Federal election candidate Q&A: Iain Currie, Green Party of Canada

Iain Currie, Green Party of Canada. Photo provided.

SPIN will be highlighting each of the major party’s candidates ahead of the 2021 federal election. Questions were composed with the help of you, the readers. Voting day is Sept. 20 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and can be done at the Sun Peaks Grand hotel in Sun Peaks.

More on how to vote can be read by clicking here.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

SPIN: What is your connection to, or knowledge of, Sun Peaks and do you feel issues affecting rural and remote communities like Sun Peaks in the Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo region are reflected in your platform? How will you ensure rural issues aren’t overlooked in Ottawa?

Iain Currie: I was born and raised in Kamloops. So, I was at Sun Peaks before such a thing existed back in the day when Tod Mountain was the local ski hill and I would go up there with school. I’ve been going up there as an adult, I’m very familiar with the area and know lots of people who live at Sun Peaks.

I certainly understand that Sun Peaks is unlike some of the rural communities around here. Obviously, tourism is a big part of the economy and I recognize that the pandemic in particular has been a real challenge for everyone involved in the tourism sector. I also understand climate change is a big concern for people in Sun Peaks; you need snow and skiers up there in the winter. I also recognize that Sun Peaks and the rural area around there has all the challenges of other rural areas but to some extent are being forgotten by the government. 

You’re at the center of the area which is most at risk for fire dangers and the government spends a lot of time and resources worrying about people in municipalities and big cities, and less time thinking about concerns of rural Canada. So how do I bring that to Ottawa? Well, The Green Party platform has a lot to say about some of the key issues facing rural Canada. Obviously, climate change is a huge one, but let’s get past that for a moment. One of the key parts of our platform that makes a difference compared to parties is our focus on changing the nature of the government’s relationship with the food system. Our focuses are on creating supports for small scale and family farms as opposed to large scale agribusiness, shortening the supply chain, making our food system more resilient and using our support of local agriculture as a way to combat climate change. 

SPIN: Our readers have told us they are interested in combating climate change, and have raised issues regarding stopping the Trans Mountain pipeline, dealing with wildfires and a transition to net-zero emissions. How would you address these concerns in our riding?

Iain Currie: Our party platform contains the most ambitious goals, the most ambitious plan and targets as any of the parties. But, the target that is dictated by the latest science and particularly the reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), about essentially both the huge risks that the whole earth faces. If we don’t keep warming down to one and a half degrees above pre-industrial levels, and we’re butting up against that, so we need to take aggressive action and we’ve got to plan for that. 

But, you know, rather than going through the numbers and the science, I’m not a scientist, I’m a lawyer. I’d like to focus on what the Green Party is focusing on, how we start achieving these goals, as opposed to what candidates have been doing which is a lot of talk and not a lot of action. We’re really lucky in Canada that we now have the four major parties who acknowledged that climate change is a problem, they acknowledge that there are certain steps that are required to address the problem, including a price on carbon. We are in a state now where we can stop arguing about whether the problem is real, stop arguing about taxes versus technology. We all understand that we need both of those things. So, we can start working together to actually decide steps that we can take in response to the science we all agree on. That was a focus in the leaders debate [on Sept. 9] and a focus in my campaign; not thinking differently about climate change, we have all the science and targets we need to meet. We now need to start talking about how we can get together across party lines, ignore the fact there are some political implications of this and instead focus on preserving the planet for my children and hopefully grandchildren one day.

SPIN: The tourism industry has been significantly impacted by the pandemic; Sun Peaks businesses are understaffed due to a reduction in temporary foreign workers and facing steep declines in revenue.  What is something you would do for these businesses in Ottawa?

Iain Currie: Number one, we need to continue the programs that were started at the beginning that support small businesses, and also, workers. Those were programs that were agreed upon by all the parties in a remarkable show of collaboration in the early days of the pandemic. We’re still seeing high numbers of cases, 1,500 in Alberta [Sept. 9]. We’re not out of the pandemic. Talking about ending the supports that are in place to allow small businesses to handle the pandemic, it’s premature. 

Number two, in terms of longer term support to small businesses, the Green Party is the party of small business, so we’ve pointed out over and over again small businesses, like the ones that operate in Sun Peaks, are the engine of the economy and create many more jobs than large businesses. So, we need to focus on family farms as opposed to big agribusiness. We need to keep the small businesses taxes low, we need to shift the burden away from small businesses towards the wealthiest Canadians and prevent the increasing inequality and bring some sense to it, some taxes. In addition, particularly to communities like Sun Peaks that rely on tourism and temporary foregin workers, we also need to reform the Canadian immigration and refugee system. We need to anticipate that in the future, there’s also going to be millions if not billions of climate refugees and increasing issues that presently the government of Canada is not forward thinking about in regards to this problem. We need to do away with exploitative foreign worker systems and put in supports for the people who come into Canada with an opportunity to be citizens and contribute. Of course, we also need to support and expand on the students coming to work at Sun Peaks for a summer and those sorts of programs. But, we also need to reform labour conditions so that we’re in a position for Canadians to have jobs in the new economy and growing sectors which will influence the areas around Sun Peaks in order to combat the climate crisis.  

SPIN: Affordable housing is a major issue in Sun Peaks. Development is ongoing but that doesn’t necessarily mean minimum wage workers can afford standard living situations. Does your party have a platform on this issue and how would you like to see it implemented in a place like Sun Peaks?

Iain Currie: The Green Party proposes that the government re-engage with the rental sector. In the 1960s and 1970s the federal government was a key player in financing the purpose built rental housing, and encouraging people rather than speculating in the short-term, and flipping properties; the government supported people who were going to make longer term investments in supplying rental housing. So, we’re proposing the federal government re engage in that sector, that it has explicit policy of supporting the nonprofit housing sector and the cost cooperative housing sector, and be a financing partner with people, companies and nonprofits in particular who are engaging in building rental housing and affordable rental housing to make that a profitable option. Rather than having someone build monster houses occupying huge tracts of land, obviously we’re not going to prevent that. What we’re going to do is encourage the opposite through financial incentives, cooperative nonprofits and other people engaged in the rental sector to build rental units. The other parties are making lots of promises about making housing, like first houses for young Canadians more affordable; those are popular because everyone wants to own a home. The difficulty is some of the proposals that have been put forward are just election promises, which don’t consider long-term. If you, for example, give people substantial tax credits, if you lengthen the amortization period on mortgages, the history of that is that contributes to the housing prices going up. I’m not an economist, but the government of Canada should be guided by economic thought, as opposed to making these short-term promises that they can fix the housing problem. We need to make sure we remember the lessons of 2008. We need to not contribute to the government’s bubble effect and drive prices up. That’s my concern about many of the promises that are being made in this election. Instead, let’s focus on something that is proven to work, investments in rental housing, and let’s bring back some programs that actually have created housing in the city of Vancouver.

SPIN: What would you like Sun Peaks voters to know about you?

Iain Currie: I’d like readers to know I’m born and raised in this area. I’m a father and a husband, a lawyer and a writer. I am in this election race in order to be a voice for the future of my children. What’s different about the Green Party is the Green Party doesn’t whip up votes in Parliament. It’s not a party that has a system of discipline. It’s a case where if you send me to Ottawa, I will be representing the people of Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo, I won’t be representing my leader, I won’t be representing my party, I’ll be representing you. I am driven by six core Green principles, and those principles and the interests of the constituents in the Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo will be my only focus. Sending a Green to Ottawa will send a message that while we’ve been the center of awful things in this riding, like wildfires and the heat dome, things like 215 graves of children found in Kamloops at the residential school, things like the hospital losing a large number of nurses over the last few weeks from burn out. A woman died in emergency [department] before she was even seen by doctors. Now, people have a chance to say ‘listen, we want something better, we need something better’ and voting for one of the major parties who have been pushing the status quo for the last 154 years, in the case of the Liberals and Conservatives, and over the last 60 years in the case of the NDP. The status quo is not acceptable. We need action. We need change, and we need a new voice. We need to send that message and sending me to Ottawa will send that message.

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