Last night we had a fantastic evening listening to Karen Ridd’s lecture on Nonviolence titled “Swimming Upstream: Being Nonviolent in a Violent World.” Unfortunately we were unable to record it (though we have plans to record future lectures), but given that it was the first lecture in the series, and that the Green Party had released our fully-costed platform just two days before, I thought it was a good opportunity to invite the press and kick the series off in a more formal fashion. I signed the Candidate’s Pledge, and said a few words.
The world is faced with an unprecedented challenge: we’re consuming beyond our means and beyond what the earth can sustain, and it’s having disastrous effects on the climate. While we don’t feel the effects here so much, the droughts in California and Syria, the wildfires in BC, and even the record-breaking temperatures here in Provencher, are all related. But the greatest challenges are also the greatest opportunities, and Canada faces an unprecedented opportunity in the shift away from a carbon economy and toward a clean energy economy.
There are already more Canadians working in the clean energy sector than there are working in the oil sector, even though the current government is subsidizing the oil industry by billions of dollars a year. Jobs in the clean energy sector are stable and long-term jobs in manufacturing, construction, and maintenance of clean energy infrastructure such as solar and wind farms, and those solar and wind farms provide stable and steady revenue – unlike oil, which rises and falls with the global market and creates a boom-and-bust cycle in the Canadian economy. And while the oil industry only brings dangerous pipelines to Provencher – like the one that exploded a few kilometres from my house last winter, or the one that exploded this week just south of Emerson, or the Energy East pipeline that would run diluted bitumen right through the Whiteshell Provincial Park – the clean energy industry can turn Provencher into a literal powerhouse: we have more sunlight than anywhere else in Canada, we have strong and regular winds, and we have wide open spaces that can be used for clean energy infrastructure. Another key aspect of the clean energy economy is efficiency, and the need for home energy retrofits is high: Steinbach’s number one industry is construction, and a national home energy retrofitting plan would maintain business in construction without fear of a housing bubble. So a carbon economy only offers us risks, but a clean energy economy offers us incredible economic opportunities. As MP for Provencher, I would press the government to invest in the clean energy economy and work with citizens and businesses in Provencher to ensure that the local economy benefits from this opportunity.
On Wednesday, the Green Party of Canada released our full election platform. We were once again the first party to do so, and as usual our platform is fully costed and has been reviewed by economists to ensure the numbers are right. They are. The Green Party is prepared to eliminate tuition for post-secondary education by 2020, invest in rail infrastructure, phase in a Guaranteed Livable Income, implement a national housing strategy, a national Pharmacare plan, and a national Seniors’ strategy, lower small business taxes, and reverse cuts to Veterans’ affairs, CBC, and Canada Post – and deliver a surplus starting in 2015-16 and every year thereafter so that we can more effectively pay down government debt. These initiatives would be paid for by removing existing subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, legalizing and taxing cannabis, restoring the corporate tax rate to its 2009 level to ensure that it remains competitive with other OECD countries, eliminating tax havens, and implementing cost-effective programs that get better value for our dollar.
But while the climate and the economy are incredibly important issues, the thing that most made me take notice of the Green Party and decide to run as a Green candidate is our attention to the effectiveness and dignity of Canadian democracy. We aim to institute proportional representation, government transparency, and cross-partisan cooperation and respect. That’s why I’m proud to sign the Green Party Candidate’s pledge today: I pledge to conduct myself with integrity and treat others with respect, and if elected, to publish all of my expenses, conduct myself with civility in the House of Commons and never heckle, and to always put the best interests of my constituents, Canada, and the planet before partisan politics and personal interests. I’ve been pleased to have a positive relationship with the other candidates in Provencher even in the midst of this campaign, as we all attempt to better engage and serve the community.
It is in the service of our community that we’re here today at the Jake Epp Library, where in a few minutes we’re going to start the first of six public lectures. These lectures are sponsored by my campaign and the Green Party Provencher Riding Association, but they are non-partisan lectures about issues that are important to the community. The lecturers do not represent the Green Party, and approach their topics from a number of perspectives; they were chosen because of their expertise and experience in these issues, and because they are from the riding or from close by. The lectures will run every Friday evening from tonight until the election, and will cover the topics of nonviolence, embracing diversity, sustainability, social justice, ecological wisdom, and participatory democracy. Admission is free, and donations will go to offering the lecturers an honourarium and, if there is a large interest, toward renting a larger venue. We welcome anyone and everyone to engage with this conversation.
Conversations are incredibly important, but they need to lead to action. When it comes to the climate, the economy, our democratic institutions, and our global leadership, it’s time for action. A vote for me is a vote for fair and active representation in Ottawa; for a clean energy economy that will create and maintain jobs in Provencher while reducing greenhouse gases and dependence on oil; and for a cleaner, healthier Canada.
After that we had a lovely Q&A session about the platform before turning it over to Karen, who challenged us all with her experiences of nonviolent action and her perspectives on how Canada might embrace nonviolence in our policies moving forward.
Watch for a story about this great event in the Carillon on Thursday, and be sure to come out for our next lecture on Friday – Wendy Peterson will speak on “Embracing Diversity: Living an Enriched Life Within Canada’s Borders.” See you there!