Mackenzie Kerr looks to what is going on in Ottawa right now and, like most, doesn’t like what she sees.
So she decided to try and change that. She will carry the Green Party of Canada banner in the Cariboo-Prince George riding this fall.
“I’m a little frustrated with what’s going on right now,” she said of her decision to enter federal politics. “Not enough is being changed and we’re in a climate crisis. It’s my future and I don’t know why my future is going to look like in 50 years. I just really want to make a difference and have a voice in Ottawa that isn’t whipped.”
The Green Party of Canada is the only party that doesn’t whip its members on certain votes. She adds the Green Party is the party of civility in the House of Commons choosing not to resort to the heckling and jeering that politicians often try to pass off as debate.
“People just shake their heads and don’t think that’s how the leaders of our country should be acting,” she said. “I want to bring a fresh perspective to government.”
Kerr, who grew up on a farm near Prince George, is studying forestry at UNBC and working on getting her pilot’s licence.
“I think we really someone who is connected to the community, who is honest and ethical and really wants to learn,” she said.
While election campaigns are almost always about the economy, this campaign is shaping up to be about the environment. All of the major parties have laid out plans to deal with the climate crisis. Kerr says she glad to see the parties are developing plans, but adds the Green Party plan has the best targets in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
“I’m happy the Conservatives came out with a climate plan because they weren’t talking about it last (election),” she said. “They are starting to realize that it is a global and federal issue that needs discussing. I’m not too happy with the content of the (Conservative) plan, but at least they’re talking about it.”
She also likes the Liberal government’s carbon pricing system but says the price isn’t high enough.
“(Carbon pricing) is necessary,” she said. “It’s not high enough, but we also need to make sure that it’s not impacting everyday people, like myself, who have to drive a truck. We have to figure out a way to make it not affect the consumer but we need to be hard-hitting on the big polluters who are doing most of the damage.”
The NDP have also developed a plan to reduce emissions and the Green Party plan, she said, has a reduction target almost double that of the NDP plan.
“I really think we need bold action,” she said. “If we’re not going to do it now, we’re going to be too late.”
She said Canada can meet its emissions targets and have a robust economy if it invests in renewable, sustainable energy.
“The Green Party is supportive of building a refinery in Alberta for our oil and gas products,” she said. “I don’t think we can go cold turkey on oil and gas overnight, obviously that’s not possible so we need to figure out a transition plan and we should have started that yesterday.”
While the environment will be front-and-centre this campaign, Kerr says the Green Party is not a one-issue party. The economy will certainly be an issue, particularly in Interior ridings being hit hard by temporary and permanent mill closures.
“We need to be looking at a more sustainable forest industry,” she said. “We need someone in Ottawa speaking on behalf of people who want a more sustainable forest industry. The industry is falling apart around us because we haven’t been managing them sustainably.”
Over the past three summers, Kerr worked in the Stores department at Canfor’s Northwood pulp mill, working closely with all the trades at Northwood and advocating for a battery recycling program.
Growing up on a farm and being involved in 4-H certainly makes agriculture an interest as well. Her 12 years of experience with the 4-H program as a national and provincial ambassador taught her the importance of local agriculture.
“Giving more credit to farmers and making easier for people to get into agriculture is important,” she said. “If we’re focused on everything else but agriculture, people are going to starve. They’re the people who feed the world … Cariboo-Prince George is very heavy into agriculture so it’s something that we need to focus on for our area.”
She said emphasis should be put more on small scale farming, which is more sustainable than large scale farming operations.
At 22 years old, issues affecting younger Canadians are also top of mind of Kerr, such as the high cost of housing, the opioid crisis, and job security.
“I’m also quite passionate about equality,” she said. “I know that we still don’t have an equal amount of women in politics or in industries that really should. There are so many people that still don’t have a voice at the table.”
Mackenzie is also deeply committed to engaging young people in the future of Canada. That commitment led her to found the very successful Young Greens club at UNBC. This experience and her commitment to a sustainable future led to her election as the Sustainability Representative on the UNBC Student Society this February. More recently, she co-chaired the 2019 Walk for Alzheimer’s in Prince George, an experience that exposed her to our generous community of Prince George volunteers who dedicate themselves to making a difference.
Kerr says she running and hopes to win, however, is realistic about the hill that has to be climbed to get there. In 2015, Green Party candidate Richard Jacques captured 3.5 per cent of the vote.
“I’m hoping to get quite a bit higher than that,” she said. “I’m up against some heavy hitters.”
Conservative Todd Doherty will be seeking to be re-elected. Tracy Calogheros carried the Liberal banner in the last election and while the Liberals have not yet selected a candidate it’s speculated that Calogheros will be the candidate again. The NDP will be holding its nomination meeting July 28. The People’s Party of Canada has named Jing Lan Yang (Young) as its candidate.
“I think it will be a good chance for the North to show, whoever is elected, that there are a lot of people in this riding who are Green and are willing to vote Green because they think that we are in an emergency climate crisis, that we need a change. It is time for change and people are reading for a change.”
Kerr spent six weeks in the Lower Mainland helping other Green candidates work on their campaigns to gain the experience of working on a campaign.