Sunshine Coast resident Mike Simpson will be representing the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country riding as the Green Party candidate when a federal election is called.
The 56-year-old beat out Amanda Ladner in what a July 6 announcement described as a “spirited nomination contest.”
Simpson said a “surge in members” voted at the end of June, following a town hall and virtual debate.
The vote was “very close,” according to local Green Party electoral district association interim CEO Mike Bothma.
This is the first foray into politics for Simpson, a documentary filmmaker and most recently executive director of the British Columbia Council for International Cooperation (BCCIC), currently on leave.
He moved to the Sunshine Coast in 2012 and lives in Elphinstone, outside of Gibsons, with his partner Stephanie Grindon and nine-year-old daughter. The family has also “recently established a budding solar powered permaculture operation on Gambier Island,” according to Simpson’s website.
Simpson, who pursued a degree in psychology from the University of Victoria but never completed the program, has worked primarily in the non-profit sector and on international initiatives, founding One Sky: Canadian Institute of Sustainable Living before moving on to BCCIC in 2014.
Simpson told Coast Reporter he took the plunge into politics because, “at this point, we’re running out of time” and the federal government has failed to meet its climate change targets.
The Greens are the only party with a plan in place “that will actually lead to a science-based solution,” he said, describing his choice to run under the party’s banner.
The riding has become a crowded one, with incumbent Liberal MP Patrick Weiler and former Conservative MP John Weston already declaring their intentions.
In May, Halfmoon Bay resident Avi Lewis, husband of high-profile author Naomi Klein and son of former provincial NDP leader Stephen Lewis, was acclaimed as NDP candidate for the riding with glowing endorsements from the likes of environmentalist David Suzuki and actor Jane Fonda, as well as a cameo appearance from federal leader Jagmeet Singh.
Lewis, also a documentary filmmaker, is known for his founding contributions to the Leap Manifesto – billed as a roadmap out of the fossil fuel economy.
While facing competition from candidates strong on climate change, Simpson said he is the only leader in the riding whose party aligns with and supports his background in climate activism.
“They’re all good people individually, but you also have to be able to stand behind your party, and I’d be interested to know how Avi, for example, is going to be able to stand up and talk climate change when his party rejected the Leap Manifesto that he proposed,” he said.
“He’s standing up, but his party isn’t behind him”
The Leap Manifesto was not formally adopted when introduced at a 2016 NDP convention, but it was supported as “a high high-level statement of principles” and was expected to be debated at the riding association level over the next two years. At the 2018 convention, however, no resolutions passed referencing the manifesto, according to reports.
Unlike Weiler and Lewis, “I can stand up and I can say I’m a climate change activist, but I can also point to my party, the deep policies behind it and the international green movement, which is absolutely proven on these key questions on climate and sustainability, and that’s obviously of interest to our constituents,” said Simpson.
In 2019, Green Party candidate Dana Taylor – now the Green Party’s interim executive director – finished third in the riding with about 22 per cent of the vote, after Conservative candidate Gabrielle Loren, who Weiler defeated by more than 5,000 votes. The NDP finished fourth.
Provincially, Green candidate and former Sunshine Coast resident Jeremy Valeriote was narrowly defeated by B.C. Liberal Jordan Sturdy last fall – the vote was close enough to trigger a recount.
While Simpson sees those results as party gains locally, nationally the Green Party remains in turmoil as it deals with a leadership crisis, with federal leader Annamie Paul facing a non-confidence vote July 20 following divisive comments from former senior advisor Noah Zatzman about the Israel-Gaza conflict that ultimately led Fredericton Green MP Jenica Atwin to cross the floor to the Liberal caucus.
Simpson wouldn’t say whether he supports Paul’s leadership, but acknowledged “we have a leadership question going on in the Green Party” and that he is “absolutely opposed to the original statements” from Zatzman.
“The Green Party is not just one person. It is a lot of different people with a lot of consistent talents and we’re based on grassroots policies that have been developed by the membership that we can stand on,” he said.
“If we concentrate on what are the key, core issues, what are the principles the Green Party has stood behind, and how do we move forward through that, then people can look at my position and go, OK, well can I vote for that guy? And that’s what I’m hoping people will do.”