New Green Party leader takes aim at Sask. Party and NDP

Saskatchewan Green Party leader Naomi Hunter. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

Green Party leader Naomi Hunter says she’s confident there is room for a third party in the Saskatchewan Legislature this fall, and her party is perfectly positioned to make that jump.

The small business owner, artist and environmental activist has been involved with the provincial Green Party since 1999. The party finished in fourth place with 1.8 per cent of the vote in the 2016 provincial election, but Hunter is confident they’ll improve on that in 2020.

“I always laugh when people say, ‘well, Saskatchewan is so right-wing and conservative,’” she said during an interview in Prince Albert on Thursday. “I go, ‘no it’s not. Saskatchewan votes wildly left and wildly right.’ People are more concerned with the issues than the parties. They are interested in the little guy, and that is exactly who the Green Party represents.”

Since taking over from former leader (and current deputy leader) Victor Lau in May, Hunter has worked hard to get a full slate of candidates. Green Party representatives competed in all but three Saskatchewan riding last election, one of which was in Nadine Wilson’s riding of Saskatchewan Rivers.

The party has 52 confirmed candidates so far, with several more in the process of filing their paperwork. One of those candidates is Sarah Kraynick, who Hunter hopes to see running against Nicole Rancourt in Prince Albert Northcote. The party has three candidates interested in running against Crown Corporations and SGI Minister Joe Hargrave in Prince Albert Carlton, but haven’t settled on one yet.

Regardless, Hunter promised the party would have a diverse, gender-balanced 61-cadidate slate in 2020.

“I feel that Saskatchewan people are eager to see people who they find relatable in the lej,” she explained. “We don’t need more lawyers and political scientists. I think I can run this province like my farm.”

Hunter has plenty of experience in the Prince Albert area. In addition to the family farm near Birch Hills, she also used to operate the Lakeland Art Gallery and Tea House near Christopher Lake. Although she now makes her home in Regina, Hunter still considers herself a northerner.

She said people in the north want politicians in Regina who understand their concerns, and one of the biggest is public health and access to clean drinking water in Indigenous communities.

The party also supports traditional environmental platforms like solar power and clean energy, which Hunter believes can eventually replace the oil and gas sector. She criticized the Saskatchewan Party’s handling of the net metering solar program, saying she’d rather support small solar companies than the give more tax incentives to the oil industry.

The provincial government launched a revamped version of the net metering program last November. It paid 7.5 cents/kWh to customers who generated excess energy over strong condemnation from solar companies would said it would kill the industry. The Saskatchewan Party had suspended the program two years before, saying there wasn’t enough interest.

“The Sask Party cut it and has tried in every which way to obfuscate the fact that these were small business people who were making a go of it, Hunter said. “Saskatchewan needs more (of those people) in the economy right now.”

This is Hunter’s first foray into provincial politics, but not her first campaign. Seeing her 19-year-old son and 20-year-old daughter inspired her to get into politics in 2019. She ran federally in Regina-Lewvan, where she finished in fourth place behind Conservative Warren Steinley with four per cent of the vote.

Hunter briefly considered running for leadership of the federal Green Party after Elizabeth May stepped down, but said Saskatchewan is where she feels she’s most needed. It’s also where she most wants to be.

“I thought it would be great for us to have someone from the prairies in the race, but then our provincial (Green Party) leader stepped down at the same time,” she said. “I had to really search my heart and I just thought, ‘what if all the bright lights keep running off to Ottawa and the West Coast. You know what? I think Saskatchewan needs me more.’”