Meet the Leaders: Naomi Hunter, Saskatchewan Green Party
REGINA -- Saskatchewan Green Party Leader Naomi Hunter is not a career politician, but says her “life of activism” led to her run as party leader and MLA candidate for Regina Elphinstone Centre in 2020.
CTV News Regina Anchor Lee Jones sat down with Hunter ahead of the vote on Oct. 26 to help bring insight into her ideals, her party’s platforms and more.
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Below is a partial transcript of the interview edited for clarity and conciseness with the full sit-down available here and at the top of the page.
CTV News: Let’s get to know you a little bit. I know you ran in the federal election recently for the Green Party in Regina Lewvan. What got you into politics?
Hunter: I think that everything we do is political, but I’ve had a life of activism.
I’ve been on the frontlines of social and environment issues and it always seemed that when I was trying to stop an environmentally devastating project from happening or when I was trying to help somebody, I spend most of my free time doing social justice projects, making sure that people in need find the help that they need, it always seemed like I was trying to get a politician to intervene or help. It always seemed like I needed a politician in the [Legislature] to present the petitions that I felt were important and I have come to the conclusion over the years.
I had always intended to run as a Green Party politician, but I was going to wait until my kids were finished university. I wanted to be a good, responsible mom. Then when Elizabeth May came to town, I was still wavering and she said ‘no, we need you Naomi’ and I came home that day and both my kids said ‘mom, you’ve talked about doing this forever, jump in, do it now.’
I have not looked back, when our provincial leader stepped down I threw my hat in the ring within 24 to 48 hours. I realized that we need that strong voice for climate justice and green issues in the Legislature now.
POLICY BEYOND THE ENVIRONMENT
CTV News: A lot of people think of the Greens, they think of the environmental policies. Although important, it’s not about environmental policies. What are some of the other main things you want people to know heading into this election?
Hunter: We have the strongest leftist policies of any party in Saskatchewan right now. Our social justice policies are absolutely encompassing of all the issues that Saskatchewan needs to be concerned about right now. We are advocating a guaranteed livable income to make sure that everyone is looked after in our society, especially as the climate crisis progresses and we see more pandemics emerging.
As a country we decided that the [Canada Emergency Response Benefit], $2,000 a month was what it takes to look after people adequately in our society right now. I’m proposing a guaranteed livable income similar to the CERB automatically go to everyone then be clawed back at income tax time if necessary. Unlike the CERB, I actually felt so sorry for Justin Trudeau every day after introducing the CERB because he had to stand up, I call it his leaky boat. He would say, ‘well, I’m sorry I forgot about seniors, we’re going to have to put something in place for them’ and the next day ‘I forgot about students’. A guaranteed livable income would not be a leaky boat, it would make sure nobody falls through the cracks and that’s what Saskatchewan people want.
We want to expand universal medicare to actually cover all forms of healthcare, that was what was first intended when Tommy Douglas instituted universal medicare in this province. We want it to include pharmacare. I work with seniors in the winter, that’s my winter job. Last winter I had a senior who was prescribed four medications. They could only afford to fill two to three of them. I work for a low-income facility where volunteers actually found this individual deceased within the week of all of this happening.
This is something I hear at the doors quite a bit. People pick between the medications they can afford to fill.
I want to see dental care covered. When I was a schoolchild, free dental services were provided for every schoolchild in Saskatchewan. That was pulled out of our schools with almost no notice.
TRANSITION TO RENEWABLE ENERGY
CTV News: How do we make the transfer for the oil and gas sector? I know the Green Party wants to look at more renewable energy. How do we get workers to move over considering that is such a large sector of Saskatchewan?
Hunter: Please refer to our Green Party 2020 platform, “A Fair and Caring Transition”. It actually says it right in the title, as we transition it has to be kind and caring. I actually have three oil and gas workers who are running as candidates this election.
Oil and gas workers care about the environment, of course they care about a livable world for their children. They’re just trying to provide for their families. But they know that industry has an end life to it right now.
I actually have been throughout oil and gas country in Saskatchewan and what I’ve heard from people is that they like that the Green plan would be to transition old oil wells into geothermal and employ the same workers. They like that a key part of our plan is involving, making sure that the oil and gas workers would also be retrained for jobs within the solar industry.
The fact that if we as a province can afford $4 billion for a Diefenbaker Dam expansion, mega projects that the Sask Party keeps proposing $2 billion for a bypass, $1.5 [billion] for carbon capture and storage, right there is $7.5 billion that we apparently had lying around. If we can do projects like that, oil and gas workers that I’m talking to say you know what transitioning to a clean energy economy would be much like the war effort where it required massive amounts of new employment start up projects and they want in on that.