By David Shuman
Kent Smith has been practicing politics from the outside for years. A native of Sheet Harbour, he settled in Musquodoboit Harbour, where he became the first president of the Musquodoboit Harbour and Area Chamber of Commerce and Civic Affairs.
At the Chamber, he took on the task of updating the 2006-2007 visioning plan for Musquodoboit Harbour, working with the Dartmouth urban design firm Ekistics. And he led the Chamber’s long but unsuccessful effort to persuade the provincial government to build the new high school in Musquodoboit Harbour.
The local PC association had previously asked Smith to run in the 2013 and 2017 elections, but he said the timing wasn’t right. But when the party reached out again, he accepted the nomination to go inside, and has been knocking on doors for months.
“You get involved with this stuff for one of two reasons, either you get asked to run or you are upset with the way things are run presently,” Smth said. “I’m in the special situation where I have both. It’s nice to have been asked, but more than that, I’m frustrated with the lack of government transparency.”
He believes that government should operate in a way that involves communities actively and directly in government decision making. “That hasn’t been the case in some recent local examples, like the proposed sale of Owls Head Provincial Park and the school siting decision, or provincially with the Yarmouth ferry.”
Smith grew up in Sheet Harbour, and graduated from Duncan Macmillan. He went on to Montreal to study commerce at McGill. The exposure to different cultures and viewpoints in Montreal changed the way he sees the world. “Coming from downtown Sheet Harbour and moving overnight to downtown Montreal, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. The cultural experience was eye-opening to me.”
He says that the biggest issue for him is the regular closures of emergency rooms at the two hospitals in the riding, Twin Oaks and Eastern Shore Memorial Hospital. “My number one priority will be working every day to figure out solutions to ensure that those emergency rooms are open.”
“I’m a big believer in community building. I don’t believe you can do build community around a hospital that is not safe, not reliable, where people need to check Facebook before going to the hospital.”
Smith sees a connection between health care and another serious problem, the soaring prices of home ownership and the lack of rental housing. Not enough housing opportunities means not enough doctors and nurses to staff emergency rooms. He is adamant that the provincial government needs to take stock of vacant areas and convert them into housing that is usable for the public.
He says that his party’s platform calls for an aggressive strategy to keep healthcare professionals in the province and prioritize getting new staff in rural areas, with enough housing to allow health care workers to live in and around the communities they serve.
When he’s not out knocking on doors, Smith, a business owner, working in the private sector on the housing problem, converting the old elementary school in East Jeddore into sorely needed affordable housing units.