SFU professor Lynne Quarmby describes her entry into politics as a candidate for the Green Party of Canada as “a sacrifice”.
“It’s one that I feel moved to make at this time because we really need to be taking urgent action on climate change and on restoring our democracy, and I think those two things go hand in hand,” the long-time scientist and climate activist told the Straight by phone.
Her history of activism recently culminated in getting arrested on Burnaby Mountain to protest Kinder Morgan’s pipeline expansion plan.
“I think the experience on Burnaby Mountain really demonstrated to me that I had taken my citizenship as far as it was possible,” she said.
“I felt that all my letters and all my protesting, and even my civil disobedience, was just not being heard, that political power has become so concentrated in a...very small, homogeneous group of people around Harper, that the only way to really make change, the only step that was left, was for me to stop complaining about the politicians and to get myself to Ottawa.”
That’s what she’s aiming to do by running as a Green party candidate in Burnaby North-Seymour, a riding where she believes the party has an “excellent” chance of winning.
She's competing for the seat with Conservative candidate Mike Little and Liberal candidate Terry Beech. Declared candidates seeking the NDP nomination for the new riding include former judge Carol Baird Ellan, Trevor Ritchie and Michael Charrois.
Just as it propelled her to enter politics, Kinder Morgan’s proposal to nearly triple the capacity of its Trans Mountain pipeline will also be a focus of her campaign, which she is launching today (January 22) with Green MP Elizabeth May.
Quarmby's concerns about the company’s plan include “the fact that we do not have a national energy strategy that considers greenhouse gas emissions, that science is telling us that we need to be leaving a large amount of unextracted fossil fuels in the ground, and instead of doing that, we are accelerating our rate of extraction from the tar sands,” she said.
“And so my very first reason is that we need to pause and consider this before we steamroll ahead, and then the second concern is that there’s no real environmental review of this—nothing substantive at all.”
She also plans to tackle issues including investment in clean tech, affordable housing, employment for youth, childcare, and funding for environmental science.
“I’m very concerned that we have lost so many of our environmental scientists, that the government basically downsized environmental science hugely, and that the few environmental scientists we have left are muzzled,” she said.
“As a scientist, I’m very keen on making a lot of noise in Ottawa about returning support to basic science research—basic, fundamental, curiosity-driven research, and in particular restoring environmental studies.”
She believes that even with a small representation in Parliament, the Greens will be able to “hold a lot of power” after the federal election.
“The Greens are quite happy to work with either the NDP or the Liberals in order to form a balance of power, and if we were to do that, we would negotiate on the basis of two things: support for proportional representation, and real action on climate change," she said. "We don’t need very many seats to be pretty powerful.”