The Green Party of Canada may be struggling with internal turmoil around its leadership, but the party’s North Island-Powell River candidate, Jessica Wegg, believes her party is needed now more than ever to confront climate change.
“We need the Greens, because we have been here this whole time trying to get attention for the issue, planning for every single thing that we need to do,” said Wegg.
Wegg is a human rights lawyer who focuses on prisoners’ rights and advocating for victims of institutional sexual abuse in the United States.
In Comox, where Wegg lives, her work has expanded to include Indigenous legal issues, and she is currently working in a supportive role doing research and analysis as the K’ómoks First Nation goes through its treaty process.
“The reason that I decided to run was because I had to know, at the end of the day, that I did every single thing in my power to make the world a better place,” said Wegg. “I want children, my kids, your kids, people’s grandkids, nieces and nephews, everyone, to have the same access to this beautiful place.”
Wegg said that while most mainstream political parties accept the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change, she believes only her party has been consistent in taking the issue seriously.
“We have done the research; we know what it’s going to take, and we are going to do it,” said Wegg. “The other parties have had the same opportunities we’ve had to see what’s going on; they’ve chosen to look the other way and let it happen and not do anything.”
In particular, Wegg thinks that the NDP, the party which incumbent MP Rachel Blaney belongs to, does not have credibility on the issue of climate change.
“[NDP MPs are] all whipped,” said Wegg. “They have to vote the way the party says, so even if some of them have good ideas, unless they’re told that they should vote that way, then it doesn’t matter.
“It’s time for something different and time for people who will step up and will do the right thing.”
Wegg said she has spoken to people who are frustrated with NDP representatives and the BC NDP government for not taking sufficient action to protect old-growth forests.
“We are hoping that people who are frustrated with the BC NDP will see that the Greens are doing everything that we can,” she added.
However, Wegg said she has also spoken to a number of voters who said they would like to vote Green, but plan to vote for the NDP strategically in hopes of blocking a Conservative victory.
“This wouldn’t be an issue if everybody who wanted to vote Green, voted Green,” said Wegg. “The time has come to vote the way that you want to vote; we cannot be afraid anymore.”
Still, the Green Party nationally is currently in a less than ideal state to be fighting a federal election. Green Party leader Annamie Paul has faced months of opposition to her leadership from her party’s federal council.
“The timing is bad,” conceded Wegg. “But the Greens are still a young party, and these are growing pains that we’re going through.
“Nobody in the Green Party thinks that the climate isn’t the biggest issue right now. That’s what we’re all working for.”
Besides tackling the climate crisis, Wegg said another key issue that drives her is ensuring that all First Nations have access to clean drinking water.
“We need to do so much better for Indigenous rights and for First Nations,” said Wegg, adding that the finding of more than 1,300 bodies of First Nations children at the former sites of residential schools since May has prompted a reckoning.
“It woke us up, I think, as a country, to just how horrific our history is,” added Wegg. “And we need to do something about it, so we can’t shy away from it; we have to keep talking about it. Really working on what we can do to repair the damage we have done is important to me.”
Jon Little, Wegg’s husband and campaign manager, said he believes Wegg is running to make the world better.
While Green candidates have performed well in the region in both federal and provincial elections, no candidate has yet made a breakthrough into parliament or the provincial legislature. But Little is optimistic that this election is different, given the imminent effects of climate change.
“We can see what the world is like right now; we’ve got fires, we’ve got drought, we’ve got climate catastrophe,” said Little. “It’s not a tomorrow problem, it’s happening right now. I’d say to people: if not Green now, when?”
2021 North Island-Powell River riding federal election candidates:
Rachel Blaney (NDP)
Shelley Downey (Conservative)
Stacey Gastis (Maverick)
Jennifer Grenz (Liberal)
Paul Macnight (PPC)
Carla Neal (Marxist-Leninist)
Jessica Wegg (Green)