Green Party candidate Damian Kettlewell is one of four candidates campaigning for Quilchena voters in order to win a seat in the legislature. If he succeeds, he will make history, as a first Green Party MLA is yet to be elected in B.C.
When I arrive early at the opening reception of the first Vancouver Green Party campaign office in a decade, Kettlewell hasn’t arrived yet, but I am greeted by young politicians Matthew Pedley (Vancouver-Fairview), Barinder Hans (V-Mount Pleasant) and Regan-Heng Zhang (V-Langara), chafing at the bit to enter the political arena.
Among them Jodie Emery, a longtime marijuana activist and businesswoman, whose charm and cheerfulness bring some glamour to the small office on West Broadway and Manitoba Street.
“I wanted to fight Christy Clark in her riding,” Emery said, but because the Greens have a strong candidate in Point Grey (Francoise Raunet), party leader Jane Sterk asked Emery to take on the West End, an area she knows well.
It is hard canvassing in the West End, where most people live in condos and apartments, said Emery, who tries to be present at public events like last week’s 4/20 demonstration at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Emery said she is ready to move to Victoria if she wins her riding. The only drawback about her candidacy is the lack of time to fly to Mississippi, where her husband Marc is serving a five-year sentence for selling cannabis seeds.
Nomen est omen: “Sterk” means “strong” in Dutch
Jane Sterk enters the office, carrying a makeshift bouquet of dandelions.
“Those were given to me. Actually, I’ve never had dandelions that had the stems still with an ability to hold themselves up, so that’s a good omen,” she said, adding that the Greens are happy with the media coverage they’ve had so far, an improvement from 2009.
“There is a belief we are going to win seats,” Sterk said. “After May 14, when we win seats, the Green Party will be consulted on all the issues in British Columbia.”
Sterk said seeing the Greens as environmentalists only is a narrow approach. Kettlewell’s biggest challenge will be to let people know that he is a businessman and a father, who understands the needs of families, she said.
“I think that he’s a very credible candidate, he’s been a candidate before, this is his third time. He has very good ideas, and he’s a very sensitive, thoughtful man. I think he will be very attractive to the people of Quilchena,” she said.
Three’s a charm for candidate Kettlewell
Kettlewell was born in Australia and raised in Vancouver. In 2005, he ran as a candidate in Vancouver-Point Grey, earning 15 per cent of the vote. In 2009, he achieved 13 per cent in Vancouver-False Creek.
Vancouver-Quilchena’s voting results in 2009 were 70.22% Liberals (Colin Hansen), 9.04% Green Party (Laura-Leah Shaw) and 20.74% NDP (James Young)
The voter turnout in Quilchena was 57.67%, higher than the average provincial turnout of 50.99%.
Kettlewell was the deputy leader of the Green Party of British Columbia from 2008 till 2010. He lives with his wife Charlene and their three children aged 4, 2 and 8 months old in Vancouver. Kettlewell is partner and president of his family business, JAK Group Liquor Stores and Pub, which includes Pacific Spirits liquor store in Dunbar Village (at West 28th Ave.)
When I ask Kettlewell what is it that he would like voters to know about him as a person, he reflects for a while. His answer “I consider myself a gracious and conscious pillar of strength for my family and for the earth” sounds like a written mission statement, but I realize the question is tough, so we move on to smoother areas.
We speak about the three ridings where the Green Party has the highest hopes of success: Victoria-Beacon Hill (Jane Sterk), Oak Bay-Gordon Head (Andrew Weaver) and Saanich North-Islands (Adam Olsen).
“The main challenge they will have as well is probing into the hearts of individual voters and convincing them that they have a unique opportunity to make history like the federal voters did with Elizabeth May,” said Kettlewell, referring to May’s election as first Green MP in 2011.
planting seeds in governments and voters
Why should people with environmental concerns vote for him instead of Nicholas Scapillati of the BC NDP, who has a strong environmental background?
Kettlewell said he has a lot of respect for Scapillati and the NDP, but thinks the Green Party is simply more progressive.
“We want to take the carbon tax from $30 at ton to $50 a ton,” he said. “Nicholas needs to ask himself if he’ll be able to do that and I know that if we’re elected, that’s what we are going to advocate for. And I know that we will advocate for a moratorium on fracking and the NDP are unable to do that at this point of time.”
Kettlewell said the Green Party advocated for the carbon tax 15 years ago, and keeps on bringing new ideas, like a guaranteed livable income and a new energy authority, which would oversee BC Hydro and renewable energy companies.
Kettlewell said he and Scapillati face an uphill battle against the BC Liberals candidate Andrew Wilkinson. “My number one goal is to win, my secondary goal is to get 18 per cent – double the vote (of Leah-Laura Shaw).”
When I ask him for his opinion about the new BC Conservative candidate Bill Clarke, Kettlewell is surprised and quickly looks him up on his phone. Clarke is a veteran politician and four-time MP.
“Wow, good for him! Impressive resume, he’s up there with Andrew,” Kettlewell said. “He’s a political heavyweight. He’s going to get 15 per cent at least. It’s a bit late in the game, but he’s going to get the seniors. “
Kettlewell will face his political rivals twice at an all Vancouver-Quilchena candidates’ debate this Tuesday, April 30:
–10 a.m. at Magee Secondary School
-7 p.m. at St. Philip’s Anglican Church in Dunbar
Finally, I ask him a few brief questions, as well as his opinion on some issues of the CBC Vote Compass survey.
-Name a good thing the current BC government has done the last 12 years.
-Name a good thing the City of Vancouver has done in the last years.
“Trying to be the greenest city in the world by 2020”
-What is your main means of transportation?
“Jogging, walking, driving”
-Name me some B.C. movies you have seen in the last year.
“We’re more a Netflix family, but we do watch Fringe (which is filmed in B.C.)”
–What is your view on the legislation of marijuana? (Green Party: strongly agree)
“I strongly agree that we should legalize it, tax it and get it out of the hands of the gangs. Less violence and more taxation. It’ll open up time for prosecutors, it’ll open up judges time, it’ll open up the prison times and it’ll create jobs, tax-paying jobs instead of the underworld.”
-How many more immigrants does BC need? (Green Party: about the same as now)
“I’m an immigrant, I was born in Australia. I lean to somewhat to a lot more.”
-Should immigrants adopt Canadian values? (Green Party: Strongly disagree).
-How much oil tanker traffic along the BC coast should be permitted? (Green Party: somewhat less)
“Somewhat less, we still need oil, we need it every day, but we need to find a way to use less oil.”
When we say goodbye, Kettlewell sends out a message to the readers of this blog: He would like them to “keep their children and grandchildren in mind when they vote and what sort of a world they want to leave behind for their children and grandchildren and vote for the party that has the best plan for the next generations.”
Photos and report by Katja De Bock