Regina-based environmental advocate Naomi Hunter was born in Turtleford, Sask. Hunter is an entrepreneur, an organic farmer and a single parent to two grown children, North and Isaiah.
In February, Hunter assumed the helm of the Saskatchewan Green Party. Hunter’s participation in her local Green Party’s evolution dates back to her high school days.
The Oct. 26 provincial election yielded a fourth majority for the ruling Saskatchewan Party and no seats for the Greens.
Hunter’s green advocacy mission now takes on added urgency. It’s going to take a heroic effort for Hunter to counter the government’s tepid “Made in Saskatchewan” solution.
Patricia Dawn Robertson: Why do you think Saskatchewan has such a lax environmental attitude? What is holding the province back?
Naomi Hunter: Why do I think Saskatchewan is so lax on their environmental standards? During the election, a number of political scientists weighed in, saying that neither the SaskParty nor the NDP was going to focus on the climate crisis this election because it was shown not to be a “vote-achieving issue.”
We need to show that it’s an issue Saskatchewan people vote on. When all the Green Party votes provincially and federally are counted, we need to show a large enough increase in votes that all the parties respond and enact policies reflecting the urgency of environmental issues in our province.
PDR: What would you like to see happen on the environmental front in Saskatchewan?
NH: One thing about the Greens is that we are not opposed to having our good ideas taken on by other parties. The lacklustre and extremely pathetic lack of attention [to environmental issues] from the two major parties [the Saskatchewan Party and the Opposition New Democratic Party], means that I would encourage them to take a look at my platform and take from it.
Please implement my policies. Move up your timelines to something that actually matches the Manhattan Climate Clock. It shows us the time left is only seven years for addressing the crisis. Seven years!
My plan is for a 60-percent reduction of carbon within this next four-year term. One-hundred-percent clean energy within 10 years. That’s what I want to see.
There are numerous other environmental issues to address in Saskatchewan. Small modular reactors (SMRs) aren’t the answer [as an energy substitute for coal-fired generators]. It’s basically pushing the problem onto the kids. SMRs are expensive and they leave behind high-level waste for thousands of years.
We had an excellent solar energy program in this province [in October 2019, the program was cancelled by the Saskatchewan Party]. We get more sunshine here than anywhere else in Canada. We also get a ton of wind.
It’s the perfect place to transition to solar, wind and geothermal. We have the technology and Saskatchewan’s emissions are 246 percent above the national average.
Any attempt to put this issue off is laziness. And if we are incapable of dealing with these problems, we are expecting our children to deal with something that we can’t. Everyone needs to think about that. The SaskParty needs to reinstate the [previous] solar meter programming. It was good for business and the environment.
I’m also concerned about upgrading our inadequate wetlands protection programs.
More on Broadview:
- Tzeporah Berman on not looking away from the climate crisis
- Thawing Arctic permafrost seems like a distant threat. It’s not.
- This United Church is an energy powerhouse
PDR: What gives you hope? What sustains you?
NH: When I was made leader on Feb. 29, I wanted to expand the party. So I’m forming a committee on every issue that affects this province. We are creating a shadow cabinet.
I think that I need to continue to be a strong voice in the media. Saskatchewan people need to hear from me on issues that affect us on a regular basis.
We need an effective Opposition in this province. At this point in time, Saskatchewan voters are very entrenched in their voting patterns. Real democracy would look like a reform of the first past the post system.
PDR: If you can suggest one thing that people can do for the environment, what would it be?
NH: The biggest thing everyone can do is really thinking beyond the usual recycling. Consume less and compost. So many people don’t recycle their food waste and it’s so easy. 70 percent of the waste in our landfill is food waste. I’ve actually given workshops on composting. Compost can be everything from old blue jeans to turkey carcasses. Because we now have the public trained to recycle, they think if they recycle the packaging that they don’t need to worry about consumption.
PDR: As a female leader of a progressive party, do you feel more susceptive to bullying by opponents? What’s waiting for you in your inbox every morning?
NH: When I get my daily bullying emails, I’m excited. My flood of hate mail reveals that my message has gotten out. My hate mail is higher in volume than my predecessor’s mail. Be sure, it’s certainly unacceptable to exude that kind of hatred outward. But you don’t get that kind of reaction from people unless your message is getting to them. And I’m not backing down. I’m here to stay. This is why we need to really make change in Saskatchewan. We really need someone to get out in front on behalf of the environment.
Patricia Dawn Robertson is a writer in Wakaw, Sask.
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