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.
Annamie Paul holds a bachelor of laws from the University of Ottawa, and a masters in public affairs from Princeton University. She has worked internationally and domestically in NGOs, as a policy officer in the European Union, and founded her own charity to train women and under-represented minorities to run for elected office.
Paul says her desire to be a part of positive change is what ties all of her experiences together. She describes this as a critical moment in Canadian history where “we’re either going to create a system that provides more care and more dignity to more people, or we’re not and we might not have a better chance to do it.”
Yellowknifer: On your website, you say “the Green Party maintains its proud tradition of being daring,” and then you point to a couple of examples of what that has looked like in the past. I’m curious about what being daring looks like to you now.
Annamie Paul: It’s funny, the things that seemed incredibly daring six months ago aren’t anymore. During the last campaign, we were the only party talking about a guaranteed liveable income (GLI), and now all the parties are talking about that. We were the only party talking about universal post-secondary education and we have company on that now, too. It’s amazing how much has changed because of the pandemic.
One of the things that we’ve been calling for and still haven’t been joined by any of the other political parties is the call to decriminalize drugs. We believe very strongly that it’s a health emergency and it’s not a criminal matter, so we’re still calling for that.
I believe that there’s a consensus in the Green Party that we need to be using the money that’s going to be invested to the economy over the next couple of years to do a rapid transition towards the green economy. And what that looks like is instead of doubling down on investments in sectors that are on the decline, using that money to build the infrastructure that we’re going to need for the green economy and also to create the jobs of the future. We definitely want to see a green transition, a green economy.
YKr: What does transitioning to a green economy mean exactly?
AP: That’s things like creating a national electricity grid that’s capable of transporting renewable energy across the country. It’s about creating a national system of electric charging stations.
One of the most important things we can do with this money is use it to do the math of retrofitting our existing buildings. A large percentage of the greenhouse gases that we emit come from buildings. Those are just some of the examples.
YKr: How do you address the issue of internet and connectivity in the North and remote communities?
AP: To my mind, that has become an essential service, and if it’s an essential service, it should be accessible to Canadians wherever they live in the country.
I’m also interested in what we can do to diversify the economies. To make it easier for local economies to move away from resource-based and extraction-based economies and also things that will help to attract and retain population. And all of those things are supported when you have high-speed internet. So it’s got to be right at the top of everybody’s wish list for what to be spending money on during the recovery period whenever we get there.
It’s unlikely that we’re going to be emerging from the pandemic until next year when there may be some kind of effective treatment or a vaccine; kids will have to go to school; we’re going to need to rely more and more on tele-medicine; we’re going to be doing more work from home; people need to communicate with their families. It’s just very clear how essential this service is and if there are people in Canada who don’t have it then we are really creating different classes of citizens and residents in Canada.
YKr: How would you address the issue of access to healthy food and high costs of food in remote communities?
AP: Food security is also one of those things that was a challenge already before, and is a real challenge now. The people on our team who live in Northern communities and rural communities were saying that it is really important to do things that encourage local food production, whether that is greenhouses, whether that is promoting a return to local fisheries, whether that is doing what we should have done all along: respecting Indigenous autonomy and self-determination, and allowing traditional hunting practices, including the seal hunt, to remain and be supported. It’s really about allowing local people, who know best, to have the support and capacity to implement locally developed solutions.
This is a really big reason that I’m a big supporter of guaranteed livable income as well. It’s not just a universal basic income but it’s truly livable. It takes into account local realities. It takes into account the true cost of living within the region and it ensures that you have an income to meet all of your, not just basic needs, but enough to live in dignity. Enough to allow you to plan and train and reorient yourself if that’s what you want to do. So guaranteed livable income is definitely a part of the piece of the solution in food security.
I think the next logical question to a solution like guaranteed livable income is how, as a country, we fund a program like that?
AP: It is by ending subsidies in the fossil fuel sector, for instance, increasing corporate tax rates, by recuperating the money that is being kept in tax havens, and just by a whole host of things that would allow us not to raise taxes but to be able to find the money that would allow us to fund those programs.
It’s important to keep in mind, when we’re creating new social programs or enhancing the ones that we have, we really have to look at the full cost of inaction. When we’re talking about how do we pay for GLI and what is it going to cost, we also have to ask ourselves how much is it costing us not to have it: in terms of healthcare, in terms of incarceration, in terms of lower productivity, and all the other things that comes when people are working in either precarious jobs or not working at all and having to worry and stress about meeting their basic needs. Those things always get under-accounted for when you’re talking about these programs, but the cost is real.
You pay one way or the other. It costs something to incarcerate someone. It costs actually a lot, more than it would to give that person a job with a living wage. Health care is expensive, and mental health is part of health care. People are suffering with mental health problems that are completely avoidable but associated with things like affordability issues. You have to add those up, you have to actually put a dollar figure on it, what do those things cost, what does society lose, and then you have to ask yourself then, how much is this program actually costing us compared to that reality?
YKr: When it comes to suspicions of institutional racism from the RCMP, how best can we move forward?
AP: Many people in Canada are not aware of how dire the statistics are. Sixty per cent of the people that had been killed by the RCMP, for instance, over, I believe, it was an eight-year period, are Indigenous. That is just a shocking and alarming statistic.
There is no question that there is systemic racism in policing in general, that includes the RCMP. It was really concerning to hear the commissioner of the RCMP initially insist that systemic racism did not exist in policing. Anyone who looks at the statistics can see that it does, and it’s Black and Indigenous people who are being worst impacted by that racism.
We want to see a reduction in the amount we’re investing in police services, including the RCMP. There are things that the RCMP are doing that police services should not be involved in. They should not be involved for example in wellness checks.
We want to see the money reallocated to community and social services and new emergency response services that can make the first response when there are emergency responses that don’t require security forces, but do require someone to respond.
We also need a national database that tracks police use of force at every level, that is aggregated so that we can track race and other identities, to really understand the scale of the issue.
YKr: Even in this short call we’ve covered a lot of ground, so I was wondering how you respond to people who say that the Green Party just has one platform and couldn’t actually win as a result.
AP: I say that I respectfully disagree. I think about this moment in time and I look at the pandemic and think about the things that we have lost, I lost my father during this period. We have another member of our team who just lost her grandmother today, both of them died in long-term care facilities. In my father’s case, like many thousands of Canadians at this stage who lost their lives because it just simply is inadequate and we’ve known that for a long time but we’ve never done anything about it. People are asking themselves very profound questions of what society do we want to live in, what priorities do we have, what values do we place on human life. And I believe that they’re going to be looking to parties that have consistently been prioritizing people. That includes the Green Party.
The things that we have seen that have made a big difference in this time and the things that are going to leave us less at risk during the next crisis, like guaranteed liveable income, or universal pharma care, for instance. Those are Green policies, those are things that we were talking about in the last election when no one else wanted to get on board, so the things that I think Canadians will be associating the Green Party with, or I’m certainly going to encourage them to associate us with, is not even the climate emergency, it’s really all of these progressive social policies that are making a difference and could make a difference. And the climate emergency, we can never forget it. I think it would be a mistake for the Green Party to be so worried about coming across as a one policy party that we just stop talking about it, because it is still an emergency and we need to make sure that we’re tying it in and talking about how this is all part of being a party that cares about people and puts people first and is always looking for policies that give people faith and allow them to live in dignity in a sustainable way.