With health care and education faltering, and First Nation communities facing insurmountable challenges, Susan Levi-Peters says she could no longer stand idly by and watch as government after government continued to ignore what should be their top priorities.
That’s why she decided to put her name forward as the NDP candidate for Beausejour MP in the upcoming federal election.
“When the opportunity came, I took it,” said Levi-Peters, who said she has always had an interest in politics and has served as both Chief and band council member of Elsipogtog First Nation.
Levi-Peters admits she was once a dedicated Liberal supporter but became disenchanted with the party several years ago when it was linked with some corrupt politics.
After making the switch to the New Democratic Party, Levi-Peters said she is convinced it was the right move for her.
“The NDP’s platform and policies . . . it’s for the people. Health care, First Nations, education, it’s what we care about.”
And that’s exactly what has been missing from politics for too long, she said.
“Ottawa is forgetting about the people, the hard-working people who have made Canada what it is today. They’re more focused on pleasing the corporations. The people are being forgotten and we need to go back to tell them we’re still here.”
Married with four children, Levi-Peters was also a candidate in the Kent riding in the 2010 provincial election, running against former premier Shawn Graham.
The former First Nation Chief and social development director, activist Levi-Peters was instrumental in the signing of the Bi-lateral Agreement between First Nation communities and the government of New Brunswick in 2007. She has been involved in various First Nations organizations and was a member of the executive of the Atlantic Policy Congress.
Levi-Peters said in her dealings with the federal government during her time as Chief from 2004 to 2008 and earlier as a council member, she became frustrated with the government’s inaction on issues of poverty, unemployment and housing, saying “they just wouldn’t help.”
She said the Liberals placed a two per cent cap on funding in 1996 to First Nations communities, making the situation even more difficult. That cap still exists today but she pointed out that the NDP would remove that restriction once elected.
“This is about standing up and fighting for social justice for my people,” said Levi-Peters.
She said her community, as well as most other Native communities around the country, still face those same issues today, which also impacts the cities and towns surrounding them.
She said in order to address those issues, partnerships need to be developed and relationships need to be built in order to start to ensure that resources become available to fill the housing backlog and to get people working again.
Levi-Peters said during her run as the provincial candidate last year, she had an opportunity to hear from many people in the riding on the issues that are important to them.
Health care and education were at the top of the list, she noted, with a lack of doctors a top concern as well as students needing more financial assistance to attend university.
“The problems are the same everywhere . . . I see a lot of people struggling,” she said.
She said the NDP has plans to provide students more help with their loan burdens as well as offering more training and recruiting programs to attract more medical professionals to Canada.
Levi-Peters knows she faces an uphill battle in this election campaign, as a woman and a First Nations candidate in a province that only had one NDP representative following the last election, but said she is hoping people will consider her when casting their ballots next Monday.
“I want to represent the people of Tantramar, I think we need proper representation,” she said. “I would work with the people to see what is needed . . . and I would be the voice that is needed in Ottawa.”