First meeting thoughts…

Wow, am I glad I spent the last seven years before my official retirement working at Service Canada in a section called Strategic Services. It’s like Cheryl O’Toole and Raelene Graham- Theriault trained me to be ready for these meetings. It was an excellent first orientation session for me and I cannot wait until Wednesday for the next 2 1/2 hours. Other than a sore butt because I am not used to sitting still that long and really should have rethought doing my first one hour bike ride in two years today, it was all good.

Having a good overview of the structure, responsibilities, which activities are currently by zone or regional, and who the major players are has situated me well. Now I have a copy of By-Laws ( I know it’s weird I like them) I had already read the Act, and strategic plans. Now I have research. Am I sounding nerdy now?

I loved my years of managing operations, management services with HR and budgets, IT , my Immigration work and my front line work and would not have changed a bit of that. Sometimes its like it all comes together at some point and this may be one of those cases. I am sure it will be a lot of work and learning but fun and exciting too.

And the meetings begin…

My five pound binder arrived this week and I have been picking my way through it to get started. Tonight is the first part of orientation. There will be three evenings of Zoom orientation, each 2 1/2 hours then meetings on two days next week. While I am nervous at this new step in my life (as I always have been when starting something new) I am truly looking forward to learning more about Horizon Health and seeing where I can be of some value.

Today is the day

Today the Edmundston area votes. After 8 pm tonight we should hear results. It’s been a strange time having the announcements delayed. I am not sure how others in this waiting game feel. You concentrate on the election while thinking about the “what will I be able to accomplish if I am successful”. Then you wait. Today it’s a bit of excitement and worry that there will be disappointment .

I do know if I am not successful there are other good candidates. We are so fortunate that people do step forward for this democratic purpose. I also think about the 1800 NBers and 547 health care workers who worked to develop the new strategic 5 year health care plan https://en.horizonnb.ca/home/media-centre/publications/strategic-plan.aspx. There has been so much accomplished but still so far to go.

Health care is a critical part of healthy communities. Take some time to read the plan. I am hoping I will be able to be part of working towards the objectives in this plan as one of your representatives.

Its been a busy week

It has been a busy week, both at home and for volunteer work. Responding to emails from individuals and preparing response to media requests, putting up signs, or preparing mailouts, I am surprised at how much time this takes. I can only imaging what those vying for mayor or councilor positions are doing.

I have had a number of people ask me what a Regional Health Authority is. I have just pulled this from Horizons website but hopefully it will explain a bit what the successful candidate could be involved with at board meetings. (The agendas and board minutes are all posted on Horizons website)

Horizon Health Network’s Board of Directors is comprised of 8 elected members and 7 members who are appointed by the Minister of Health. There are also 3 non‐voting members. The Board is mandated to control and manage the business and affairs of Horizon. 

As part of their role, Board members may participate on committees to provide a more detailed review of important areas of responsibility. The Board participates in three standing committees, where chairpersons and members of the Standing Committees of the Board are normally appointed by the Board at the Annual Meeting.

The Standing Committees of the Board include the  Executive Committee, the Governance and Nominating Committee, and the Finance, Audit and Resource Committee, according to the by-laws, as well as the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Committee.

Horizon’s 2021-2026 Strategic Plan, Building a Healthier Future is an outline for how Horizon intends to enhance health care services for our patients, clients and their families

I am never too old to learn

I haven’t taken much time this week to add to my blog.  I spent a cool and rainy day putting up signs and preparing a mail out for some areas.  I have also been fielding a number of emails asking my opinion on various subjects or my stand as compared to the other candidates.

First of all, I have enjoyed this as a learning opportunity. People are exercising their right to make informed decisions as part of the voting process.  It is great to see that democratic process in action.

I know that sending an honest answer to an individual’s questions may lose me their support but I don’t mind disagreeing because my values and beliefs are as important to me as they are to that individual. And guess what, I can admit I have actually changed my mind about a subject after a good debate. My values of fairness, honesty, hard work and integrity hopefully are still reflected in those opinions.

As a public servant I had to represent the current Minister and that often changed every 2, 4 or 8 years. It also changed depending on the will of the people and the importance of a topic at a particular time.  It was my job to make sure that the work I did reflected the policy and laws that were made. While I sometimes had to carry out a task that I personally did not agree with, I knew that the Minister that gave that direction was there because he was voted in by the people that allowed that mandate. I represented those people and I was good with carrying out their will, even when I disagreed.

I am thrilled that I have been kept busy responding to emails, that there seems to be an honest attempt at finding out who represents your values best.  I have also learned a bit about the other candidates and would like the opportunity to learn more about them and their motivations.  One individual asked me, “Can you fill me in on your platform and what your plans are vs. the other candidates?” This was a great question because it forced me to read the article published in the Bugle Observer to find out what they said.

Part of my response said I think all four candidates really want to do similar things whether we have stated them exactly the same way or not. We all want to improve the health care situation in rural areas; that is where we live and access our services and maintaining status quo is not good enough.  I had to think about each of the topics/issues raised by the others.  In one case I had to admit I just didn’t know enough about the topic to be definitive about it.  I want to learn more about that topic now and will whether I am the successful candidate or not. 

I feel bad that all the responses (and certainly this blog) are not always well written, but they are written from the heart and sometimes being passionate about something means you just put those words on paper and hit send. One needs to sit back, reflect and phrase things more eloquently but hey, this is just a blog and who knows if anyone reads it all anyway. If they do, they may be getting a picture of me and my personality.  I apologize that sometimes my rambling response may not answer a question directly but if not, feel comfortable coming back for clarification.

Ballots and Advance Polls

I received my Voter Information Card this week and have talked to a few others who have theirs also. I know a few people who have already voted, and a few that will go to the advance polls.

Advance Polls are May 1 & 3rd from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m so if you know you are busy on May 10th vote by Special Ballot, Mail or Advance Polls. I thank anyone going out to vote and especially those who take time to support me.

Q. Why are you running and also comment on the “pandemic”

I received this email request today. I decided to post my response as maybe others questions where I stand. Quote: “I understand you are running for the Regional Health Authority in my region.  My family and friends are looking to decide who to vote for in the upcoming election.  Can you please comment on why you are running and also comment on the “pandemic”?

I have lived in the Harvey area where I grew up all of my life. I have been a volunteer in many organizations including environmental/ wildlife organizations, many community and church related groups, and supported many other financially when my work travel prevented my being there in person.

After retirement I joined the board for both Harvey Community Network and Harvey Outreach. While I have always been aware of the health care changes in our community and the impact they have had on my life; I have had a better opportunity to see the impacts (both positive and negative) that the changes to these services in our community can make. 

For me it is imperative that we be able to maintain some of these critical services in our community.  While many of these services come at a cost, if we cannot keep seniors in their homes as well as young people in our communities, we will soon be a province with three cities providing services that we all must travel to. We know that that will not work.

We have also been fighting population decline (which further erodes our tax base) in this Province for too long. Families will not live in communities without services.  We need to be able to attract individuals and keep them here if we want to grow our province and the areas outside the three main cities.  Health services are one of those key factors.

We also need to find ways to support those most vulnerable in our communities, whether that be those with mental health challenges, those unable to provide their family with the food security required, particular challenges for our First Nations communities, or those unable to access primary health care.

I am a senior and my husband and I both have experienced many health challenges. Due to a chronic illness I was treated with medication for more than 35 years that suppressed my immune system. I take the pandemic seriously.  I believe we need to do what must be done to get through this. I would be one to encourage vaccinations, following the protocols and do what we need to as quickly as possible so we can get our lives and our businesses back on track and stabilize our economy.  My husband is a business owner and part of the Fredericton business community for over forty years.  He has witnessed the devastation of many businesses due to this pandemic so getting our “lives” back to normal is critical if we don’t want to lose more businesses.

Hopefully this answers your questions. If my values and beliefs do not align with yours or your families, you may want to check out the Bugle Observer this week when they profile RHA candidates. If my values and beliefs do align with yours, I would ask for and welcome your support.  Thank you for the opportunity to respond. (I also referred them to this blog)

Its hard to talk about yourself

Last week I was contacted by a journalist for Brunswick News. She let me know that the Bugle Observer will provide, as a public service to readers, an opportunity to meet their candidates through municipality, district education and regional health authority profiles for the May 10 elections. I was asked to provide the following information for my part in an election profile.

  • Name
  • Occupation and age
  • Political background on council (or RHA), if any – 1-2 sentences
  • Your key issues – 1-2 sentences

The profiles are strictly limited to 150 words.  It was an interesting process writing a profile and I of course solicited advice and suggestions from a number of my siblings, knowing they would all provide very different feedback and views.

I am finding writing on a blog interesting to begin with.  Due to the various jobs I have had, I have had to do very different styles of writing during my career. Writing about myself and my views is very different and very challenging for me. In the past I had to be less passive, more succinct, more technical, or more informative, or more expansive. Now sometimes I feel a bit Jekyll and Hyde when I write.  I love facts. I love research. I know not everyone shares this.

I find it hard not to get excited when I read about the individual communities and see how different they are.  Every community’s needs are as individual as, well, individuals. It makes me want to learn more. When I write should I try to find words that will appeal to those communities? The ones I think will help me to be elected?  Of course that is important but as one brother pointed out, you need to tell them about what is important to you.  

Why am I offering as a candidate? For years I worked on strategies to improve the population of NB and how government policies or laws impact New Brunswickers. I worked in “Job Bank” when we had those, helped people traverse the Employment Insurance system, helped newcomers to NB, watched citizenship ceremonies, supported workers on our borders, or supported and informed senior managers in decision making affecting Atlantic Canadians. I loved my work because I felt I could help make a difference in our communities and in New Brunswick.  I guess I want to continue to do that and healthy people help make a healthy New Brunswick.

So, what did I choose to say? I wasn’t sure what value providing my age had but I also believe age is just a number.  Was it more important for people to know what I did or what I want to do?  Below is what my “bio” will be in the BugleObserver this week.  I cannot wait to see what the other candidates have to say. Check it out this week (maybe Tuesday or Friday?) and see what those offering for the position on RHA have to say.

“My name is Janet Blair and I have lived in rural NB all of my life. After retiring from the federal government I continued volunteer work with many community and provincial organizations in support and leadership roles. I have volunteered most of my 64 years; this would be my first opportunity volunteering in a municipal capacity.

This extremely diverse sub-region requires a balance of health services to meet the needs of both young families and aging seniors.  I believe we need to continue with building community led initiatives that are tied to the determinants of health that influence the wellbeing of our communities. We need to maintain sustainable health care while finding better ways to support the most vulnerable and at risk groups in our communities such as those with mental health needs, community and household food insecurity and an inability to access primary health care.”

Details about voting in the municipal election

In New Brunswick, you have the choice to vote in at least three locations. You can vote at your assigned polling stations (ordinary or advance) or at any Returning Office.  To find out where your polling office is click here.  

If you are not sure when or who you can vote for simply search your Municipal, DEC & RHA election information. Sometimes it takes a few minutes to give you the result so be patient.

If you don’t think you will get out to vote then consider voting by mail. Start that process now.

  • Electors have several options for making their request to vote by mail:
  • Electors may apply for their mail in ballot by using our online ballot application portal;
    Electors may downloadthe Application for a Special Ballot form (M 06 101)from our website; or
    Electors can request that a paper form be mailed or faxed to them.

Then you must complete the form, sign the application and send it to the appropriate returning office by:

  • Scanning, or taking a high-resolution photo of the form and emailing it;
    Having the form delivered by themselves, another person; or
    Mailing or faxing the form.

Once you send an Application for a Special Ballot to the Returning Office, the office prepares and sends a vote by mail package to you, by courier.

The package will contain an instruction sheet, the ballot, a secrecy envelope, and a certificate envelope.

Ballots must be returned to/received at the returning office where they were issued (as shown on the certificate envelope) before 8:00 p.m. on Election Day but they can be mailed anytime!

Advance Polls are Saturday May 1st  and Monday May 3rd  (10 a.m. to 8 p.m.)

National Volunteer Week

Today’s blog post is a thank you to all those who volunteer either formally or informally. April 18-24, 2021 is National Volunteer Week. A quote from volunteer Canada expresses my thoughts so well. “The National Volunteer Week theme for 2021, The Value of One, The Power of Many, reflects on the awe-inspiring acts of kindness by millions of individuals AND the magic that happens when we work together towards a common purpose. This past year, we have seen people supporting family, friends, neighbours, and strangers, people standing up to systemic racism, and people sharing insights on how to create a more just and equitable society.  We recognize the value of the caring and compassion that each one has shown another, and we recognize the power of people, organizations, and sectors working together.” 

As I said in an earlier post, our communities are so dependant on the volunteer work. While much of this is done through organized groups, there are hundreds of examples that are less formal but no less important. These run the range of those who volunteer in schools for breakfast programs, coaching, libraries, tutoring, music festivals, community or lake associations picking up garbage on the side of the road, volunteer drivers, food delivery, fire departments, recreation programs or buildings and many many more.

At the beginning of the pandemic I helped create a list of all roads in our geographic area and identifying volunteers who could help out if the need arose.  I cannot recount how many times I spoke to a potential volunteer to explain what we were trying to achieve and was told: “we already do that, those are our neighbors and we check on them or pick up groceries or help them get to medical appointments. We lend a hand when we need to.” In rural NB we all know if a farmer has a health issue or problem, there are other farmers there to help out without anyone needing to organize anything.  That is the nature of life in NB and epitomizes what volunteering is about.  

Today my thanks goes to each and every person who takes time to lend a hand, extend kindness to another or stand beside someone who needs support.

One critical area in our communities I wanted to bring attention to is our food bank services.  This past year has seen an uptake in services, many families and individual struggling to make ends meet or just struggling. Most food banks also offer many other services in our community. For all those who volunteer at these loations or donate in any manner, thank you. Below I have listed the key resources in our area of the Regional Health Authority.

  • Making A Difference Food Bank (Perth-Andover, and surrounding communities)
  • Keeper of the Light Food Bank (Plaster Rock)
  • The Good Samaritan Food Bank ( Carleton-Victoria Community)
  • Valley Food Bank (Woodstock and surrounding areas)
  • Lakeland Resource Center (McAdam, and surrounding areas including Harvey)
  • Oromocto Food Bank (Helpline Inc.)
  • Village of Hope Food Bank (Upper Tracy)
  • Greener Village Community Food Centre, Salvation Army Community Church Food Bank, Fredericton Community Kitchens Inc. (Fredericton)
  • Countless school breakfast or backpack programs

For more info check out NB food banks locations and services