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Taking aim at corporate and union donations

Last week I had the honour of addressing the Union of B.C. Municipalities at their annual convention. This is a condensed version of my speech as published in the Saanich News. It highlights one of our most important policy announcements to date:

The last time I stood before you was in 2013, shortly after I was elected as the MLA for Oak Bay Gordon Head. Now I stand before you as the leader of the B.C. Green Party, a party that has grown dramatically over the last few years – a party that is ready and excitedly awaiting the 2017 provincial election.

Politics wasn’t originally in my career plan. I was a Canada Research Chair at the University of Victoria working in the field of climate science.

Anyone who has attended a public lecture or class that I have given on the topic of global warming will know that I boil the entire issue down to one question.

Do we the present generation owe anything to future generations in terms of the quality of the environment that we leave behind?

It’s a complex question that science cannot answer. But if we do believe that the answer is yes, then we have absolutely no choice but to take action now.

To the same classes and lectures I note that our political leaders do not have to live the long-term consequences of the decisions that they do or don’t make. Yet these very same decisions will have a profound effect on the type of world we leave behind to our children.

I tell the young adults in the audience that it is critical they participate in our democratic institutions and say, “if there are no politicians willing to tackle those problems, you should consider running yourself.”

Eventually, I knew I couldn’t keep doling out that advice if I was not willing to follow it myself.

I care deeply about my community and wanted to do what I could to better it for present and future generations.

But where do we go from here? In the shadows of the massive challenges that we face, our province needs new leadership.

Our government must start thinking about the long-term consequences of our decisions, decisions that put people, rather than vested corporate or union interests or re-election goals first and foremost.

Leaders must have the courage to be honest with British Columbians about the risks and consequences of any government decision.

We need leadership that offers a realistic and achievable vision grounded in hope and real change.

We need leadership that places the interests of the people of British Columbia – not organized union or corporate interests – first and foremost in decision-making.

As a start, political parties must stop accepting corporate and union donations.

Our political parties and their MLAs should not be reduced to puppets controlled by corporate or union masters with a firm grip on their purse strings.

The acceptance of this practice is undermining every sector in our province and I am tired of waiting for the B.C. government to do something about it.

I am tired of listening to the official opposition say they will change the system only if they form government. That’s not leadership.

Leadership means leading by example.

Effective immediately, the B.C. Green Party will no longer accept any corporate or union donations.

We are a party of the people, for the people and that will be mirrored in our funding structure.

Could this move hurt us on the eve of an election? Yes, it could. But real leadership doesn’t come from doing what is easy. It is built on doing what is right.

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