To former Conservative voters in the North-Okanagan Shuswap riding still on the fence, Chris George offers what may seem an unconventional solution: vote Green.
Of course, a vote for the Green Party of Canada in the riding would be a vote for George, the party’s local candidate. Offering himself as an option for the undecided is George’s logical approach to the conundrum, based on an understanding that voters haven’t forgotten past Liberal (federally) and NDP (provincially) governments, and how he, as a Green MP, wouldn’t be encumbered by ideology or party line – that Greens can stick their necks out when needed to represent their ridings.
“I can actually work together with different interests and different groups in the riding to come up with a consensus of opinion that I can then take to Ottawa to fairly represent the people here,” said George.
George was selected the riding’s Green candidate in July. The Notch Hill resident is currently pursuing a bachelor of general studies, brings with him a diverse background in small business, about three decades of volunteering, an affinity for information, numbers and policy, and the experience of having run as the Shuswap’s B.C. Green Party candidate in the 2013 provincial election (in which he earned 2,186 votes – 9.26 per cent of the total vote).
Going farther back, George says he also used to vote for the Progressive Conservative/Social Democratic parties.
“My parents were both small business people, this was their political agenda and I just sort of inherited it,” said George.
“They always instilled in me that voting was a right, privilege and a duty, so I’ve gone out of my way to make sure that I’ve voted in every single election that I was eligible to do so.”
But George said he was never satisfied with the partisan nature of politics and the simplified paradigms of left and right-wing. It wasn’t until he heard a speech by former Green Party of Canada leader Jim Harris that George found a place to hang his hat.
“He said their policy was economically conservative, socially responsible and environmentally sound, and that really struck a chord with me,” said George, who describes himself as a fiscally conservative person with a social conscience.
George contests the notion that the Greens are a party that only says “no.”
He says this is only the case to extremist positions where an unbalanced approach is being taken.
He points to the tar sands for example, noting the Greens are not looking to shut them down, but to stop their expansion, and instead start putting resources into secondary industry, such as refining, not in China but on Canadian soil.
“If we actually deal with that product in Edmonton, we can run it through a state-of-the-art refinery with appropriate environmental controls and make sure those jobs for Canadians aren’t being exported,” said George.
One concern for George in this election is that people will be voting strategically, driven by personality over the issues. He calls this a mistake, one to which issues surrounding climate change, economic inequality and even health care have taken a back seat.
He says this way of thinking only propagates the kind of apathy that kept 33,980 eligible voters from casting a ballot in 2013.
One way of changing this, he says, is to have leaders who inspire, who are willing and able to speak from the heart and without script.
“I think we need to roll back a generation, I guess, back to when people were aspirational and people actually voted what was in their hearts and kind of let the chips fall where they may.”