To Green Party Members, Supporters and To All Canadians,
My name is Alex Tyrrell. I am a 31 year old environmental and social justice activist from Montreal. I am in politics because I want to see rapid change in Canada. I want to build a Canada that respects the environment and upholds social justice and human rights both at home and on the international stage. A Canada that works to undo the devastating effects of colonialism on Indigenous peoples. A Canada that leads the way in addressing the climate crisis, systemic inequalities and poverty reduction.
Just over 6 years ago I was elected as leader of the Green Party of Quebec at just 25 years old. I was elected on a bold platform of moving the party to the left, increasing the participation of youth, women and minorities. Since my election as leader in 2013 I have gained a great deal of experience in the Green movement by leading our party through two general elections, revitalizing the program, giving hundreds of media interviews and articulating our party’s bold vision for the future on a daily basis.
In the 2018 provincial election I recruited and managed a team of 97 candidates. We made history by having the youngest team of Green candidates in Canadian history. Their average age was 34 years old. We also ran a slate of candidates made up of a majority, 58% women. This was only the second time such a feat had been achieved by a Green Party in Canada. The first was Sharon Labchuk’s 2011 provincial campaign in PEI. Together in the Green Party of Quebec we have fought hard against racism, islamophobia and discrimination, and along the way we have managed to inspire youth, women and minorities not only to run for office as Greens but to take on meaningful roles within the organization.
I am now putting my name forward to become the next leader of the Green Party of Canada because I think that in order to remain relevant in the context of the new youth-lead global climate movement, the Federal Greens would be best served by following our lead in Quebec by adopting an ecosocialist platform, by diversifying the team and by improving the representation of women, youth and minorities- in addition to electing a young, bilingual and experienced leader. Together we built and delivered a progressive vision with clear policies on all of the issues. We took this approach because we know that in order to form the first Green Party government we will need to be transparent and forthcoming as to where we stand on issues of public interest.
Although some candidates in this race will criticize my approach and vision for the party on the basis that the Greens should remain a one-issue party while pushing all other issues to the side, the reality is that if we want to form a Green Party government we will need to have policies on all the issues. We cannot tell women, minorities, marginalized communities and activists that their issues will have to wait while we deal with the climate crisis. All of these struggles need to move forward together. That is how we will build the Green Party of Canada into a major political force in this country; by proposing bold policies, increasing diversity and being clear as to where we stand on key issues such as abortion, capitalism and the environment.
I was born and raised in a middle class family but I have always been a hard worker. I began working in kitchens at age 13 before working in gas stations, mechanics’ garages, and grocery stores. I began experimenting with online sales as a teenager. In my early twenties, I worked in film production in both the art and special effects departments and I started an online business selling recycled mechanical parts that is still in operation. I am however not a rich person because I have always been far more passionate about activism and the environment. For the first five years that I lead the Green Party of Quebec my wage was an average of $157 per week. I lived with roommates in affordable housing, reduced my spending as much as possible and worked with my hands on evenings and weekends, recycling parts and selling them online to supplement my income. Looking back it is hard to understand how I made it all work but I was able to manage a small business, lead the Quebec Greens and complete a university degree in Environmental Science all at the same time. I am used to working long hours, making sacrifices and I am passionate about the environment, social justice and my work with the Quebec Greens.
I have always valued activism over wealth or personal gain.
Proven Track Record Of Progressive Leadership & Inclusive Policies
Through my political career I have always strived to unite people around progressive ideas and bold change. This includes being an outspoken voice against racism, systemic inequality, discrimination and rightwing identity politics.
The same year that I was elected leader of the Quebec Greens, our province was plunged into debate around issues of discriminating against religious minorities in the work place. The government essentially wanted to legalize the practice for public sector employees. At a time when some people in the Green Party wanted to compromise on the issue, I stood my ground. My point of view was simple; I would not give a Green Party microphone to candidates who would use the tribune to advocate for discriminatory policies. I imposed a party line on the matter and refused to run candidates who supported discrimination. Although this was a break with tradition within the Canadian Green movement, it was necessary and it has enabled us to build a more inclusive party in which the representation of minorities has drastically increased. Over the years I have heard many people in the Green Party of Canada comment on the party’s lack of diversity, however there has been little will to change the party’s positions on key issues that affect the lives of minority groups. It’s not just a question of outreach, we need to ensure that the Green Party is presenting a program that addresses the issues minority groups are facing.
Working Beyond Party Lines For Proportional Representation
Under my leadership, the Green Party of Quebec opened a dialogue with other opposition parties who supported proportional representation. Our goal was to build consensus not only on the need to bring in proportional representation but also to agree on as many details of what the new system would look like.
In 2014 we held our first joint press conference at the National Assembly along with the leaders of Québec Solidaire and Option Nationale. After many long negotiation sessions, the Parti Québécois and the Coalition Avenir Québec joined our group and together we signed our first agreement to work together ahead of the 2018 election to build consensus. Together we traveled the province meeting with citizens, exchanging ideas and taking notes.
Fast forward to early 2018 when I had the honour of signing a formal engagement with now-Premier Francois Legault as well as the leaders of the Parti Québécois and Québec Solidaire, in which we all agreed that we would implement proportional representation should one of our parties win the 2018 election. Since then, François Legault has been sworn in as Premier and has tabled a bill for electoral reform!
Although the proposed bill falls short of the agreement I signed with the Premier, I am very happy to have contributed to advancing the cause of proportional representation in Quebec. My hope is that the bill will be amended to better reflect our agreement. Perhaps the next elections in Quebec will be under a proportional system! If they are not, we will have to keep up the fight.
Speaking Out Against Extractivism
Through my political career I have always spoken out against extractivism. What is extractivism? It’s when governments adopt economic growth strategies that are based on uncontrolled and unregulated mass extraction of natural resources. I believe that we need to transition to a more sustainable economy and consumption habits. We simply cannot continue extracting and consuming at the rate that we are doing so. We need to live within the limits of our ecosystems and of the planet.
As an activist and as a Green Party leader, I have spoken out against mining projects, deforestation, the Alberta tar sands, fracking, bulk water exports, overconsumption and other destructive projects.
Supporting Indigenous Rights
Canada is a colonial state. We have major problems with blatant and systemic racism towards the Indigenous peoples of this land. As Canadians we need to take collective responsibility for the historical and current wrongdoings of the Canadian government. For far too long this country has marginalized and discriminated against Indigenous people. We have conducted a cultural genocide that involved ripping children from their families, imposing our culture and language on them and brutalizing those who did not comply. Today, many First Nations live in extreme poverty without even the most basic human rights such as access to clean drinking water, education and healthcare. Cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women go un-investigated by our police forces. The MMIW inquiry termed it as genocide and it is ongoing. We must, as Canadians, do everything we can to stop this systemic oppression.
Before running for the leadership of the Quebec Greens I became good friends with Indigenous elder Raymond Robinson of the Pimicikamak (Cree) nation in Northern Manitoba. He is best known for his 43-day hunger strike with Theresa Spence in Ottawa during the Idle No More Movement. In early 2013, Raymond started a second no-liquid hunger strike due to Harper’s lack of action following the peak of the Idle No More Movement. During this second hunger strike, he put me in charge of his communications. It was a lot of pressure, but we managed to get meetings with the federal Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, the Chief of the Assembly of First Nations and many federal politicians. On the sixth day of the hunger strike, we had organized vigils in 30 different cities. Raymond concluded his hunger strike on that night and we have been friends and allies ever since. In 2013, I travelled with Raymond to New Brunswick where we took part in protests against hydraulic fracking lead by the Miꞌkmaq of the Elsipogtog First Nation. In 2019 we traveled across the country together visiting the tar sands, the Wet’suwet’en anti-pipeline camps, as well as the Arctic community of Tuktoyaktuk to observe firsthand the impacts of climate change in the Western Canadian Arctic.
Under my leadership the Green Party of Quebec put forward a bold program for indigenous rights including recognizing the right to autodetermination, fighting systemic racism and by proposing to give First Nations seats and voting power within our legislature.
Campaigning With Greens Across Canada
During my time as leader of the Green Party of Quebec, I have had the privilege to meet and work with Greens from across the country and in a variety of political circumstances. I have also been invited to give presentations to the Greens of New York State and of Maine at their respective state conventions.
In 2019, I traveled to Prince Edward Island to help elect what almost became the first Green government in Canada. That trip opened my eyes to the great potential that our movement has across the country. Although many people’s voting habits are deeply entrenched, every so often there is a collective shift towards a more progressive option. The Green Party of PEI is now the official opposition on the island and they have inspired Greens from across Canada including myself to strengthen our efforts, be persistent and never give up hope that a breakthrough could be lurking on the horizon.
I also campaigned in the 2019 Manitoba election for candidate Dave Nickarz and party leader James Beddome. In that election, Dave received an incredible 35% of the vote but finished in second place. It was a hard-fought campaign which mobilized over 130 local volunteers in the Wolseley district. Although we did not achieve the breakthrough we were hoping for, it was a great learning experience to see how things are done in Manitoba and I am very confident that the Manitoba Greens will have a breakthrough in their next election.