Many years ago when we lived in the city we got press coverage for our many various environmental initiatives like how little garbage we produced (one bag every 8 weeks), choosing to ride our bikes instead of driving, and that kind of thing. Frank De Jong, who was the leader of the provincial Green Party, came to our house regularly for dinner and to ask me to run for the Green Party. I always declined. When we moved to this off-grid piece of paradise Frank came here and asked me again, and again I declined. Michelle and I were burned out on the whole environmental movement and we had decided to just quietly live as responsibly as we could. We were going to go quietly into the night.
In 2003 my uncle convinced me to get involved with workshops he was doing across the province on renewable energy, which in turn lead to us editing, and writing, and laying out his magazine “Private Power” and then convincing Bill Kemp to write “The Renewable Energy Handbook.” And like Michael Coreleone said in The Godfather, “Every time I try to get out, they pull me back in.” So for the last decade, Michelle and I have published books and done presentations about living sustainably, including the workshops we offer here at the house, and organized Green Energy Fairs, etc.
Late last summer the Green Party asked me to speak at a fundraiser. I said no. I had spent the summer trying to grow food in the midst of an epic drought and I was burned out … and depressed about the whole climate change thing. I had given in to the laziness of despair.
Then I saw a video of U.S. Green Party Presidential candidate Jill Stein getting arrested trying to get into the debates and I thought, what a whiner Cam. This was around the time that Green Party of Canada Leader Elizabeth May was voted “Parliamentarian of the Year.” And I thought if these fantastic role models could keep plugging away, so can I. So I finally agreed to talk at a Green Party fundraiser.
The fundraiser in November seemed very last minute and I had sort of resigned myself to talking to the 10 people who showed up. But lo and behold, 80 people showed up! There was an incredible dinner provided. The room was full of activity and really positive energy. I did my usual low carbon spiel then asked if they wanted to hear my take on the wind debate. In Ontario there has been vigorous pushback against the provincial government’s progressive Green Energy Act, which provides fair incentives for solar and wind projects. Wind turbines have been demonized, by a few people and in the press, as causing horrific health effects, as being gigantic blenders shredding every avian creature for miles, altering the climate and attracting wayward asteroids to the planet. Okay I made up that last one, but the response has been to wind turbines has been, well bizarre. So I suggested because they identified themselves as “green,” they were probably getting the same pushback and perhaps they’d like some talking points.
So I went through my points in which I attempt to put a true cost on our nuclear plants where insurance, disposal of waste and decommissioning have yet to show up on anyone’s electricity bill. These costs will be tens of billions dollars, with a legacy of thousands of years of lethal waste.
And the response was very enthusiastic. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever had such a boisterous round of applause to any of my talks. Apparently going from a rant to a tirade can work sometimes. It was at this time that Lauder Smith, who has been a regular Green Party representative at my Green Energy Fairs and has hassled me mercilessly to be their candidate stood up and said “…and that’s why Cam should be our Green Party Candidate for Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington.”
And that is where I find myself today, the candidate for the Green Party in a very large, rural, and very Conservative riding. Hence the quote, “I will not give in to the laziness of despair.” I’m back in the game, for now.
In most ridings in Canada the Green Party comes in 4th place behind the (right leaning) Conservatives, the (left but sort of right center) Liberals, and the (pretty left) New Democratic Party. Our province has been governed by the Liberal Party for about a decade. Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty recently stepped down because he had become unpopular, even though he had basically given everyone everything they wanted for the last 10 years. Now the province has a $12 billion deficit and a debt of about $250+ billion. Nice work if you can find it. Make a mess and then bail.
McGuinty’s successor Kathleen Wynne finds herself in a minority situation and will bring in a budget in April. The opposition Conservatives have said that they will vote against the budget, which leaves the NDP holding the balance of power. The NDP have asked for lots of stuff including a 15% reduction in car insurance rates. I look at the whole mess as Nero fiddling while Rome burns. In my view there is only one issue, and that’s preserving a habitable planet, but just like in the U.S. Presidential election, climate change and a response to it are not even on the table.
And so I will be bringing this issue to the electorate in my riding and putting forth a plan that will see a price put on carbon in a revenue neutral way, with a corresponding reduction in their income tax. Most will see it as simply an evil carbon tax and will dismiss it. My challenge will be how to frame climate change in a way that will speak to people. How do you convince people that in this case their personal self-interest is not in their or their children’s’ long-term interest? How do you convince people that we must maintain “the commons” so that life on the planet is sustainable, or at least possible? How will I react to voters who are really angry about wind turbines and who are convinced that solar panels have caused their electricity bills to rise (which when you look at the numbers has really had minimal effect)?
I have been reading the Green Party of Ontario Policy Book to familiarize myself with more of our platform, even though my gut level response is simply to answer “price on carbon, price on carbon, price on carbon” to every issue. I have been attending planning meetings of the Green Party, which has taken me away from blogging as well lately.
The Liberal Government could fall in April if they don’t give the NDP enough of what they want. An election could be called for the spring. Or summer. Or fall. Who knows? It doesn’t matter, it will be bad timing for me. I’ll be planting, or watering, or harvesting or getting “The Sensible Prepper” to the printers. But really, what’s the use of me focusing on my own personal stuff when my reading has convinced me the planet is in imminent peril and we must act aggressively and act now?
After I am elected and serve my time in the Provincial Legislature it is my intention to take over for Elizabeth May federally and become Prime Minister of Canada. And Canada will become the “greenest” country on the planet! A green tide will sweep the planet! Dogs and cats will live together in peace and harmony. And everyone will get free donuts! It’s gonna be a wild ride!