Health and education board races attract top names

Despite a low-key race, several high-profile people are running for positions on regional health authorities and district education councils.

More than 200 candidates running for RHA and DEC seats

Health boards and education councils have more than 200 candidates running for election on May 14 2:22

Several high-profile people are running for positions on regional health authorities and district education councils despite a relatively low-key election.

Candidates running for seats on the seven district education councils and two regional health authorities may not have the same high profile as mayors and councillors.

But they hope to have some sway in the two departments that, altogether, eat up nearly half of New Brunswick's budget.

There are 113 people running for a seat on the newly redesigned district education councils and 78 candidates hoping to win a spot on one of the two health authorities.

The health and education boards have a role in deciding how money from the provincial government’s two largest departments is spent locally.

All health authority seats are being contested with some regions having to choose from as many as six to nine candidates for one seat.

Among the 78 candidates running for the health authorities, there are a few high-profile names.

Mary Schryer, the former Liberal health minister, is seeking a spot on the Horizon Health Authority in subregion 4.

Despite her provincial 2010 election defeat, Schryer said she still wants to serve her community.

"I have a desire, still within me, to make a difference. And I think my time in government really allowed me to open my eyes," she said.

There are other candidates running for health authority positions that have been on a ballot before.

Mary Schryer was the province's health minister until 2010. She is now seeking a spot on the local RHA. (CBC)

John McKay, a former Liberal MLA and former mayor of Miramichi, is looking to win a spot on the Horizon board in his community.

As well, Jim Wolstenholme, the former chief executive officer of the Miramichi hospital who was removed by the Lord government during hospital cuts in 2004, is running for a seat on the Horizon board in Fredericton.

Wolstenholme ran as a Green Party candidate in the 2010 provincial election. He is running against eight other people in the Fredericton area for a seat on the health authority.

Voters in northern New Brunswick will also see a familiar name on the ballot. Burt Paulin, who served as Liberal MLA from 2003 to 2006 and won a byelection in 2008 before losing in 2010, is running in the Vitalité Health Authority’s subregion 5.

Schryer said these elected health boards have an important role in giving people input on how money is spent in their areas.

"It's important to me to make sure we have the voice of the people on the board, especially on issues relating to health care," she said.

"It touches on everybody's life and the grassroots can be our eyes and our ears to what sometimes you're so busy in the field, that you can't see."

Education councils

There are 68 district education council positions available across the province. Of those, 33 are going acclaimed and four seats have no contenders at all.

Even members on these boards admit their profile is not very high.

Don Cullinan, a Saint John lawyer, offered to fill a vacant spot on a district education council a year ago.

"It is a shame that more people don't know more about us and more people don't get involved," Cullinan said.

The father of two young children said his initial term on the education council was a positive and instructional experience.

Cullinan has put his name forward in the hope of securing another term. He is running against Vern Garnett in subdistrict 5 of the Anglophone South district.

Don Cullinan is running for a seat on the Anglophone South district education council. (CBC)

The district structure will be different if Cullinan is elected on May 14.

All DEC candidates will be working for the newly drafted super-districts. Education Minister Jody Carr redesigned the districts in an effort to save $5 million per year in administrative costs.

Budget cuts have been a consistent theme in all of his previous meetings.

"The biggest thing in the past year and a half, is the budget cuts. That is the single biggest driving factor in every meeting we have, every conversation we have, the effect of budget cuts has been dominating," he said.

While the RHA races are sprinkled with former MLAs, there are fewer in the education races.

However, Harry Doyle, a former Liberal MLA, is uncontested in subdistrict eight for the Anglophone East council.