2019-campaign

Working With Government

It’s looking like voters might be about to elect a minority government. When no party wins the majority of seats in the House of Commons, it’s not clear who is going to be in charge. But that’s okay. The reality is that minority governments force politicians to work together, and address issues that concern a wider range of people. It’s true that sometimes legislation can’t get passed because no one will cooperate; but that is why we need to elect people who are willing to cooperate and collaborate with other parties. That cooperation could be in the form of a coalition, in which multiple parties govern together. It could be a confidence-and-supply agreement, where a party with fewer seats supports a party with more seats in exchange for particular demands being met. Or parties can just decide which other parties to work with on a case by case basis. 

Even in a majority government, most bills are a collaborative process. On a regular basis, MPs talk to one another and work together across party lines to write and amend bills. It’s very common, it just isn’t super exciting; the general public doesn’t hear about the process when things are working normally, especially when the bill in question is not strongly partisan. It’s often very easy for MPs to agree in those cases. 

Often, it is partisanship – not actual differences between platforms – that stops work from getting done in the House of Commons. Parties have voted and still vote against one another, even when their interests are aligned. Political parties are not sports teams. We don’t always have to be competing, and working against one another. I don’t want to see Canadian politics succumb to the type of hyper partisanship that brings government to a halt south of the border.

We need to elect representatives who are not so partisan. Elizabeth May is a great example of an MP who puts the work ahead of partisan attitudes. She has submitted more amendments to legislation in parliament than any other MP ever elected! One MP can influence policy if they are willing to work with other parties, and if they are ready to work tirelessly.

Sometimes voters ask me what I could really do if I end up as one of only a few Green MPs in a Conservative or Liberal dominated House. I could do a lot. The Conservative platform does not call for any meaningful action on climate change, but that does not mean Conservative MP’s would literally never support environmental legislation in a minority government situation. When it comes to tackling the climate crisis, there are many mitigating actions we can take in a non-partisan way. That includes reducing pollution of all kinds. Decreasing our use of fossil fuels can still be put forward as a way to protect air quality, improve health, and be fiscally responsible by increasing our energy efficiency. 

Adaptation to the climate crisis is non-partisan.The emergency preparedness we need to handle more extreme weather and forest fires is definitely non-partisan. Some more conservative thinkers are even recognizing the limitations of economies as we know them and are talking about regenerative, circular economies that can truly last. We want to support small businesses and put research into technologies to grow the economy – a green economy! Those things could still find Liberal Party support and even Conservative Party support if there are MPs who will do the research and writing to make legislation and amendments. 

The area that I am most passionate about, and where my expertise rests, is in AI, automation and data privacy legislation – areas which are also distinctly non-partisan. Everyone uses technology, and is affected by it. If a reasonable bill comes to the table which would improve data security, protect workers, and increase Canada’s economic potential, you’ll see most MP’s in the house voting yes right away.

I want to help make Canada a world leader in technological innovation by pushing proper legislation to make it secure and safe. Sure, China is way ahead of us in AI right now, but their systems are not trustworthy. A lack of careful regulation opens concerns around privacy, surveillance, bias, and other unintentional negative outcomes. Canada will be a world leader if we have good regulation – because we will be trusted. 

MPs need to be able to respect one another, even when we don’t agree on policy. Some MPs play weird games behind the scenes. Others are willing to work hard to get things done. Green party MPs will be better at working hard and working with others. That’s because the Green party values discussion and does not whip votes. Green MPs have to read every bill. They can’t just sit back and vote with their party.

A minority government is nothing to fear. It means that more people will have their concerns heard.  So vote locally. Look at the candidate you are voting for — not just their party. When we elect officials who are willing to do painstaking research, read carefully, and collaborate with others in a non-partisan way, then we will start to see the legislation we need to move us forward together. 

Posted by abitod in Updates

Regarding Electoral Fearmongering

Now, in the final days of the election, I want to talk again about the practice of strategic voting. Parties are ramping up their rhetoric and encouraging voters to cast their ballots for one party just to keep a different party from winning. And our first past the post system is usually what takes the blame for this. But continuing to vote strategically, election after election, actively works against the interests of all Canadians and keeps us from ever moving beyond a failing status quo.

The Liberals are using the spectre of a Conservative government to frighten progressive voters into electing a Liberal majority. The NDP has been using the Liberals and Conservatives to pick up votes as well. That is not a platform, and it is not a plan. It’s a threat. And any party employing this tactic is insulting themselves. When they use the politics of fear as a crutch, they are advertising their party as being nothing more than the lesser of some number of evils.

I find it boldly hypocritical of the Liberal party to so actively promote strategic voting, claiming that it is the only way to prevent a Conservative majority. Four years ago, Justin Trudeau promised that, in order to “make every vote count,” the 2015 election would be “the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system.” After emphasizing that proportional representation would strengthen our democracy, the Liberals backed away from their promise. Now, when they encourage people to vote for them in order to keep out the Conservatives, they are saying voters have to support them because of an unfair system that the Liberals refused to fix, despite an explicit promise to do so.

Even if a progressive voter decides to “vote strategically”, that does not mean their vote is best cast for a Liberal candidate. Pundits often point to national polls and give the impression that a Liberal vote in any riding is the strategic one. In some ridings, voting strategically for “Anybody But Conservative” would mean voting for the NDP, or the Green Party, or the Bloc Québécois, because they have more support than the Liberals in that riding. The NDP has certainly seized on this point, encouraging voters to cast their ballots, strategically, for them.

These attitudes are most telling in my own riding of Burnaby North-Seymour. Now that the Conservative candidate has been dropped by her party, any call to vote strategically for Liberal candidate Terry Beech rings incredibly hollow. Even though it is now impossible for anyone in the Burnaby – North Seymour riding to vote for a candidate who could be a Conservative MP, Terry Beech continues to use this threat, and insists that we must “elect a progressive government instead of progressive people.” When Beech uses this threat, it shows his belief that his party deserves a majority, and suggests that a majority is necessary for a functional government. I am not concerned about having to work with other parties or to listen to a range of viewpoints in the House of Commons. I urge voters to elect the best progressive people they can – locally. Voting as though one party must have a majority is to ignore how individual MPs will best serve their constituents. We don’t need a majority to get things done.

If we fall for rhetoric on strategic voting now, we will be voting strategically over and over again for elections to come. The meaningful action that is needed in order to alleviate suffering and catastrophe cannot be accomplished when we choose to vote strategically. Slight shifts in our government’s position on the political spectrum don’t help our most vulnerable groups. There are Indigenous communities that still lack clean drinking water and other critical resources needed in order to survive.

It’s time to set aside fear and compromise, and vote for the changes we want to see – the ones we truly believe in.

Posted by abitod in Updates

Why I’m Running Green

I made the decision to run for office because I looked at my world and felt completely unsatisfied with how my government was treating it. When I looked at Canada’s government and political parties, I didn’t feel represented by policy decisions, or by the people in government themselves. There is a lack of diversity in our system. The issues that matter most to me weren’t being addressed in government, and I didn’t see anyone like me in office — so I decided to become that person in office. I want to be someone who brings an intersectional lens to government and policy.

Right from the beginning, I knew that I wanted to run for federal government in my home riding. It’s the place where I grew up. It’s the only place where I knew how to get to work on changing things. If I was going to properly represent my constituents in government, I felt that I needed that personal knowledge about the riding that I would be representing.

So then I had to pick a party.

I already knew that I wasn’t going to run for the Conservatives. They have repeatedly downplayed the climate emergency and have been outright hostile to science in Canada. They continue to think that we can build a prosperous nation by cutting services. What are people left with, if their government keeps cutting away at the services meant to help them? “Not enough” hardly begins to answer that question. The Conservatives are not leaders in the fight for the rights of marginalized people, and that is unacceptable to me.

I also knew that I wasn’t going to run for the Liberals, because I didn’t believe they would follow through on their platform. The party had already broken too many of the promises they made in the previous election. They had approved the TransMountain pipeline expansion, refused to enact electoral reform, and continued to marginalize Indigenous communities and peoples — all items at the top of a long list of ways their party had betrayed me, and so many others in Canada. I hadn’t voted for them, but breaking those promises showed that the Liberals had a total lack of political will and integrity.

Much of the policy I want to write regarding AI has to do with worker’s rights, and strengthening our social safety net, so I figured I would probably be running for the NDP. When I approached them to talk, I was told that there was no knowledge, political desire, or interest in the AI policy that I know is extremely important to protecting workers and their futures in Canada. I later met with organizers in the NDP who said they appreciated my concerns, but warned me that if I was too independent, the party would try to shut me down. Hearing this shocked me. I have fought for diversity and attempted to affect change within other institutions riddled with implicit bias for years, and learning this about the NDP was a massive warning sign for me, given what I want to accomplish as an MP.

It doesn’t matter how inclusive a group claims to be. What matters is that a group can hear dissenting voices from within. If I was going to represent my constituents, I couldn’t be playing games within my party. Of course, there are good reasons for party structure and discipline, but when there is a toxic internal culture where the people with the least power don’t have freedom of thought and expression, it leaves no room for diversity. I knew then that the NDP would be a dead end for me. Running with a party that I knew I would have to leave — that would just be unfair to my constituents.

Then I met with Elizabeth May. Elizabeth met my standard for what a politician should be, when no one else did. She truly listened to me, hearing my concerns and the goals that I wanted to accomplish in government. I could tell the Green Party would be different from the other parties. With the Greens, I would be allowed real opportunity for independence in my work. But given this, I also needed to be sure that bigotry, racism, and misogyny would be unwelcome in the party; those are definitely deal breakers.

And I became sure of this when I signed up to follow the six core principles within the party: ecological wisdom, social justice, participatory democracy, nonviolence, sustainability, and respect for diversity. Although the party encourages being able to work independently, and does not whip votes, if party members do not follow these core principles, they will not be welcome.

As a gender-diverse person in the sciences, and as a person of colour, I know what it feels like to be under-represented. It’s because of how I have been treated that I feel compelled to fight, to make academia and politics more inclusive by leading diversity and inclusion efforts within them. I feel today that our government doesn’t represent me, and people like me. And I don’t just mean the Liberal government that was recently in power, but rather the structure and system of government as a whole. It’s still inherently colonial, which means it is inherently exclusionary. The best way I can work to change these problems with our system is from inside it.

Since making the decision to run with the Green Party, my experience with the NDP has shown me that I made the right choice. I have a tremendous amount of respect for many people within the NDP’s slate of candidates, and I hope their party listens to them in order to improve, just as I hope that the Green Party listens to me, and my fellow underrepresented candidates on how to be more inclusive as well. The amount of condescending, insulting behaviour, and the numerous attempts to erase me and my voice from this election campaign have been disturbing. Honestly, this doesn’t phase me individually, because I was used to dealing with this sort of thing in academia, but it does speak to there being something incredibly wrong with our politics when such things are rampant during an election. I’m running to try to fix these problems.

My party may not be perfect, but it is easily the best choice to improve politics in Canada for everyone.

Posted by abitod in Updates

AI and Automation

With the development of AI and the automation of more kinds of work, it is inevitable that many current jobs will be lost. I don’t aim to stifle innovation. Instead, I want to focus on what is truly important: protecting workers. I want to make policy that helps people transition to other jobs and ensures that workers will always have a livable income. For some reason, Canadian politicians have not been developing adequate policies to manage the changes that AI and automation will bring. That’s why I knew I had to run in this election. I have gotten to know experts who work in  emerging technologies, and I have a background in considering the ethics and potential regulation of technologies like AI. One of the main reasons I decided to run for office is to work on AI technology and regulation. Ongoing technological advancement is something that will affect every area of our lives, whether or not we see that right now. Technology changes quickly. We can’t afford to wait and see how new advances unfold and then legislate in response to the problems that appear. We need to consult experts and proactively create laws to manage automation of jobs, the privacy and safety concerns of new technologies, and to make sure that Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems are universally banned. I know these experts personally, because I’ve been working on these issues with them. These are complex challenges, but I am equipped to handle them.

Job automation can be understandably frightening for anyone at risk of losing their job to software, especially for people who are barely making ends meet and can’t afford to be jobless, even for a short time. By managing job automation, we can make sure that we will still have access to meaningful work, and the means to care for ourselves and our families. That means properly tracking automation in different sectors so that we know where work will be, providing access to education and training programs, and implementing a guaranteed livable income. I have helped the Green Party of Canada create a specific approach to help ease the job automation transition for workers who are laid in instances where AI advancements cause the elimination of those workers’ positions. 

My goal in handling the automation of jobs well is to make sure that the benefits of automation go to the people, not solely to the privileged few who directly profit from technological advancements. We need to ensure that new technologies are not leaving out marginalized people. We must not let technological developments worsen economic and social inequalities. Part of the way to approach this problem is to institute a tax for large corporations minimally equivalent to the income tax paid by employees who have lost positions due to AI, so as to not suddenly lose the tax base when there are many positions lost at once (small businesses will be exempt). However, I acknowledge that defining and enforcing a tax like this is an incredibly complex process. We will very seriously research the process and consult with experts to find the best possible way to implement such a measure. The overarching goal of using measures and tools like this is to make transitions to a more automated workforce as seamless as possible and to ensure that the people still receive the benefits. AI and automation can actually make some sectors safer and less stressful. We can use automation to make our lives more sustainable and to give us more space for families and hobbies. People are so much more than the jobs we do, and we need to recognize that as part of any steps we take to prepare for automation.

Legislation on artificial intelligence is woefully under-discussed and misunderstood. Most of my work in this area has been done with an organization called the Future of Life Institute. To get a sense of what they do with regards to AI development, you can look to the 23 Asilomar principles, “a set of 23 principles intended to promote the safe and beneficial development of artificial intelligence[i].” Developing the AI sector can be a positive thing; we want to move towards innovation, not legislate it away. But to do that effectively, Canada needs to set up a legislative and regulatory framework for AI research in Canada. This would be done by striking a parliamentary committee to examine the range of issues related to the development of AI. Members of the committee would be chosen by experts in the field so that its members would be capable of creating the most informed framework possible to be used for drafting AI legislation. It should also be noted that such a committee would NOT be a military body.

It is critical that this panel be formed based on the opinions of experts in the fields of AI and other emerging technologies. Having done work analyzing policy related to ethics and safety in AI, as well as in other areas, I have seen first hand how any legislation has to be extremely simplified before it can be handled by law-makers who do not have experience in technology research. You cannot simply drop complex legislation concerning AI or technology in just anyone’s lap and expect them to be able to handle it with the requisite nuance and insight. We need individuals who can properly assess the potential impacts of any AI related legislation to prevent issues potential privacy or security issues that won’t be obvious to non-experts.

Speaking of potential issues in AI legislation, I want to make something perfectly clear: fully autonomous weapons have no place in our world. That may seem like an obvious statement, but it needs to be said loudly and clearly, because governments like ours have been asked, and have been unwilling to commit to banning this type of weapon system. These types of weapons are unlike any we know, and they could have devastating consequences in new ways that we haven’t considered. As such, Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems should be banned in all forms, in all places in the world. It is clearly laid out in the Green Party of Canada platform that we will ban autonomous weapons in Canada and push for a global pact to make them illegal. These weapons should not exist. It is as simple as that.

To me, these issues are non-partisan. Every party should be able to get behind legislation that will protect the people of Canada from getting left behind in the wake of ever increasing technological advancements. It doesn’t matter to me whether or not my signature is on the bill or bills that help Canada manage our future with regards to technology regulation. I only care that those bills gets passed.

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[i] As noted in the Institute’s 2018 report, the state of California unanimously adopted new legislation in support of the Future of Life Institute’s Asilomar AI Principles (p. 8).

https://futureoflife.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/2018-Annual-Report.pdf?x36312

Posted by abitod in Updates
We refuse to use plastic in our campaign

We refuse to use plastic in our campaign

For Immediate Release
September 26, 2019

BURNABY – Amita Kuttner, Green Party candidate for the riding of Burnaby North-Seymour, is using campaign signs made from recycled cardboard this election. The signs use a specialized soy based ink for printing which holds up well in all weather conditions. The campaign for Vancouver East Green Party candidate Bridget Burns researched this style of sign and were the first campaign to use them, but they shared their information with Amita’s campaign when they began asking about alternatives to plastic.

“I’m so tired of seeing all the plastic that gets used for signage during the election period, even if it’s recyclable. I wanted to try something different for my campaign this election, and when we saw what Bridget Burns was doing for her campaign signs, we knew right away that they were on to something, and we wanted to get on board.” says Kuttner.

Although the signs are made from recycled cardboard, they are fairly durable, even under the rainy conditions typical of greater Vancouver in the Fall. The signs are simply stapled to metal stands, and can be easily removed after they are no longer being used in order to be recycled and reused.

One member of Amita’s volunteer team has taken to delivering these signs by bicycle. He rigged up a way to secure the signs on either side of his bike’s back wheel. His set up can carry just over a dozen signs at once, so it makes for a very effective delivery system for one dedicated volunteer.

“My team really went the extra mile in looking for sign options. And they’re still going that extra mile now (literally!) to deliver the signs to our supporters. My campaign wouldn’t have the momentum that it does without the incredible time and effort that my team has been, and keeps putting in during this election. Even so, we can always use more help, so let us know if you want to join us!”

Posted by abitod in Media Release