There is a new political party in British Columbia and there is no guesswork involved in knowing where they stand, the name says it all.
Founded in 2019, the B.C. EcoSocialists (BCES) want to tax rich people and corporations; build new green energy and transportation infrastructure; stop all new fossil fuel infrastructure, including LNG; shut down Site C; close the province’s coal mines; return land and power to Indigenous people; decriminalize drug usage; institute proportional representation based on the Norwegian system; and raise the minimum wage to $16/hr.
“We know that it’s not a dream, but a practical reality, that we can all live decent lives without having to keep other people down. BC has the resources to house everyone,” states a Facebook post with the headline “Further left than the NDP, greener than the Greens” dated Jan. 13, 2020.
“We can feed everyone, without subjecting them to the humiliation of food banks. We can afford to provide childcare to everyone who needs it. We can raise welfare rates so that every person who is unemployed (for whatever reason) can live with dignity.”
If that sounds idealistic, Edward Quinlan, the party’s 33-year-old regional director for the Skeena and Bulkley Valley regions, disagrees.
“We have literally billions of dollars that are escaping our economy, going to other countries, accumulating wealth elsewhere, meanwhile we’re barely taxing our natural resources,” he said. “That’s the kind of stuff that needs to be looked at. That’s the kind of fundamental overhaul that we need to be having in our economic system and in our political system.”
Quinlan acknowledges that the political left is pretty crowded in B.C., but believes the other progressive parties are part of a status quo that isn’t making effective change.
“It clearly isn’t happening in the system that currently exists and that’s why I think there needs to be another voice that kind of steps in and shuffles everyone over and says, ‘no, we’re now the new left, y’all can argue all you want, but we’re coming with information, we’re coming with extremely loud youth voices and we’re coming with a heck of a lot more compassion and empathy than has ever been exercised in political discourse,” he said.
He also acknowledges even the name of the party could be a trigger for a lot of people, but dismisses that as political rhetoric that the BCES is working at changing.
“You can throw a lot of red herrings about a lot of things that are used incorrectly,” he explained. “I think it’s about shifting the way that we look at the language that’s used. There’s nothing wrong about socialism. There’s not anything wrong about saying, ‘well, hey maybe let’s leave a little bit more of the pie for those who don’t really ever get any pie.’ There’s nothing wrong, to me, saying maybe we should bump up the corporate tax rate a little bit, maybe we should actually level fines against environmental infractions to the point where businesses don’t just budget for their legal costs because it’s lower than instituting the technology that would actually clean up what they are doing.”
Furthermore, he believes the party’s views are representative of a lot more people, particularly marginalized voices — including women, immigrant, single parent, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of colour) and LGBTQ voices — that are gaining strength and, perhaps more importantly, are being heard by
“At the end of the day hearts and minds are more powerful than naysayers and I think the truth speaks to people a lot more than negative voices and I think that there’s an appetite for this kind of hope,” he said. “I think there’s an appetite for, yeah, we can actually balance budgets and still have enough money left over for the things that we need to be paying for.
“Is it going to piss off some companies? Yeah. Is it probably going to be better for the long term existence of the people who currently live in this province and on unceded territory, which we’re on? That’s what we need to be talking about not if ecosocialism is a dirty word or might push some people away. Look at the policies. Look at the people who are involved. Take a look at the Facebook page. Take a look at some of the studies that we draw information from, then make a decision.”
The party’s platform is based on five tenets according to its Facebook page: “homelessness and gentrification [are] getting worse; inequality is getting worse; overdose deaths continue at a massive, tragic rate; fires, droughts and floods are more frequent; and climate catastrophe is upon us, while BC builds more fossil fuel infrastructure.”
They say they draw inspiration from people such as: “Greta Thunberg, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and the folks at Extinction Rebellion.”
Quinlan said he was drawn to the party for a lot of reasons, but the bottom line
“People want to feed their kids, people want to have shelter, people don’t want to be stigmatized for their vocation, for any challenges they may be facing with their mental health.” he said. “For me, it’s about focussing on compassion and empathy on a political and societal level. It’s not about how do we count the beans and say how many are leftover for these social projects that I guess we have to pay lip-service to because if we don’t they’re not going to vote for us. It’s about the opposite. What do we need to do and how are we going to achieve it?”
He has not ruled out running as a Stikine district candidate in a future election, but said there is far too much work to do in organizing the party before entertaining those kinds of thoughts.
Quinlan holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Northern British Columbia. Since coming to the Bulkley Valley in 2016, he has worked as an economic development officer for the Village of Telkwa and a business analyst at Community Futures Nadina.
He is currently a School District 54 trustee.