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Q & A with Ken Melamed

Green candidate talks LNG, pot and the tree-hugger stereotype
Green candidate Ken Melamed

Former Whistler mayor Ken Melamed is the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country federal candidate for the Green Party of Canada. As campaigning kicks off for the October election, The Squamish Chief caught up with Melamed to chat about issues important to voters in the corridor.

Q: Let’s start with the issue top of mind for many right now in Squamish. Where do you stand on the proposed Woodfibre LNG and FortisBC projects?
A: I have been up and down the corridor, attending as many of the open houses I could and listening to people in the corridor, and what I hear is a significant amount of concern and outright opposition to this. What I have heard is people no longer take at their word the assurance from the province and the proponents that everything is going to be OK.
Really, what people are looking for is a careful approach to looking after Howe Sound; a lot of people don’t want to undermine the potential for tourism and don’t believe the risks of Woodfibre LNG outweigh the potential benefits.

Q: OK, but in Squamish, compared to other municipalities, the vast majority of the tax burden is on homeowners and small business, because we have so little industry here. That doesn’t seem sustainable, long term. Can you address how we can relieve the tax burden without industry?
A: There is a significant level of sophistication and a high brain trust in this region, and many people are very confident in the creative and entrepreneurial opportunities that exist and we can create a vibrant economy for Squamish and the riding without dependence on these last century’s economic models. So whether it is tourism or attracting investments in renewables or clean tech, there is all kinds of opportunity, and we don’t have to go to the lowest common denominator before we see our way forward.

Q: Medical marijuana storefront dispensaries have also been a topic of discussion here in Squamish. Where do you stand on the dispensaries?  
A: I think it would be a lot simpler if we didn’t have this contradiction in the discussion. On the one hand, we want to make it accessible for medical use, and on the other hand, the RCMP and federal government are saying it is illegal and we shouldn’t be making access easier; and we have all this controversy over access issues and who’s entitled and who is not. The country should really move on a clearer path similar to what has happened in Washington State and Colorado and most of the rest of the developed world, where there is a much more accepting approach to marijuana.

Q: Let’s turn to the actual politics of voting. One thing I hear from some people who may lean towards voting Green is that it may be a wasted vote because even if you get in, your party is not going to be in power. So what could you accomplish, given you won’t be part of a ruling party?
A: Just look at how well [Green Party leader] Elizabeth May is performing in Ottawa. She is a one-woman tour de force who has allowed, if nothing else, the other members of Parliament sitting in their seats to reflect more on their role as MPs because they are really not free to speak their minds, and when they see Elizabeth stand up and do so, I think it forces them to be more reflective of how they can.
Two other things is that there are lots of examples around the world where a small number of Greens in government are making an enormous difference. Look to Germany and the move away from nuclear that wouldn’t have happened [except] for the Greens. Secondly the Greens are the best hope for change; if you keep trying the same thing and expecting a different result, you are going to be disappointed.

Q: The Greens still have a reputation as being the environmentalist, tree-hugger party that is great for the environment but not able to lead the economy. Can you address that stereotype?
A: It is some of the baggage we have assumed with the name, the Green Party. The reality is we have got some of the top economists in the country who are working with us. The myth is that the Conservatives and the Liberals know how to manage the economy. The reality is Canada is losing ground in comparison to the G20 countries. Canadian debt is going up, job creation and job growth are flat, and we are stuck in the last century’s economy. People who used to vote for other parties are coming to us because of the strength of our economic policies. I ask [voters] to give us a chance and let us show them what we can do.

Fore more on Melamed’s campaign platform, go to Melamed will be up against incumbent John Weston of the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party’s Pam Goldsmith-Jones, and the New Democratic Party’s Larry Koopman. Voters go to the polls on Monday, Oct. 19.
Watch for Q & As with the other candidates in upcoming editions of The Squamish Chief.