POLITICS
09/11/2020 16:16 EDT | Updated 09/11/2020 20:31 EDT

Green Party Leadership Race Contender: Amita Kuttner

We sent each of the candidates this 23-question questionnaire.

Rebecca Zisser/Handout

1. Full name:
Dr. Amita Kuttner

2. Date of birth:
Dec. 4, 1990

3. Marital status? Children?
Married. No.

4. Would you describe yourself as religious? If so, what religion/denomination do you subscribe to?
No.

5. Why do you think you’re best placed to be the next Green Party leader?
We need scientific and lived experience in government. As a scientist, I am the only person in this race who has experience translating scientific research into storytelling that connects with everyone. As a survivor of natural disaster, losing my mother and my home to a mudslide when I was 14, I am the only person in this race who knows the impact the climate emergency is having on communities across our country and around the world. As we face certain chaos from a worsening climate crisis, these are the skills and experiences we need at this moment in time.

I have also transformed exclusionary spaces in academia into welcoming ones, which is clearly something we need in politics. I am the best person to lead the Green Party at this moment because I am the only person with the experience to bring equity and justice, accountability and credibility, prosperity and resilience to all.

6. What top two problems do you believe the party current faces? And how do you plan to try to overcome them?
First and foremost, the party needs to confront a problem all political parties face in this country: lack of inclusion and safe spaces. I have faced many attacks from within the party because of my identity. I have received transphobic hate both to my face and online during this leadership race. I know others who have had similar experiences. In the past, the party has not taken action on these issues, and has in some cases furthered violence and oppression; this is starting to change thanks to the diligent work of party staff and those of us pushing for change. I believe that to address these systemic issues, we must start with calling out harmful behaviour and taking responsibility. We need to strengthen our governance processes so that survivors are taken seriously and are supported throughout the process. We need to ensure every member, employee, and volunteer has the training and resources to create spaces of belonging. We must ensure that we are not putting the burden on the oppressed.

The second most pressing problem the party faces is credibility. As a scientist, I am frustrated when I hear most politicians refer to evidence-based policy, as they often select evidence to support a predetermined position. Truly evidence-based policy would be clear about underlying assumptions, with clear intention for how we would like society to be, and following a wide range of evidence and sources. As leader of the Green Party, I will work with the grassroots to improve the credibility of existing policy, and to develop processes that ensure future policy is credible from day one.

7. Why do you think the party failed to win more seats in the last election?
I think the first reason is communication. The Green Party has failed to communicate policy in a way that doesn’t alienate people. When you are working three jobs just to keep a roof over your head, it’s inappropriate to be told you’re not doing enough to avert human extinction. I have seen similar issues when the academic community tries to communicate scientific ideas, and I understand what is needed to overcome this: meet people where they are, do not push anyone away, and introduce who we are and what we’ve accomplished.

The second reason is organization on the ground. In the last election, many ridings did not get as much support as others, and the method used to decide who got resources was not sound. We have a lot of work to do before we’re ready to elect Canada’s first Green government, but it’s not an impossible task. We have talented and dedicated organizers within the party across this country, and we have more than a million voters who put their trust in us in 2019. Through accessible and inclusive communication, trusting in time tested grassroots methods, and utilizing our resources in a more flexible and evidence-informed manner, we will be able to challenge any of the status quo parties for government.

8. What would be your policy priorities if you become the leader?
The policies closest to my heart address the intersecting crises of inequality, health, and climate. I am committed to setting us on a path toward a just, resilient society; this means decolonization of our country and our systems of governance, eliminating wealth inequality, preparing communities for the climate emergency, and making sure our healthcare system is taking care of all of our healthcare needs, including mental health.

The Green Party’s policy priorities are always member-driven and approved, and representation comes first. In this campaign, my team and I developed a comprehensive platform of policy ideas to inspire a new generation of voters, following a development process based on our core Green principles and following evidence.

We need to have a conversation in this country about the nature of work, and whether we should be measuring one’s worth based solely on their productivity at all.

9. What public policy issue do you feel is undercovered and deserving of more political and public attention?
Artificial Intelligence and Automation. Both of these are already impacting our daily lives, how we work, and our economy. Unregulated, these technologies pose an existential threat to our country’s economic structure and our personal liberties. However, if these technologies are well-regulated, we set ourselves up to be a global leader, much as we have with the aerospace industry. We must review bias in artificial intelligence, and ensure the ethical use and certification of technologies.

We must also recognize that the automation of the workforce is already impacting many sectors, including those that are historical pillars of our economy: resource extraction and manufacturing. This impact is only going to increase at an ever-accelerating pace as technology becomes cheaper and better. It is very likely that some jobs lost due to COVID-19 will not return, as employers opt for technological replacements or improvements over employees. In preparation for this, implementing a Guaranteed Livable Income is a good place to start, but it is only the beginning. We need to have a conversation in this country about the nature of work, and whether we should be measuring one’s worth based solely on their productivity at all.

10. What makes you happy?
My two huskies, Alpine and Aspen. They are ten-year-old litter mates, I adopted them three years ago. The best is seeing their excitement and hearing them talk when I get home after being away for a while, or sticking my face into their fur when I need a friend.

11. Tea or coffee? Beer or wine?
Tea, earl grey, hot.
Beer, IPA, cold.

12. Favourite thing to do?
My favourite thing to do is going deep into the forest and just admiring sitting with it, or walking out into the water in the shallow bay down the road from my house. When I’m at home on Lasqueti Island, I can walk out the door and find a quiet spot among the trees. It’s more difficult when I’m in Vancouver, but escaping into Stanley Park always brings me joy.

13. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My greatest achievement so far is earning a PhD in astrophysics from the University of California, Santa Cruz while running for the Greens in Burnaby North—Seymour (in the 2019 federal election) and serving as the Greens’ shadow cabinet critic for science and innovation.

14. What is an invaluable lesson you’ve learned during this leadership campaign or your time in politics?
From my run in 2019, and through the course of this leadership race, I’ve learned that it is possible to create true belonging and safe spaces in politics. It doesn’t have to be as toxic as it seems, and we can have a lot of fun doing it. My team and I have built an amazing community, we work really hard on difficult issues while looking out for each other. We have made amazing memories and built relationships that will last long after this race is over.

15. What is your most marked characteristic?
I think it might be compassion. I would say I have a unique combination of empathy and logic. My team says that my most noticeable traits are my humility, honesty, groundedness, and focus — the combination of which makes me have a calm, reasoned, and kind approach to leadership.

16. What is your greatest fear?
Abandonment. Given the way I lost my family, I have a constant fear that the people I love, and the people who love me, might suddenly leave or disappear.

17. What is your greatest extravagance?
My telescope. I’m a nerd, and an astrophysicist. Being on Lasqueti Island, where there is very little light pollution, I can look up at the night sky and see millions more stars than I could when I lived in Vancouver. It was quite an awesome experience being able to take my telescope out to look at NEOWISE back in July.

18. Who is a politician from another political party that you respect?
Nunavut MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq (NDP). I love how she represents tough issues with integrity, strength, and heart.

19. Which living person do you most admire?
Jane Goodall. I love her kindness, her humility, her perseverance, her questioning of the system, and her indomitable spirit.

20. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? In others?
My low self-esteem and sense of self-worth. It comes from being mistreated after I lost my family. I resent it because it feels I am trapped in it, and it is unfair and unjust.

In others, hypocrisy. I cannot stand when people say one thing and do another, or contradict themselves. I find it incredibly irritating, and it erodes trust.

21. What is your greatest regret?
I try to live without regrets. Anytime I do something or experience something that makes me feel regret, I make sure I learn from it so that I am better for it.

22. On what occasions do you lie?
The only time I ever consider lying is if I know the truth would bring acute physical, mental, or emotional harm to someone. Telling the truth is core to who I am, but protecting the immediate wellbeing of others may sometimes supersede that.

23. Which superpower do you wish you had?
I wish I had the ability to split myself into multiple Amitas so that I would have the time to do all the work I want to do.

Click on the profile pictures to read their answers.