By Richard Bell
There’s no question about District 2 Council candidate Sydnee McKay’s top priority: ending the province’s reckless authorization of massive spraying of dangerous herbicides to kill off hardwood trees. She missed the first candidate debate because she was off in the woods at a spraying protest. And she’s an administrator for the rapidly growing Facebook group, “Stop Spraying in Nova Scotia,” which in only a few months has grown to more than 1,000 members.
But in a recent interview, McKay made it clear that as a Councillor, she would also be interested in tackling health care issues, especially the underfunded area of mental health.
McKay was born and raised in Little Harbour, and has lived on the shore her entire life. (Fellow candidate Gail McQuarrie was also born in Little Harbour, and the two knew each other as children.) “I grew up in a family with seven brothers and one sister, all of us in a little house,” McKay said. “It made us tough. If I had to go back to hauling water, I could definitely do that again.”
McKay moved to Gaetz Brook 16 years, and loves her small but heavily wooded lot on a suburban road. “I’ve always felt a connection with the woods,” McKay said. “I’m always hiking in the woods.”
McKay’s basic philosophy is simple. “I go out there to try and make a difference. I’ve always been a positive person. No matter how much negativity there is, I try to turn it around.”
McKay has worked in a number of administrative health care positions, including Twin Oaks Hospital and five years at The Birches. As a Councillor, she says she would push programs that help kids with anxiety depression, or bullying. “We need meditation or relaxation programs to teach kids how to react properly, to deal with anger without just lashing out,” she said. “I’m interested in programs that help kids with all sorts of social and mental health problems: anxiety, depression, or bullying.” She said that she had helped many people struggling with drug and alcohol addictions, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
McKay is an advocate of living lightly and simply on the earth. “I’ve always recycled,” she said. “I mostly purchase 2nd-hand clothes. I don’t believe in filling up the world with more ‘stuff’. It confuses me that people feel they need to have all this stuff.” She even extends her dislike of “stuff” to her own campaign signs. “I’ve only got 13 signs right now,” she said, “all in strategic places. I’ve got a lot of experience with social media, so I’m using online media to my advantage.”
The mother of three grown children, McKay is an advocate for healthy foods for kids. “I don’t think kids are eating healthy,” she said. “I never took my kids to McDonalds. Schools should have gardens. It would be so much better for kids to watch the seeds grow.”
McKay is enthusiastic about the potential of gardening for improving the lives of seniors and young people working side-by-side. “We need to get young people working with their elders, instead of them just sitting there,” she said. “Young people can learn a lot from their elders. They should be farming together, growing health foods, and getting outside.”
In addition to her current work to stop herbicide spraying, McKay also supports several other environmental and social change groups, including the Ecology Action Centre, the Peace And Friendship Alliance, and the Coalition for Environmental, Social, Economic, and Artistic Justice.