Cheryle Chagnon-Greyeyes is the Green Party candidate in Calgary-Varsity. She is currently leader of the Alberta Green Party.
The Gauntlet: Why should students vote for you?
Cheryle Chagnon-Greyeyes: First off, we’re going to fight for the planet and the people and that’s very close to the heart of a lot of students. Also, we want to be champions for students. We want to eliminate tuition. In the interim, we want to lower tuition costs and we would like student loans to actually be converted to grants so that students aren’t saddled with a lifetime of debt just to pay off their education. That’s pretty approachable for students, and I get that — I am a graduate of the U of C myself. I worked at the U of C, I have a grandson who’s in first-year engineering — I get this. And, it can keep you from moving forward in a good way.
Another thing we are concerned with is a guaranteed income. That would really help not only students but even workers at the university. I know I was very active in the union, and not everybody is a full-time worker there and making good wages. Some are close to subsistence, depending on what part of the university they work in.
Gauntlet: In your opinion, what are some of the biggest issues facing constituents in Calgary-Varsity?
Chagnon-Greyeyes: Well, I’m going to find out. One thing, I’ve been living here off and on since 1993. So I’ve seen the neighbourhood grow and it’s kind of neat to see people and families grow. I consider this my neighbourhood so I have a personal invested interest because I live here. And as I said, I was an employee at the university, I was a student at the university, I’m still active at the university.
Gauntlet: The current government has tied post-secondary tuition in Alberta to the rate of inflation. Do you think that this is an appropriate solution for students, and if not, how would you approach post-secondary tuition policy if you were elected?
Chagnon-Greyeyes: As I said, we’re not supportive of that because we believe that tuition costs should be going down, that interest costs on student loans and student funding should be eliminated and/or reduced. And we would like to see an elimination of the loan system all together to be replaced by grants.
Gauntlet: Tuition still isn’t regulated for international students. How would you approach the issue of international student tuition if elected?
Chagnon-Greyeyes: I’m not too familiar with that but I have worked with international students and I know that poverty is a real concern for them when they come to our country. Some international students have money, but not all do. I see international students as being not just a source of income and tuition for the university, but as a source of people, of connection — connection to the wider world by their experiences and by their connections to their home country.
Gauntlet: Do you support a lower minimum wage for youth workers?
Chagnon-Greyeyes: No. We want it to stay minimum at $15, but what we really want is a guaranteed annual income and that would basically help students and other people who are working part-time jobs to be able to afford to go to school. Poverty is the real issue in Alberta and it’s a growing divide. I would like to see more full-time positions instead of part-time positions, and/or an implementation of an equalized system for benefits for people who are working part-time. Because currently, if you work so many hours less, the employer does not have to pay you benefits. You know, there’s just better ways we can do it.
Gauntlet: Many are considering this a two-party election between the NDP and the UCP. What are your thoughts on that and how will you convince voters to vote for you?
Chagnon-Greyeyes: Well, I think they have to realize where that thought is coming from — and it’s coming from fear. Fear has been promulgated and used as a tool to bash us Albertans for far too long. Albertans are mavericks, we’re good at what we do. You know, we can change the world right here in Alberta. I believe that, I really believe that. I know that people, I think, have good hearts and want a positive world, want a clean environment and recognize climate change is real and it’s going to affect them and their kids and the future. We’ve got to champion it now.
One thing that the Green Party is doing is that we want an environmental bill of rights. So I really hope we get into the legislature to be that green voice. Because right now there is no green voice. Right now there’s no voice of reason or common sense, there’s no voice of balance and moderation. And I don’t expect to become the premier but I would really like to get a few seats in the legislature so we can implement change and be that option on the ballot. You don’t have to choose between the lesser of two evils. We can choose a better way, so I’m asking people to have courage and have faith in Albertans that we can make the world a better place.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
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