Charlie Parker has a strong team standing behind him on his campaign for re-election in Pictou West. Pictured are Virginia MacLellan, left, his wife, Marilyn Parker, Charlie Parker and Shawn McNamara. AMANDA JESS – THE NEWS
Charlie Parker has spent more than 20 years in politics and rather than growing weary, he’s ready to keep going.
The 62-year-old NDP incumbent for Pictou West says he gets motivation from helping his constituents.
“For me, that’s what the job is all about – what I can do to assist people in need.”
Parker’s interest in politics is a family trait. His grandfather and two uncles have run for political office.
His interest only grew as he aged. He became involved with the New Democratic Party while in university.
He has served as the Pictou West MLA since 2003.
He was Speaker of the Nova Scotia Legislature for two years, from 2009 to 2011.
He was also MLA from 1998 to 1999 and worked as a municipal councillor for 10 years.
He now holds the positions of Minister of Energy and Minister of Natural Resources.
The latter is a position that he describes as especially poignant for him as he’s a nature lover.
He spends as much spare time as he can outdoors, which is why the protection of land in Nova Scotia is so important to him.
“One thing I’m very pleased we’ve been involved in provincially is more protection of land. We’ve passed the United Nations goal now of 12 per cent. We actually have 13 per cent of our lands in Nova Scotia that are fully protected forever and ever.”
The Loch Broom resident has no trouble finding natural beauty in the area.
He says Pictou County offers a little bit of everything, including scenery and beaches, resource industries like farming and fishing, an entrepreneurial spirit, manufacturing industries like Northern Pulp and Sobeys as well as a community college.
“I’m optimistic about our future. There’s much our area has to offer. I feel in many ways we have it all in Pictou County.”
He’s been in Pictou County for most of his life, with the exception of when he went to university.
He graduated from Nova Scotia Teachers College and Acadia University with a bachelor of science.
He’s taught at the elementary school level, owned a small business, and worked as a realtor.
All of his work experiences have helped him in politics, he says. It allowed him to meet people all over the riding.
“I’m fortunate to have rubbed shoulders with a lot of people.”
Parker was raised on a family farm in Durham with eight brothers.
He has two adult children, Tanya and Jordan, with his wife of 38 years, Marilyn.
He has a large extended family, with grandchildren, nieces and nephews, as well as his constituency family.
He says his seat in the Legislature doesn’t belong to him – it belongs to the people of Pictou West.
Parker says he has some strong opponents and he will just have to wait and see who people decide is the best candidate.
“I respect anyone that puts their name on the ballot.”
He has a long list of important issues in his riding, one of which is rural infrastructure.
He says the number one call he receives at his office is about road conditions.
Although a lot of road repaving has been done in Pictou West, he acknowledges there’s a lot more to do.
His list is full of long-standing problems that require quick solutions. The impending closure of River John Consolidated is among them.
He says he’s been working with the residents to figure out whether a new school should be built or the current one should be downsized.
“It’s vital that we have a community school in River John,” he says, stressing that schools attract families to communities as well as businesses.
The complaints about Northern Pulp haven’t gotten past him either.
He recently sent letters to constituents, promising to make sure the mill complies with the order from the Department of Environment to clean up.
He initiated a talk between representatives from the Department of Environment and concerned residents who started a Facebook group about the mill. He’s also organized a meeting between the mill management and the premier.
“I think we all recognize that we have a problem. The air quality is not acceptable.”
There’s no shortage of things to fix in his riding, but solving problems is very rewarding for him.
“Every day is different, but every day is interesting.”
Lately he’s spending six hours of his day campaigning in communities while the rest is spent in office as MLA.
“I just get up every morning and try my very best to work for and with the people of Pictou West.”
On Twitter: @NGNewsAmanda