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High-profile filmmaker and journalist seeks Squamish's riding

Avi Lewis is looking to become the NDP candidate for West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country.
Filmmaker, author and activist Avi Lewis is looking to carry on his family’s legacy by running for the NDP in the Sea to Sky in the next federal election.

A high-profile filmmaker, journalist and activist is vying to become the federal NDP candidate for Squamish's riding.

Avi Lewis, known for his work on CBC, Al Jazeera and Much Music, as well as his documentaries and climate activism, is seeking the NDP nomination for West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country.

If he wins the NDP's blessing, he'll be squaring off against incumbent Liberal MP Patrick Weiler and Conservative candidate John Weston, a former MP in the riding.

Lewis, who currently lives in Halfmoon Bay, says he and his wife, renowned author and activist Naomi Klein, moved back to the area about a year ago to property they bought in Halfmoon around 2005.

Before their return to the riding last year, the couple and their son spent two years in New Jersey, as Klein had obtained a deal to teach at Rutgers University.

Lewis noted that he has been to Squamish twice, and has opted to keep his distance in the last year due to the pandemic.

However, he said he's been paying attention to news coming from the town. He's been meeting with locals — such as the Streamkeepers — online.

Lewis noted that his impression was that housing was a major priority for people in town, as manyare being priced out.

"I think Squamish, like so many places, is in the midst of a housing crunch in many different dimensions," he said.

He said housing and climate solutions are both related.

"All of these parts of our coastal and B.C. communities [are] on the front lines of the climate crisis, and, for me, they're very linked because we need more housing desperately and housing is a climate solution," said Lewis.

"Buildings and houses account for a big proportion of our emissions and we need zero-emissions housing and we need jobs."

As a result, a big government investment in housing for working people — not market housing that favours investors — is needed, he said.

Regarding the Liberals' promise for a wide-sweeping daycare program, Lewis said the party made similar promises decades ago, but little came out of it.

"There's a huge, vast chasm of difference between another big Liberal promise and actually coming through," said Lewis.

"Sure, they understand how badly people want it, but what we really need as a society is to deliver it."

Lewis said it's also necessary to avoid seeing issues as competing with each other, and he advocated for "an economy based on care" as a means to address issues like housing, climate change and healthcare all at once.

Investing in childcare, long-term care, education and healthcare are a means of providing services for people while supporting a greener economy, as they are all low-carbon jobs, he said.

With respect to local environmental causes, Lewis had fighting words with respect to Woodfibre LNG.

"In terms of environmental issues in Squamish, I think fracked methane gas...should not be ripped out of the ground and out the bedrock in the north of the province, should not be piped across Indigenous territory and through precious ecosystems, should not be liquefied, creating more emissions and loaded onto tankers to then travel through vulnerable and precious coastal waters. There's just no part of that that is a good idea."

He said the federal government needs to invest in a massive transition to hit climate change goals.

"The tragedy is that we're still fighting over fossil fuel projects instead of the federal government investing massively in a transition, which will create hundreds of thousands of jobs and won't hold a gas pump nozzle to the head of a community and say, 'Either accept these jobs or you get nothing.' That's the actual tragedy."

Lewis will be following in the footsteps of his father Stephen Lewis and his grandfather David Lewis, who both had political careers.

Stephen Lewis C.C., was the leader of the social-democratic Ontario New Democratic Party for most of the 1970s. During that time, David Lewis was simultaneously the leader of the federal New Democratic Party.

Lewis has had a vast 25-year career in journalism, spanning from his first job as a local news reporter in his hometown of Toronto in 1990 to hosting TV shows and creating award-winning documentaries.

He's well known for launching a documentary show on Al Jazeera English called Fault Lines, as well as his feature documentaries The Take, released in 2004, and more recently This Changes Everything, in 2015.

Lewis will attend the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country NDP nomination meeting on May 22 at 4 p.m.

-With files from Glacier Media