‘Vote for Something We Believe In’

October 15, 2019

Dear Residents of Charlottetown, 

Near the beginning of the campaign somebody was sharing their view on climate change and they used the word ‘catastrophe’. I measured my reaction to the comment and realized that the images running through my mind were of my time working in Dominican Republic in the early 1990’s.

People in areas there live in levels of poverty that are hard to describe: never enough to eat, precarious access to water, frequent power outages even if they have the connections, little or no health care. In the 1990s these are people who already are living the catastrophe. The statistics around the world  are sobering. There are more than 3 100 000 000 people who live on less than US$2.50/day. More than 815 000 000 who live in constant hunger. For much of the world there Is not an impending catastrophe – it is here and part of everyday life. Climate change will make it worse for many but there are so many for whom it monly serves to make an already disastrous situation more acute.

We must address poverty and climate change together or we will do neither. There is no solution for one without the other.

Hunger, homelessness and poverty are a part consequence of an economic system that was designed to concentrate extreme wealth and power among the few. It does this by preying on the most vulnerable among us: workers who cannot earn enough to live on, the gender pay gap families who struggle to find a place to live and parents who are not sure how their children are going to eat. 

We face many challenges but we also see signs of hope in a sea of uncertainty. In the last few weeks we have witnessed how young people have raised a prophetic voice to tell us that we can and must change our system.

I ran as a candidate in 2011 and 2015, became leader of the Island New Democrats and am running again in 2019 because I know that we have the capacity to bring our community together, to include everyone in our economy, and respond to the crisis in our environment. These elements of our life are not supposed tocompete. We don’t want our families, friends neighbours or anyone else to be hungry or homeless. We don’t want to live in a world where climate disasters are a part of everyday life. We must believe that it is absolutely possible to change what we choose not to accept.

The housing crisis can be fixed with building public housing – owned, operated, and permanently held by the public. We can expand our health system by making a pharmacare program a reality, starting a denticare program and investing in our mental health and addictions programs. We can support the workers in our seasonal economy by fulfilling a promise to create one EI zone for PEI. We can address our climate crisis if we lead a transition of our economy.

Many people have voted in a traditional way but there is no party which is entitled to your vote; not this election or the last one or the next one. Vote for whichever candidate or party that you want. After election day, whoever is elected is there to represent you and all of us together. 

Jagmeet says it best when he says in Canadian democracy that ‘we do not have to settle for less. We don’t have to vote against something we don’t like; rather let us vote for something that we believe in.’

I believe in a community that brings us together, where housing is a human right and available to everyone who needs it, where our healthcare system is able to take care of our whole body, not just parts of it, and includes the medication that we need. I believe in a community where you are allowed to love anyone; where your mobility restrictions don’t restrict your access to service or employment.

Mostly I believe in our sense of community, our willingness to care for each other and our commitment to building a better world.

Jagmeet has had an amazing campaign, focussed on what is possible for us in  Canada in 2019. I am asking for your vote to be part of his team.        

Joe Byrne

Here on PEI, Joe has worked on numerous social programs in rural communities. He has done field work on issues faced by university and college students, has been Director of Youth Ministry, and has also coordinated pastoral planning for the diocese. He remains active in the Latin American Mission Program, and is President of the Cooper Institute, a grass-roots collective for community development. He also counts among his volunteer and community work Charlottetown Abbies soccer, church Youth and Music ministries, Voluntary Resource Council, Peace Vigil Group, Atlantic Council for International Cooperation, Canada World Youth, and Katimavik hosting. He keeps up his interaction with young people as a part-time instructor for the Abegweit Driving School. All of this, he does in addition to his work in the NDP. His vast array of church and community experiences have helped him cultivate his skills in communication, organization, and consensus building, and also brought him the joy of forming hundreds of friendships.

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