Windsor Lake By-Election Candidate Spotlight: Kerri Claire Neil

Photo courtesy of the NL NDP

Photo courtesy of the NL NDP

With the provincial by-election campaign happening the in Windsor Lake district, The Racket reached out to the three provincial candidates for an interview. Only Kerri Claire Neil and the NDP responded to our request.

Kerri Claire Neil describes herself as a “social economist, [and] a feminist” who is running as the NDP candidate for the Windsor Lake by-election. She grew up in Spaniard’s Bay before moving to St. John’s to attend Memorial University where she earned a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in economics. She is currently completing a master’s degree in sociology and has previously worked with the Department of Economics at Memorial researching immigration and municipal service delivery in the province, with a focus on policy development. Students at Memorial in need of yearly tax tutorials may be familiar with Claire Neil as she also started the MUN Tax Clinic in 2014, which helps low-income earners file their taxes.

“I'm running for election because I really care about this province and I know there's a better way to do things,” Claire Neil told The Racket via email. She said she has been a vocal activist for a number of years. “I’ve been voicing concerns about the Muskrat Falls project since it was first proposed – but I knew I had more to offer. I don’t want to watch politics from the sidelines anymore.”

Claire Neil said the people of Windsor Lake are concerned about the future of Newfoundland’s economy and how the province’s debt is going to be dealt with. She said the people living in the district are neither happy nor convinced with the messages coming from the Liberals or PCs regarding the economy and the debt. “[These parties are] offering no details, and only promises, does not wash with many voters,” said Claire Neil.

If elected, Claire Neil plans to represent everyone in Newfoundland, and not just the people of Windsor Lake as she believes the main issue for the people in the district applies to all residents in the province. “[People] are concerned about the public debt, the impact of the ruinous Muskrat Falls project, and the future of our economy,” she said. “There is concern about the dampening effect of higher power costs on businesses in every corner of the province’s economy. She believes the other parties do not have the answers to solve Newfoundland and Labrador’s problems.

“Unlike the other parties, the NDP is offering a solid plan to bolster the economy,” said Claire Neil. This includes eliminating the corporate income tax on small business, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and creating an all-party Committee on jobs and the economy. “With unemployment over twice the national average, and forecast to grow to 20 percent, we need to work together to solve our economic and job crises,” she said.

Photo courtesy of the NL NDP

Photo courtesy of the NL NDP

Recently, Claire Neil went viral on social media when she Tweeted about getting fired over Tweets that were critical of the government. “I was dismissed from a position, not because of my work ethic or my attendance, but because I had a political, critical Twitter account,” she said. “It was hard and humbling to hear, but I think it really set me on a different career path. I decided my strong opinions are a valuable asset.” We live in an interesting time where many people are choosing not to speak out, or be critical for fear of the social media court of public opinion. Claire Neil maintains that she has always used Twitter as a platform to express her opinion and be outspoken, critically minded and politically engaged. “I believe in the importance of speaking truth to power. I plan to continue to use social media to voice my concerns and to be an active and engaged citizen,” she said.

Claire Neil told us that the response from the public via social media and in person has been “amazing”. “I’ve had so much support and I think a lot of people are sick and tired of the status quo,” she said. “I think they are excited and encouraged to see a young, smart, motivated woman put herself forward for election. People want change and they need a representative who understands the problems and is willing to work collaboratively.” Claire Neil believes that she represents a different type of politician than what voters are accustomed. “I have researched, studied, and published on economic issues facing the province, I am engaged and motivated. As an NDP Member of the House of Assembly, I want to work for progressive solutions that are in the best interest of all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.”

If elected, Claire Neil said the first thing she wants to work toward is raising the minimum wage because she believes people who work full-time jobs, “should not be living in poverty” and that it would “increase the tax base while reducing the reliance on social services.” If she is not successful in securing the seat for Windsor Lake, Claire Neil intends to run for the NDP again in the future.

Just for fun, we concluded our interview by asking Claire Neil about some of her favourite things:

Movie – Mean Girls

TV Show – Big Brother

Artist – Beyoncé

Voting for the Windsor Lake by-election takes place September 20. To view a list of polling stations, follow this link