Imre Szeman is currently a 
professor at the University of Waterloo and will be campaigning while teaching online classes in Kelowna. (Contributed)

Imre Szeman is currently a professor at the University of Waterloo and will be campaigning while teaching online classes in Kelowna. (Contributed)

Election 2021: Imre Szeman— Green candidate for Kelowna-Lake Country

Imre Szeman is a professor at the University of Waterloo

Unsure who to vote for? Want to know more about your local candidates? Black Press Media has you covered with profiles of the candidates for Kelowna-Lake Country and Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola. As election day approaches, we will publish short profiles of each candidate who responds to our request. These will be published on a first-come-first-serve basis as soon as the candidate comes in for a video interview and completes our written Q&A. All written responses are straight from the candidate, with edits only for grammar and style.

Provide a brief bio of yourself.

I’m Professor of Environmental Communication at the University of Waterloo, and have also worked at McMaster, the University of Alberta, and Okanagan University College. In 2020, I was named a Member of the Royal Society of Canada, in recognition of my career achievements as a scholar.

I have devoted my career to social and environmental justice and felt that after 25 years as a researcher it was time to give back by adding my voice to electoral politics. I want to help my constituents make the place they call home inclusive and liveable. As the Green Party’s Climate Critic, I also intend to take on climate change, which has all-too-real impact in the Okanagan.

I was born in Calgary, where my parents moved after leaving Hungary for political reasons. I divide my time between Southern Ontario, where I work, and the BC Interior, where I make my home.

How do you plan to lead this riding out of the COVID-19 pandemic? Do you support the implementation of a proof of vaccination program?

I’m double-vaccinated. My friends and family are, too. I believe vaccination prevents illness and reduces stress on the health system. We all benefit if more people are vaccinated.

The intent of vaccine passports is to improve vaccination rates and create safer public spaces—which is good. However, they are motivated by other considerations as well. For example, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce supports them because they hope passports will limit further economic damage. If passports worry some people, I can understand why: passports mix economic decisions together with health concerns in a way that can be hard to puzzle out.

One last point: this is a federal election and health care is a mandate of provinces, which is why there are such different approaches to Covid-19. Ottawa can only provide guidance to provinces and make decisions on, for instance, cross-border travel, where it has already created a proof-of-vaccination program.

Can you name one recommendation from the TRC Calls to Action and any concrete plans to implement the recommendation if you are elected?

The Green Party would work in conjunction with First Nations to implement all 94 points in the TRC Calls to Action.

One set of recommendations we would implement immediately concern Aboriginal health. The Calls to Action identifies measures which a federal government is (in conjunction with First Nations) in the position of doing immediately upon election. These include (among other things):

• Provision of sustainable funding for new and existing healing centres, with specific attention to centres in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut;

• Increasing the number of Aboriginal health-care professionals, as well as creating mechanisms to ensure community retention; and,

• Establishing clearly defined, measurable goals to bring Aboriginal health in line with other Canadians.

As of 2021, none of these measures had been fully implemented. They need to be, and they need to be with a focus on primary care instead of population health (the emphasis of the current government).

What are your personal ideas regarding climate change and how do you plan to represent your riding’s specific interests in this regard, for example, wildfires and extreme drought?

Climate change is real. We are already living with its multiple consequences. Not nearly enough has been done to address it, especially by Canadian governments. They repeatedly propose meek policies on greenhouse gas reductions, but never follow through. Every day we don’t act decisively is one more day for things to get worse. The time to act really is now.

The question you pose is a difficult one, because so many of the climate impacts Kelowna-Lake Country has experienced cannot be dealt with in any easy way here in the region. Smoke, heat, and fire don’t obey the borders of ridings.

Smoke from BC fires doesn’t often make its way to Ottawa. But as the riding’s MP, I’ll make sure Parliament fully understands the impact of climate change on BC communities and hold decision-makers accountable for their action—or lack of action—on the serious climate challenges we face here.

Which Canadian political figure, past or present, inspires you the most and why?

It’s an image burned into my memory and the memories of many of my generation. On June 12, 1990, MLA Elijah Harper, holding an eagle feather, stood up in the Manitoba Legislative Assembly, and said no to the Meech Lake Accord. He said no again and again, refusing to support the Accord because it failed to include First Nations in the Constitution. The failure of the Accord was a turning point in Canadian politics. First Nations are now being included in political decision-making, though it is obvious that there remains an enormous amount still to be done. Harper taught me it is still possible to confront status quo viewpoints. He inspired me to think more deeply about Canadian politics, the serious repercussions of what I don’t know, and how partial and limited my sense of this country’s history was. For a first-time politician, these remain essential lessons.

Canada Election 2021KelownaLake CountryOkanagan