Originally Published on Cortes Currents.ca

In the first of my interviews with the candidates, I visited the home of Mark de Bruijn. Cortes Islanders may remember him as a former principal of our elementary school; He has also worked as a science teacher, college lecturer and former biologist for Canada’s Department of Fisheries. Now Mark de Bruijn is the Green Party of Canada’s candidate for Powell River-North Island.

The day I arrived, 338 Canada’s projections showed a Green surge across Vancouver Island. They were leading in the race for four ridings. While Powell River – North Island was not among them, the Greens were in easy striking distance.

Why Should We Vote For The Green Party?

“We meet all kinds of folks and very often we hear comments that people are so disenchanted … or even really fed up, with the old way that parties operate. An endless string of promises come election time, and breaking of those [promises afterward] … The angling for votes; manipulating what they stand for [as candidates] to try and maximize the number of people that they can draw. The Greens do not do that.

Elizabeth May, our leader … has quite a track record. People have seen her in action enough, especially recently, and she consistently talks about the same set of six guiding values. They do not deviate. They do change or nuance in order to appeal to this little segment of the population, or this riding or something …”

Mark de Bruijn at coffee with the candidate
Coffee Party with the candidate, Merville, B.C. – July 9. 2019 – courtesy Mark de Bruijn

The Green Party’s Six Principles: 

Participatory Democracy – Working to create proportionally elected governments that represent and engage citizens.

Sustainability – Using natural resources wisely to protect the rights and needs of future generations.

Social Justice – Acknowledging that all humans have a fundamental right to health, wellbeing, and freedom.

Respect for Diversity – Protecting and valuing all cultures and individuals while conserving variety in the natural world.

Ecological Wisdom – Learning to live within the physical and biological limits of our Earth and to protect its life-giving nature.

Non-Violence – Safeguarding people’s security and freedom through cooperation and consensus building.

(in the podcast, Mark de Bruijn talks about how these principles are shared by Green Parties around the world. None of Canada’s other political parties have this global connection.)

Mark de Bruijn
Adapted from Environment Canada by Roy L Hales

The Most Significant Issue For This Election?

“The number one issue is, without a doubt, the Global effects of our changing climate, the warming of the earth. Specifically, how that is impacting Canadians, and of course our riding, and what government needs to do to give us the optimal chance of minimizing the effects …”

Canada’s Emissions

Q/ At a time when most of Europe’s emission are more than 20% below 1990 levels, Canada’s emissions are still 20% above that benchmark. Do you care to comment on this? 

“… We are laggards and I think that may even be putting it kindly, we are terrible laggards when it comes to living up to our Paris committments … Those are the minimal requirements if we are going to have a fighting chance to help mitigate the effects of Global warming.

” … Europe is more socially progressive as a whole, Western Europe in particular. They are smaller nations, so it is easier to mobilize those populations. They do not have the geography that Canada does and so on … But historically they are mindful as a whole of the impacts their societies have on where they live and, as a whole, they are much more open to governments making what some would call socialized change.”

Mark de Bruijn & Elizabeth May
Elizabeth May at the launch of Mark de Bruijn’s candidacy

Is 1.5C Or Even 2C Still Possible?

“If we elect the right people this election, it is possible. If we as a nation do not do that and elect a status quo form of government, the next election will be four years down the road and, it is my opinion, that it will be too late.”

… The recent IPPC report [on keeping the rise of Global temperatures to 1.5 degrees] “has given us to 2030 to have [our climate actions] well underway – not to have it sort of theoretically figured out by then, but to have been .. reversing our carbon dioxide emissions and lowering them significantly. It is going to take government to do that … Governments can have policies, set up programs and even mandate changes that would mobilize enormous rapid change …”

(In the podcast, Mark de Bruijn refers to Germany’s rapid adoption of renewables, and the strong German Green party.)

National Debt Under Trudeau

Q/ Under the current Trudeau government (2015 -2019), Canada’s national debt is expected to grow another $73 billion. What did the nation get for this money?

Mark de Bruijn
The Growth of Canada’s National Debt from 1962 until 2018 – Department of Finance Canada

” … A lot of money has been spent, but it is piecemeal, politically motivated so often and it is hard to say what we got that is truly beneficial …”

” … More federal promises of spending. We are seeing that right now, with the Liberals very generous roll-outs for housing and various ways – which was in their campaign promises. It is noteworthy that are basically waiting until the eleventh hour. We are coming down to an election and now we are hearing about what they are going to do about housing. They’ve had four years, almost, with nothing, very little. Status quo government parties work that way because it has become almost entirely about having power and control in government, rather than following through with programs that would really benefit the nation.”

Mark de Bruijn
Nautical Days in Comox – Aug 3

National Debt Under Harper

Q/ While the national debt grew $150 billion under Harper (2006 – 2015), he also had to contend with the great recession. Was his administration better or worse than Trudeau’s?

“In my opinion he was significantly worse because he inherited a nice surplus from the Chretien-Martin Governments … and he had used that up before the recession even began …

“His handling of the recession included things like handing Canada’s big banks what looks very much now like a secret bail out deal … Some figures out there are of [up to] $141 billion dollars in federal support to the banks to help them weather that recession. That money has never been repaid and the current government doesn’t expect it to be repaid. It was basically a gift and by 2010, I think it was, the banks were reporting a collective profit of $27 billion. So they continued to make lots of money for their shareholders and Canada paid for that. We went into deep, deep debt to do it. I don’t think that is fiscally responsible.”

[Editors note: According to a CBC report, Harper’s bailout to Canadian banks was $114 billion, or 7% of the GDP. ]

Canada Day in Comox – Courtesy Green Party of Canada

Bringing The National Debt Under Control

“We have all kinds of plans for that …”:

  • ending subsidies and incentives to the fossil fuel industry:conservatively estimated at around $3.3 billion per year“That money just perpetuates our dependence on burning carbon.”
  • “increase the tax rate on large multi-national corporations that make enormous profits on the wealth of Canada. In most cases that money leaves the country. They go to shareholders all around the world and the communities those corporations operate in do not benefit very much.” The current corporate tax rate is 15%, the Green party wants to raise this to 21%. [Editor’s note: this would bring it up to the same percentage resident United States companies pay in corporate taxes.]
  • “We do not want to change the tax rate on small or medium size Canadian corporations that pump a lot into communities.”
  • “We want to tax those huge corporations that are not Canadian, make enormous profits off Canada and pay no tax: NetflixAmazonGoogleFacebook …”
  • A very big source of revenue … probably in the hundreds of billions, is properly collecting the taxes of the very very wealthy … and closing the possibility of offshore tax haven investments …”
Earth Day, Powell River – Apr 22 – Courtesy Green Party of Canada

Does Canada Have Enough Pipelines?

Q/ Does Canada have sufficient pipelines to service its current needs? And if so, why is Canada fostering the expansion of oil sands production while the rest of the world is preparing for the shift to a low carbon future?

Canada needs no new pipelines. We need to transition off fossil fuel. If you think about it, if we build a pipeline – like twinning the Trans-Mountain which is supposed to cost between $10 and $12 billion (and those projects are infamous for running over budget) – … the investors need to be repaid. That will probably take four, or five or six decades of operation. So building a pipeline like that commits us to mine bitumen and sell it and burn it somewhere on the planet adding to the carbon load, exacerbating climate change …”

Mark de Bruijn & His partner Carol Thatcher (Coordinator of Volunteers) talking with a voter – Courtesy Green Party of Canada

Diversifying Canada’s Economy

Q/ Canada’s economy is currently so closely intertwined with the price of oil that some economists call it a Petro-economy. Is your government prepared to take steps that will foster diversification? And if so, what negative impacts will these steps have on the economy?

“It may be that that transition will be disruptive, almost certainly I think, and there may be blips in the Canadian economy, but in the medium to long term it is going to be, potentially, very productive and profitable to do this – especially if Canada takes it seriously and becomes a world leader in some of these technologies … I do not see Canada’s economy suffering in the long term at all.”

With the transition from a fossil based fuel economy to a green economy, there will be so much work employment generated … – solargeothermalwind and tidal energiesretrofitting virtually every building in the country– decades of work for hundreds of thousands of people.”

Mark de Bruijn
With BC Green Leader Andrew Weaver & others at Nautical Days Parade, Comox – Aug 3 – Courtesy Green Party of Canada

Developing Our Raw Materials In Canada

Q/ Almost 80 percent of Canada’s raw materials (wood and paper products, fuel, minerals, aluminum, wheat, and oil) are allegedly shipped as exports around the world. Many of these materials return as finished goods. What steps is your government prepared to take to encourage the production and development of these items within Canada.

“This is a sad song a lot of us Canadians have been singing for a long time … In B.C. here it is raw logs. It is truly a form of insanity that we do that. It is all market driven. It is all about the price we get per cubit metre of wood. Canada needs to wake up and take responsibility for its own wealth. It may be disruptive to some of these global market forces. That has to happen, not just with Canada but worldwide.

“I think a lot of people are beginning to understand that Neoliberal globalization has been a major contributor to the state we are in. It came into being the late 70’s, 80s and 90s . If you track the amount of resources, of all kinds (especially fossil fuels), it just skyrocketed under those Neoliberal policies and the unfettered expansion of capitalism and profit to corporations.

“There is so much potential, I think we could all agree, to domestic manufacturing. A rapid and vast diversification of our own industries to use our own resources and then marketing them first of all to Canadians and then to the world. That is going to happen because of government policies and programs, not private corporations. “

Sustainable Logging Practises

Mark de Bruijn
HeartwoodSapwood-Ratios from Quality Forestry Always Takes Time, by David Shipway

Q/ British Columbia’s old growth forests are disappearing and the average cut rate is now between 50 and 80 years. As a result, the market is flooded with lumber that has a much higher proportion of sapwood than 50 years ago. Is your government prepared to protect our old growth forests and introduce more sustainable forestry practises?

Forestry is a provincial matter, under provincial jurisdiction, so it is not as though the Federal Government could just move right in and change it all. It has to be very much done in concert with the provinces. This ties in to policies that the Green Party has around governance.

Proposed Intergovernmental Panel

 For example, we are very keen on developing an intergovernmental panel, at the table of which would sit the Federal Government, provincial governments, municipal governments and the indigenous governments as equal partners. Issues like forestry would be brought to that table. And issues like the extermination of old growth forests would be part of those discussions. The Feds could have considerable influence. 

Mark de Bruijn, Green candidate for Powell River - North Island
Mark de Bruijn & Carol Thatcher at an Old Growth Rally in Courtenay, BC – Courtesy Green Party of Canada

Protecting Endangered Ecosystems?

There are other avenues available. For instance old growth forest is becoming so rare it is becoming so rare it could be classified as an endangered ecosystem. I don’t believe there is any formal designation of that kind yet, but we have the endangered species act and under that act the Federal Government can move into a provincial jurisdiction if it perceives the province is not adequately protecting an endangered species. The same [procedures] could be applied to an ecosystem, which includes all kinds of species at risk – like marbled murrelets, spotted owls and old growth forests. There are mechanisms that could be employed.”

Reinvigorate The Canadian Forest Service

“Beyond that, the federal governments needs to and the Greens want to reinvigorate the Canadian Forest Service which was eviscerated under Harper and has never been brought back. It was a real leader in research and development around forest ecology, leading to a much wiser forest management practises, developing tree species which are much denser in their grain and currently species that are climate resistant. “

(In the podcast, Mark de Bruijn goes on to talk about the difference between reforestation and tree farming for commercial purposes.)

Courtesy Mark de Bruijn
With Hemas Kla-Lee-Lee-Kla (Bill Wilson), Hereditary Chief of the Musgamagw Nation, and Hereditary Chief Gigame (George Quocksister Jr) of the Laichkwiltach Nation aboard a fish boat about to examine salmon farms — Discovery Passage, May 4, 2019 – Courtesy Green Party of Canada

The Fish Farms Off Our Coast

Fish farms are a problematic industry and a real hot button here in this riding. Most of them are in this riding. The four largest fish farm companies, which are all foreign owned, are headquartered in Campbell River.”

“Despite what certain elements of the DFO tell us, and the industry itself tells us, the science is pretty clear that those fish farms are devastating to wild salmon stocks. They need to be removed from the migratory routes of our native fish. Which basically means removing them from the ocean because virtually all the coastline, on both sides of Vancouver Island and up and down the Mainland are migratory routes …”

A Land Based Fish Farm Model

“The salmon farming industry needs to move to a land based model. Technically that is very possible to do … It is likely that salmon will be more expensive because it probably is more costly to set up land based farming, but that is a choice we can make and if we do not we risk losing our native salmon stocks.”

{Transitioning onto land] ” … doesn’t mean vast unemployment of workers as workers can work on land based systems. The skill sets are very similar.”

Mark de Bruijn
Canada Day in Campbell River – Courtesy Green Party of Canada

Restoring Fisheries & Oceans Canada

Speaking as a former Department of Fisheries biologist, Mark de Bruin talks about the need for the Fisheries and Oceans Canada to resume its former role in research, protecting and understanding the marine environment.

“Now it has a dual mandate, that and the commercialization of marine products – in other words selling seafood world-wide. That has taken over, the DFO is all about maximizing yields and selling them abroad. Those are conflicting mandates for a ministry and we need to restore DFO’s original function.”

Endangered Fisheries

[Losing our salmon} ” … is an almost unimaginable consequence because very short years ago you could almost walk across some rivers on the backs of salmon. That is no longer.”

“We have seen that happen with cod on the east, it is still going on. I’ve just read a report that the Atlantic Cod in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence is likely to go extinct for various reasons, climate change being a major driver, … but industrialized fishing is what really tipped the balance years ago and they never recovered. “

“Here it is similar, we have overfished and we have overfished the food of some of our iconic species. Chinook feed mainly off herring and we have fished herring until they are scarce. Then we think we are going to restrict Chinook fishery because Chinook are the main feed of Orcas. We all love Orcas. So lets save the Chinook so they can eat them, but we do not pay attention to the feed of the salmon.”

Visiting Quadra Island on Canada Day – Courtesy the Green Party of Canada

Delay Resolving Indigenous Land Claims

Q/ Though British Columbia has been part of Canada since 1871, we still have unresolved First Nations land claims throughout most of the province. Why has it taken so long to resolve this problem?

[The delay] ” … probably goes back to the fifteenth century Doctrine of Discovery, which has so infused Western cultures attitudes towards indigenous peoples. The Doctrine of Discovery basically said that if we European Nations land on a land mass that is not inhabited by Christians, it is basically uninhabited and what do you know – we discovered it! It is ours. That mindset pervaded the entire colonial attitude [when it comes to dealing] with indigenous populations. They were essentially not quite human, so we could do what we wanted with the land and its resources.”

“Very few of us would consciously admit to that, I think, but I believe that has influenced our policy making and very reluctant attitudes towards dealing … with First Nations … We are used to mining where-ever we want, logging where-ever we want, fishing, whatever and whenever we want – with no accountability to other peoples cultures or needs. We just ride roughshod over them. To start changing that means we may have to give up some of the control we have become very accustomed to having and sharing with people with very different views of some of these things.”

“The Green party is the only party that has officially repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery. We recognize it is false, hugely discriminatory and so destructive.”

Campaigning for Paul Manly in Nanaimo
Campaigning for Paul Manly in the recent Nanaimo-Ladysmith Byelection – Courtesy Green Party of Canada

First Nations Policies

{The Green Party] ” … would work towards a repeal of the Indian Act. We would properly fund First Nations education and make sure that they have the means to incorporate into their education their own cultural needs, histories and languages. We would deal with proper funding for all the health issues First Nations deal with, whether it is TB in the Arctic or water issues on so many reserves. We have the wealth and the means to do it. [The question is whether] we have the will to these people as fellow Canadians who deserve exactly the same standard the rest of us enjoy, rather than what is often Third World standards. We would fully ensure and demand that Canada honour its commitment under UNDRIP, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

We want to establish a brand new council, where the Canadian Government and other levels of government talk to indigenous governments on a true nation to nation basis, which means we may not get their consent on everything we think we want to do … The answer may sometimes be ‘No, we do want that mine on our lands.’ And ‘no’ means ‘no’ sometimes. That is not something that we Western people are accustomed to hearing.

With Hereditary Chief Gigame (George Quocksister Jr) of the Laichkwiltach Nation – Courtesy Green Party of Canada

What About First Nations Lands Claims?

“Those land claims are valid. The details need to be negotiated. It is not like a city like Vancouver is going to move off of traditional lands, but how are those 10,000 year old rights to those lands going to be honoured in the 21st century? How can we work that out?”

… We need to do it and we need to do it expeditiously and fairly. That process has to be properly funded, we cannot continue to expect First Nations to initiate lawsuits which they have to found out of their resources, which are no where near the Federal Government’s or the provincial government’s. It is grossly unfair.”

Is The Site C Dam A Violation of Treaty #8?

Mark de Bruijn & Adam Olsen
At a Town hall Meeting with Green MLA Adam Olsen in Campbell River – Courtesy Green Party of Canada

Q/ Do you believe Canada and British Columbia are breaking Treaty #8, which (my paraphrase) granted use of the land that will be submerged to local First Nations?

” … It is very clear that part of the intent of that treaty was to guarantee, in perpetuity, that First Nations people had the right and access to hunt , fish and trap on their traditional lands. There are apparently clauses in the treaty that give the Canadian government the right to remove lands from a treaty for certain circumstances …

” … I believe under the Constitution Act of 1982, there are clauses that prohibit the federal government from doing anything on those lands that permanently [stop] First Nations people from pursuing their hunting, fishing, trapping rights.”

” … There are legal precedents in Canada now, the Tsilqotin Decision and others, that state Canada must seek prior, free, informed consent – and that means “yes” or “No.” That wasn’t done.”

” … No matter which way you cut it, [the Site C Dam] certainly … changes forever the way that the West Moberly Nation access those lands – by flooding the whole thing. So my interpretation … is that we have broken that treaty, we are ruining those people’s ability to do what the treaty guaranteed them and [Site C] is an imposition without their consent.”

Townhall Meeting in Campbell River
Townhall Meeting with Adam Olsen in Campbell River – Courtesy Green Party of Canada

Guaranteed Liveable Income

“A fundamental part of the Green party’s policy is to move Canada to a guaranteed liveable income. There have been pilot projects of this in many place of the world. There was one in Ontario until premier Ford cancelled it.

“Guaranteed liveable income means you have an income that allows you to have a reasonable standard of living based on the wealth of the nation. So that standard may be different in different nations, but in Canada there is a certain standard. Everyone has a right to that because we all live in this wealthy country. The wealth belongs to Canada, not to any corporation or any particular group, and is perfectly capable of providing a guaranteed liveable income.”

The Green Party believes the cost of a guaranteed liveable income would probably not be much more than that of all the current programs and the vast bureaucracy needed to administer them.

“That guaranteed liveable income would replace welfare, child support payments, all the myriad of little piecemeal programs that [collectively] create the social safety net that Canadians have come to rely on. Old Age pensions are part of that ... [With a guaranteed liveable Income] … The bureaucracy would be vastly simplified because we would simply be writing a cheque to every Canadian for that amount and sending it out. Now people who have income that put them into a different tax bracket, that would be part of their income and they would pay tax [on it].

Nautical Days at Comox
Nautical Days Parade in Comox – Aug 3 – Courtesy Green Party of Canada

As Canada Becomes Automated

In the podcast, Mark de Bruijn also talks about the large number of Canadians who have been, or soon will be, thrown out of their jobs as our society increasingly becomes more automated. A of the profits that corporations obtain by reducing their workforce could be channeled into supporting the guaranteed liveable income program.

“What are Canadians going to do if there aren’t jobs for them, yet the wealth continues to flow? Who does the wealth properly flow to? Some to the corporations that make investments no doubt, but not all of it. It belongs to Canadians, to Canada.”

Student Loans

Q/  At a time when many European Nations offer free university education, the average Canadian student is $30,000 in debt by their studies are finished. Is your government prepared to take any steps to remedy this situation? 

“The Green party has for quite a long time espoused the policy of free tuition. We do not believe that people who are getting a higher education, which will be for the benefit f Canada as well as themselves, should end up in debt for doing so. When they do get work, their training will benefit the corporations they work for, as well as the country and yet they end up struggling with this enormous debt load. That is not right, it is not equitable, it is not just.”

Sointula
Green Garden Party, Sointula, BC – June 27 – Courtesy Green Party of Canada

Affordable Housing

“The Green Party’s policy includes the demand that we develop a national housing strategy or plan. There is no such thing. Housing is treated in such a piecemeal fashion. This is a strange hallmark of Canada. We do not have national plans for anything. We do not have a national plan for our energy, for our housing , even for our health … It’s the responsibility of provinces, who are in conflict with the feds. We need national plans that can be flexible enough to accommodate local uniquenesses.

“The Green party has a number of pretty innovative programs it would love to initiate:”

  • vastly expanding co-operative housing;
  • What are we going to do with houses that are available, but not affordable? One possibility: seniors sharing homes with younger people.
  • “As far as B&Bs and foreign ownership goes, I think some of the initiative that BC has undertaken in taxing those investments are a good beginning. The whole B&B thing must be much more tightly regulated and licensed, so that there is control on it and it doesn’t interfere with the housing needs.”
  • The multi-level intergovernmental cabinet that Greens envision could play a key role in developing further policies.

My Impression Of The Candidate

I was very impressed by Mark de Bruijn’s candidness, his grasp of the challenges Canada faces and attention to detail when describing them. The written version of this interview is likely to substantially differ from those of the other candidates because his answers often went far beyond my questions. You can get a taste of this in the written version above, but there is much more in the podcast.

Mark de Bruijn is visiting Cortes Island on Friday, Sept 20, 2019

  • From 12:00 – 2:00 he will be at the Farmers’ Market in Mansons Landing. 
  • From 2:00 – 4:00 he will be answering questions and concerns in the Pioneer Room at Mansons Hall.

Top photo credit: Coffee Party with the candidate, Merville BC- July 9, 2019 – Courtesy Green Party of Canada