By ROSALYN ROY
FLAT BAY – Shane Snook is a self-described jack of all trades. He’s spent time in the military and has worked out West, but eventually the lifestyle he sought brought him back to Newfoundland.
“At the end of the day it was not the right place for me. The whole rat race is not my style,” said Snook via phone interview on Thursday, Jan. 28. “This is home, right, and a little bit simpler is a little bit better for me personally.”
Snook is blunt about dipping his toe into the political waters.
“I got into politics because I hate politics, as ironic as that sounds,” he laughs. “The political climate in Newfoundland is really toxic – or even in Canada in general really – and it really shouldn’t be that way.”
Snook says that toxicity is why the younger generations, those in their 20s and 30s, are checking out. He’s hoping that he and other candidates running under the NL Alliance banner can help provide a viable alternative to the partisan political landscape.
“We need to focus on the things that are important and just do things the proper way, so to speak.”
Lacking political experience is not necessarily a hindrance explains Snook. He’s well aware of the province’s bigger issues and knows firsthand how they affect individuals.
“There’s always going to be the big ticket items that are front and centre, something like COVID or Muskrat Falls,” he says. “What’s important and fundamental for me is the electoral reform that we’re so overdue for, which is part of the reason I ended up gravitating towards the NL Alliance.”
Formed in 2018, the NL Alliance describes itself as less of a political party and more of a group of like-minded individuals who want to change the political system itself.
“The party system, the partisanship, is a really dysfunctional system, and we’re seeing those adverse effects pile up over time,” says Snook. “I think we need to move away from the party system into something a bit more welcoming – a consensus party, for example.”
Under a consensus party, elected candidates would each have a say in policy and would represent their riding’s interest to the government, instead of representing government policy to the public, explains Snook.
“We’ve got it backwards right now. That’s not the greatest road.”
Snook has been reaching out to voters and the issues remain the same now as they did when he ran in the last provincial election – roads, healthcare and cellular service. All three, he points out, have a direct bearing on public safety and quality of life.
Snook cites a report he saw a few years ago that found road work priority lists were not being followed by the provincial contractors. The 2017 report by Newfoundland and Labrador’s Auditor General Terry Paddon, which is available online, took issue with all stages of roadwork management by the province, including how the roads are prioritized for repairs and how the aging demographic is affected.
“That’s the kind of thing that needs to be addressed to make sure that the road conditions are usable right across the board and they’re made to last,” says Snook. “Current day, it’s hard not to joke about how when you drive from the West Coast across to St. John’s you can tell how far you are by how the roads improve as you go.”
Healthcare is another long-standing concern. He says it’s not necessarily just about improving access, but expanding support for the practices that are already working well.
“I have to admit the nurse-practitioner system seems to be going very well,” offers Snook.
When it comes to cell service, Snook believes the number of areas that lack a signal is a safety hazard. Other issues more specific to the riding are things he has to learn about, but he is eager to do just that.
“I have to acknowledge that I don’t know everything and I can’t know everything, but when people do come forward with issues, then it would be my responsibility to actually bring those issues to the table,” says Snook. “It’s important to listen to that feedback.”
Larger issues, like COVID-19, have revealed how vulnerable this province actually is when it comes to self-sustainability, says Snook.
“If the boats shut down and things stop getting imported, that trade route so to speak, that could be a huge problem for us.”
Becoming more self-sustaining through small scale agricultural initiatives will reduce that vulnerability while also helping to re-start and grow the economy. Snook is a huge fan of the homesteading lifestyle, though he acknowledges it’s not as simple as it used to be.
Keeping livestock and sowing fields means unavoidable overhead costs. But by helping to reduce those costs as opposed to handing out loans and grants, Snook believes more people can enjoy that kind of lifestyle while helping to solve a province-wide problem.
“I like to think that goes hand in hand with a lot of the economic things,” says Snook. “Even just the trade deficit that comes with importing all of our foods, because in my mind, imported goods and services are exported dollars.”
There are lots of issues, and Snook readily admits there aren’t simple, easy answers to the more complex problems. He believes that will require people to come together instead of relying on government to fix things, and that’s what the NL Alliance is focused on.
“It’s not quite a party in the sense that we’re all so accustomed to, so it makes some of the conversations a bit challenging, because it doesn’t really fit the mould we’re accustomed to,” says Snook. “Yesterday I was asked about ‘What would your party promise about such and such a thing?’ That’s not the approach we’re taking. It’s not about the party. It’s about the individual and his or her district.”
He knows the NL Alliance is fighting an uphill battle when it comes to political reform, but he’s committed to doing just that.
“We have to change the way we think. It’s going to take some time.”