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The Green Party of Canada is set to replace Elizabeth May with a new leader this October. NNSL Media has reached out to all nine candidates to hear more about their platforms, especially as it pertains to residents North of 60. 

Green Party of Canada members can cast their ballots for the next leadership of the Green Party of Canada from Sept. 26 to Oct. 3. 

*All interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Ottawa lawyer Andrew West is running for the leadership of the Green Party of Canada. photo courtesy of Andrew West/Facebook

Andrew West went into politics to “pass truly meaningful legislation that could help as many people as possible.”

West is a lawyer and the Attorney General Critic for the Green Party of Ontario. After several years of working in television, West went back to school to study politics and eventually became connected to the Green Party while in law school at the University of Ottawa. 

West identifies as a candidate in the centre of the political spectrum because, as he says, “elections are won by parties that are in the centre. I think if we can frame that we’re a party that has these socially progressive policies, but we’re fiscally responsible, we’re going to pick up a lot of seats.”

One goal West would work towards early on if elected, is strengthening riding associations as a means of better “spreading the Green Party word throughout the community.”

Yellowknifer: On your website you say that you used to think that the Green Party was a one-issue party, what made you change your mind and what would you say to others who are of that mindset?

AW: Learning about the party. I did a lot of research, I didn’t enter into joining the Green Party lightly.

I really truly want to get elected as a member of Parliament. And obviously, polls show that that would be easier from another party. But I did volunteer to some degree with the other three major parties. And I didn’t feel like they resonated with me. So I went to look more closely into the Green Party because the environment was one of my top issues. When I learned more about the party, what the party stood for, and that the party had a full platform, I felt that this was a party that I should join.

I always say that the Green Party is a party that has a full platform that touches on every aspect of a person’s life. The big difference is that at the root of all our policies is sustainability.

YKr: High costs of food and access to healthy food are a major concern in the North. How would you address that as leader?

AW: I certainly know that that’s a major concern. First off, the best thing that the Green Party leader can do is push the government to fulfill its promises and to uphold the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, for example, because that’s the best power that the Green Party leader has right now while they’re in opposition. It’s a matter of advocating on behalf of the First Nations to make sure that there’s no more reserves under a boil water advisory, that they have a food security plan that’s culturally appropriate, and that they also have access to broadband internet because that’s also an important issue.

As leader of the party, the best thing that I can do to address these issues is actually get the Green Party elected. That way we can actually start to fulfill some of these promises of past governments, and not just provide lip service to people in the North. 

I would make sure these things get done, but also make sure that we have realistic targets, not making hundreds of false promises, focusing on more realistic ones that we could do right away. Like I said, stopping reserves (being) under water boil advisory, addressing housing – that’s a great issue to tackle jobs as well, is to make sure that we can build proper housing up in the North.

YKr: When you say, the best thing you can do is to get the Green Party elected, how do you intend to do that?

AW: I’ve been a longtime green and I know how we can win in ridings that traditionally the Green Party doesn’t win. And that’s running as a moderate, and having policies that are socially progressive but fiscally responsible. If we provide that message, and we show Canadian voters that we have win win policies, these are ways that we’re gonna attract more voters. 

I want to be able to show Canadian voters that the Green Party is a fiscally responsible option with socially progressive policies. 

Implementing a plan like guaranteed livable income can consolidate many other programs in place, which would be more fiscally responsible, for the government structure the payments of it.

Having affordable housing, municipalities that pay for affordable housing. It’s often cheaper for municipalities to pay for a bed in affordable housing than it is to pay for a bed in a hospital or jail which can sometimes be the alternative for people who need affordable housing. A national pharmacare plan. This is a way that we can save money by avoiding provinces bidding against each other with large pharmaceutical companies. All of these are socially progressive, that don’t require cutting. It just requires spending properly. And again, it’s about messaging, bringing the message properly.

We came close in a lot of ridings across Canada, this past election. If we just tailor our messaging a little bit, we could pick up a lot more seats.

YKr: You mentioned broadband internet as well, could you expand on how you would go about addressing that issue?

AW: It’s a necessity. And there’s no doubt about that.

This Covid crisis has shown that that’s a way that we can connect communities. You don’t have to live in urban areas now to conduct business with people, you can work from home and still be able to connect to people anywhere else in Canada. It’s of vital importance to people right now.

Again, the best way to make sure that this happens is to push the government to implement a program like that while we’re in opposition. But failing that, the best way to make sure that we get this done is actually getting the Green Party elected. My focus is on making sure we elect someone who could get us elected and I know that I can get the Green Party elected.

YKr: There are well-documented calls from individuals and social justice groups around the world to defund the police. How do you respond to suspicions of racism in the RCMP?

AW: The RCMP has come out and said that there’s has been systemic racism in the organization. I think acknowledging that is good. I am someone who favours reallocation of funds within the police department.

We still don’t know the details of what happened on the night that Regis Korchinski-Paquet died, but in retrospect, police may not have been the best to address that situation. So if there were other types of officers that were better equipped to handle mental health concerns, they should, at the very least, probably have accompanied (members of the) police force to situations like that.

YKr: If you had to leave Northern readers with just one message, what would that be?

AW: How important the North is to Canada. How important the North is to myself and the Green Party. It’s rich in culture, and history, and people, and it needs to be protected.

It’s an area where global temperatures are increasing higher than in the rest of the world. And we see that by, for example, ice melting so much that now there’s the Northwest Passage, and how big oil and gas companies now want to drill and they feel they are able to do so because ice has receded. All of these things would be harmful to the environment, especially up in the North, and that needs to be protected. And I want to make sure that it is.

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Natalie Pressman

Natalie is a graduate of Carleton University’s journalism program. She has since held contracts working with an NGO in Vietnam and with Journalists for Human Rights in Iskatewizaagegan #39 Independent...

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