Meet the Candidates: John Kidder

Green Party candidate John Kidder has been a cowboy, farm worker, miner, pipeline layer, fish buyer and warehouse worker. In the 1970s, he moved to Victoria as a government range and environmental program manager. In the 1980s, he established technology companies in software, fibre optics and medical devices. In 1983, he was a founding member of the BC Green Party. He's been an active federal Liberal since the 1970s and ran as the Liberal candidate in Okanagan-Coquihalla in the 2011 federal election.

What are the surprises so far in the campaign?

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One surprise is the number of people who say to me, 'Well, I'm not really all that happy with either of the other parties, and I might vote Green, but I just don't think you have a chance of winning.' There's just a general sense that people are not satisfied with the same old, same old from the Liberals and the NDP. Fundamentally it's the same kind of exponential-growth industrial strategy.

I think most people know that's not very satisfactory, certainly not here in our communities. We know the pine trees are gone, the freshet is three weeks earlier in the spring, the rivers are running warmer in the fall, the salmon are declining.

I think people are sympathetic but they're not yet convinced there's a real alternative in a Green candidate. So I talk to them about the example of (federal Green leader) Elizabeth May in Ottawa, who has done a tremendous job of adding credibility to what a single voice can do in a legislature. And I think a single voice, or three or four or five Green voices, would provide real opposition to the Liberal or NDP monolithic approach to becoming the LNG supplier to the planet.

I was also incredibly surprised at an all-candidates meeting last night in Merritt when a First Nations person asked the panel what their reaction was to Bill C-45, the federal omnibus bill, and nobody else on the panel even knew what it was. I thought 'My God, these people are downloading enormous responsibilities onto provincial governments and First Nations. How can you not know what it is?' It just blew me away.

What do you see as the main issues of the campaign, at the provincial level and the Fraser-Nicola level?

I think the provincial and local issues are deeply intertwined. I think the over-riding provincial issue is whether or not we are going to commit the province to a long-term commitment on natural gas.

The province has written cheques for $840 million as direct subsidies to natural gas exploration over the last two years. That's silly. It's going to require $10 billion to do the LNG plant in Kitimat, another $8 billion in borrowing to do Site C in the Peace River, plus there's going to be another $5 billion in forgiven royalty flows. This is all to generate some industrial activity in an area when there's beginning to be a worldwide glut of natural gas on the market. It fails as a business proposition and it certainly fails as an environmental proposition.

To set the province on this course means we're locked in to that industrial strategy. So it means we will not be able to devote the energies we need to re-processing our natural resources, to building small-scale industry, to helping small businesses. The small towns won't benefit from this - both the Liberals and NDP wish we'd dry up and blow away. And they don't see small towns and rural communities as opportunities for economic development - they're mega-project people by nature.

And that's where the Green Party's strategy is fundamentally different - we really do talk about ground-up economic development, ground-up community development and building on what happens locally. I don't see any sign of the provincial government or the NDP looking at what the local strengths and resources are. And that's the Green philosophy worldwide.

We have a tendency to chop up issues into little buckets - health care here, education there, sustainability over there - but they're all the same thing.

Our readers identified integrity in government as a main election issue. How do you address that?

I know a lot of parliamentarians, provincially and federally, and while I think their policies are misguided, I think most of them as individuals are trying to do their

best for the country. That said, there are huge issues of trust because the political parties themselves are run by people who are learning from the Americans about winning elections without necessarily dealing with the issues. In this election, the NDP and Liberal candidates in our debates are just slagging each other. There's not a lot of 'Here's where we stand. Here's why we deserve your trust.' It's 'the other guys are bad guys and we're less bad.'

The Green Party doesn't have any whipped votes anywhere in the world. It's a fundamental philosophy that the Green MLA or MP always has a right to speak from their heart about what's happening with their constituents and their philosophies. It will never be top-down, leader-directed or campaign-directed.

Two, there's an absolutely fundamental belief in transparency. Both the NDP and Liberals have shifted an enormous amount of things off to third parties like the NDIT. But that's not a government process. Government has tended to hand off responsibility where we don't know what's really going on. The Green policy is that all of these things should be in general revenue, should be run through the legislature and done very clearly and very simply.

Please complete this sentence: People should vote for me because

I have a solid track record of success in business, in non-profit management, in community leadership. Because my heart is open and transparent. Because I believe we are at the cusp of a fundamental shift in government strategies with the way we deal with the planet and the people within it. Because I am the best choice to be in the legislature. It's really important that there are some non-industrial style voices in the legislature. The NDP and the Liberals are both saying the same thing - they disguise it as a labour versus capital battle, but they're both dealing with 19th century political attitudes rather than the 21st century.

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