Meet the N.W.T. candidates: German-born Roland Laufer runs for the Greens
"I see myself as a person who's connected to the people and to our environment," Laufer says
This is part of a series of profiles of N.W.T.'s five federal election candidates. Another will be published each day.
Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Roland Laufer is running as the Green Party candidate in the Northwest Territories for the first time.
Laufer, who is German-born, lives off the grid, is active in the community and is treasurer of the newly-established Yellowknife Artists Co-operative. Laufer came to Canada in 1992 and moved to Yellowknife in 2019.
The Green Party received almost 11 per cent of the vote in the N.W.T. in the 2019 federal election.
A lot of people in the territory don't know you. Who are you?
I was originally born in Germany. I grew up in a few different countries in Europe and I came to Canada in 1992. I've been involved in many green initiatives back in Germany and here in Canada. In 2019, I came to Yellowknife and I moved in a house by a lake living off-grid and cutting down my own carbon footprint as much as I could. I'm very interested to be with the Green Party because we really have to make big changes for the environment and for the communities up here in the North to have a safer, more open and more reliable living experience.
What environmental policies are you campaigning on?
I'm campaigning on the introduction of renewable energy systems in every community here in the North. This means not only the implementation of alternative energy sources, but also the production of energy technology here in the North.
I also want Aurora College to get funding to train environmental specialists and technicians to produce and implement alternative energy sources.
How are you integrating northern housing issues into your green policy platform?
I want to implement energy-efficient housing and especially small housing, which meets the needs of most people. It has been pretty much proven that we don't need a 2,000-square-foot home for two people. Smaller homes could be more easily constructed with environmentally friendly products.
The housing market problem, in my own opinion and after some research, is also quite affected by the almost monopolized system which we have here. There is one huge rental agency which controls so many apartment buildings and rental units here in Yellowknife. Another big issue which we have here where I will implement changes to, is the creation of Airbnbs up here in Yellowknife. They hardly pay any taxes to any government and take a lot of available housing away.
The costs, of course, of building houses here in Yellowknife is extremely high, and most of the products actually have to be shipped or trucked up from southern communities. We want to implement more production facilities for building materials located here in the North.
A lot of internal turmoil inside the Green Party has been in the news lately. How do you convince people to vote for a party where there's conflict?
I don't see myself as a politician. I see myself as a person who's connected to the people and to our environment to implement changes. The only thing I can say is that the democratic system is based on a multitude of people, of politicians and of members getting into the Parliament so that more voices can be heard and the democratic process can be implemented. That's why I encourage everybody to vote according to their conscience and their interests for the people who are in the election.
You've lived all over the world, but as you're hoping to represent the territory, what is your experience in the N.W.T. outside of Yellowknife?
I worked as a flight attendant for a small charter airline and I had the chance to visit many, many communities, and I feel almost a sense of despair as it seems nothing is changing. I met a lot of people up here in the North who love living in the North, but they somehow feel lost and disconnected and almost forgotten. Therefore, we have to start many initiatives which are pretty much only concentrated on the North with completely different ideas, completely different approaches. We especially need to think of the connection and the conversation with Indigenous people up here. There is so much mistrust at this moment that a brand new communication program has to be implemented, one that Indigenous people can take more seriously than before.
The Green Party has put out their policy plan with the potential for drastic change, but has not costed it out. How do you pitch a plan to the electorate without a price tag?
The plan is extreme, but extreme changes are necessary as we live in very extreme conditions right now with climate change and COVID-19. I believe, especially up here in the North, that gives people a signal. Drastic times call for drastic change.
I will do everything that can be done because one person can make a small change and team up with other people so that big changes can be implemented.
With files from Loren McGinnis