Print Edition: April 10, 2013
In this upcoming provincial election a new name has entered the fray: Stephen O’Shea. The former bass player from the band You Say Party, he’s taken up the riding of Abbotsford West. O’Shea sits on the Board of the Devon Clifford Memorial Foundation, he’s a volunteer programmer at CIVL, and is also an organizing director for the annual Jam in Jubilee concert series.
Voter turnout in youth is problematic and getting more-so. How do you go about turning this around?
Well, I think that there’s been a stigma with being young and interested in politics. And even in my own decision to choose to run, I’ve got a sense that young people don’t do that, that’s what old people do.
I think about it in school, you have opportunities with student government, at all levels – in high school and at post-secondary. But it’s something that old people tend to have the most strong opinions about.
What I can see is that this is sort of the first generation of low ball social media. And so we have a real opportunity to reach people through mediums like Facebook and Twitter. Young people know how to use them and use them very well. It’s not the most important part of my campaign but it’s definitely a part of it and I know how to utilize it from the get-go from my decision to run.
I think if we look at it more and more, and just continue to engage in the conversation … I know that young people are busy thinking about their careers, not looking at the bigger picture of what our society really looks like or what we want to make it a part of. But I feel like it is our, and young people’s, responsibilities to make an effort to contribute – which is why I chose to run in the first place.
Having been connected to UFV, how has the university affected you? Any people that have helped you along the way?
Yeah, the university has actually been amazing along the way. It has this reputation as a commuter college but in fact there are so many resources and facilities that are available to all of us.
But what I find, and what has really worked for me, especially with my background of having played in bands and really being passionate about the all-ages music scene, is that the university has facilities. It has AfterMath, it has U-House, it has The Cascade, and it has CIVL as well, so it’s got a lot of great opportunities to foster culture in this town. It can make it a lot better place for university students to create … they can use these facilities to create a more interesting environment. One that they say doesn’t exist in Abbosford.
I know that a lot of people say that Abbotsford is boring. I think that if we get organized we can get rid of that stigma of commuter culture and actually make UFV, the Abbotsford campus, an interesting place to be.
Having just received your nomination for the Green Party in Abbotsford West, what have you found to be the most pressing issues in your riding?
For me there are three main issues.
The first is the environment, obviously. Throughout all of Abbosford runs a pipeline, the Kinder Morgan pipeline, which has a storage facility on the top of Sumas Mountain which leaked a year-and-a-half ago. And I think it’s a great concern for everyone who lives in Abbotsford, as well where it starts in Edmonton and where it runs all the way to the Burrard Inlet. They want to triple the capacity of this pipeline, but I think that affects us all because it puts us all at risk. And that’s the thing, if a pipeline were to fail like it did two years ago – where does that leave our environment that we all live in?
You know, we have a very sensitive environment and that’s obvious through our Fraser Valley air shed – which is also in jeopardy from the Metro Vancouver waste energy plant that’s planned. It’s hard enough to breathe on a hot summer day out here in Abbotsford with the air quality the way it is, I think if we were to begin burning our garbage it would begin to make things a lot worse.
Another thing that I’m passionate about is social justice issues. Like I said, I am a supportive caregiver for people with developmental disabilities, so I see how they are involved in our community.
And on top of that I am an organizing director for Jam in Jubilee, which works in Jubilee Park, which has sort of a negative stigma in Abbotsford for being an unkempt park. But we throw family friendly events, and we’re trying to create an inclusive environment for all people in the park.
The third thing that I think really affects Abbotsford, and is both connected to social justice and to the environment, is that we’re on the cusp of a huge urban renewal. I believe that Abbotsford has pretty much grown to the outer edges of its urban sprawl, and I think if we go any further we run the risk of affecting lands that are protected by the Agricultural Land Reserve. And I think that it’s of the upmost importance that we protect this land. As this city transitions from the sprawl that has grown outwards, and begins to develop moving upwards, we have to look at how we’ll impact the environment through density. But also how we’ll affect social justice issues such as poverty and access to healthcare and education. We’re talking about making the inner part of our city more dense and that can lead to more social problems and I think that we need to be highly aware of that moving forward.
There are some major energy projects coming down the line that will have environmental impacts. How do you balance the environmental effects when it comes to creating needed jobs?
The Green Party obviously advocates “green” jobs. That is sort of a blanket statement, and there are many new jobs that are available if we look at alternative energy. I know that it’s easy to say that we can just take the oil out of the ground and that we can look at fracking as options – you know getting the liquid natural gas out of the ground. But those are things that are actually in the ground and we don’t have to necessarily be in a rush to take out.
Here in Abbotsford a major resource that we constantly pull out of the ground is gravel, which we use to make concrete. You know, it’s there and it exists. But if we look to preserve the Agricultural Land Reserve, we have these large flat bodies that have winds that spread all the way across them quite strongly. And we can look at wind projects as an alternative.
We also have the coast, which is huge for BC which means that we can harness wave energy as well. The Lower Mainland and Vancouver is known for a lot of rain, but there is a lot of other areas of the province that get a lot of sun, especially up in the North East, which is actually quite flat like Alberta. They get a lot of sun and we can look at the opportunity to harvest solar energy from there, as well.
I know that a lot of people think of those projects and say, “Oh, those are just pipedreams. They’re not possible.” But this is a part of the reason for running, is to say that “it is possible and we should look at them.” We can’t continue to pull resources out of the ground, and to consider that for every ton of carbon we pull out of the ground that we can just go put it up in the air. That’s not possible.
I think that for the Green Party we’re not looking to change anybody’s quality of life, to diminish it by saying, “No, we can’t have oil.” We’re just saying that if we don’t look at better ways of being smarter consumers and being more educated on how we consume, we might not even have a world left to live in.
The Liberals have announced cuts to advanced education, and ultimately core funding to universities in the amount of $46 million over the next three years. Will the Green Party reverse this?
I believe that the Green Party has intentions to provide more funding for universities. Obviously, post-secondary is huge so I would imagine … I can’t actually say whether they would reverse it but I imagine they would because I know that the party stands for more funding for post-secondary education.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.