Frank de Jong: ‘I’m green with jealousy’

There’s something a little quixotic about Frank de Jong. He’s trying his hand at territorial politics for the first time, all the while keeping up his teaching job in Faro.

There’s something a little quixotic about Frank de Jong.

The Green Party candidate for Pelly-Nisutlin has a longer political pedigree than any of the major party leaders. He was the leader of the Ontario Green Party from 1993 until 2008. He’s also run federally in Ontario and was the federal Green Party candidate for the Yukon during last year’s election.

Now, he’s trying his hand at territorial politics for the first time, all the while keeping up his teaching job in Faro. He took over as interim leader of the Yukon Greens just before this election campaign began, at a time when party membership has taken a hit.

But despite a long political career, de Jong has never been elected, and may never be. That’s not how he wanted things to turn out, he told the News during a podcast interview last month.

“It’s sort of a personal… sadness or disappointment that I haven’t had the opportunity to be elected,” he said.

He blames that in part on Canada’s first-past-the-post electoral system, which ensures that most votes cast for the Green Party count for nothing.

“If we had (proportional representation), I would have been elected in Ontario decades ago,” he said. “It’s just not fair.”

De Jong favours a mixed-member proportional system, which would see a mixture of riding MLAs and others from a list sent to the legislature. The number of MLAs for each of the parties would represent their share of the popular vote.

The Greens are running five candidates in this election, meaning they can’t form government. But arguably, that has allowed them to talk more freely about their ideas.

De Jong and his party openly support a carbon tax starting at $30 per tonne and increasing by $10 per tonne each year. The Trudeau government has said it will impose a minimum carbon tax of $10 per tonne in 2018, increasing to $50 per tonne in 2022.

The Greens want to simultaneously cut corporate taxes.

“Theoretically, if you want to get to a green economy, the fastest way is to shift the entire tax burden onto the use and abuse of nature,” de Jong said at a forum on carbon pricing on Thursday. “To support our businesses, let’s get the taxes off business profit.”

The Greens want to prevent any mines with tailings ponds from being built in the Yukon, instead favouring dry stacked tailings, which pose less of a risk to the environment.

The party also wants to see a public transit system created between all Yukon communities, and they are advocating for a guaranteed income of $25,000 per household.

But they’re not possessive of their ideas. Their goal, for now, is to have the other parties take notice of their policies and adopt them as their own.

The Green Party’s two candidates won a total of just 104 votes in the 2011 territorial election. They’ve likely got a long road ahead of them before they can hope to elect a candidate in the Yukon.

And de Jong knows it.

“I would have loved to have been a Green elected member,” he said, pointing to other countries where Green parties have been more successful. “I’m green with jealousy.”

Contact Maura Forrest at maura.forrest@yukon-news.com

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