VERNON - This might come as a surprise, but North Okanagan-Shuswap Green Party candidate Chris George used to vote right wing.
But the longtime businessman always felt like something was missing from that end of the political spectrum. When he started learning more about the Green Party platform he realized it was fiscally responsible, while also balancing social and environmental issues. It’s that principle of balance between "people, planet and profit" George is focussing his election campaign on today.
“We can’t neglect one in favour of the others,” he says. “We need a more holistic approach to have healthy and sustainable communities.”
After a 25 year 'jack of all trades’ career in small business — everything from managing a restaurant and service station to working as a financial planner — George made a big lifestyle change and moved to a small farm in Notch Hill near Blind Bay with his wife and kids.
The back to the land transition now has George tending gardens, chickens and geese — and going back to school. The 52-year-old is in his third year of a distance-education general studies degree program at Thompson Rivers University. He insists the program won’t interfere with his campaign, or his duties as MP if elected. He says the interdisciplinary course load — which includes social psychology, political science, economics and environmental studies — will help him approach issues with a well-rounded, holistic perspective.
One initiative the Greens have for strengthening the economy, environment, and community is a federally funded program to retrofit residential, business and institutional buildings, George says. The program would generate local jobs, keep families together, and improve energy efficiency.
“We have many families in our region where the bread winner is working up north,” George says. “That isn’t how you build a strong local community. We want to bring these people home and put them to work here.”
He got into politics in 2013 after contacting the local Green Party office to find out who the provincial election candidate was. As it turned out, no one was. George stepped up, and earned the nomination uncontested. He ran an active, passionate campaign which took home 2,338 votes, or 9.34 per cent.
In his federal campaign, he’s urging voters to look beyond national party leaders and elect the best candidate for the job locally.
“Let’s bring in a candidate who will represent our interests in Ottawa, rather than represent the party’s interests in the constituency,” he says.
He uses the example of former Shuswap MLA George Abbott who, despite understanding the dependence on farming in the area, voted in favour of controversial changes to farm-gate meat sales.
“That’s an example of how the system has come to work. It’s never been codified, it’s just how parties have come to act. Sometimes things are wrong for your riding, but you have to toe the party line. Greens believe this is fundamentally wrong,” George says, adding they do not employ a party whip.
He acknowledges it can be easier for voters to base their decision on whether or not they like the national party leader, but insists that’s a dangerous shortcut to take.
“Sometimes you need to take the effort, meet your candidate, and factor that into your decision making,” he says.
That’s why he’ll be at every town hall meeting and all-candidates forum from now until Oct. 19.
You can also get in touch with him through his website or Facebook page.
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