James Beddome, lawyer and leader of the Green Party of Manitoba since 2008 hopes to be re-elected in the party’s leadership contest that opens for voting November 12. Members can vote online through to the 26th. This year, Beddome is challenged by Deputy leader Andrea Shalay.
I reached out for an interview with Mr. Beddome this past tuesday (listen to the original interview).
On priorities as leader:
“It’s continuing to make the change we already have been making, over the past 20 years plus, over the Green Party of Manitoba’s existence. So I can point to many different policies over the years, but whether it’s opposing factory farming, a basic income, moving away from the use of pesticides, education, property tax reform, same sex marriage rights, these are all things that greens have been ahead of the curve and have been championing. So inside or outside of government, we’re already making a difference in Manitoba.
“Beyond that though, I’d like to continue on my push to get the Green Party of Manitoba to have a full slate of candidates so that every Manitoban has the option to vote Green. That’s something that we haven’t achieved here in Manitoba, it’s something I’ve long been pushing for.
“To achieve that, we’ve got to do a couple other things, which is growing the membership […]. If we have more members and supporters, we’re going to be able to run stronger campaigns.
“And then we’re also going to be able to achieve what we want to achieve, which is electing Greens into the Manitoba legislature. We’ve seen the difference that just one Green can make with Elizabeth May, or Mike Schreiner in Ontario, but now we’re even seeing, although it’s not the case now, but the Greens governing, or part of a governing and supply agreement in British Columbia, and in Prince Edward Island where they’re the official opposition and came quite close to taking government.
“I dream of the day we see a Green majority government in Manitoba, and I think that may very well happen. So those are my top four priorities, which is continuing to make change, running a full slate, growing the membership and electing Greens.”
On being challenged in the leadership race
“I’m really glad that Andrea entered the race, I think it’s good for our membership to have democratic choice. I think it’s exciting, it adds some interest to the contest. I’ve really enjoyed working with Andrea as my Deputy leader and on the Shadow Cabinet […]. I want that to continue, and I ultimately do want to be in the leadership, but I suspect that there will be continuing cooperation between us, both now during the race and after, so I think it’s great that Andrea stepped forward.
On Climate Change and COVID-19
“That’s what’s unique about the Greens, is that we’re actually creating a new political frame, a needed political frame, in a time when we’re going into a climate crisis and a global pandemic. So I think people are already receptive to us […].
“I definitely do think I see more Manitobans turning to the Green Party for representation. Obviously we gotta continue to do the work, so the challenge is the same that everyone else is experiencing in COVID, right? Obviously we’re having to try to do things differently, and adjusting is always a little bit of a challenge.
“So, it’s worth highlighting both linkages in terms of habitat loss, [which] have a link towards pandemics in terms of when we break into previously undisturbed wilderness areas, we then have more transmission between the humans that are moving in and the wildlife that was previously there. So not only do we lose the ecological systems that are the life of this world, but we now create ourselves as a species, [the problem of being] more susceptible to diseases.
“Similarly, there’s linkages between a warming planet and pandemics, particularly flus and other diseases, particularly tropical diseases that may move further north. We could go on with linkages on factory farming.
“So we can see that there are these linkages that actually creates a risk, and the risks goes on when we look at the unsustainability of our food system, and how reliant we are on globally shipping food around, rather than focusing on a local, healthy, sustainable agriculture system that supplies local people, that’s more resilient and is more robust, particularly in rough times like we’re seeing in this pandemic.“
On COVID-19 and Income Assistance
“One of the issues that I often highlight […], in 2016 we really put out what I think is the most detailed basic income proposal of almost any party I’ve seen anywhere in Canada, including other Greens if I may say that […].
“By us doing the work, and crunching the numbers and showing people it was possible, we’ve since forced the other political parties to – granted in half measures – to adopt our policies, that we’re right, we need to go towards a basic income.
“And here we are, into the pandemic where we’ve had to have massive income supports. And I think the question really needs to be asked: How would that have been different, had we had a basic income proposal as the Green Party of Manitoba has been suggesting since 2016?
“That’s just one example of where we’re being very evidence-based and we’re leading the way and I think people are very receptive to that […]. I certainly have no issue if other parties adopt it. Once again, I wanna make sure that we see change in the world, that’s what I want to accomplish.”
“When you think about people that are most impacted by poverty, by our justice system, by our child and family services system in Manitoba with our high number of children in care, unfortunately, this is disproportionately indigenous people in this country. I’ve been privileged enough as a lawyer to work with a lot of First Nations communities and residential school survivors. I’ve been able to travel around the province and get a sense and learn.
“The Aboriginal Inquiry in 1991, and the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples in 1996 and then you had the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report in 2017, and then the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls Report in 2019 that came out – all of these reports have been great work, have laid out a number of recommendations, and what we really need to do is start rolling out and implementing those recommendations and making it a reality and fundamentally it starts with priorities.
“So making Indigenous Reconciliation a priority […] because when it comes back to Reconciliation, some of the work that I see is that it’s very inefficient. We’re spinning our wheels rather than trying to deal with root issues that exist sometimes in communities where we can have long term healing, we’re just spinning around in the child welfare system or in the justice system, and it often doesn’t really benefit anyone.“
On the Green Party of Manitoba over the last 12 years
“I think our membership has roughly doubled since I became leader in 2008, it’s still far far too small […]. Our funding has probably about quadrupled […], it’s still quite meagre but it enables us to do more than what we could do when I first took over the leadership.
“When I first ran as a candidate […] in 2007, we only had 15 candidates out of 57 [ridings] in Manitoba […]. In 2011 we ran 32 candidates […] And the last election we ran 43 candidates out of 57, so that’s more candidates than we ever ran before, but I still haven’t achieved the full slate that I’ve always wanted to achieve.
“I think honestly our results are quite respectable. They’re not everything I want. I want to elect Greens. I want the election where we storm away and take the government and no one saw it coming. But I think they are honestly quite respectable and you know there is a moment to look on them and reflect and say, we achieved something. That maybe it didn’t go as forward as fast as I would have liked, and I often worry that I don’t know if the planet can wait sometimes.
“My first campaign, one of my favourite campaigns. My campaign headquarters was a bike trailer and a tent behind my bike, and I pedaled 220 or 250 kilometers from small town to small town knocking on doors. And when I ran I was talking to my grandma about it […] saying that we need more sustainable farms, and she said “they were talking about that in the 70s and they didn’t do it!”. And my commentary at the time, I think it still resonates when I think about the slow slog, was, “You’re right grandma, they didn’t, but if we don’t do it now, it’ll never change.
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time to plant a tree is right now. And so you have to keep at it, have to keep slogging away, and keep pushing away, because what else can we do?”
Phone Number: 204-995-2637 or 204-99-JAMES