A commitment to the NDP and the people

Zeni Maartman returns for a second shot at MP's job

Nanaimo-Alberni NDP candidate Zeni Maartman with NDP leader Jack Layton at one of Layton’s Island stopovers recently.

Nanaimo-Alberni NDP candidate Zeni Maartman with NDP leader Jack Layton at one of Layton’s Island stopovers recently.

Zeni Maartman has wanted the job of Member of Parliament for almost a lifetime.

Ever since she was 11 years old and going door-to-door with her father in support of New Democrat Bob Skelly in the-then riding of Comox-Alberni, Maartman has dreamed of a life in politics.

Of course, sometimes life also gets in the way of those dreams — but even during her travels overseas, jobs with both the BCAA in Nanaimo and most recently with Tourism Nanaimo, Maartman has never left those dreams behind.

A New Democrat since those early years growing up in Errington and Qualicum Beach, Maartman ran for the NDP in the Nanaimo-Alberni riding in 2008, losing by close to 10,000 votes to incumbent James Lunney.

Maartman again won the local NDP constituency’s confidence and is taking another run at the Conservatives.

“From that moment (after the 2008 election), I thought that if I wanted to be the MP, I’m going to have to run a long campaign,” she said.

So she went to work over the last two-and-a-half years, getting her name and face into the communities that make up the riding.

“I have a commitment to the NDP and to the people of this riding,” she said.

Now, she said she feels there’s a lot of momentum for her in this election — in the form of a lot more people calling her office and volunteering for the party. While she knows there’s a lot of votes to make up to catch the incumbent, Maartman said she’s in the race to win — and so is her federal party leader, Jack Layton.

“I’m happy to talk about the possibilty of us forming a coalition in Ottawa,” she said. “Some people are accustomed to the word coalition, as they see the parties work well together, meeting the needs of all Canadians.”

 She admitted others do not want a coalition at all — adding that’s fine, the NDP would be happy to win a majority government.

Call that her optimistic viewpoint on the coalition issue.

“Every party wants to win,” she continued. “Why would you run if you don’t want to win?”

Yet, she said the NDP is ready to work with the party that makes up government, or those in a minority position.

Yet, Maartman is more about winning the area’s seat in Ottawa — not conceding it. She said the NDP has the best chance of catching the Conservatives here, and will sell their positions on softwood lumber, health care, education and the economy to voters one at a time if she has to.

Maartman added she will also listen to the people she considers experts in the region, on issues that the federal government can do something about.

“This expertise is often right here,” she explained. “If I want to know about water, for example, I talk to Trevor Wicks (a Parksville resident who advocates for quality and copious drinking water).”

Maartman makes no apologies for being a social democrat — and takes pains to dispel the image of the NDP as nothing but socialists.

“The government has a duty to collect taxes,” she explained, “and spend those taxes on the needs of the people. The NDP has a focus on the poor and people in need.”

Maartman is a single mom and there was a time when she needed this country’s social services.

“I know what it’s like to get to the end of the month and only have a tin of beans left for dinner.”

Seniors, too, face similar issues — which is important in the Nanaimo-Alberni riding.

“So many seniors live in poverty. That’s simply wrong.”

She said the government needs to increase seniors’ pensions and improve their access to health care and find them more doctors and affordable housing.

She added there are people on the left and right of the NDP — but on the whole they are trying to show voters they are fiscally responsible. After all, she said she’s been a business woman for 14 years.

This election, she continued, is about integrity — and that could determine the ultimate outcome.

“The current government fell due to contempt of parliament,” she said. “There has also been a lack of debate from MPs on serious national issues as they find they do not have access to vital information under the Conservatives.”

She calls the Conservatives out of touch with regular people — adding she thinks the incumbent MP is one of the least accessible of them all.

“I hear from people about an MP that’s not accessible to them. But that’s the shirt you wear as an MP — as an advocate for the people of your riding.”

Maartman said for the last 10 years, James Lunney has been ineffective.

To catch the incumbent, however, Maartman has a way to go. 

She said her team is great, putting an emphasis on getting out and talking to people as often as they can.

“You have to be passionate about the job,” she said about the idea of voting for something, rather than voting against something else.

“The NDP is being optimistic and positive and I hope that works.”