibition model. Marijuana has been decriminalized and he believes the same should be done when it comes to possessing smaller amounts of other, harder drugs. He believes that this could make a significant impact on the problem of people overdosing.
Another problem is that people addicted to drugs such as heroin or fentanyl often will not seek help, out of fear of legal consequences. He questions if it’s the drugs themselves that have the greatest impact on society or if it’s the prohibition and criminalization of the drugs.
He said national strategies are needed to address the opioid crisis and organized crime, especially with regard to drug trafficking and human trafficking. While we’ve seen a decrease in the overall rate of crime in recent years, “we’ve seen the organization of crime actually increase.”