In a series of interviews with candidates in next month’s federal election, the Times sat down with Lorraine Rekmans of the Green Party. Lorraine co-owns Rekmans Automotive in Kemptville, and has run for the Greens in previous elections. We started by asking her about a common concern.
Lorraine: We are getting elected. Given that we’re still in the First Past the Post system, it’s a monumental achievement that Greens are getting elected. We’ve managed to overcome that system. We have Paul Manley in B.C., and Peter Bevan-Baker in PEI. We really thought we were going to have a Green Premier in PEI – it was that close. We’ve got Mike Schreiner in Toronto. It is happening. We have momentum. There’s a lot of people saying: “I’m voting Green and it’s not a wasted vote. I’m going to go with what I feel, and go with what I want.” They vote, and that is when people get elected: when people vote for them.
NG Times: Do you see a difference in the way people are now responding to the Greens?
Lorraine: I think in 2011 we had a tremendous response, if you go back to the results in the general election. The Greens did very well, and I would equate that with Elizabeth May being in the national leaders’ debate. She was really successful in that debate and got the message out across the country. People were aware of the Green Party and its platform and leader. We saw our numbers rise in the polls. Then, in the last election, in 2015, she was excluded from the leaders’ debate. But now she is in the televised national debate on October 7, and she is going to impress a lot of Canadians. We know we’re gaining in popularity because of the climate crisis. People want action, and we see our numbers going up. The numbers are there, and yet, when I talk to people, they’re skeptical about the Green Party.
NG Times: The Green Party slogan is “Not right. Not left. Forward together”. What does it mean?
Lorraine: We’re progressive, and so our slogan is that we’re moving forward, but moving together. It’s inclusive, and not a divisive kind of politics. I think populism is forcing some parties to be exclusive, or opposed to some other Canadian group. It’s like these parties are staking a space where they’re against something. Greens are saying that we’re in such an extreme situation with the climate crisis that we have to go forward with all hands on deck. Everyone has to be engaged. Everyone has to be included. The United Nations is telling us that there will be no resolution unless every solution is based on social justice. Environmental sustainability and social justice are interlinked, inseparable. Now, every seed that we’ve planted since the 1980s is coming to fruition. We have been pushing for action on climate change for decades. We are in a crisis now, and this is our time.
NG Times: But is the Green Party more than just an environmental pressure group?
Lorraine: We are a party with a plan on climate action that has been in the making for more than twenty years. We are arriving at a time in history when the people need those ideas. It’s an opportunity to build an economy in a crisis situation. We can build an economy that is Green: it’s a massive shift. Our platform is based on the need for everybody to come together and shift to action on climate, to rebuild our infrastructure in Canada so that it’s carbon neutral. It’s an opportunity of a lifetime to create employment, to generate social well-being, to take action against this climate crisis.
Voter turnout will really make a difference, if people will actually come out to the polls. There’s a segment of the population that are completely turned off, they’ve had enough and don’t want to even talk about politics. They want no part of it. But if we want to change anything, we have to make use of this imperfect system.
We are trying to attract the voters by telling them the actions that we will take, not by listing all the deficiencies of every government that came before. We are offering them something. We are going to introduce a guaranteed minimum living income. If we form government, we’re going to alleviate poverty in this country. People have gotten bogged down in negativity: we don’t need it, we don’t need to feed it. The negativity will turn people off and tune them out. But what is your mind-set when you’re voting? Are you voting out of anger? Are you voting against something? Are we always voting for the candidate that we think is going to win? Are we voting for what’s popular, or are we voting for what we believe in?
I would just say: vote for something. Vote for what you want. Don’t refuse to vote because of things you don’t want. If you’re going to the polls to vote, put your X beside what you really want.