By ROSALYN ROY
CODROY VALLEY – Melissa Samms says that their first run for public office has been a long time coming. Samms first became interested after attending youth parliament, and went on to study political science at university.
“Everything political is personal,” said Samms via phone interview on Tuesday, Jan. 26.
Property owners are subject to real estate legislation, for example. Motorists must comply with federal and provincial regulations.
Speaking of roads, Samms has identified problem areas in Codroy. It makes sense, given that they live there.
Samms says that the problem is the old road was installed with improper drainage, and the section that was paved this past summer was simply put down right on top of the already crumbling pavement. Couple that with transport trucks heading to and from the fish plant or dairy farms and it’s not hard to understand why the roads are in such a poor condition.
Since the Codroy Valley is a local service district and not a municipality, they don’t get as much funding for infrastructure. Samms would like to see that changed, if only because poor roads becomes a safety issue and can hinder first responders.
That’s another problem too – the chronically understaffed ambulance service. Samms realizes that’s a provincial issue and not exclusive to the Valley, but observes, “We still have to do something about it.”
A community approach, coming together to find solutions, is what Samms is focused on. The Leading Edge Credit Union is looking at the possibility of developing co-operative housing the Valley, for example. Housing, or rather the lack of rental properties, is another problem Samms has identified.
One person Samms has spoken with has been looking for a new rental for about a year, and another has been looking for six months. One landlord has repaired the septic system, but won’t pay to fix half the broken heaters in a rental unit. The lack of alternative places to rent means people have little recourse, and turning to a provincial rental board can have an impact on the renter’s social life. Perhaps one of the larger issues Samms is focused on is food sustainability.
“We import 71% of the food we eat,” begins Samms.
What the province does import typically has a two or three day shelf life, notes Samms. Given that the Codroy Valley has such a rich ecosystem and that the riding as a whole has such a solid history of food production, that seems unnecessary. But that’s not to say large scale farms are the way to go either.
“I don’t agree with the industrialization of food,” says Samms.
Ideally, Samms would like to see hobby farmers receive grants to purchase equipment or livestock. Many in the Valley have inherited land that can sustain them, but lack funding support unless they take out a loan, and even those are usually only designed to help larger producers.
Even if hobby farmers do get funding, they need to be able to get their wares to consumers. Some stores in the area do promote locally grown or produced foods and goods, but a previous attempt at a farmer’s co-op has left some producers gun shy. Samms thinks a farmer’s market might be a better route instead.
Then there are the tourism opportunities that exist, should COVID-19 ever allow for that industry to re-start. In addition to the world-renowned bird sanctuary, there are outfitters that offer year-round excursions, and out-of-province residents who just like to summer in the Codroy Valley too.
An old carding mill is testament to the quality of goods the Valley used to produce. These days fabrics tend to be imported, but there are opportunities for growth on a sustainable level.
Notes Samms, “Economic diversification is incredibly important for St. George’s-Humber. I would love to see more direct investment in sustainable agriculture through grants, particularly for small farms; reduced taxes for already existing small businesses; and serious investment in secondary processing, such as the work being done at Codroy Seafoods, who produce many market-ready products.”
While Samms is from the Codroy Valley and sees opportunity there, that does not mean they have any less desire or commitment to serve the rest of the riding. Samms is working on outreach to the rest of the district, a task hindered by the current pandemic and the necessary protocols.
“I don’t know what the issues are there, but I want to know,” says Samms. Only then can Samms work on addressing those too.
Part of that outreach work has already begun. Samms has created a Facebook page to answer questions and be available to voters who want to know more. In addition to fielding questions, Samms has also provided links to reference material about food sustainability.
Beginning on Tuesday night, Jan. 26, Samms began livestreaming, and plans to update her Facebookpage daily, schedule permitting. Campaigning is time consuming, especially during a pandemic.
That’s a bit worrisome. Normally voters in need of a ride to get to a voting booth would get offers from candidates and volunteers. That’s just not possible, even on the Southwest Coast that has yet to record a single case.
“There’s a risk of community exposure,” observes Samms.
Instead, they’re pushing constituents to apply for a mail-in ballot instead, and that is exactly how Samms plans to vote. The deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot is Tuesday, Feb. 2 by 4:00 p.m. Voters can register online or by calling 1-877-729-7987.
Samms ends the interview with a passionate statement about indigenous rights that simultaneously offers a glimpse into some personal history.
“Regarding indigenous rights in Ktaqmkuk (Newfoundland), it’s vital for us to recognize the autonomy, culture, and knowledge held by indigenous people in St. George’s-Humber. We have a strong indigenous history in the region between us L’nuk / Mi’kmaq, and the Beothuck. Mollichignick brook on the way to South Branch is named for a Beothuck woman who lived upstream sometime in the 1800s, according to oral history. My grandfather made all his own wraparound moccasins, and while he never said she was a witch, he said my grandmother could cast a spell – something indigenous women in Katalisk Sipu (Codroy Valley) were known for, along with basket weaving!”