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Green leader touts candidate, unveils agriculture policy in Nelson

John Boivin Local Journalism Initiative
By John Boivin Local Journalism Initiative
March 30th, 2017

The Green Party’s candidate for the Nelson-Creston riding will also be the party’s chief critic for agriculture policy in the run up to election day, the Green’s leader said Wednesday.

Andrew Weaver made the comment while announcing the party’s agricultural policy in Nelson to reporters and a handful of party faithful.

Kim Charlesworth brings a wealth of experience and knowledge about food security and agricultural systems to the role, he said. 

“We’ve heard a lot of concern about access to land for farmers,” said Weaver, when asked why he chose Charlesworth for the ag critic role. “I’ve had stories come my way from people who want to make farming their living but can’t get land or find land to farm.

“I consulted with Kim, she had lots of ideas, so I said ‘help me’.”

Weaver and Charlesworth released details of the Green’s platform, designed to encourage agriculture, help it be sustainable and competitive.

Among the pledges, the Greens say they’ll spend $30 million over four years to promote food production on Agricultural Land Reserve land, build farm apprenticeship programs for schools, and help develop food marketing programs. A green government would also introduce new rules to control speculation and development on ALR land.

“Farm land is under threat from developers, from speculators, and the wealthy who wish to appropriate it to construct elaborate country estates,” he said.

The Greens would also re-establish agricultural bureaus to fund research and support local farmers and work with the industry to address labour shortages.

“Global forces like population increase, climate change and technological advancement mean that BC needs a plan for its future,” said Weaver. “BC agriculture has the opportunity to provide food security for the people here, and beyond, if we make the smart investments today and nurture success tomorrow.”

Charlesworth, who’s been active in developing sustainable food systems in the region for a decade, says the provincial  government has been ignoring agricultural issues. She says that has a real affect on the economy of the Kootenays.

“It’s almost impossible for small farmers to make a living. Under the current provincial government, BC has the lowest spending on agriculture of any province in Canada as a percentage of its agricultural GDP.

“In fact, in 2015-2016 the federal government spent more on agricultural programs in BC than the BC government did.”

That neglect means farmers have had to go it alone, she says.

‘The Creston Valley is a major agricultural area in the province, yet it has only been through the dogged determination of the citizens there that they have been able to develop the agricultural output of that valley themselves. “

The Greens are hoping for a breakthrough in this election, and have targeted Nelson-Creston as a winnable riding.

The party elected Weaver as their first MLA in 2013 in the Victoria riding of Oak Bay-Gordon Head. He says he’s heard from people on the campaign trail that they’re fed up, and looking for change. 

He points to Yukon and Alberta as recent examples of third parties being voted in to form majority governments.

“So we’re seeing it, in certain areas more than others, but there is a movement developing,” he said. “We’re seeing it in our donations, we’re seeing it in our membership and in our volunteers, and I would not put it out of question that on May the 10th people will wake up and go ‘wow that was an interesting election’.”

Weaver says the Greens are trying to take a higher road this election.

“We will offer people a vision of hope. You’ll hear it in each of our policy announcements,” he said. “The other parties will go negative on each other, and the NDP will go negative on me, and they continue to do so, the bullies in the Twittersphere and social media, and we’re just going to move on and offer a vision of hope.

“There’s an anxiety, people are anxious and they want to have hope and we will offer that with our platform.”

He says the Green party has seen a huge increase in public support, and has a comparable war chest this election to the NDP. That support is grassroots democracy in action, Weaver says, and has only grown since the company announced it wouldn’t take corporate or union donations.

“We have door knockers all over the province because they are trying to reclaim their democracy. We have hundreds and hundreds of volunteers- I’ve seen many here in Nelson-Creston. We have them all over Vancouver Island, the Cariboo, Kamloops.

“So it is a very exciting and very real change that is happening and that growth has been tremendous since we banned corporate donations.”

In 2013 the Greens came in third in the Nelson-Creston riding, with about 21 per cent of the vote, compared to 51 per cent for the NDP. But Charlesworth, who has previous political experience as a Nelson City Councillor, says she’s confident that support is growing for the Greens.

“In the last election the candidate started with nine per cent and ended with 21 per cent of the popular vote,” she pointed out. “Andrew won his seat on the Island starting at nine per cent, with 40 percent of the vote, and he had the highest voter turnout in the province.

“As we’ve been out door knocking, we see the appetite people have for wanting change, and unfortunately the NDP have failed to present an inspiring vision for change. The Green Party has presented an inspiring vision for change. And it is a realistic path and platform for getting from here to there, to bring economic prosperity to rural areas as well as populated areas.

“So yeah, we’re running to win.”

BC voters go to the polls on May 9.

Categories: GeneralPolitics

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