There’s been a lot of discussion around a possible breakthrough for the Green Party of Canada this upcoming election—or a “Green wave,” if you will.
On one hand, the party is facing an uphill battle in the next few months. It has only won two ridings in its entire history, and an August 6 poll shows the party in fourth place nationally with 10 percent of the vote.
However, there’s also evidence to suggest that it could also make some serious inroads this election, or at least win more seats.
Back in June, a poll showed 44 percent of respondents saying they were considering voting Green, with nine per cent of them saying they would vote Green if they had to vote on that day.
Likewise, Paul Manly made headlines back in May when he emerged as the winner in the Nanaimo-Ladysmith by-election, and provincial Greens won seats in recent elections in B.C., Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick.
And, perhaps most notably, climate change is a much more significant issue in this election. In one poll, 82 percent of Canadians said it’s a serious problem, and the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report from October publicized to great effect the potentially catastrophic effects of a 1.5 C of warming on an average global basis since the start of the Industrial Revolution.
In B.C., discontent around the approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline could also pose a threat to some Liberal ridings.
Jesse Brown is hoping that Vancouver Centre will be one of them.
Brown is the Green party’s candidate for Vancouver Centre, and he’s aiming to unseat Liberal heavyweight Hedy Fry, the 26-year MP who’s managed to win eight elections in the riding.
Fry’s experience makes Brown an underdog in this race, but he’s confident that his standing as a fresh new progressive face can win over her constituents.
“I can connect with voters in a really authentic way that I don't think Hedy Fry can anymore,” he said. “She’s done a lot for the community, but the time for change is now.”
Brown is new to politics, but he’s lived in the West End for 11 years and worked in it for even longer.
He’s the executive director of the Vancouver Friends for Life Society, an organization that supports people living with life-interrupting illnesses such as HIV and cancer. Before that, he was executive director at Youth Co., a youth-driven advocacy group aimed at reducing the stigma around HIV and hepatitis C.
According to Brown, the biggest challenge facing human society is the climate crisis. He’s concerned by what he sees as a “lack of leadership” from the government on this issue.
“It’s all talk,” he said, referring to the Liberal party’s environmental efforts.
“They're not committed to this issue. It’s a marketing strategy, and it worked out the last election. The Green party is really the only party that’s committed to action on climate change. You can't declare a climate emergency and then the next day spend $9 billion on a pipeline expansion project.”
Brown believes Canada’s economy needs to decarbonize, pointing to the Green party’s recently unveiled plan to transition oil and gas workers into renewable energy jobs. He highlighted how Vancouver’s economy has many clean industries such as health care, film, science, and tourism, demonstrating the possibilities of a clean economy.
“If the Liberals were really serious about climate change, they will be investing that money in renewable energy,” he said. “They wouldn't be supporting the B.C. NDP’s plan to expand LNG in northern B.C., and they would actually listen to Vancouverites and realize that Vancouver’s the city of the future.”
Vancouver Centre is also centre of the city’s LGBT community, and Brown wants to make plenty of advancements for Canada’s LGBT population. For one, he wants to see conversion therapy practices against minors added to Canada’s Criminal Code.
“It's actually abuse of children, in my opinion and in many professionals’ opinion,” he said. “It's shocking that LBGT youth still have to undergo these therapies.”
Likewise, Brown also wants to create a national HIV treatment and prevention strategy; raise awareness about the transgender community, increase accessibility of hormone therapy for transgender individuals, support LGBT refugees fleeing persecution, and remove HIV nondisclosure laws from the Criminal Code.
Another issue that motivated Brown to run is Vancouver’s affordability crisis, particularly around housing.
“I'm a renter with a family. I am in a good-paying job. My partner’s in a good-paying job, and the city’s still too unaffordable to own a home that would have enough space," he said. "We’re the epicentre of this housing crisis that's a national issue, and we need to ensure that people living or working in Vancouver can live in the vicinity of Vancouver.”
Solutions he’s proposing to address this include building more co-op housing, investing in affordable purpose-built rental buildings, and developing a guaranteed liveable income program. Outside of housing, he also wants to make tuition free, cancel all outstanding student debt that exceeds $10,000, and go after telecom companies to ensure more affordable rates for consumers.
On many of the issues he’s campaigning on, Brown feels that Fry is “out of touch”.
“Just being a member of Parliament for as long as she has, she doesn't know what it's like to be a working person in the riding anymore,” he said. “She doesn't have to deal with issues around affordability, around housing insecurity. She's not raising children in this city. I am, and I'm dealing with all of these issues.”
Brown also brought up his children when discussing the impacts of climate change on the future.
“Twenty years from now, when the planetary death spiral begins as a result of this inaction, I'm going to see the effects. My daughters will be just starting out their careers.”
(It’s worth noting that Fry has children, including Vancouver councillor Pete Fry, who, ironically, is a member of the Vancouver Greens.)
Although the NDP is also trying to pick up environmentally minded votes, Brown believes the Green party is the only party that can authentically work on addressing the climate crisis.
“We can still make progress on climate change. We can still reverse it. The Greens have the plan to do that, it’s called 'Mission Possible'. And it's possible, but it's going to be a lot of hard work. And I think Canadians are ready for a progressive alternative to the status quo.”