Written by: Alex Harris, SFU Student
The Green Party of Canada held its biennial national meeting from September 28 to 30 at the Westin Bayshore in downtown Vancouver. The three-day event comes with less than thirteen months until the 2019 federal election, where Greens are hoping to ride a wave of recent provincial victories to increase their federal seat count in Ottawa.
Frequent refrains throughout the weekend included an emphasis on Indigenous reconciliation and engagement as well as giving a voice to those who traditionally have had difficulty being heard in government, such as youth and independent businesses.
“This isn’t about gaining power, it’s about empowerment,” said Green Party leader Elizabeth May during her keynote address to Saturday’s convention crowd. “It’s time for the truth about corporate rule, the truth about electoral reform, the truth about reconciliation, and the truth about the climate crisis.”
In an interview with The Peak, national youth coordinator Isabella Robinson emphasized the importance of the under-30 demographic for the Green’s 2019 federal campaign and how the party has made room for youth voices through its Young Greens council.
“The Young Greens council is now a governance body within the party which makes decisions and advises the party on the strategic direction. Since moving to this model the Young Greens have seen a growth in their membership base,” noted Robinson.
Robinson says Green policy proposals such as free tuition and electoral reform in particular have been resonating with students. “The Green Party would like to erase student debt and offer free post-secondary education to all Canadians. We also believe in banning unpaid internships as we all deserve to be paid for our work.”
When it comes to jobs for new university graduates, Robinson said the Greens plan to tackle this issue through investment in certain industries. “We believe in creating jobs through investing in healthcare, education, and renewable energy.”
Proposals for the Greens’ 2019 election platform also came to a vote at the convention, including a pitch for government divestment from fossil fuels, forcing polluters to be accountable for clean-up costs, and constitutional recognition for Indigenous and treaty rights. These policies passed the convention vote and will now be put to the general membership for a final ratification vote.
The Green line-up of speakers included many from both the scientific and activist community. The convention’s opening night featured an address from Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, and Dr. Thomas Homer-Dixon, professor in the Centre for Environment and Business.
Homer-Dixon stressed the need to engage the public through a meaningful focus on scientific facts and a realistic assessment of the path forward, particularly when it comes to climate change issues.
Although he did not speak, environmentalist David Suzuki was also present. “You know you have a great lineup of speakers when you have David Suzuki here and all he wants is to be in the audience,” quipped May.
Green politicians currently hold one seat federally, and nine seats in provincial governments. The next federal election takes place on October 21, 2019.
With files from Global News.