Saskatoon·Profile

A look at Saskatchewan's small but spirited group of Green Party supporters

The Green Party of Canada hasn't traditionally had a strong presence in Sask. but the party's support is still hopeful it can pitch a green policy platform to catch the attention of the province's voters.

Greens secured 2.1% of the vote in Saskatchewan during 2015 federal election

Sarah Kraynick, the Green Party of Canada's candidate for the riding of Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River, leans against her car, which has also been serving as accommodations as she campaigns across the massive 800-kilometre riding. (Supplied/Sarah Kraynick)

The Green Party of Canada has never won a seat in Saskatchewan. They haven't come close either but, despite almost impossible odds, there is a small and dedicated group of Green Party followers working to increase the party's profile in the province.

One of them is Sarah Kraynick, Green Party candidate for Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River, a riding which geographically covers the northern half of Sask.'s landscape.

The cybersecurity expert says the campaign trail has been tough, as she's basically self-funding her campaign with occasional help from a small number of donations. 

"When I'm by myself, I do tent and I do sleep in my car because I don't have a lot of funds," Kraynick said.

The lack of cash has not extinguished her spirit. Kraynick has been travelling across the massive 800-kilometre riding since the election was called. She says the focus of her campaign is encouraging growth in the province's north, while working to ensure strong environmental safeguards, clean drinking water and access to adequate transportation.

Kraynick, an avid fan of the outdoors, said the natural landscape of the region has been an amazing backdrop to her political journey, keeping her energized as the Oct. 21 election date approaches.

"The people have been amazing," she said. "They keep me going. I get a little down sometimes because the media hasn't been covering us equally and ... that's sometimes very, very frustrating, because I know people want to hear about alternatives." 

Kraynick said she wants to focus on grassroots innovation in Saskatchewan's north and put in place policies and programs that will allow for more green, economic growth developed by people in the region, including ideas she's heard about increased ecotourism. 

While other political candidates are spending time in hotels and motels while on the road in the lead up to the Oct. 21 federal election, Green Party candidate Sarah Kraynick has been spending a lot of time sleeping in her car and her tent. (Sarah Kraynick/Supplied)

The Greens only managed to secure 2.1 per cent of the vote in Saskatchewan during the 2015 federal election. They've also been trailing significantly in fundraising in the province. 

The party raised roughly $12,000 dollars in the first half of this year. By comparison, the Conservative Party of Canada has raised $634,000, the Liberals $123,000 and the New Democrats more than $60,000.

Greens lack presence in Sask.: prof

"Part of the reason, I think, that they haven't been able to get much traction [in Sask.] is there isn't a strong environmental movement in this province," said Joe Garcea, political scientist and professor at the University of Saskatchewan. 

The Greens have been flourishing on the west and east coasts but have yet to establish strong support in Saskatchewan.

Garcea said it's possible an environmental movement could emerge from the province's Indigenous voters, starting in the north and eventually working its way down south.

It would take an extreme event to start a green push in urban ridings or a shift to green policy from the more established parties, he added.

Another problem for the Green Party is a lack of leadership here in Sask., as many of the party candidates are relatively unknown.

University of Saskatchewan political studies professor Joe Garcea said it's possible an environmental movement could start in Saskatchewan's north and slowly move south. (CBC)

"Even though they've had a couple of good individuals that have stepped forward in the party, I don't think that they have enough individuals that have a high profile and have the legitimacy in the eyes of the public to attract a lot of voters," he said.
 
"They need many more leading, well-known candidates that can engender a certain degree of trust, confidence and legitimacy in the party before they're going to get many votes."

Party loyalists say status quo has to go

Votes the party does get in Saskatchewan come from dedicated party supporters such as Rene Blom, who lives just outside of Prince Albert.

At 69, Blom is thinking about the future of Canada.

"Well, I recently had another grandson and that renewed my sense that we need to plan for the long term and not just for the next four years, or the next season to grow crops," he said.

Rene Blom, a Green Party supporter, said he's voting for them because he's thinking about the Canada that will be left behind for future generations like his grandson Bruin Blom. (Rene Blom/Supplied)

Blom feels the federal government needs to make climate change and growing the green economy its focus. He feels Canada's government is currently on the wrong path.

"All the major parties are still saying, 'Business as usual,'" he said.  

"We build another pipeline. Why invest for [a] millennium in a technology that's outdated? Why not invest in something new? I hear people saying they want that, but now they have to carry through and believe that actually we can do it."

For Stephen Smulan, who's voting Green in the upcoming election, the Green Party's policies align with his priorities. 

"Climate change is a top priority of the Green Party and that's my top priority as well," said the 41-year-old from Wawota, Sask., near Kenosee Lake. 

"It's something we can't ignore," he said. "It's just this problem that's going to get worse and worse. It's tearing our society apart." 

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May waves goodbye to supporters while campaigning by train late last month. (Chris Patry/ CBC)

Smulan said from his perspective, he feels there's not enough people giving the climate issue the attention it deserves.

"You can't ignore science," he said.

"This is an issue that we need to pay attention to. I don't see a lot of people in the province that are willing to stand up for action on climate change, and so that gives me a greater sense of responsibility to get up and make my voice heard." 

The Green Party of Canada had successfully filled nominations in all of Saskatchewan's 14 ridings.

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