"I care passionately about the environment. When I look around at what our government is doing, I don't see our government either giving the environment the attention or priority I think it should be given. I don't think I'm alone in this."
ISSUES I'M PASSIONATE ABOUT
I first became serious about environmental protection after moving to BC in 1986. I worked in the head office of a forest products company that logged in what was then called the Queen Charlotte Islands and is now called by its original name of Haida Gwaii.
Through my work I became aware of what was going on in the forest industry. As well, when I travelled in southern BC, I saw forests turned into wastelands. It looked like war had been waged on the forests.
Today the situation in BC is a lot different, especially in areas where local people have made their voices heard. It’s not perfect but the industry is being practiced more sustainably and environmental values and First Nations rights are being recognized.
These changes are the result of sustained pressure from environmentalists and because First Nations have gained more control over their territorial lands.
I recently visited Haida Gwaii and saw the changes there first hand. The Haida First Nation now has a central role in forestry management and the archipelago’s economy is diversifying to include more tourism.
Every place has its own issues to tackle. The lesson I’ve learned is that it’s worth tackling them.
Right now the biggest challenge facing the planet is climate change. Our territory, our country and our global community, need to step up to meet that challenge. The solution is simple though. We need to transition away from the burning of fossil fuels. The Green Party of Canada has developed a plan for rapid, transformative change. Let us lead the way.
In Yukon an estimated 62% of greenhouse gasses (“GHG”) emitted into the atmosphere come from transportation, about 55% from ground transportation and 7% from air. Accordingly, transportation needs to be where we focus our GHG lowering efforts. That will involve many different strategies including electric vehicles, cycling, carpooling, public transportation, car sharing, and reducing long distance imports.
The electricity for our new electric vehicles, for home heating and for everything else, needs to come from renewable sources of energy. Hydro, solar, wind, geothermal.
Demand side management of our electrical grid. This includes variable rates for electricity so you can plug in your vehicle at a lower price at night, when there’s surplus power that otherwise would go to waste.
We can do environmental protection better. We must do it better.
We Yukoners want to work and I think government should do whatever it can to encourage us. Our private sector though has traditionally been dominated by that classic boom-and-bust industry, mining. Yukon has a long mining history. This industry has created wealth and prosperity for many. It continues to employ large numbers of Yukoners and create numerous spinoff jobs in local communities.
But now the hard rock industry uses mainly fly-in workers, many from outside the Yukon. So I think it’s time to re-focus our economic development efforts on more sustainable industries, as a complement to our traditional central industry.
Tourism, in particular winter tourism, has boomed in recent years. I’d like to see even more of it. Just as an example, each time I visit Haines Junction, and look into Kluane National Park, I wonder why this jewel of the Canadian National Park system doesn’t get more visitors. I’d like to see the backcountry guiding industry further developed. I’d like to see huts built. We live in the most beautiful place in the world – let’s share it.
Local food! We all eat, but in Yukon we import almost everything we put in our mouths. We can change that. We already have a community of farmers and food producers, and they need our support to thrive. When you shop locally you not only eat better, fresher food and support Yukon farmers, but you also reduce the amount of food being trucked up the highway or flown in (sometimes from very far away), which reduces the carbon footprint associated with that food.
Climate change adaptation is going to require a lot of work, but Yukoners can do that work. Fire smarting our communities is a huge job. This work can pair perfectly with the development of biomass energy, a type of renewable energy already in use by the Teslin Tlingit Council.
We can make our economy more sustainable.
Social justice means the equitable distribution of social and natural resources, to meet basic human needs and to ensure that all citizens have full opportunities for personal and social development.
The Yukon is one of the best places in the world to live, but it’s a lot better for some of our citizens than for others. We need to address that.
We need more jobs in our communities, especially those communities with low job market participation rates.
We need more affordable housing. The federal government used to play a significant role in encouraging the construction of affordable housing. It should again.
All Yukoners deserve the opportunity to earn a higher education, ideally within the Yukon. Not all Yukoners have the family and/or community supports in place to give them that opportunity. I believe that any student with the will, energy and capacity to study should not be held back by lack of financial resources. The Green Party of Canada would make post-secondary education tuition-free.
In Yukon, the lack of inter-community public transportation is a significant barrier to residents wanting to explore their opportunities for work and education, to attend medical appointments, to visit family and friends, and to escape abusive situations. This is one of the areas where the private sector simply isn’t meeting the need. So the public sector should.
The Guaranteed Income Supplement (“GIS”) for those over age 65 is an excellent program that benefits many of our senior citizens. But the maximum payment of under $1,500 per month is simply too low. Many of those who receive it still live in poverty. Our seniors deserve better. The Green Party of Canada advocates a 25% increase in the GIS.
Sadly, many Yukoners suffer from substance addictions. Even more have a family member who suffers from an addiction, and those family members suffer too. Substance abuse and addictions are a health problem that needs to be treated like one. We need less stigma, less criminalization, more understanding, and more treatment and programming options.
We can support our people better.
Most of us grew up being taught that democracy was the only good system of government, far superior to any other. This is true. What isn’t true is that democracy is so strong and stable that it will just coast along without any help from us.
For democracy to flourish it needs to be nourished and supported – with a strong civil society, an active and unrestricted press, a strong and fair legal system, checks and balances on power, and free and fair elections. Our citizens and our government not only can but must take active roles in keeping our democracy healthy.
The Green Party of Canada not only supports electoral reform, it is one of our party’s central platforms. The current first-past-the-post voting system, developed centuries ago is outdated and needs replacement. Canada can benefit from the experience of other countries in testing alternative systems, and renew our democracy at the same time. Someone HAS built a better mousetrap. All we have to do is use it.
Proportional representation (PR) has many variations but all reflect the democratic principle that people should be represented by how they voted. Specifically, the percentage of seats a party has in a legislature should reflect the percentage of people who voted for that party. Simple as that.
In Canada we are routinely governed by a ˮfalse majorityˮ. One party wins a majority of seats and all the power but with a minority of votes. Parties like the Green Party, with wide support across the country, end up with representation that fails to reflect the number of votes received. In 2015 the Green Party of Canadaʼs one seat amounted to just 10% of its share of the popular vote.
Elizabeth May, the Green’s first Member of Parliament elected in 2011, has made the most of her opportunity. In 2012 she was voted Parliamentarian of the Year by her fellow MPs. She is the only national leader with a positive approval rating among the general public. She ought to be joined by a lot more Green Party MPs.
We can do democracy better.