Green Party leadership candidates debate food security and the North’s economy

The nine candidates vying to replace Elizabeth May as the leader of the Green Party held their fourth leadership debate on Monday with a focus on the North.

The candidates debated issues like food security and the northern economy over Zoom. N.W.T. MLA Rylund Johnson and former Yukon Green candidate Lenore Morris moderated the 90-minute debate.

The majority of the nine candidates agreed on ways to improve food security across northern Canada, most of which centred around rehauling the Nutrition North program and the creation of a universal basic income.

Former Ontario environment minister Glen Murray argued the program should be controlled by territorial and Indigenous governments instead of Ottawa.

We’re being condescending and colonial.– Glen Murray, Green Party leadership candidate

“We have a totally colonial system that basically subsidizes corporations, northern stores, Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonald’s, and undermines the efforts in Fort Good Hope and [Fort] Providence to build a local economy where people are actually growing their own food.” Murray said.

“We’re being condescending and colonial and we’re not listening to the dozens of communities that have their own solutions.”

Environmental and human rights lawyer Dimitri Lascaris and immigration lawyer Meryam Haddad both agreed the program should be expanded to include subsidies for gardening and hunting supplies.

All of the candidates agreed that more money should be invested in traditional harvesting programs and local greenhouse initiatives. 

More sustainable northern economy

The candidates were also aligned when it came to the issue of whether or not the North should transition away from a resource-based economy.

All of them argued the importance of moving toward a more sustainable and diversified economy.

Tech entrepreneur Judy Green and Ottawa-based lawyer Andrew West stressed that high-speed internet is essential for northerners to be able to participate in the worldwide economy and receive quality education. West also called for more investment in green energy resources.

The nine candidates vying to replace Elizabeth May as the leader of the Green Party held their fourth leadership debate on Monday on Zoom. (Hilary Bird/CBC)

Lascaris pushed for better investment in commercial fishing industries, tourism and arts and crafts.

Better investment into the North’s tourism economy post COVID-19 was also brought up by the only northern candidate, Yellowknife emergency room physician Dr. Courtney Howard.

Howard said tourism was “really ramping up” in the N.W.T. before the pandemic.

Howard said she doesn’t know if airplane travel will be widely used post-pandemic, and mentioned electric vehicles eventually achieving self-driving abilities.

“If we have electric vehicle charging stations at reliable intervals, people can, in a couple of years, conceivably fall asleep in Edmonton and end up here,” Howard said.

“I think that that could help us rebuild our tourism economy in a way that is low carbon.” 

Voting this fall

The leadership candidates have two more scheduled debates focusing on British Columbia and Ontario.

They had three previous debates focusing on Quebec, the Prairies and Atlantic Canada earlier this month.

Green party members will be able to elect the candidate of their choice when online polls open on Sept. 26.