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Alberta-bound teacher running for the Greens in Nunavut

But Spencer Rocchi admits he’s unlikely to win


Spencer Rocchi, who used to teach in Nunavut, says he's running for the Green Party in a no-win race partly just to raise the profile of environmental issues in Nunavut. (PHOTO COURTESY SPENCER ROCCHI)

Spencer Rocchi, who used to teach in Nunavut, says he’s running for the Green Party in a no-win race partly just to raise the profile of environmental issues in Nunavut. (PHOTO COURTESY SPENCER ROCCHI)

Nunavut’s not going Green any time soon.

Spencer Rocchi, 31, who announced he’s running for the Green Party in Nunavut in this year’s Oct. 19 federal election, says he probably won’t win the federal seat that Conservative Leona Aglukkaq has held since 2008.

Rocchi’s running as a stand-in candidate — meaning he’s not actively trying to win.

But he hopes he can at least spark an interest among Nunavummiut about Green Party politics.

Rocchi describes Canada’s current environmental record as “comically bad” and he doesn’t think Inuit know about it.

“We’re mocked internationally,” Rocchi said.

Rocchi referred to Canada winning the Climate Action Network’s ‘Lifetime Unachievement’ Fossil Award in 2013 for an accumulation of poor environmental policies, amongst five other fossil awards before that.

A Climate Change Performance Index, released by Germanwatch and the Climate Action Network in early 2015, ranked Canada a “very poor” 58 out of 61 of the main countries that contribute to global warming.

The CCPI also said Canada will miss its 2020 carbon emission targets by 20 per cent.

In May 2015, Aglukkaq, who’s also the federal environment minister, announced Canada’s new emissions target goal: to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Rocchi’s currently in Ontario preparing for a move to Alberta. He landed a teaching gig there recently, meaning he won’t likely visit the territory for the rest of the year.

For the last three years, Rocchi has taught in three communities: Kugluktuk, Naujaat and Arctic Bay. He said he called the Green Party to ask how he could help, and they said he could run in Nunavut.

Despite not being a serious contender for the job, he’s concerned about companies taking advantage of Nunavut’s resources and people.

“I don’t think Inuit are fully aware of how they’re really taken advantage of,” Rocchi said.

“I worked in the schools and you’ve got Baffinland the company coming in and running workshops,” he said.

Rocchi said all Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. wants to do is recruit low-level workers for its Mary River iron mine in north Baffin.

“They’re kind of just trying to bring them into work in the mines and who’s really making all the profit here? It’s not the Inuit people,” he said.

He said in the short-term, Inuit will get some cash in their pockets — but it means disrupting a valuable ecosystem.

“They’re not going to be gaining lots from Baffinland’s profits. They’re going to have their resources drained, and their environment’s going to be affected,” he said.

Rocchi hesitates when asked if he’s against all mining in Nunavut. He said mines must be run sustainably, with the environment in mind, but that’s not what’s happening.

“It has to be run with a fine tooth comb. Basically a lot better than how we’ve been doing it so far,” Rocchi said.

“We say we’ll mine and drill and nothing will change, but that’s simply a scientifically impossible fact,” he said.

“It’s going to amount to a change in the environment, and too much change — it comes to the point where the wildlife is affected.”

And that means a potential impact on Inuit culture, he said.

“It goes hand-in-hand with the health of the animals that live up here.”

To get Nunavut off its dirty path, alternative energy sources, such as solar and wind, should be established.

“Nunavut could be selling power to everyone. If there was a serious initiative,” he said.

“I know this is a pipe dream at this point, but they could really be selling energy back into the grid to the rest of the world with how much they can make just with solar power alone.”

Currently all of Nunavut’s power plants use diesel for energy.

For now, all Rocchi wants to do is get the Green word out.

The Green Party has run candidates in Nunavut in each federal election since 2000.

In 2011 Scott MacCallum got 160 votes for the Greens but a few years earlier, in 2008, Green Party candidate Peter Ittinuar received 675 votes.

“Some people didn’t know what the Green Party was. Like it was just something new,” he said.

In fact, Rocchi is still short a few signatures required to get on the ballot — he needs 50. He hopes to solicit the remainders through social media.

“I had a hard time explaining to people: you’re not voting for the Green Party. It’s just so I can join the ballot.”

To learn more about Rocchi and the Green Party in Nunavut, click here.

Although it’s not official yet, Clyde River Mayor Jerry Natanine is hoping to get the nod from party brass in Ottawa to run for the New Democratic Party in the upcoming election.

The Liberals in Nunavut have not yet announced a candidate. Aglukkaq announced this past January that she will seek a third term as MP.

An aggregate of public opinion polls published on the website suggests that if an election were held this week, the New Democratic Party, at 32.1 per cent, would likely form a weak minority government.

The poll aggregate suggests the Conservatives are in second place with 28.4 per cent and the Liberals third with 27.3 per cent

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