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Jessica Alexander: “Greens have been talking about the necessity for aggressive climate action for 40 years”

Green Party NS interim leader Jessica Alexander. Contributed

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Earlier this week we spoke with Jessica Alexander, the Nova Scotia Green Party interim leader and a candidate in the riding of Chester-St Margaret’s. We tackled the environment, poverty, housing, health and education, and how to pay for it all.


NS ADVOCATE: First let’s talk about the environment. With that I mean the climate crisis, but also things like forestry policies, the de-listing of Owls Head Provincial Park, aquaculture, and so on. If you were premier of Nova Scotia, what would you do differently from the way it is being done today?

JESSICA ALEXANDER: First of all, we have a 53-page platform that outlines those things. So let me start by saying that Green parties are not just local, we are connected globally with other Green political parties, and we share the same priorities, based on the six values of ecological wisdom, social justice, participatory democracy, non-violence, sustainability, and respect for diversity.

Greens have been talking about the necessity for aggressive climate action for 40 years, and the Green Party of Nova Scotia has existed since 2006, so this is not something that we are just waking up to. 

We do find many of the targets insufficient, we find the approaches that support the targets insufficient, the regulations loose, and the enforcement weak. For instance the government was quite willing to support Pieridae’s request for $1 billion in federal support so that it could export fracked gas from Goldboro. That’s taxpayers’ money that could have been used to eliminate poverty in this province, to implement electric car rebates, to adapt to rising sea levels…

In terms of Owls Head the thinking was that we need more golf courses in this province. Meanwhile, golf is a pastime that primarily benefits people who are well to do, and jobs that this potentially brings are seasonal in nature, and they do not provide long-lasting sustainable employment. Because tourism dollars are often related to the currency exchange rate these golf courses can quickly become a white elephant, and meanwhile we have destroyed a very precious ecosystem. 

For forestry policies we believe that the Lahey report is a good start, but beyond that we would ban glyphosate use on Crown land, and we would take exception with clearcutting, or what Lahey calls high intensity forestry. 

The destruction of our natural environment is a continuing act of oppression against the Mi’kmaq people. We need to respect the original inhabitants of this land, which is why we encourage a land back program. Management and stewardship of all of what we call Crown lands, should be returned to Mi’kmaq communities in conjunction with a settler governance structure.  


NS ADVOCATE: Central to your poverty platform is a guaranteed livable income. Even when it reaches the proposed $20,000 ceiling it’s still below the poverty line, and it is also below what a person earning a minimum wage would make who was working full time. So I’m confused about the livable part. 

JESSICA ALEXANDER: We can’t completely disincentivize people from paid employment, and we determined that that was the right number to go with. Of course the minimum wage needs to be higher (than the guaranteed livable income), otherwise there’s no incentive to work whatsoever.

But if you’re questioning the livable part, that’s a fair question. Rather than focus on the amount, we want people to rethink the level to which we all need to be matched with the labour market. We need to detach from the labour market to a higher degree than we ever have before, because automation is eating a lot of employment, and that’s going to continue. A lot of people panic when they go into a McDonald’s and now you have to put in your own order, or scan your own groceries. In reality, those are jobs that are low skilled, and most people doing them are capable of more. We’re hoping to shift the dialogue, rather than constantly saying we need jobs,  the Green Party of Nova Scotia is proposing a four day work week, and a guaranteed livable income. People are smart, and they know what they need. They don’t need a handout, they don’t need to be micromanaged, and they don’t need more bureaucracy. We liberate people to be more creative.

NS ADVOCATE: The platform mentions that it favours an increase in the minimum wage, but does not commit to an amount, like say $15 per hour.

JESSICA ALEXANDER:  We would need to fit that into our other priorities, such as implementing a four day work week. If we are talking about a minimum wage to $15 an hour, how many hours are we talking about? So there’s more things that we need to factor in. Our biggest priority is to challenge the public to not think economically simply in terms of jobs. We have to detach ourselves as a society from the labour market 


NS ADVOCATE: We’re in the middle of an affordable housing crisis, here in Halifax as well as in rural Nova Scotia.

JESSICA ALEXANDER: We would support a limited version of rent control. I’m not somebody who would subscribe to an artificially depressed price on rentals. I think rent control can do a lot of damage over time, American cities did that, and it led to a lot of inner city slums, because the property owners were not able to afford to maintain the rental properties for which costs were tightly managed. But I think you can tightly manage rates of increase and the frequency of increase. So that those are some versions of rent control that we would be comfortable with and would be helpful.

As well, we absolutely need more government ownership of affordable housing units because the market will continue to fail us in that area. As well, we need to consider where we build, for instance, we need to allow seniors to remain in their communities. 

The guaranteed livable income that we propose  would lift people out of poverty on a permanent basis, and in  that sense it is a big part of our approach to setting affordable housing policies.  


NS ADVOCATE: With 71,000 Nova Scotians without a doctor, if the Green Party wins a majority later this month, what would you do differently than the approaches offered by the other parties.

JESSICA ALEXANDER: We would implement a guaranteed livable income, as a public health measure as well, to ease the strain on the physical and mental health systems that we have because we are focused on treating people who are in crisis. Too many times this crisis could be avoided with preventive measures. 

We support a collaborative model of caregiving where people should have access to, for example, dieticians, psychologists, fitness trainers, etc. These are peripheral supports of health that are not currently part of our health care system. In fact, I don’t even like the term health care because we are using a sick care system. 

We also universal pharmacare and dental care programs. The government as a single buyer of pharmaceuticals can put downward pressure on prices.  


NS ADVOCATE: Education represents the final topic in this interview. I’m particularly interested in what the Green Party would do in terms of reinstituting school boards and also what they would do with university tuition fees.

JESSICA ALEXANDER: we would boost access to apprenticeship programs, particularly to train youth. Some people additionally need financial support while they take a training program. We want to eliminate tuition fees for Nova Scotia students at community colleges and work towards eliminating fees for everyone at post secondary institutions in Nova Scotia. We need to be careful with that because people come here (from elsewhere) and they do pay large amounts of money to learn at our universities, which many consider to be fair prices.  

The problem with elected school boards is that it politicizes some elements of education. Communities need to be consulted to determine whether that’s a healthy dynamic or not. We have not taken a firm position on whether we would re-institute elected school boards. 

Budgets and deficits

NS ADVOCATE: Let’s talk about how we are going to pay for all this, I am curious about the Green Party’s stance towards deficits.

JESSICA ALEXANDER: Provincial deficits are acceptable, particularly right now where money is incredibly cheap. When we talk about how we are going to pay for it, a huge part of the Green Party’s position is the fact that we already are paying for it, on the wrong end. We’re paying for dealing with crises. Lifting people out of poverty has a  huge economic benefit, because the cost of poverty is so very high already. 

When we’re coming out of the pandemic, we cannot go back to life as it was because it is not sustainable and we’re on a collision course. It costs whatever it’s going to cost because it’s an emergency. We need to avert emergencies, and we need to make sure we’re doing so in an equitable way.

 NS ADVOCATE: Any final thoughts?

JESSICA ALEXANDER: Well, I want to say that we Greens are here. We are capable, innovative problem solving people. We’re ready to be part of government. I’m running in the district of Chester-St. Margaret’s, and I’m very much hoping to be the first green MLA in Nova Scotia. We have great Greens elected in four provinces already, and there’s no reason that Nova Scotia can’t be the fifth.

This interview was lightly edited for clarity.

See also: Gary Burrill: “The overarching question is what’s going to happen next in Nova Scotia”

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