Former West Vancouver mayor Pamela Goldsmith-Jones has stepped back into the political ring, this time running for the federal Liberal Party of Canada in the riding of West Vancouver–Sunshine Coast–Sea to Sky Country. The Squamish Chief caught up to Goldsmith-Jones to chat about the proposed liquefied natural gas plant, the medical marijuana debate and her reasons for running.
Q: Back when you were mayor of West Vancouver, you said that municipal politics was your favourite level of government because you can get things done through collaboration, so why run in the often-adversarial federal system?
A: I wish to do this because as a mother and a former mayor and businesswoman, I am looking at Canada today and I think the current government has led to a culture that is hostile towards its own citizens, ignorant of our scientists, unwilling to look at balance and the desire of Canadians to contribute, and that means to me we are not realizing our full potential. I expect it to be more difficult, but I think at the federal level [collaboration] is possible. It doesn’t mean our institutions have to change, it means they have to be utilized in a different way.
Q: One of the big issues for Squamish is the proposed liquefied natural gas plant planned for the district. Where do you stand on the issue?
A: I have five essential conditions for the project: 1. A transparent, independent science-based review… and that ensures local citizens of the integrity of the process, including protection of the ecosystem. 2. Emissions generated by the plant fit within a national green house gas emissions framework. So that requires admitting climate change is an issue and that we need to put a price on carbon. 3. Local communities and First Nations are consulted properly. I find the Squamish Nation’s recent publication of its conditions to be a big part of that. 4. That the economic benefits including job creation aren’t just token and aren’t just temporary. 5. That land and water safety standards are world-class and that has to be, obviously, clearly defined to the public.
Q: It has become increasingly difficult to find affordable housing in Squamish, especially rental housing. Some people are calling for a national housing strategy to deal with the issue. Can you speak to this?
A. The federal government has abandoned its role [in housing] and so it is time to step up and deal in reality with what people are facing. The central part of our platform is to focus on families and our seven-per-cent income tax cut to families making between $45,000 and $95,000 a year so that they have more disposable income. I am looking forward to more formally unveiling our infrastructure platform, but I can guarantee you that housing is at the centre of that. It is probably the single most important thing we can do to alleviate poverty in the country.
Q: Medical marijuana dispensaries have been an issue here for Squamish since the RCMP ordered our local storefront marijuana dispensary to stop offering the drug. Where do you stand on this?
A: We believe in a science-based approach. We believe in protecting our children, and stripping organized crime of their wealth and power, and choice, and control by government health agencies. I am not an expert, but what I do know is that abdicating leadership on the part of this government is not helping. Ignoring the question is not helping, letting local communities flounder around without a common shared understanding and shared standard is not helping, and so I am much more inclined to want to dive into the problem to work together with communities toward a safe, healthy and also current thinking around what helps people and what keeps communities’ quality of life enhanced.
Q: Finally, why should Squamish residents vote for you?
A: My reputation is absolutely to reach out, particularly to people who might seem to be on the other side – I build bridges. I think that is what Canadians want. I don’t make knee-jerk decisions; I take a considered view, and I think it is fair for people to expect that. I have definitely waded into things that are challenging and I am not at all afraid of those personal challenges, and I think that is the type of leadership that we need. I also feel very strongly it is time for British Columbia to have a voice in Ottawa because we are so aligned with the natural environment and because we are open-minded, progressive and innovative. If we are thinking we make best decisions together, then I am that kind of leader.
For more on Goldsmith-Jones’ campaign platform, check out her Facebook page. She is up against incumbent John Weston of the Conservative Party, the Green Party’s Ken Melamed and NDP candidate Larry Koopman. Voters go to the polls on Oct. 19.