A Hupacasath member who led the fight against the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Act has accepted the Green Party nomination in the newly aligned federal riding of North Island/Powell River.
Brenda Sayers earned a national reputation in the two-and-a-half year court battle to force Ottawa to overturn the contentious treaty. It would allow China to sue Canada for any financial losses resulting from any environmental regulations enacted after FIPPA goes into law.
Sayers said the FIPPA fight has whetted her appetite to take on the Harper Government in Ottawa. When she discovered that the North Island Green Party riding association was seeking a candidate, she made the right contacts and things moved quickly from there.
“I made some phone calls and I made the application for the nomination,” Sayers said. “I was acclaimed last Sunday, May the 24th.”
Sayers, who has served as Financial Administrator at Haahuupayak School since 1996, said Green Party leader and Member of Parliament Elizabeth May has been her inspiration to seek national office and is the role model she hopes to emulate.
“She was a force when Hupacasath was challenging the Canada-China FIPPA, and that’s how I came to know her. She was a stout supporter of Hupacasath, and I admired her because she does things differently from other MPs.”
May provided regular updates to her Saanich & Gulf Islands constituents on the FIPPA legislation and on the court challenge by Hupacasath.
With the North Island riding now re-drawn, incumbent Conservative MP John Duncan has shifted to run in Courtenay-Alberni, while the former Nanaimo-Alberni member, James Lunney, has left the Conservative caucus and will not seek re-election.
The North Island/Powell River riding encompasses a number of Nuu-chah-nulth traditional territories, including Ehattesaht, Nuchatlaht, Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Chek’tles7et’h’and Mowachaht/Muchalaht.
With no incumbent, North Island/Powell River is a four-way horse race pitting Sayers against Rachel Blaney of the NDP, Liberal Peter Schwarzoff and Conservative Lauren Smith.
“I’ll be talking a lot about the economy, because that hits all the concerns that people have, including the environment and including resource extraction,” Sayers said.
One point that the Green Party consistently emphasizes is that while it is focused on protecting the environment, it is not anti-business.
“Greens believe in a sustainable economy, but a green economy,” Sayers said. And Canadians are coming to realize that an economy based on the extraction and export of raw energy is unsustainable, both environmentally and socially, she said.
“We’re creating jobs overseas while we’re losing jobs here. So we have to ask, ‘Why are we creating all this havoc on the environment?’ Yes, it will drive up the [Gross Domestic Product], but what about all the other things the GDP doesn’t measure?”
Sayers believes there is an ongoing shift in Canadian political thinking, and that the governing Conservative Party has alienated many of the voters who grudgingly supported them to keep a handle on the economy.
“People are looking at the Green Party as a party that doesn’t have to toe the party line. We are able to stand up and speak on behalf of our constituents, whatever their concerns. I think people are starting to realize that we have the ability to be more vocal, and to address the issues faster.
“For example, Elizabeth May was the first out of the gate to talk about Bill C-51 (extra powers for national security), the Canada-China [FIPPA] – any kind of policy shift that has negative effects on people. She is more able to address it immediately.”
And that is the role Sayers sees for herself as a Green Party MP. But first she has to get elected. One priority will be re-locating to the riding.
“After the school year is completed, I will find a residence in the riding and will live there during the campaign. I will move permanently if elected,” she said.