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BC Election 2020

Wild Salmon Defender Alexandra Morton Is Running for BC Greens

The political newcomer will try to take the North Island riding away from the NDP.

Andrew MacLeod 30 Sep 2020 | TheTyee.ca

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

The BC Green Party has a potential star candidate as biologist and wild salmon advocate Alexandra Morton seeks the party’s nomination for North Island.

“I know it’s a long shot to vote for me, but I’m a hard worker and a quick learner,” Morton said in a phone interview. “I’ve fought hard for decades on salmon, so I do understand what it takes to try and make change.”

The constituency includes the northern end of Vancouver Island from Campbell River to Port Hardy, as well as several smaller islands and a sparsely populated wedge of the mainland.

It’s been represented since 2005 by the NDP’s Claire Trevena, who was transportation minister ahead of the election. She won nearly 48 per cent of the vote in 2017, but is not seeking re-election.

The NDP candidate is Michele Babchuk, a Campbell River city councillor and chair of the Strathcona Regional District who was unopposed in her bid to win the party’s nomination.

The BC Liberal candidate is Norm Facey whose background includes jobs in forestry and manufacturing.

Morton moved to Malcolm Island, a short ferry ride from Port McNeill, in 1984 to study whales and soon became a strong voice for protecting wild salmon. As she put it on her website, “The salmon populations crashed and then my beloved community began to fade away. Today there are only eight people left in the village and 27 Norwegian-owned salmon feedlots dot the area.”

While using her research and communication skills have been effective to a point, she said she feels more is needed.

“Our fish are dying of politics right now,” she said. “I need to go to the next level, and that’s what this is.”

Whether talking about salmon, forestry or other issues, people need solutions that allow both communities and the natural world to thrive so that there’s something left for future generations, Morton said.

It’s about protecting places that make clean air, water and food by learning to live within and in harmony with natural systems, she said. “You can’t say to people, ‘stop doing everything.’ That isn’t going to work.”

She said that while the NDP has done some good things in government — including following First Nations’ lead on fish farming in the Broughton Archipelago and handling the COVID-19 pandemic — the best election outcome would be a minority government “with a Green rudder on it.”

There was some awkwardness around the nomination process, though Morton’s candidacy should be confirmed before Thursday’s deadline.

Sue Moen, who ran as a Green in 2017 and won nearly 15 per cent of the vote, hoped to run again and was in the process of applying to the party and submitting her forms to Elections BC when she learned from the party that Morton was interested and that the party wanted Morton to be the candidate.

“Neither of us was aware that the other was applying,” Moen said.

Due to the snap election there wasn’t time to have a contested nomination, so Moen stood down. “Yes, I was disappointed, because I love campaigning, but at the same time I admire and respect Alexandra and think she’ll be a wonderful candidate and I will work with her to get her elected,” she said.

“I think she’s brilliant. She has certainly showed her tenacity and her courage and her steadfastness in pushing the science and responsible decision-making.”

Dallas Smith, who ran as a BC Liberal in 2017 but is largely uninvolved this time, said Morton’s candidacy will change the dynamics in the race.

“I think Alexandra will definitely take away from the NDP in this one,” Smith said.

In 2017 he heard on lots of doorsteps from people who said they normally voted Liberal but had decided to support the Greens.

“This time that will be, I think, flipped,” he said, meaning that Morton will likely attract more votes from past NDP supporters than from Liberals.

“I think she’ll find the people who like her like her a lot,” Smith said, adding he expects Morton will have strong support in communities opposed to fish farming but may have trouble widening her support.

The NDP took 48 per cent of the vote in 2017, the BC Liberals 36 per cent and the Greens 15 per cent. The BC Conservatives’ candidate, John Twigg, took two per cent of the vote as a BC First candidate.

BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau has acknowledged that the party has had trouble finding candidates on short notice and is unlikely to have a full slate of 87 people running, but said there will be candidates across the province.  [Tyee]

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