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Where in Canada will the Greens win next?





Peter Bevan-Baker got sent to the basement in 2015 when he first won a seat as Green party leader in Prince Edward Island. The legislative office building’s main floors were always set aside for Liberals and Conservatives, with one tiny basement space for rare times in provincial history anybody else had won.

Then a by-election win made it two Green members, a historic breakthrough for a third party. They got moved across the street to the fourth floor of a Victorian brick building. It was partially storage space in a sort-of attic. The ceiling slopes down sharply next to the leader’s office desk. “Sometimes I’ll stand up and give myself a good egg,” Bevan-Baker says, pointing to his currently bump-free head.

His next move could be into the premier’s office, to the shock of many, including Bevan-Baker. Recent polls show Island Greens narrowly leading the Liberals, and for nearly two years have shown the Green leader, until recently a small-town dentist, as residents’ preferred premier. Bevan-Baker might not be measuring the drapes in the premier’s office yet, but he wants to have a tape measure, making sure his candidates and platform are government-ready, should the lead hold when an election is called as soon as this spring.

READ MORE: In B.C., the Green Party’s power buds

When their party talks of their seeming warp-speed rise, it’s often with a dazed disbelief. “It’s become popular to be Green, somehow,” deputy leader Lynne Lund says over coffee. “It’s amazing to me. And baffling.”

The Green seed germinated in Canada’s smallest province may be blossoming freakishly fast, but throughout the country, the party brand is steadily sprouting at the provincial level. Before 2011, when Elizabeth May became a federal MP, the small party could get nowhere in first-past-the-post elections. Now she has nine colleagues in provincial houses. Despite repeatedly failing to bring electoral reform and proportional representation to legislatures, Greens have found a new way to break through: elect one and then elect more. Greens went from one member to three in successive B.C. elections in 2013 and 2017, followed by the same pattern in New Brunswick. Bevan-Baker was joined by a partner in P.E.I., and last summer Mike Schreiner broke through in Ontario.

This successful pattern has thus far eluded the federal Green party, but hope springs evermore in this fall’s uncertain contest that May returns to Parliament with some company.

The Greens’ patchy rise—many of them declare it a Green wave; it’s at least a steady lapping at the shoreline—coincides with the growing menace of climate change. But that doesn’t appear to be the growth’s primary driver. Some provincial leaders say they’re breaking through stereotypes by focusing on non-environment issues like housing and innovation, but that’s not it either. What has lifted Green’s tide, certainly in the Maritimes, is voters’ drift away from mainline parties.

Take New Brunswick, where the NDP was long moribund and Green Leader David Coon’s surprise 2014 victory in a Fredericton seat broke up the Liberals’ and Tories’ electoral dominance: four years later, third parties snagged 30 per cent of the vote, the Greens’ trio of seats were matched by the conservative populist People’s Alliance, and Tories rule in minority.

RELATED: Greens are learning how to win in Canada. Very slowly.

“There is a frustration that it’s a battle between the ins and the outs—not ideas or policy commitments but just guys with blue ties and guys with red ties,” says Donald Wright, a political scientist at the University of New Brunswick.

On P.E.I., erosion of traditional parties tilts even further in the Greens’ favour. Not only is the NDP barely in the picture, but the official opposition Tories have spiralled downwards—their seventh leader in eight years quit last fall—and the Liberals have already been in power for three terms. And after what Bevan-Baker calls the “Ping-Pong politics” of rule shifting between Tories and Liberals since pre-Confederation, he says voters crave something different in a province where party allegiance traditionally passes on through generations. “There was a latent appetite for that. We just happened to come along at the right time, and opportunity presented itself.”

In the first election for B.C. Green Leader Andrew Weaver, in 2013, he squeezed through an opening between two unpopular main-party leaders, just as Schreiner in Ontario snagged a traditionally progressive seat in Guelph on Liberal Kathleen Wynne’s decline and Tory Doug Ford’s polarizing nature.

While provincial Greens have grown after initial victories, May failed to do so in 2015. But pollster Nik Nanos wonders if centre-left voters’ dissatisfaction with both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh might make her party the “benign friendly alternative” to establishment parties. “They’ll probably be seen as the less repellent and less angry choice,” he says.

May dreams of winning the way Weaver’s trio of B.C. seats did; wedge a small Green caucus into a tightly split minority Parliament, and hold the balance of power, just as wielding influence in coalition government is how European Greens have long done it.

READ MORE: Ontario’s first Green Party MPP: Why even a single voice is important

More success would beget more scrutiny, if the federal Greens can ever grow their caucus beyond one. But in Charlottetown, where a conference birthed Canadian democracy, electoral revolution may come faster than anyone expected.

The stars had aligned for Bevan-Baker, considering he never won an election. In 2008, the Scottish-born dentist took over a red former church in the village of Hampton, 30 km west of Charlottetown, and redesigned it as a dental clinic. He hired excellent hygienists and staff, developed a stellar patient list. His smile pokes through even when he looks concerned, and his grey hair cascades to his forehead from the tippy top of his pate. He dabbled in theatre, trumpet playing and fringe political runs for the Green party, federally and provincially on the Island and in eastern Ontario since 1993. He never came close to winning, but all he’d hoped was to get challengers and voters thinking about his ideas.

The 2015 contest was his tenth run, but first as P.E.I. Green leader; that new status brought him into the many leaders’ debates, where he showcased his cheeriness and passionate views on sustainable farming and ending P.E.I.’s longtime restrictions on abortion. He nearly doubled the votes received by his rival, a Liberal cabinet minister; then he quit dentistry and began laying foundations for future Green growth.

In fall 2017, a business group leader, Hannah Bell, won a snap by-election for the Greens, doubling Bevan-Baker’s caucus. That prompted the party to begin beefing up its organization, Lund says. By then, influential Atlantic polling firm Corporate Research Associates (CRA) had Bevan-Baker ahead of Wade MacLauchlan, the Liberal premier, in four consecutive surveys.

Last August, the party vaulted over the Liberals in CRA polls—even though the Island economy has been thriving and its books show a surplus. “There’s a personality issue here that is causing people not to favour the premier,” CRA president Don Mills says.

The main parties initially treated him like a novel new voice, a “harmless curiosity sitting in the corner of the room,” says Bevan-Baker. That’s changed. “I think they are fully aware of the existential threat to their continued prominence that we present,” he says. He suspects the others are watching the Greens closely, looking for ways to discredit the party.

They’re vetting candidates carefully for the first time, and have had to pass on former candidates who don’t fit a more disciplined mould, Bevan-Baker says. When the media calls him for comment on a story, the leader can no longer provide his latest thoughts off the top of his head. His party wants a tougher carbon tax than the Island’s one-cent gas tax hike, but unlike Sierra Club founder May, climate scientist Weaver and former New Brunswick Conservation Council director Coon, Bevan-Baker has no prominent background tying him to environmentalism. Soil and water health are more pressing environmental concerns for Islanders than climate change, he says.

They’ll stand firm on climate policy, but Greens are internally debating whether to tone down some policies, Bevan-Baker says. When the Island Greens get knocked in local media and by rivals, it’s often not as radicals; it’s that they won’t be any different than the established parties.

RELATED: Why the B.C. Green Party should be wary of a coalition

Across the Confederation Bridge in New Brunswick, there’s no mistaking Coon’s Greens as different. In the legislature, when a Tory minister lauds a salmon farm’s business award, Liberals and People’s Alliance offer bland kudos; the Green leader rises to warn about the detrimental effect on wild salmon stocks: “This growth the minister speaks to hasn’t come without cost.” Coon’s newly elected colleague Kevin Arseneau, an organic farmer and former university student leader, uses his statement time to lash out at “dramatic social injustices” and the Irving family empire that dominates the province’s forestry, refining and media sectors.

Coon first won his seat in Fredericton’s university-heavy riding in 2014, 4,200 km away from where May and the B.C. Greens broke through. “When you’re a lone MLA there is a sense on the part of both the other parties in the legislature and perhaps the public that it’s kind of an accident, some kind of electoral fluke happened,” he says. The following election, New Brunswick Greens also took the riding around Mount Allison University, as well as Arseneau’s rural seat.

With no seat majority, Tories formed a government propped up temporarily by the right-leaning People’s Alliance, rather than the party that staunchly opposes its bid to lift a natural gas fracking moratorium and demands a carbon tax. Coon doesn’t want his party pigeonholed as environmentalists; his Greens are willing to negotiate with the Tories if the Alliance yank support. “Yes, fracking is a problem, but it in no way interferes with the ability to collaborate on elements of other important issues,” he says.

Andrew Weaver, the first provincial Green to win in 2013, is inarguably now the most powerful party member in Canada, thanks to the confidence agreement his three-member caucus signed with B.C. Premier John Horgan’s NDP after the 2017 election. When Horgan released his climate plan in December, Weaver was on stage with him, calling it “a culmination of a life’s work as a climate scientist.” That strategy was a condition of the Greens’ support of the NDP, and may not have existed otherwise, Weaver told Maclean’s a day later: “The plan is there because of the B.C. Greens, period. I’m not sure how much clearer I can be,” he says.

RELATED: Mike Schreiner’s election-night speech: ‘Tonight the Green wave came to Ontario’

Weaver also takes credit for ride-hailing legislation to allow Uber, and a land speculation tax. Weaver has bitterly criticized Horgan’s government over the $40-billion liquefied natural gas terminal project, but wouldn’t topple the government over it. Greens take their responsibility seriously, Weaver says: “We could play games, but that’s not advancing good public policy.”

To the federal Green leader, the reasons for electoral gains aren’t complicated. “They like our policies. They’re tired of the old-line parties. And the only thing that stops them is the sense a Green vote is a wasted vote,” May says.

In most countries, Greens elect more members through proportional representation, but provincial referenda (and a Justin Trudeau promise) have failed to bring electoral reform. “In every other democracy, 17 per cent would have given us a ton of seats,” Weaver says, referring to the B.C. Greens’ last vote share. Yet they’ve made measured advances in first-past-the-post, everywhere but federally.

Increasing concerns about climate change—and its nasty effects, from wildfires to Maritime erosion—could drive some attention to Greens, though they may struggle for share of a piece of the debate when main parties frame it as a binary over whether or not to keep a carbon tax.

L-R: Mike Schreiner, Elizabeth May, P.E.I.’s Peter Bevan-Baker, New Brunswick’s David Coon, Nova Scotia’s Thomas Trappenberg. (Green Party of Canada)

Ask the provincial Greens why May hasn’t expanded federal Green territory, and fellow leaders reason it’s easier to make intimate connections and prove impact in an East Coast province of 27 or 47 seats than it is in the 338-seat House of Commons. Weaver argues “she has to stop only focusing on environmental issues when she runs campaigns.” And there are persistent rumblings among Greens that May, who’s led since 2006, ought to finally hand over the baton; in the last two elections their popular vote was under four per cent, below where her predecessor Jim Harris had taken the party in 2004 and 2006.

Ask May about the struggles, and she squarely blames a 2015 collapse of support on strategic voting, which vaulted NDP or Liberals ahead in various ridings where they appeared likeliest to defeat Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. But it was the Greens themselves who got rapped by the Commissioner of Elections for circulating a deliberately misleading pamphlet in Victoria last election that asserted it was only a one-point race between the NDP and Greens (the Green candidate placed a more distant second.) Bevan-Baker took notice from the other side of the country. “There’s a tendency within some circles of the Green party that the Green party is God’s gift to politics and that we somehow represent all the potential for what could be good about politics and none of the dark side,” he says. Now, Bevan-Baker constantly learns anew about political complexities, getting offers from former candidates from other parties who now view the P.E.I. Greens as a bandwagon to jump on.

The federal and provincial Greens are all separate entities, but May says she’s door-knocked in every winning member’s riding. In addition to campaigning with May, Schreiner says he told Ontario voters that May and other provincial winners proved what going Green can accomplish, beyond a protest vote. He flew to Fredericton for a Green rally in the New Brunswick election, urging volunteers to deliver Coon some MLA friends; Bevan-Baker joined too, delivering a cheeky speech in tandem with P.E.I. caucus mate Bell—each saying one word at a time—to boost Coon and show “what” “he” “will” “achieve” “with” “some” “help.”

With less money and likely fewer ground troops than the governing Liberals, P.E.I. Greens know their poll lead may not deliver them electoral victory. Most would be delighted to become Canada’s first Green official Opposition, though a new leader could rejuvenate the Tories. But Bevan-Baker feels confident they’re now legitimate contenders, and have slashed into the political mainstream. “If Islanders were not comfortable enough with what we have been offering for the last 3½ years, we would have remained at four per cent.”

After moving to Canada from Scotland in his twenties, Bevan-Baker learned that his great-great-grandfather was George Brown, former politician and Father of Confederation. “I certainly don’t bring it up often. It feels opportunistic,” he says. “Having said that, I think he’d be intrigued by what’s happening here.”



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Future of Ottawa: Chefs with Kathryn Ferries





This week in the Future of Ottawa series, we’re taking a deep dive into the bar and restaurant industry—what it’s like now and where it’s headed. Read on for a guest post from Kat Ferries on the future of chefs, or read posts from Quinn Taylor on bars or Justin Champagne on fine dining.

Kat Ferries is Sous-Chef at Stofa Restaurant and a 2020 San Pellegrino North American Young Chef Social Responsibility Award Winner.

Apt613: What is the current landscape for chefs in Ottawa?

Kat Ferries: There is such great talent in Ottawa with so many chefs either being from here originally or have returned after traveling and have since opened some incredible restaurants. Many chefs have focused menus that really highlight their strengths, their heritage, and their passion for food. Dominique Dufour of Gray Jay, Marc Doiron of Town/Citizen, Steve Wall of Supply & Demand, Daniela Manrique Lucca of The Soca Kitchen, and so many more are all cooking up beautiful and delicious food in this city.

If you care to make a prediction… Where is the food industry in Ottawa going for chefs in 2021?

The industry right now is, unfortunately, in a really tough spot. The pandemic has been so devastating on mental, physical and emotional levels for so many and I know that many of my friends in this industry are burning out. There are many discussions happening on work/life balance and what is healthy for everyone. Some may never return to the long, hard hours we are expected to put in day after day and instead opt for a more flexible schedule or hire more staff to lighten the load on everyone, with some even leaving the industry indefinitely. Some may throw themselves back into this industry 10x as hard and create some of the best restaurants and concepts we’ve yet to see. I think all that will happen after the pandemic though.

For this year, it’s mostly about survival and finding happiness in creating what we can in the spaces we have while following all the laws and guidelines from public health officials. I think we will see more chefs creating experiences for guests that we otherwise wouldn’t have: think pop-ups, virtual dinner clubs, cocktail seminars, collabs, etc.

Where in your wildest dreams could the Ottawa culinary community grow in your lifetime?

I would love to see the Ottawa community support more small, local restaurants so our streets are bustling late into the nights like they are in Montreal, New York, or Europe. Having a local restaurant to frequent should be so much more commonplace, where you can enjoy a night out more often than just Friday or Saturday night. I would also love to see many more of our local chefs highlighted for the amazing food they create!

What is the best innovation to take place in your industry since the pandemic started affecting Ottawa?

Turning all our restaurants into mini-markets for customers to enjoy the food and wine of their favourite places at home. We have bottle shops for all your wine, beer and cocktail needs as well as menus that reflect what each restaurant does best. Some have even pivoted to a point where they are 100% a store and have paused any type of “service-style” dining.

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Future of Ottawa: Fine Dining with Justin Champagne





This week in the Future of Ottawa series, we’re taking a deep dive into the bar and restaurant industry—what it’s like now and where it’s headed. Read on for a guest post from Justin Champagne on the future of fine dining, or read posts from Kathryn Ferries on chefs or Quinn Taylor on bars.

Justin Champagne went to culinary school at Northwest Culinary Academy of Vancouver. He got his start in fine dining restaurants at C Restaurant under Chef Robert Clark, then at Hawksworth Restaurant under Chef Eligh. He staged at three-Michelin-starred Atelier Crenn under Chef Dominque Crenn before moving to Ottawa and spending five years at Atelier, working his way up to Sous-Chef. He’s now the Head Chef of Bar Lupulus.

Apt613: What is the current landscape of fine dining restaurants in Ottawa?

Justin Champagne: Ottawa punches well above its weight class when it comes to quality restaurants in general. Fine dining is no exception to that—we have some amazing chefs here that are doing really great things. We also have some phenomenal sommeliers in town that are a huge factor when it comes to a guest’s experience in a fine dining restaurant. While there are some fantastic fine dining restaurants in town I do believe there’s room for more, and definitely room for more creativity and unique styles of cooking! I think we’ll see more small fine dining restaurants opening up, “micro-restaurants” where there’s maybe 20 seats. This will be over the next few weeks as the industry did take a big hit financially with COVID-19, but we still have a lot of great young chefs who have the fire inside of them to open their own location!

If you care to make a prediction… Where is fine dining going in Ottawa in 2021?

I’m not sure it’ll be 2021 or 2022 with the way the vaccine rollout and stay-at-home order is going, but I do expect there to be a wave of people looking to go out to fine dining restaurants. We’ve been cooped up cooking for ourselves or ordering takeout for over a year now. People are getting antsy and ready to go out and have fantastic meals again with exceptional wine and not have to worry about doing all the dishes afterwards!

Where in your wildest dreams could fine dining go in Ottawa in your lifetime?

That’s the fun part about “fine dining,” it can go anywhere and it can mean many things. Fine dining is about amazing service and well thought out, unique food that the kitchen spent hours fussing over, being meticulous in execution. Outside of that, you can have a lot of fun and be creative in different ways. My wildest dream I guess is that fine dinning restaurants begin to thrive and are able to charge without backlash the kind of prices that they need to charge in order to keep the lights on and pay their staff a proper living wage!!

What is the best innovation to take place in your industry since the pandemic started affecting Ottawa?

I’m not sure if I would really say there’s been a best “innovation” in my industry during the pandemic, but I will say that seeing the “adaptability” by all the restaurants in Ottawa has been incredibly inspiring. Ottawa’s food scene has always been a tight-knit community, “everyone helping everyone” kind of mentality. And this pandemic has really helped show that—restaurants helping restaurants through all of this!

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Ottawa’s Giant Tiger chain celebrating 60 years in business





OTTAWA — An Ottawa staple, along with what might be the most famous cat in Canada, are celebrating a milestone Monday.

Giant Tiger is 60 years old.

“It all started with a very simple idea,” says Alison Scarlett, associate VP of communications at Giant Tiger. “Help Canadians save money every single day. Bring them products that they want and need. When you focus on those core principals, it really is quite simple to succeed.”

In 1961, Gordon Reid opened the first Giant Tiger in Ottawa’s ByWard Market. The company now has more than 260 locations across Canada and employs roughly 10,000 people.

“If you were at our store on opening day 60 years ago, the in store experience would be a little bit different from your local Giant Tiger store today. So that’s changed. A lot of our products and offerings have changed or expanded as Canadian consumers wants and needs have changed or expanded,” says Scarlett.

The homegrown department store continues to be a favourite for many shoppers looking to for the best deals on everyday products.

Helen Binda has been shopping here for decades.

“Many years. I can’t remember when. I’ve always loved Giant Tiger. It’s always been a good store for me.”

“I think its amazing and I think that we need more department stores,” says shopper Fay Ball. “And if it’s Canadian, all the better.”

The Canadian-owned family discount store carries everything from clothing to groceries, as well as everyday household needs. They’ve also expanded their online store and like most retailers provide curbside pickup during the pandemic.

“Doing what is right for our customers, associates, and communities. That has enabled us to be so successful for all of these years,” says Scarlett.

To celebrate, Giant Tiger is hosting a virtual birthday party at 7 p.m. Monday with live musical performances from some iconic Canadian artists.

You can visit their Facebook page to tune in. 

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