In the leadup to the Sept. 20th federal election, we’re speaking to local candidates.

We touched on three hot button issues: housing affordability, COVID pandemic recovery, short and long-term action on climate change,  and one other topic they may have as a campaign priority.

Today, it’s Courtenay-Alberni Green candidate Susanne Lawson. (Answers have been edited for brevity).

Lawson lives on an island off Tofino and has spent the past 40 years working on environmental issues  

She worked at Expo 67 and “Man and His World” in public relations, and as a graphic designer, before moving permanently to the West Coast where she owned and operated several galleries.

VR: If elected, what would the Green Party do to address housing affordability?

SL: I’m in the Tofino area and I think one house (in the area) just sold for $1 million over the asking price. People are buying homes sight-unseen just because it’s something they can turn over, if they can flip (it) and make money. This is happening all over Vancouver Island. I’ve been living here in the Tofino area for 50 years so I’ve seen the incredible impacts that this is having on businesses, on seniors, on young people trying to find homes for the first time (and increased costs) driving them out. So there are a few suggestions that the government needs to address. We need to have a proposition where people who are local have first right of refusal, for properties that come up for sale in the area. We need to have caps on housing, we need to start looking at houses that are empty all the time, that are just third, fourth, and fifth houses for people who are foreign owners. We need to examine foreign ownership and make sure that Canadians have the right to purchase. We need to stop the bidding wars in the realty department, we need to have more integrity with realtors. The bidding wars are just awful and cause so many problems. They should not be not allowed. We need to establish land where affordable houses, tiny homes, compact places, where seniors and young people can stay in place. We need to make sure that business owners have a place for their workers because businesses are simply struggling to survive without the availability of housing for their employees. People are living in vans and tents here. 

VR: What is the Green Party’s view on how to handle the COVID pandemic?

SL: I think we need to find a healthier, more sustainable route to follow down this path. Food security and things like that have been impacted by transportation, by availability, as well as climate. I think that we need to focus on small business, we need to support local, regional businesses, especially in agriculture, in healthy living. We need to try to support alternative medicine as well as allopathic medicine, we need to support our natural medicines, our homeopathic medicines and naturopathic and herbal solutions. I know there is a laboratory in Quebec looking for a herbal solution vaccine that’s all plant based, that’s not just chemicals. I think we really need to be respectful of each other’s differences and everyone’s concerns, and not be divisive in this program. I think there are other ways in dealing with disease and I think we need to approach it in a way that creates a long-term, positive, healthy future rather than go down (the road of) just vaccines and more viruses and mutations. It’s a big issue, we need a really big examination of the path that we’re on for that. 

VR: What would the Green Party do to mitigate climate change?

SL: We’ve been deforesting this planet and just extracting resources like there was no tomorrow. We’ve gotten into a place where we’ve got extremes of climate. We’ve got droughts or floods, we’ve got hot or cold, we’ve got extreme winds or calm. The earth has been quite ravaged in the past century and we can’t continue to treat it in that manner. When we start to understand that what we do to the earth is what we do to ourselves, it starts to come full circle and we’re reaping the results of ignoring the circumstances and cause of what we’re creating. I think that deforestation is a very important (issue). To try to absorb carbon and to stop overheating, the thinning of the forests has been a really big problem. Farming fish and farming forests is preposterous. Why we went down this path, I’m really not sure but because it was available, we had the most beautiful forests in the world and of course, that is what people started taking. We have to have a circular, ecological economy that gives as well as takes and so as we transition into a new paradigm, which is absolutely imperative with the United Nations report, we need to look at how we’re damming the waters, we’re blocking the free flow of oxygen. The loss of forests, the warming of the oceans and the pollution. These are all things that are coming back to face us because of our lack of respect. I think one step at a time, transitioning to solar, to other alternative energies, I think these are all things that industries that have been taking things to the extreme end of the pendulum need to have to look at, and we all have to change.

VR: Finally, is there one topic that you would like to talk about?

SL: Being coastal communities, here, we are very dependent on the marine environment. The marine environment and all the life in it not only nurtures us, but gives us a lot of pleasure, watching the wild creatures. But we can’t treat them, and any other life, in the way that we are doing to the wild salmon. Putting them in pens, with the disease and the chemicals that are being created. That is one example of what we’re doing to the creatures on the planet that we would never want done to ourselves. And so lockdown is an interesting thing. When we start putting things in pens and trying to make it a profitable motive for a few, then it becomes a detriment to all of us. I’ve been fighting for the environment for 40 years here on the coast, trying to stop the trophy hunting of bears, trying to protect Strathcona Park from further mining, trying to stop logging on Clayoquot Sound and all over Vancouver Island and elsewhere. I think that it’s been far too long that we’ve been struggling like this: the protests against the pipelines, against the old-growth forest logging, has got to stop. We can’t be fighting over the last of the resources. We have to remember that we’re all in this together.