The following transcript is for Ep 190 – A scientist runs for Green leader. Apologies for any errors.
Ian Bushfield: [00:03:00] Well, joining us now is Dr Amita Kuttner, a candidate for the federal Green leadership race. Amita thank you for joining us on PolitiCoast.
Amita Kuttner: [00:03:17] Thank you very much for having me.
Ian Bushfield: [00:03:19] Maybe to start this off, for those who don’t know you or haven’t looked into your campaign, tell us a little bit about who you are, what your background is, why people should be interested.
Amita Kuttner: [00:03:31] Yeah, well, I grew up in North Vancouver and I recently finished my PhD in astronomy and astrophysics and have worked on founding a nonprofit called Moonlight Institute, which is named after my mother who died in the mudslide in North Vancouver in 2005. Uh, and it focuses on setting up a sustainable and just future and in a way that we get policies forward in a nonpartisan sense as well as supporting community projects. And this is to make sure that all of that happens regardless of how any sort of politics goes.
[00:04:08] Um, I have done extensive work in diversity and inclusion during my university years. And I guess the thing I usually add just for fun is that I sing opera.
Our campaign is focused on three main things. The first is justice, equity, and decolonization. The second being credible. Really having a foundation in evidence and science and the third being prepared both as a party for elections, but also as a society, as a country for the crises and the opportunities that are ahead of us.
[00:04:37] And each of these things are connected deeply to myself, my own experiences. And as I mentioned, my mother passing in a mudslide has shaped the way that I look at climate policy.
Scott de Lange Boom: [00:04:48] Right. Well, uh, speaking of crisis, we’re in the middle of one right now. How has the current, uh, pandemic, uh, affected the leadership race, both your campaign and the general situation overall.
Amita Kuttner: [00:05:01] It has definitely made it a lot harder compared to what we were expecting to do for in terms of campaigning. So we were thinking we would be traveling across the country, meeting a bunch of current green party members, and also putting out events to hopefully bring in a lot of new people and fundraising, and now both of these things are really hard because everyone is going through a lot of financial hardship and we can’t go anywhere. So it’s turned into a virtual campaign. Overall, I think, you know, there’s been changes to the way that the leadership race is being run because of the pandemic, but it’s still going because our vote is so far down the road, we figured, or the party figured, I think that we could still pull it off.
Ian Bushfield: [00:05:42] So you ran for the Green Party in Burnaby North Seymour in 2019, you didn’t win though you did reasonably. Why make the jump from trying to get a seat to trying to lead the party?
Amita Kuttner: [00:06:00] The Green Party of Canada right now, I think is going to embark on a huge period of growth and in every time for any political movement in any party we need different types of leaders. And I think that I offer the type of leadership that can grow us in the way that I think and everybody who’s encouraged me to run the things that we need at this moment. And that has to do with vibrancy, with diversity, with science credibility, and the ability to inspire an entire country and talk about a vision for the future in a way we never have before.
[00:06:40] And that has to do with having new perspectives in politics, having scientists actually participating in government and bringing in representation from youth who are often left out of political discourse.
Scott de Lange Boom: [00:06:55] Well, let’s jump into the science aspect of it. You, you come from a scientific background, and not all Green party leaders have.
[00:07:04] Why do you feel the science is so important for the green party?
Amita Kuttner: [00:07:08] Science, I believe is extremely important in all sorts of decision making and in politics. And I think right now, given the pandemic we’re in, but also the climate crisis, we need to, as Gretta says, really unite behind the science. And so more than ever, it’s really important to get more science than government and as a party that has the values that, we do say of ecological wisdom and social justice, we need to make sure that we’re following science and our get to a point where every policy that we propose is clear about the reasons we’re proposing it, but also the method that we’re going to get to do these things, and if we do want to be able to convince pretty much everyone that we can create a new type of society and live in a different way, as I believe a lot of people are now acknowledging we need to do, we need to be able to show that it’s possible and showing that possibility is done through science and in particular.
[00:08:08] My science, that of astronomy and astrophysics has been a very good method over lots of time to bring people together to remind us that we are all on this planet together and understand our interconnectedness.
Ian Bushfield: [00:08:22] I want to stay on this science theme for a bit, partially because I have a masters in physics background and Scott has an engineering background, so it’s very close to both of our own personal interests and we just like talking about it.
[00:08:38] One of the challenges though, I think, is that the Green Party has a complicated reputation with science. There are elements and a perception that I think the Green Party may at times attract a kind of anti-science or pseudoscience fringe, whether that’s on alternative medicines or nuclear energy or GMOs.
[00:09:00] How do you see reconciling this, and I guess not necessarily pushing people out because I don’t imagine you want to push anyone out of the Green Party, but how do you center science in a way that kind of combats this stigma that maybe the Green Party has had at different times in the past, justly or not?
Amita Kuttner: [00:09:20] I think you got it exactly right there and the reasons that you laid out are exactly why I think we need to have a scientist as leader because in order to get credibility on the national stage, we need to stop having anything in our communications that our messaging or even in our membership that is directly pseudo-scientific.
[00:09:42] And no, I have no interest in pushing people out. I always want to get to a place of understanding, but we need to draw a line about scientific understanding and evidence. And the way I envision doing this is in our policy development process, and I very much respect and appreciate the Green Party’s method of policy creation, which comes from the grassroots and is member driven, but I would like to see it that we try to distill policy suggestions to what they’re intending to do. How do they connect to our values? What is it? What part of our vision are they trying to achieve? When it comes to something like GMOs, what are people actually asking for?
[00:10:20] Is it food security? Is it a worry about corporate control? These are both very, very legitimate questions and concerns. And so then after this, after distilling our policy ideas to something that they’re actually trying to accomplish for the good of everyone, then we put it through an evidence based process.
[00:10:41] We go to the appropriate experts and a variety of experts and see how to accomplish our goals. In a way that always follows the science.
Scott de Lange Boom: [00:10:50] So I’m interested in taking on a couple of those. Specifically, in the past, the Green Party’s typically emphasized and discussed clean power or renewable power rather than a low carbon or no carbon power in their communications.
[00:11:05] What role do you see for nuclear power in decarbonizing the economy? Canada has some nuclear generation. Do you see it remaining that way? It’s spending that, uh, or cutting back on it?
Amita Kuttner: [00:11:18] As a physicist, I have very strong opinions about nuclear energy, and I think it’s extremely complicated and often is distilled to something that is not a full picture of what’s going on. So as a physicist, I do not have a problem with the technology itself, given the developments that are going on. I especially think that we have a lot of potential in that area, and in no way do I think that we should be trying to continue old nuclear technologies, but before I would ever support the development of nuclear systems or technologies further, I would want some assurances in terms of regulations. And so there are a lot of things that concern me and some of those are our nuclear waste storage and our safety regulations and who is allowed to actually go ahead with these projects. So the examples that I’ve seen are that we have a tendency to store nuclear waste in extremely inappropriate places such as along waterways or in indigenous communities, for instance, and not in a way that’s taken care of.
[00:12:23] And I’ve seen also a lot of nuclear projects that are not well taken care of and regulated and do not have the safety precautions. But on the flip side, I am also very hopeful because of the developments in nuclear technology that are a lot safer. There’s even, you know, new studies showing that we might be able to take nuclear waste and break down further so we don’t have something that lasts basically forever. And so my overall point there would be is that I would not support it unless we can deal with issues of safety, regulation and storage first. But that the technology itself is worthy of research.
Ian Bushfield: [00:13:03] Well, shifting back to some of the other priorities you talked about, I’m curious about the discussion of diversity and it’s something, you know, I’m personally interested in and supportive of. Going back to, again, stereotypes that the Green Party sometimes has had, justly or not, it can sometimes be seen as, maybe there’s a better way to put this, but frankly, just a like a white middle-class party. Like it’s very good if you live in Oak Bay or a wealthier riding. But how do you really break beyond that kind of view of the Green Party and how do you actually attract the diversity that you’re talking about?
Amita Kuttner: [00:13:42] I think I need to speak to my personal experience on this one, and that is that it is very much a white middle class party so far, but that is in the process of changing. My experience itself has not been entirely positive and has had its challenges within the party. But I’ve also had similar challenges with every other party that I’ve come in contact with.
[00:14:06] And so I’ve kind of just figured that the entire political spectrum and our entire political system has massive problems, dangerous hierarchies, and needs to go through a whole bunch of, well, everything. The entire thing needs to go through some sort of anti-oppression process and decolonization process.
[00:14:25] And I see the Green Party as having the potential to go through that relatively easily. But from that, you know, it was interesting to experience not being what would be seen and what I think can be legitimately characterize as your average Green Party candidate. And I learned a lot from that about what needs to be done.
[00:14:46] But the important thing too is that the members of the Green Party that are there care very deeply about expanding to more diverse people and incorporating more diverse voices. And handling the some of the issues that we have in order to get there. So that commitment is very important. But the way that I’ve worked on diversity before, so when I was in university, I, well, I led a number of initiatives, but one of them was women in physics and astrophysics, which turned out to be interesting one, I came out and realized that I wasn’t really a woman, but was still running a gender based diversity organization. But it ended up focusing on all sorts of diversity. And the approach we took was one of coming to a place of understanding first and then doing outreach to try to make sure that everybody actually understood where we’re coming from, but the first step is making sure that we can create safe spaces. And that process is through training, through having difficult conversations and through getting people really under the same page. And then it’s about talking to different communities, reaching out and showing that there is a place for them.
[00:15:57] It’s not implementing our view of anything but saying, we want this to be your movement. Please join us. We will listen to you and we want this to be your place as much as it is ours. But fundamentally, if you do not start with the creation of a safe space, it will not be a stable growth because people will not feel comfortable to stay.
Scott de Lange Boom: [00:16:19] So I’m curious as to how that relates to institutional reform and how you want to see the political system reform to be more inclusive. In the past, the Green Party’s talked a lot about proportional representation, and I’d be curious on your thoughts on whether or not that’s going to be viable in the short term after the disappointing couple of years on that front, but also in a broader sense on what sort of institutional reforms need to be made, uh, at the national level and within the party too, if you want to elaborate on that.
Amita Kuttner: [00:16:50] Definitely. So I think that there’s multiple questions are there to address….
[00:16:57] Ian Bushfield: [00:16:57] So how do you fix everything?
[00:16:59] Amita Kuttner: [00:16:59] All right. Why don’t we start one step at a time? So I’ll talk about, I think a bit just going off the diversity piece first and I, and the process is that need we need to go through in that. And a lot of those have to do with addressing systemic issues.
[00:17:15] So systemic racism, systemic sexism, systemic violence, the colonial nature of the entire political system, and therefore the parties within it. And really that starts with a very personal journey for everyone and encouraging people to go on that. But it also means evaluating, kind of, all the internal party policies that we have about how we actually go about interacting with each other and structuring the organization to see if we’re reinforcing any systemic issues that have been there for forever as far as the organization and the political system have existed here.
[00:17:53] And similarly goes, I think for, for the government itself is that there’s a lot that we just go along with and assume that this is the way we do things because, well, it’s always been that way and it works. Right? And I just fundamentally disagree with that and think that we can do a lot better. And an evaluation of how, you know, systemic bias and systemic violence are perpetrated would probably be the first step in that.
[00:18:19] Um, and that is not, you know, perhaps a direct answer of how to, but there is knowledge about how to approach those sorts of things. If there’s a willingness to do it through every system. And that’s, you know, a step towards justice when it comes to proportional representation, it’s extremely important to me.
[00:18:39] I think that we’re not going to have a democracy without it, but I am not going to rely on it as a way for political success because I do not, sadly, I do not have the hope that we’re going to get that accomplished really soon, but it’s not something that we should ever stop talking about or stop pushing for.
Ian Bushfield: [00:18:58] I want to come to a sort of different angle at, you know, you’ve brought up a lot of social justice terms and a lot of ways, and these are ones you know I’m familiar with, Scott’s familiar with, we’re in favor of the diversity that you’re talking about and that kind of approach. But I know that that view isn’t universally held in Canada.
[00:19:18] There’s parts that are going to be openly antagonistic to it, and then there’s going to be a lot of people who are just confused or this is new to them and they might not be hostile, but they just kind of don’t see the urgency or the importance. How do you build bridges and you know, kind of make inroads with those constituencies without, in a way, language that alienates people or kind of puts them on the defensive right away?
Amita Kuttner: [00:19:44] Yeah. That’s one of my absolute joys of things to do actually. And it sort of relates to scientific communication as well, the removal of jargon. And I do, I bring those words up here because I think that they will be understood, but it is absolutely important that we message to a much broader audience in general that we take it upon ourselves to not alienate people. And if I look at a lot of political messaging, it is always very targeted and not open, not about building bridges and creating unity. So I would dig into opening up these concepts through actually connecting with communities and connecting with people that we know in different communities and different areas, and listening to them as to where the conversations are and then making those connections and developing methods of conversation and communication.
[00:20:35] That speak to the personal because people participate in politics when it moves them with what they feel and speaks to them as a person and into their heart. And that can only be done by making sure that all our values and all our policies relate to every individual where they are. And one part of that is definitely changing language, and another is making sure that even beyond language, we are managing to communicate just to different ways of ways of thought.
[00:21:05] Ian Bushfield: [00:21:05] Yeah, I was thinking maybe could you just give an example to put that in a little bit more concrete terms.
[00:21:11] Amita Kuttner: [00:21:11] Oh, I have to pick something. That is tough. Um, I would probably… let’s pick it in economic, something here. And so the types of economic systems that I am invested in and care a lot about are circular economies, local economy, and just economy and a combination of those.
[00:21:31] So heading to a place where we’re going zero waste. Um, but I believe it’s always capable. We are always capable of talking about this economic model in any place by looking at the makeup of a community. So the trick, well, maybe I should pick a community exactly as an example. So, um, I will pick one of the areas of the riding that I just ran in, Burnaby-North Seymour.
[00:21:59] And I’ll pick Deep Cove. And it is an area that is very much dependent on itself for its business. And also tourism. But within it, you know, there are actually conversations of getting to zero waste and how to serve a community in a circular fashion. So it would be to take those concepts of how we want to look at the economy overall and then look exactly fine tuned to the community itself.
[00:22:27] So in this case, the community that is right now having to rely less on tourism because of the pandemic and looking at the very particular businesses and saying, what we would like to do is to make sure that the people here who are surviving on their businesses really are the drivers of this community and this economy, and our policies are those that will support that and in other ways, at different levels. It can also be done for regulation of the tech industry and areas that we know have room to grow. Even in the face of the climate emergency and, uh, something that I’ve also spent a lot of time on, which is automation and artificial intelligence.
Scott de Lange Boom: [00:23:10] I want to approach the decision making process from slightly different angel here.
[00:23:15] Uh, so you’ve talked quite a bit about bringing people in, and I know the Green Party’s put a lot of focus on deliberative processes, while at the same time that this current crisis has really shown how important it is to have a highly responsive decision making process that can respond very quickly to changing circumstances.
[00:23:36] And I mean, I’m concerned if we wait for complete political consensus on climate change and how and how exactly we approach that not just needing to, but actually making the operational decisions to address it, it may be too late. How do you resolve the competing priorities between needs, one in a deliberative process, but also one that can act quickly when there are emergencies like climate or health?
Amita Kuttner: [00:24:04] Yeah, so I have a great fascination with distributed governance systems and how one actually distributes responsibility in those systems. And so sometimes you’re looking at actually consulting everyone and yeah, deliberating on issues with everybody involved. But sometimes there needs to be a really, really clear structure in times of emergency and in times where you’re just trying to get the input from the people who are actually relevant for a particular decision.
[00:24:35] And there are very interesting schools of thought on how to structure that and make sure that everybody is absolutely behind that system. And who in any organization is responsible for what decisions, but that it is not always just everybody that gets the say and stuff to make sure that there’s always that ability to respond quickly and especially with a strong commitment to evidence based policy and scientific decision making. You will want to defer to particular experts and in cases of health emergency, for instance.
Ian Bushfield: [00:25:13] As we kind of move into the final bits of this interview, I want to turn a little bit more to the realpolitik of being leader of the Green Party of Canada, and I see a number of challenges for the Green Party right now. I think the first big one is arguably to some extent, the party has been kind of politically, ideologically, boxed out by either the Liberal Party or the NDP, with both taking on different elements of climate change, to varying degrees of competency, depending on your point of view.
[00:25:51] Um, but for the broad public’s mind, both are putting out strong, uh, climate change plans, which is kind of what I think a lot of people see as the point of the Green Party. So how do you position the Green Party in the political climate where you have more mainstream parties starting to take these issues seriously?
Amita Kuttner: [00:26:13] If I got to choose, I would characterize the leadership race right now as this conversation, in that what do we become now when climate has become a part of everyone’s lingo, everyone’s conversation. And so it is then the very definition of who we are. And I would also agree that before we had, as our goal to get the climate crisis center stage, and so now that it is, what do we do?
[00:26:40] And I think we focus on what actually sets us apart from every other party, no longer trying to compete at all, but setting forth a very unique political vision. One where we talk about a future that is based on completely different economic models than anything on the current political spectrum and where we discuss a different way of living that can last for generations embracing really more than anything else.
[00:27:10] Our core principles, which I mentioned too earlier, of ecological wisdom and social justice, but they also include nonviolence, respect for diversity, sustainability, and participatory democracy, and I would probably reframe those a bit now too. But we do have a very different concept of how we would structure society, and I think that that’s what we need to get better at communicating.
[00:27:35] We do not want to go down a permanently extractive road where we focus on wealth accumulation anymore. We want to put every individual first. We want to focus on wellness indicators rather than GDP, for instance. And if we can do that and talk about a completely separate vision for the future, I think we’ll be able to find our political home.
Scott de Lange Boom: [00:28:04] Well, holding on the kind of real politics aspect of this, uh, the Green Party success has largely been due to, uh, Elizabeth May of focusing on a regional strategy, really, particularly Southwestern British Columbia. And there was this recent election where the Green Party did pick up one seat in Fredericton, but how do you see the challenges of branching out from that very small, pretty geographically constrained area, into being truly a national party that is relevant, not just in Southwestern BC, but across the country and all provinces?
Ian Bushfield: [00:28:43] And I’ll tack onto that the kind of alternate question of: or do you think with under first past the post that that kind of approach of focusing on core regional strengths is something to be doubled down on? I.e. Do you try to become a national party or do you continue the stronghold/beachhead strategy?
Amita Kuttner: [00:29:06] Very interesting question. Now I’m wondering, I should have answered the, uh, applying a policy uniquely to one place, I should have picked some community that is having to transition off oil soon and giving them the opportunity to reshape their economy, perhaps in Alberta.
[00:29:22] But it’s a very interesting thing to discuss, partially because I think in my experience, even in the last election, I found that the party messaging was not tailored for even where I was. It really was targeted towards a particular area. And I believe on Vancouver Island, and you know, it’s a lovely place and a lovely place for our party to call home, but I think it’s time for us to grow a lot larger, and it is time for us to speak to everyone rather than just one group.
[00:29:55] And I would do this by looking at our areas of the biggest growth. And I think in first past the post, we have some of the toughest competition right now for our past messaging strategies, where we’ve been focusing the most. And if we look for where we’re growing, especially now in the Maritimes, somewhat in Ontario and, um, some surprising other regions here and there, that that would be the areas with the most potential.
[00:30:25] And being able to reach out, and I think it would just be good for us to learn to communicate with everyone on that.
Ian Bushfield: [00:30:32] Well, another realpolitik question is around, you know, your own prospects. If we look at Jagmeet Singh, after he won the leadership of the federal New Democrats, he said he was going to sit out and wait for the perfect seat to come open rather than do what many traditional party leaders with moderate or larger caucuses do, which is to ask someone to politely, um, make some room for him and then run in that. Let’s see, the Greens don’t have as many seats, but by-elections inevitably come up and perhaps one of the current members might step aside if you asked. So the question is, if you were a Green leader, would you prioritize seeking that seat in Parliament sooner or focus on internal politics in the party and building that or the next election, which I guess could be whenever under a minority situation?
Amita Kuttner: [00:31:35] There is that. I think I would actually try to balance the two, so I do not want to ask any of the three current MPS to step aside. I think they’re all wonderful and doing a great job representing who we are and doing some really important work. I would absolutely be open to running in by-elections that turn up, especially to start practicing, really to get our message out there and talking to everybody.
[00:32:02] But if there was a really strong local candidate that everybody knew, I would not want to get in the way of that. So I wanted to leave it up to the party, how much I would run in different places or where. And I think we, since I view the role of the next leader would be to really grow everything, widen every margin that that would be what I’d be focusing on.
[00:32:26] And by-election elections could be part of that, but I will be trying to go everywhere and, and inspire as many people towards our vision as possible.
Scott de Lange Boom: [00:32:34] So I’m curious, none of the other candidates are elected MPs either. Do you think the Greens are at a bit of a disadvantage because the leader’s inevitably going to have to be elected and will be outside of parliament for at least some time?
Amita Kuttner: [00:32:52] Not really. I think it’s a tremendous opportunity to be able to focus on connecting across the country and not having the responsibility of being in Parliament at the same time. If we were larger, it probably would be an issue, but since we’re a caucus of three MPS, I don’t think it’s a problem.
Ian Bushfield: [00:33:10] What do you see the role of those three MPs? Say you’re the leader, there’s this minority parliament, would you be directing them to act differently? Like, hold the government harder to account or work more with the Liberals or work with…like how, you know, what would your relationship be with those MPs?
Amita Kuttner: [00:33:31] Perhaps I’ll betray myself a bit here, but I think they’re wonderful.
[00:33:36] And in moments where I’ve actually questioned whether I wanted to stay in this movement, it’s the MPs that made me feel like I still belonged. So I think that I’m really on the same page as they are, and from what I know of their work, I feel like I would be wanting to support them as much as I could, find out what the party can do to give them the support for what they’re doing and show off how much of a difference they’ve already made. And in terms of caucus work, especially in such a small caucus, always be on the same page, make sure that we’re all helping each other do more than we could have done as individuals.
Scott de Lange Boom: [00:34:18] Finally, could you tell our listeners where they can go to find out more about your campaign if they’re interested.
Amita Kuttner: [00:34:24] Yes, absolutely. And it’s an open door. We’re very much interested in everyone coming and sharing, and I know politics is not always the easiest space to be in, and I have my own frustrations with it, so I’m happy to chat about that with anyone.
[00:34:40] My website is AmitaKuttner.ca, which is A M I T A K U T T N E R dot C A. And I believe that I am still the only Amita Kuttner. So if you just search my name on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, you will find me. And also recently TikTok.
Ian Bushfield: [00:34:59] I have that same joy of being as far as I can tell, the only Ian Bushfield, and I think, are you the only Scott de Lange Boom.
Scott de Lange Boom: [00:35:05] I am definitely the only Scott de Lange Boom. There were only a handful of us in either Europe or Canada.
Ian Bushfield: [00:35:11] Well, here’s to unique names.
Amita Kuttner: [00:35:14] Yes.
Ian Bushfield: [00:35:15] All right, Amita, thank you so much for joining us.
Amita Kuttner: [00:35:18] Thank you so much for having me.
Scott de Lange Boom: [00:35:23] Well, let’s wrap up our episode with a couple of quick takes. The BC legislature is going to be coming back. So this past week it was announced that they’re going to be reconvening sometime next month. The two dates that have been put out there are either the 15th or the 20th of June.
[00:35:43] And it’s unlikely we’re going to see a launch new significant legislation, but they still have a budget to pass and just days of going through very boring estimates.
[00:35:54] So that’ll likely be what the first real return of the legislature will be all about.
Ian Bushfield: [00:36:00] I think the Government is also eager to push through the ICBC legislation that’s sitting at first reading.
Scott de Lange Boom: [00:36:09] I think they do want to do some stuff, but that the article here on CBC mostly discusses the fact that they’re going to be pulling a few minor legislation through.
[00:36:18] This doesn’t really seem like the time they’re doing a big push for major legislation.
Ian Bushfield: [00:36:23] And they’re also talking about doing a kind of hybrid model where there’ll be additional televisions set up in the legislature. The Clerk is hard at work, figuring out how to do this. Uh, some MLAs, particularly those in remote writings will be attending remotely.
[00:36:41] Uh, a lot of details are still being hashed out, I think, between the various house leaders on how to make sure they can have a robust but socially distant, I guess debate, which I guess will mirror what Parliament is still working on and slowly working the bugs out in.
Scott de Lange Boom: [00:36:58] Yeah, I was kind of curious to see what all the virtual zoom backgrounds were going to be.
Ian Bushfield: [00:37:03] I don’t think they’d be as cringe-worthy as the federal ones, but there’d be a couple bad ones.
Scott de Lange Boom: [00:37:08] Just the white sheet hanging behind that one MP.
Ian Bushfield: [00:37:12] Well, there was the one Conservative who like hung his hunting trophies behind him and got called out by the speaker after, during a debate on the new gun reforms, which, you know, we discussed at length about the validity…
Scott de Lange Boom: [00:37:25] Yeah, you’re not really supposed to use props into the House.
[00:37:28] So I guess a politically charged background would be kind of equivalent.
Ian Bushfield: [00:37:34] Yeah. I think the federal government is going to start mandating a MPs have a standardized background and also everyone has to still observe the dress code so that there’s some level of decorum maintained.
Scott de Lange Boom: [00:37:47] You mean you can’t be a participating in debates in your sweat pants lying in bed?
Ian Bushfield: [00:37:53] You might still be able to wear sweat pants cause rarely do the cameras pan down that low. But officially the answer would be no.
Well, the other bit of COVID-19 news here in BC is that the finance minister has laid out a little bit more about what our eventual recovery plan will look like. And it’s going to focus more on supporting workers in the short and medium term than expanding infrastructure, spending even more.
[00:38:21] The justification is that BC already has a fairly ambitious infrastructure plan with a couple of SkyTrain expansions, a lot of highway revitalization and a number of projects like that, as well as schools and other projects like hospital expansions. But I think there were a lot of people, myself included, to some extent, looking for more at this time.
Scott de Lange Boom: [00:38:48] Yeah, so infrastructure is one of those things that typically gets rolled out during stimulus. It’s a big thing. It’s flashy and for ribbon-cutting ceremonies. And typically you will see a lot of job losses in the construction sector during recessions, and so far there’s been less of that.
[00:39:10] And I’ve seen quite a bit of discussion around the very sector-specific losses. But I do think that that’s maybe a little shortsighted in some of the analysis because most of the construction work that’s happening right now is projects that were ongoing before the pandemic hit. And this is going to be a situation that’s kind of had stand, uh, for months and include into the recovery, several years. And at that point, I think currently not too bad. Construction’s job numbers might look a lot different once nobody needs new retail spaces because there’s sky high retail vacancies and offices are no longer needing to be built in the short term. And because of that, I do think it would be a mistake to deprioritize infrastructure spending to the step that some have suggested.
Ian Bushfield: [00:40:09] Yeah. Like there’s still a huge need for additional transit infrastructure as part of Clean BC and as a part of our transition…
Scott de Lange Boom: [00:40:19] There’s the aggressive capital projects that we talked about, the start of this, but like there’s still a fair bit that isn’t covered by that, that needs to be done and this would be a good time to start moving some of those timetables up a bit by spending some additional money to accelerate those.
[00:40:39] Ian Bushfield: [00:40:39] And if we want to talk about schools returning in September, if students are going to still be required to be as physically separated as they are right now, or in the short term or when there’s a second wave, we will need more and larger classrooms with more teachers, which is more infrastructure, spending, more education, spending.
[00:41:01] Scott de Lange Boom: [00:41:01] Outside of some more portables, you’re not likely to be able to scale that up before the fall.
[00:41:06] Ian Bushfield: [00:41:06] No. But it does kind of give you longer term spending priorities and goals. And similarly, if we want to permanently bake in a bit more slack into our healthcare system, expanding hospitals and some of those, so that in a normal period we aren’t sitting at 105% capacity in the spring because that’s apparently what our normal was until we canceled all the surgeries, which we talked about a couple of weeks ago, which is going to take quite a bit to get back.
[00:41:36] But there’s a lot of choices to be made there and it’s difficult. The BC Government is looking at spending a bunch of money and the federal government is really looking at throwing money at the provinces. So there’s money to be had, so there’s kind of an argument to be made for taking the money when it’s available rather than fighting tooth and nail when it’s not.
Scott de Lange Boom: [00:41:58] Hey, yeah, this really is one of those approaches where more is better and we’re in a really bad economic situation. I think a lot of it’s being somewhat obscured, as bad as it’s been, because there’s been the much more direct pandemic everyone’s been focusing on, but as we reopen, I think the just horrendous economic damage is going to really be apparent and everything we can do to bring that out and stop that is going to be for the good.
[00:42:31] And yeah, we’ll have some bigger deficits, but that’s a lot better than a five-year economic slump where you will definitely be running deficits because there’s a revenue problem in that case.
Ian Bushfield: [00:42:45] I mean, just to close it off with a little bit of defense for the finance minister, the emphasis on worker aid in the short term, particularly people, you know, really hit hard in the service industry and sectors like that, whereas BC’s construction industry hasn’t slowed down as much.
[00:43:06] Um, yeah, there’s a good justification there. So it’s not like they don’t know what they’re doing, but there is kind of a, I think we both agree there’s an argument to be made that. Why not both?
Scott de Lange Boom: [00:43:20] Yeah. And this one’s in particular, or one of the challenges that’s new to this one is just how much of the job loss has been concentrated in direct public facing services.
[00:43:34] You know, the restaurant industry, the hospitality industry, and those aren’t industries that are easily directly supported by government procurement contracts, which does make stimulus a little more challenging, particularly when there’s a behavioral issues around people not wanting to go out and spend money, even if they have it, given everything else going on with the pandemic.
[00:43:59] So it’s going to be a real challenge to put together a truly comprehensive and effective stimulus plan in this circumstance.
[00:44:08] Ian Bushfield: [00:44:08] One of the ways that will, in theory, try to encourage people to get out there, or if people are getting out there, is that the federal public health officer, Dr Theresa Tam, has, I guess, issued a little more clarity and her guidance that if people are going to situations where keeping a distance of two meters might not be possible, people should be wearing nonmedical masks. And you know, when I describe it like that, as accurately as I think I can, I don’t think it’s a huge shift in guidance or change in policy from, you know, few weeks ago or even what you talked about with Dr Rob a month or two ago.
[00:44:53] Scott de Lange Boom: [00:44:53] Yeah. Before it was kind of a, yeah, it’s not an issue if you wear them, it’s fine. It might even help a bit, but they weren’t going as far as making a direct recommendation that everyone should wear a mask. Rather that it’s supported, but not heavily encouraged was, I think where the public health officers had landed before this.
Ian Bushfield: [00:45:16] And I think there’s been a bit more studies about this, particularly, you know, masks around COVID-19 and the evidence is getting stronger that they are valuable for preventing you from getting other people sick. These nonmedical mass, these fabric masks you can either make or buy, generally don’t prevent you from inhaling, you know, viruses from getting into you.
[00:45:43] But if it’s one of those things where if everyone does it, that does reduce the spread. Now, Dr Bonnie Henry, Dr Theresa Tam, all the public health officers, still strongly, strongly, strongly emphasize first keep those physical distances, wash your hands, do all of the other main things. But in those instances where maybe you’re in a store or maybe you have to go into an office or be in close contact with people, that’s the time when these masks do add a layer of extra protection that doesn’t hurt and is beneficial. Nevertheless, masks, they’re going to continue to be needlessly controversial.
Scott de Lange Boom: [00:46:23] And thankfully I haven’t seen it boil over in Canada nearly to the extent it has in the US.
Ian Bushfield: [00:46:28] Particularly with the people who are like, I won’t wear my mask into Costco.
[00:46:33] It’s like, Oh my God. I mean, my one thing is if anything is going to, if anywhere or any government is going to mandate the wearing of masks, you have to at least provide them because it can be difficult to source them. Everyone’s going to have different things, and I know it can be difficult to provide them, but yeah, then don’t mandate it. Make it easier for people to stay separated. It’s not been mandated by Canada, but it has been recommended. So maybe there’ll be PolitiCoast masks coming soon. There’ll be a new PolitiCoast mask, have our logo on your face. There will not be a PolitiCoast mask.
Scott de Lange Boom: [00:47:06] I actually think there are, you know these online printing, you know, clothing printing places have started to do masks. So I don’t know if your Teespring masks services, so it might actually be pretty easy to get one set up. If you want a mask, let us know and we’ll look into it.