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The Green Party of Canada is set to replace Elizabeth May with a new leader this October. NNSL 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-Oct. 3. 

*All interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

David Merner is running to be the new leader of the Green Party of Canada.
photo provided by the David Merner campaign

David Merner, a graduate of Harvard College, the Univerity of Alberta, Oxford University and the University of Toronto, has advised ministers at the Department of Justice and Privy Council Office in Ottawa and volunteered for organizations like The Land Conservancy of B.C., the Habitat Acquisition Trust, and Mediate B.C.

Merner volunteered for the Liberal Party of Canada for more than 30 years, and ran for the Liberals in Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke in 2015. He joined the Green Party of Canada when Justin Trudeau announced the purchase of the Kinder Morgan pipeline.

​Merner says that campaigning during Covid times is “different,” but that because much of the campaign has been outside, “people seem more relaxed and happy that we’re doing it in public parks and beautiful places.”

“I’ve never laughed so much on a campaign.”

Yellowknifer: I wanted to ask you about how you respond to calls of defunding the police and the RCMP?

David Merner: I think the police themselves would agree with some of that idea. They’re the first ones to say we’d much rather treat people as people, and would much rather deal with the real problem. Often it’s addictions, or mental health, or even poverty. Our system criminalizes all those things.

We need to solve these problems, and it’s not by locking people up that we solve these problems. So let’s listen to all the folks that are saying we need a fundamentally different way of treating people, especially Indigenous people in Canada. 

Indigenous people are vastly over-represented in Canada’s prisons, and they’re vastly under-represented in our legal professions, judges, lawyers, police, so on. We need to totally change that around. We need transformational change. And I think the police would be the first to say, yeah, we need to make big changes. We’ve had dozens and dozens of reports on how this has to change. And you know what’s lacking? It’s the political will.

We don’t have the kind of leadership in these systems where people are ready to take it on in a serious way. We do not have in our justice system in Canada, the kind of persistent, effective, transformational leadership, that is essential (to making big changes).

YKr: How do you address the issue of connectivity and high-speed internet in the North?

DM: I think it’s critical. Access to high-speed internet is a way of keeping our young people in the community. It’s a way of connecting all people to the global economy and it’s really critical for Canada’s economic future. The whole Green Party game plan around the economy is helping people access education, access services like health care and justice services, and that all depends on access to high-speed internet. 

And so at the heart of our economic renewal plan in the Green Party is the concept of connecting people to two things: one is high-speed internet, and, secondly, an East-West-North electrical grid that’s powered by renewables. If we can make the shift off fossil fuel and onto renewables, and if we can make the shift onto high-speed internet, we will transform our economy. And it’s something we could do, actually, quite quickly. We have the engineering skills, what we don’t have, again, is the political will to make this shift happen over the next five to 10 years in a really concerted national effort. 

If we did this, it would be the biggest job creation project in Canadian history, bigger than building the transcontinental railways. And this is a top priority for the Greens in terms of getting our economy moving again and transforming the future for many young people who now have to leave their communities to get education, to connect to the global economy and to get services.

YKr: Another key Northern issue is access to food, especially in some of the more remote communities. How do you address that?

DM: I always look for what’s already working really well. If you can see what’s working well already, you can build on that and then you really push for transformational change. 

One of the approaches that seems to be really working well, is the idea of local greenhouses that are powered through local energy sources. I’d be a real fan of saying the federal government needs to step up here, we put in a lot of money as taxpayers into helping to pay for food in the North, and rightly so. We should keep doing that, but let’s also enable people through large local greenhouse projects powered by local energy to grow their own (food).

And it seems to be starting already. There’s some real success stories around this. There’s some big issues around cost, especially the cost of energy, but these are issues that we can solve. Solar panels, for example, of course in the wintertime, that won’t work so what about geothermal?

The federal government should play a key role in innovation. Often, it’s expensive to figure it out and get it going. But then once you’ve cracked the code on deep change, you can share it really easily. And that’s been my experience in my work in the justice system. If you look around the world, find the best ideas, bring them together and just build, you can really change a habit fast.

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

DM: It would be a message of hope.

With the right kind of leadership, we have huge resources. We have huge talent in our people, and the problems that are getting in our way can be solved. Whether it’s problems of a racist justice system, very difficult food production, all the things we’ve talked about, if we have the right kind of leadership focused on innovation, on treating people with respect, on building together, I really believe we can solve the huge problems we’re facing.

We know that Northerners identify fantastic solutions to all of these problems. We just need to believe in knowledge, including the traditional knowledge, and skills of Northerners.

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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