WEST KELOWNA - When Robert Mellalieu’s son first came to him and said their family should vote Green, he thought his son was crazy - now, six years later Mellalieu is once the Green Party candidate, this time in the provincial election for Kelowna West.
Mellalieu and his wife Dawn homeschooled their son Russell. When the 16-year-old asked his dad which party they were voting for in the 2011 federal election, Mellalieu took it as a teaching opportunity.
“I told him to look at all the policies and platforms of the major parties, keep in mind our family’s values, and to come back and tell me who he thought we should vote for.”
Then a Conservative Party of Canada supporter, Mellalieu didn’t even include the Green Party in the list of parties he gave his son to look at.
“When he came back after about a week and told me I was a Green, I thought ‘what is he thinking - we’re not hippies living in the Kootenays', but everything I had to say against them, my son had an argument for. It was then I realized that I was Green.”
Since then, the West Kelowna resident has been a director with the Green Party of B.C. In 2015, he ran for the Green Party of Canada for the Central Okanagan - Similkameen - Nicola riding in the federal election.
Although the owner of F1 Computer Services does not have long hair or look like your stereotypical Green Party hippie, Mellalieu says the Green Party was the first party to inspire him.
“The Green Party doesn’t just look at this election term, we try and see beyond that and work towards proactive measures that will last for hundreds of years to come.”
The owner of two Smart Cars, and a recreational fly fisherman, Mellalieu says caring about the environment is important when you’re working with a one hundred or two hundred year plan.
According to Mellalieu the three most important issues in the Kelowna-West riding are the current threat of zebra and quagga mussels, homelessness and the lumber industry.
“I think the scariest issue right now are the invasive mussels that are coming,” Mellalieu says. “If those mussels get in our lakes it would not only destroy the lake but the tourism industry - the risk is so great that we have to hit this much harder than we are.”
Mellalieu says that although prevention can be annoying, the answer might have to be something as drastic as not allowing boats to travel from one body of water to another.
Additionally, Mellalieu says the lumber industry is another issue that needs immediate attention.
“The federal and provincial government have relied too much on one customer, we should be diversifying our customer base - the long term planning just hasn’t been there.”
Mellalieu’s stance on lumber may come as a shock to those who see the Green Party as tree huggers.
“People think of wheat as a crop because you cut it down every year, but just because we take 25 years to cut down trees, doesn’t mean they aren’t crops as well,” he says. “In farming, if farmers lose their soil they lose everything, well if you don’t manage forests properly, you lose the wildlife.”
For this election, Mellalieu says he thinks constituents should make their decision based on the character of the candidates, rather than the specific platforms.
“I don’t think it should be all about the issues. There’s issues of today, but it’s a four-year term, and we don’t know what those decisions will be in the future, so I think the character of the person is much more important.”
Mellalieu says he wants to change the negative stigma associated with politics and politicians.
“Let's just be upfront with people and get back to honest politics. I’ve never met a politician that got into this job because they wanted to screw people over, we all came to this job wanting to help.”
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