Monday, April 27, 2009

Profiles of the candidates from the Daily News – Lisa Girbav, Green Party

Profiles of the candidates from the Daily News
Lisa Girbav, Green Party
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Friday, April 24, 2009
Page 8

What gives a 19 year old the gall to run in an election? How can someone with no "life experience' run in an election with two well seasoned vets?

Lisa Girbav doesn't believe that's an issue at all.

Age - AGE? - age has nothing to do with this. It's about the economy, the environment and social change or, as the Green Party candidate would like locals to understand, it's about the Green Party agenda.

And Girbav thinks that the time couldn't be better for voters to find an alternative to the polarized politics of the North Coast riding.

"I don't feel like a lot of politicians today really represent the youth and so I think that we are under represented and that sort of discourages young voters to go out and vote because they think 'my vote can't make a difference,'" said Girbav.

Statistics from the last provincial pony race show that age makes a difference when voters hit the polls. Young voters have been brandished with the tag apoplectic when it comes to voting and there is evidence that the "elusive" young vote is quite difficult to grasp.

According to Elections BC, in the last provincial election only 35 per cent of voters aged between 18-24 showed up to the polls, while the entire voter turnout was 58 per cent. The dismal numbers might change; but would it change because younger candidates are making a difference?

In the northwest, Girbav is joined by Skeena riding candidate Donny van Dyk of the BC Liberal party, whom is only 22. Traditionally, young candidates don't necessarily mean more young voters. But Girbav thinks on the North Coast, her youth will translate.

"My views are concurrent with a lot of the youth, the environmentalist community and the First Nations community," said Girbav.

Those views will be plain to see when the budding politician defends her party's platform at the all-candidate forum next Wednesday.

One of her party's tenants is an economic plan heavy on providing small businesses with interest

free loans so that these businesses can invest in their own green energy sources. Whether that is wind power or solar energy, the idea would be to cut down on energy costs and possibly sell left over power to other businesses or residential buildings in need.

The Green Party would also institute a gambling tax that would be used for educational services for gambling prevention.

"That's to let people know the risks in gambling and getting addicted," said Girbav.

In a town that is home to the popular Chances Gaming Centre, it might scare voters who spend time and money there. Though Girbav isn't saying her party wants to stop gambling, it certainly isn't casting a positive light on the operations.

"I think if people are going to gamble they are going to gamble whether there is a tax or not," said a resigned Girbav.

Social issues are at the core of many of the Green Party's plans. One thing the party is promising to do is end homelessness and poverty. However, in its platform the party has yet to announce just how that would be achieved.

In comparison, the BC Liberals are already guaranteeing to spend $469 million in 2009-10 on housing programs but make no concrete promises in ending homelessness. The BCNDP have offered to _ end homelessness in five years by restoring BC's affordable housing program and converting the

$250 million BC Housing Endowment Fund into an investment in housing to build 2,400 housing units immediately and 1,200 more units each year for four years.

Much has been made of the hard to house situation in Prince Rupert. Girbav said that her party is looking at poverty as a services issue.

"British Columbia has the highest poverty levels in Canada at over 16 per cent and over 20 per cent for child poverty. We would like to protect our children by securing our youth with universal and affordable child care as well as encourage businesses to take up on-site child care for people that are working," said Girbav.

Another way to decrease poverty would be to raise the minimum wage, reasons Girbav. The theory goes if you raise the minimum wage and decrease the work week that would increase job opportunities, because shop owners would need to hire more staff to fill the work hours.

The BC Liberals have refused to raise the minimum wage, suggesting doing so would destroy small businesses.

Girbav said she was unsure what her party's plan would do to small business in B.C. but she felt that the benefits to ending poverty outweighed the risks to small business.

She is concerned about the outlying villages and Haida Gwaii's dependence on diesel power for energy and said that the province needed to get off its natural gas and oil kick.

She cited the run-of-river, one-megawatt hydro project in Hartley Bay as a major example of what can be accomplished when a community understands its needs and marries that to its surroundings.

The Green Party supports run-of-river projects and other renewable energy projects but would institute more local control and environmental protection before the projects are given - well - the green light.

"Wind energy capital costs are really high but after 10 years it pays itself off and after that you are pretty much set. It just keeps on bringing more revenue for the area and you don't have to do anything," said Girbav.

Girbav's expectation might be muted to some.

While winning the North Coast seat is definitely something she wants, being realistic, she doesn't see May 12, 2009 as the day Prince Rupert turns Green.

That isn't really Girbav's point in this election.

She is taking the long view. She said that her stated goal in this election is to influence incumbent Gary Coons and Herb Pond as they campaign.

And she wants to learn in the process. In some ways, as she answers questions in her youthful voice, she has become a quick study.

"I don't want to see this world turned to crap because these people are just selling out our province," said Girbav.

Perhaps not well seasoned ... well-versed in political posturing - you bet.

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