An interview with Provencher Green Party Candidate Jeff Wheeldon
Tell us about yourself, Jeff.
I am the son of a truck driver, and I’ve worked more as a truck driver than anything else, other than higher education administration, which is my field now. I am a Christian, and I’m passionate about Christian theology and ethics; I have a Master of Arts degree in the subject. I am married to a wonderful woman, and father to an incredible son, and they both make me want to be a better person every single day. I’m fascinated by just about everything: science, psychology, sociology, the environment, economics, culture, and of course, politics.
Most of all, I’m excited about Canada. It fills me with pride, and makes me want to live up to the Canadian ideal.
How did you get interested in politics?
I’ve always been interested in systems, and people, so systems for how people can work together for the good of everyone are fascinating to me.
For the past decade or so I’ve become more and more aware of the need for serious leadership in the world. Crises such as the global financial crisis, climate change, food insecurity, health epidemics, and global conflict are all problems that we can actually solve, but they require that we own up to being part of the problem and work together to be part of the solution. I knew that I wanted to be part of the solution, that I should get more involved, but I wasn’t sure how. Then I read Elizabeth May’s book, Losing Confidence, about how the political system in Canada has been drifting from its traditional moorings and toward a less accountable, less functional system. I realized that a good place for me to address the lack of integrity in our system was from within, so I began working toward becoming a positive change agent in Canadian politics – and I work toward that goal on every level: as a citizen speaking to other citizens; as a voter engaging with the system; as a candidate running a positive campaign with integrity; and hopefully as an MP who puts his constituents first and upholds the values and systems that make our democracy function.
Why did you choose to join the Green Party?
I was interested in the Green Party because I was interested in the environment and climate change, but the more I read about them the more I realized that they weren’t just about that; the Green Party was running a fully-costed platform a decade ago, when everyone else said that we were just a one-issue party, and many of our policies from back then have since been adopted by other parties. Big issues this year include climate change, tax reform, putting a price on carbon, and electoral reform; all of these were Green policies in 2004, and many of the policies that are being proposed by the Liberals and NDP on these issues are almost identical to the Green policies from back then.
Put simply, the Green Party is ahead of its time. But really, a successful government has to be. We think long-term, which was a big selling point for me, and our policies are both innovative and practical (and fully costed!). We don’t base our stance on how politically popular or expedient something is, we base it on the best data available and the actual needs of Canadians. That’s the kind of party I want to be a part of.
We’re also the only party that doesn’t whip the vote, which means that if I’m a Green MP I will actually be able to do my job and represent my constituents without asking the permission of my party. I’m done with being part of the problem, and in Canadian politics, a party-first attitude is a big problem.
Aren’t you worried that your candidacy will lead to vote splitting in Provencher?
Absolutely not! People tend to have this vision of the Green Party as a left-wing party that will only “steal” votes from the Liberals or NDP. One of the reasons that I like the Green Party is that our policies actually fall across the political spectrum. I’ve spoken with a number of Green supporters who told me that they had always voted for Conservatives until they became disenchanted or disgusted, but that there was something about the Green approach to issues that inspired them to engage in politics again. I think that’s powerful.
Across the country, Green candidates who have won elections (1 federally and 3 provincially) have done so by increasing total voter turnout in their riding and by taking votes from the Conservatives. Canadians of every political stripe say that the Greens are their second choice. We are not another left-wing party that will split the left; we are the party that everyone would vote for if they weren’t so concerned about vote splitting!
Isn’t the Green Party just a fringe movement that only cares about the environment?
I’ve had people tell me that the Green Party only cares about the environment. I ask them where they heard that. It’s simply not true. But what’s worse than being labelled a party that only cares about the environment is the assumption behind that label: that the environment is a political issue. It’s not. The environment is the air we breathe, the water we drink, the soil that produces our food, the forests that produce our lumber, the ore and oil underground – all of it is connected, and therefore all of it is connected to every political issue. One of the reasons that I’m a Green candidate is because it seems to me that we’re the only party that sees this connection, and recognizes that the environment is not one issue that can be pitted against another, but rather the foundation of every issue.
How is the Green Party relevant to the issues that people in Provencher face?
First of all, we’re relevant to the issues you face because we’re asking you: what issues do you face? How can we help? How can we represent you in Ottawa? That’s the job I want, making sure that your voice is heard in our government.
But secondly, the Green Party has a full platform with plans to address issues like the economy, child care, energy, changes to simplify the tax system, a Guaranteed Livable Income for all Canadians, caring for veterans, honouring First Nations, rebuilding Canada’s international reputation after a decade of war, ending the war on drugs, addressing human trafficking, and so much more. We’re also the only party that has a full policy document available between elections, and you can see it here: http://www.greenparty.ca/en/vision-green. We’ll also be releasing a full 2015 election platform, fully costed, after Labour Day.
One issue that the other parties haven’t addressed so far is the local effects of Energy East, a pipeline that goes right through Provencher (right through the Whiteshell provincial park!). There are plans to run diluted bitumen through this pipeline, which was not built to handle this heavy crude. We face huge risks from a spill, which is bad enough in itself, but what benefits are there to Provencher? An energy strategy that included investment in renewable options such as solar and wind could turn Provencher into a powerhouse (literally!) with none of the risk of a pipeline.
What kinds of people vote Green?
All kinds. We do very well on college campuses – a few years ago polls showed that if only college students voted there would be a Green majority! – but we also have members who are senior citizens, business owners, parents who want a clean future for their kids, economists, activists, artists, and even the occasional hippy. People tend to think that we’re just a bunch of hippies, and we have our fair share, but we also have some of the brightest minds and most successful business people in the country. And hopefully, we have you.
If you’re elected this October, how would you serve the people of Provencher?
Elizabeth May has set the bar extremely high for Green MPs. She has been voted (by her peers in Parliament) as the hardest working MP, the best orator, and Parliamentarian of the Year, all during the past parliament. While other parties assign “House duty” to MPs to ensure that they have enough MPs in the House of Commons at any given time to represent their party, Elizabeth researched extensively to figure out how she can speak on behalf of her constituents as much as possible. Even though she is only one of three Green MPs, and therefore leader of a party that doesn’t have official party status in the House, she speaks more often than most parliamentarians. She has delivered more petitions to the House of Commons than anyone else, and has the best attendance record. She sees representing her constituents in the House as her primary job, and of course it is! That’s the real role of an MP, and that’s what I want to do for the people of Provencher. For Green MPs, our job is to serve our constituents, our country, the rest of the world, our consciences, and then our party, in that order. Constituents come first for me, and that’s something that the other candidates can’t say. That’s why I’m Green, and why I want to represent you. Vote for me, so I can vote for you!