Federal Green party leader Elizabeth May and local candidate John Kidder made a stop in Harrison Friday, July 12, to discuss the concerns of residents and address their questions.
The meeting, which took place in the morning at Harrison Corner Cafe, was part of Kidder’s “lightening tour” of the Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon riding, which began Thursday in Mission. Friday’s events started in Harrison, and saw Kidder travel to Boston Bar, Lytton, Lillooet and Ashcroft with party leader and wife May.
In Harrison, five residents showed up to discuss their thoughts about the riding with the politicians, including Harrison Coun. Michie Vidal, who brought up the long-standing issue of the proposed quarry on Hot Springs Road.
Although Kidder said he was aware of the issue, May wasn’t and listened to Vidal’s description of the protests against Timbro’s proposed quarry.
“As an activist, as an environmental activist, I would have been on the ground to make sure that got stopped,” May said. “As a federal party leader, I have to say ‘How do we get in on this?’”
She said she would talk to the Green party at the provincial level to discuss the application, as it is a provincial issue. Kidder also asked about Kent council’s approach to the quarry proposal, and said he would reach out to the council to discuss it.
Vidal also brought up council’s recent discussion on a proposed Fraser Health clinic that would be partially paid for by Harrison property taxes, as well as the village’s single-use plastic ban that is currently undergoing consultation.
Kidder was in favour of the proposed plastic ban, and said that many times the community can take on legislation and embrace it.
“The community gets engaged to the point that people are really proud of the fact that they don’t” sell single-use plastics, he said. “They see somebody walking down the street with a plastic bag and they’ll get challenged. ‘Where did you get that bag? … We don’t do that here.’
“That’s the kind of stuff that can really spread and really gel.”
Harrison festival director Andy Hillhouse was also as the townhall, and asked about the Green party’s position on arts funding. Kidder said it was the arts and culture were a key part of the Green’s platform, but the main challenge is to get grants to the different organizations.
“It’s not just giving money away so people can play tunes,” he said about funding for the arts. “This is what brings people to town; this is what helps people to stay here.”
“It seems to be it’s easier to get money in the big city,” he added. “They got the big theatre, they got the big draws and the big acts.” Smaller communities, he added, need help to access that grant funding and need to have expanded funding opportunities.
The discussion on arts funding led into a further discussion on the challenges of small towns, which is what predominately populates the Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon riding.
“The other smaller towns in the riding are really sucking air,” Kidder said. “Councils are competing with each other as to who can hire the best grant writer.
“And if you think about something that’s a profound indecent irony of policy, is that people who should be able to count on tax revenue to support their community, are competing with each other as to who can write the best grants … We need to actually look at communities and say this is where people live, this is where they pay taxes, let’s find the money to get to the communities.”
While Kidder was discussing small-town problems and possible solutions — including the Green idea of a council of Canadian governments, from municipal councils up, so the different levels of government can better talk to each other — May was discussing the current provincial government in Alberta and the Trans Mountain pipeline with two residents.
The meeting ended with discussions on the Green’s approach to First Nations communities, including the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women report.
The federal election will be held in Oct. 21 of this year, and Kidder’s townhall in Harrison wasn’t the first campaign event in the area. Conservative candidate Brad Vis also held a townhall in Agassiz back in April.
Friday’s townhall also won’t be the last time Kidder stops by the riding before the October election. He said he plans to come through the area every couple of weeks to hold a community meeting and speak to residents.