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Federal Politics

New Candidate for Green Leadership Has Known Environmental Catastrophe

Amita Kuttner wants to create an inclusive party where diverse candidates will thrive.

Andrew MacLeod 9 Mar

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria and the author of All Together Healthy (Douglas & McIntyre, 2018). Find him on Twitter or reach him at

Amita Kuttner, who on Monday becomes the latest candidate to announce they’re seeking the leadership of the Green Party of Canada, has known catastrophe and has drawn on the experience to shape their politics.

When Kuttner was 14 years old and away at boarding school in California, a mudslide destroyed the family home in North Vancouver, killing their mother and severely injuring their father.

While it’s impossible to directly link the disaster to climate change, Kuttner said, the experience made them especially alert to environmental dangers. “The fact I experienced that, to me makes it scarier looking at the fact of all that’s coming for people and we’re not ready.”

Public climate policy may be advancing, but in our community structures, our understanding of the mental health effects, and our mitigation or disaster readiness, we’re totally unprepared for the crisis, said Kuttner, who received nearly 10 per cent of the vote running as a Green in Burnaby North-Seymour in the last federal election.

By joining the race to lead the party, a position that came open with the resignation of Elizabeth May after 13 years in the job, Kuttner hopes to make headway on the big issues facing the country and the world.

“I think we need to fully embrace our values of social justice, diversity and non-violence and make sure our policies are focused on equity and justice and decolonization,” they said. “I think that will allow us to actually properly deal with the climate crisis, because otherwise we won’t be doing it in a way that is stable or safe or good.”

It’s a competitive race, with at least five who’ve previously represented the party as candidates already announcing their intention to seek the leadership, and the possibility that there are still more to come.

They include David Merner in British Columbia, Annamie Paul in Ontario, Julie Tremblay-Cloutier and Alex Tyrrell in Quebec, and Judy N. Green in Nova Scotia.

Kuttner said the Green party has good policies and values, particularly the unwillingness to be controlled by a hierarchy, but could do better and would see more support from voters if it did.

“I think the intention is fully there, but I do not think we have actually made it real in the way that we function,” they said. “That I think starts from the fact that all political parties are necessarily colonial organizations, so we have not managed to get to a point where we are fully self-consistent in the way that we act.”

The Green party is the “least scary” of Canada’s political parties, but it too has its issues, Kuttner said. “The Green party really did come from a very white environmental movement, and it has yet to fully understand that on its own like that it is not inclusive.”

The party seeks diverse candidates, they said, but fails to create the environment where they will thrive and stay.

“They show up, they have an awful time and they leave, so long term we don’t have the ability to actually diversify the politics,” they said, adding the party hasn’t yet expressed an understanding how to create an inclusive party that welcomes equity seeking groups.

Kuttner is gender non-binary and said that while they’re not driven by identity politics, from experience they know it’s important to get past differences and build community that’s diverse and inclusive.

Last June, Kuttner completed a PhD in astronomy and astrophysics from the University of California, Santa Cruz, where they studied black holes in the early universe and what happens when worm holes evaporate.

A graduate of French immersion, Kuttner said they’ve recently been watching dubbed episodes of Star Trek to brush up on their language skills.

In their role as the Green party’s science and innovation critic, preparing for the rise of artificial intelligence has been a key focus.

“We’re looking at a huge amount of job changes,” Kuttner said. “It’s going to completely wipe out some sectors, but also really diminish the number of people we need doing a lot of jobs that we would usually consider safe from automation.”

The response needs to begin with introducing a guaranteed livable income to get everyone through the transition, they said, but will also include being thoughtful about education and shifting the economy so that people are producing goods and services such as in health or the arts that are needed and positive.

There’s also a need to make sure the development of artificial intelligence is ethical and safe, so there should be an immediate global ban on autonomous weapons, they added.

We’re at a key transition and a new kind of leadership is needed, Kuttner said.

“It appears to me anyway that I’m the right person to do it,” they said. “I’m not seeing what I’m looking for from politics in general and where we are, given the future we’re looking at, both for impending climate chaos but also larger changes in society as inequality skyrockets and we’re dealing with technology.”

Green party members will choose the next leader at a convention set for Oct. 4, 2020 in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.  [Tyee]

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