by Deron Johnston
It’s not often that the leader of a national political party comes to North Grenville. The leader of the Green Party of Canada, Elizabeth May, was in Kemptville this past Sunday night in support of local Green Party candidate, Lorraine Rekmans, who is running in the upcoming by-election for the seat that was vacated by the untimely passing of Conservative Gord Brown, who had held the seat since 2004.
This was an outstanding opportunity for “Greens” to come out to meet the party leader and show support for Lorraine in a fairly informal environment, with first the leader, and then the candidate speaking, followed by a period of questions from attendees. The event was held at the North Grenville District High School, with a crowd of approximately 60 people on hand. Organizers were unsure how many people were going to attend, as the event came together very quickly. People came from across the region, including Brockville and even outside the riding to attend.
Respected across party lines, Elizabeth May is the M.P. for the riding of Saanich and Gulf Islands (on Vancouver Island) in British Columbia. She is an American-born Canadian who was first elected in 2011 despite facing stiff competition from a Conservative cabinet minister in her riding. Elizabeth is currently the longest serving party leader in either federal or provincial politics, as she celebrated her 12th anniversary as leader this year.
As you may suspect, climate change was the key part of the conversation of the evening. However, Elizabeth made a point of stating that she and the Green Party have also worked on other important issues, such as poverty elimination, affordable housing, and social justice initiatives. She specifically mentioned the Green Party’s policy on a Minimum Basic Income program that was a key component in the party’s platform for the last election.
Being the former Executive Director of the Sierra Club from 1989 to 2006, she recalls first getting to know the candidate when Lorraine was the Executive Director of the National Aboriginal Forestry Association. The two have known each other and become friends over that twenty years, according to Elizabeth, and she is clearly an ardent fan of our local Green Party candidate.
Lorraine herself is of Algonquin decent and a member of Serpent River First Nation. She is also a second-generation survivor of the Residential School System. Having been the Indigenous Affairs critic since 2008 for the Green Party, Lorraine has been a tireless advocate for Canada’s First Nations and has extensive experience working in natural resources. Having represented the Green Party in this riding in the 2015 federal election, the highly respected community member is excited to grow the presence of the party beyond the 3.7% of the local vote they received in 2015.
Not surprisingly, her speech began with a statement about how the evening was taking place on un-ceded Algonquin territory (land which is not covered by any treaty). Among other things, Lorraine spoke passionately about her interest in working with anyone, no matter the party, who understood the sense of urgency to “do the right thing” around increased climate change, and the need to transition to a low carbon economy.
Lorraine mused that living here, having grandchildren here, working here, and being invested in the community, have led to her heart becoming firmly planted. Considering her background in forestry and her ancestry, it was a very appropriate statement and one with which no one in the room would have argued.