GreenPAC works year-round to activate, inspire and
amplify environmental leadership in politics.
A Letter From GreenPAC's Executive Director & Chair of the Board
Sarah Van Exan & Margo Welch
Sarah Van Exan - Executive Director (Left), Margo Welch - Chair of the Board (Right)
In this Annual Report, we share our activities and impact for FY 19/20, a year marked by extraordinary challenges and disruption as a global pandemic took its toll.
Despite the enormous strain that COVID-19 has placed on our health and economy, particularly the well-being of those who already bear the brunt of systemic inequity, we take inspiration from the rapid political and societal action that unfolded - across neighbourhoods and nations.
We’re not the first to say it, but it bears repeating that this year demonstrates we can mobilize at the scale and pace needed to address the climate crisis and today’s environmental challenges if we choose to do so.
For GreenPAC, FY 19/20 was also marked by disruption. We made adjustments to how we work and deliver our programs, from cancelling our signature fundraising event, to guiding our interns through unprecedented changes to working remotely ‘on Parliament Hill’, to a leadership transition as our first and wonderful executive director moved on. We also created some disruption ourselves, thanks to the collaborative efforts of hundreds of community organizers across Canada. The “100 Debates on the Environment” (104 actually!) challenged the status quo in the lead up to the October 2019 federal election and underlined the importance of strong plans for climate and the environment.
From helping elect 16 MPs who are leading for the environment on Parliament Hill to 100 Debates, and a truly exceptional cohort of Parliamentary Interns, we are proud of our accomplishments and growth in the face of last year’s challenges.
While the need for environmental leadership for the planet and all people has never been greater, neither has the demand and energy to make it a reality.
With the support of our team and dedicated supporters, we will keep pivoting and adapting as we approach this new year with ambition and energy.
Sarah & Margo
Parliamentary Internship for the Environment
We place exceptional young Canadians as interns on Parliament Hill, developing their potential as future environmental leaders and helping increase the capacity of MPs to lead on the environment
Every Day Advocates & 100 Debates
We raise the capacity of Canadians across the nation to advocate for the environment and hold our elected officials accountable for their commitments
We recognize environmental leaders running for office from all major parties so Canadians can support their campaigns
Our Internship and 100 Debates/Every Day Advocates programs are delivered in partnership with the Sustainability Network.
PARLIAMENTARY INTERNSHIP FOR THE ENVIROMENT
The GreenPAC Parliamentary Internship for the Environment (PIE) is a leadership development program that places young environmental stars with MPs from across the political spectrum. Interns learn about the inner workings of the federal government and develop their leadership capacity through this immersive experience, which includes training, workshops and sit-downs with environmental champions.
Spotlight: Brittany Stares, PIE Program Manager
It goes without saying that 2020 is one for the record books. Yet despite the weight and implications of global events and internal changes, we did so much more than muddle through.
In adapting to COVID-19, we shifted internship programming online and supported our interns in transitioning to a remote workplace. We offered placement extensions to Year 2 interns, giving one intern the opportunity to spend the summer working with the Hon. Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Canadian Heritage. In September, we welcomed four terrific new interns, including our first intern with a focus on sustainable agriculture. And while our MP partners are always fantastic, we were blown away this year by the care they put into providing rewarding opportunities to interns on issues that matter - from plastic waste reduction and tree-planting to green infrastructure and conservation.
This year, I see the program’s impact more clearly than ever. It has always been, in part, a long game - building the next generation of environmental leaders and giving them the tools to be effective advocates for years to come. But it also has tremendous value in the here and now.
Four program alumni now work as political staffers (one for a GreenPAC endorsee), bolstering the capacity of elected officials to fight for the environment every day. Another former intern recently took the plunge and ran for office herself.
This brings me to perhaps our timeliest impact: Even committed MPs do not always have the bandwidth or resources they need to drive environmental progress, and all the more so during a pandemic. GreenPAC interns help MPs tackle competing priorities, fill gaps in scientific literacy, and keep the environment on their priority list. In short, our program provides crucial capacity at a time when it’s both “all hands on deck” and a pivotal moment for change.
Amidst the lessons of 2020, one that promises hope: the environment is here to stay on Parliament Hill.
This year’s MP partners from left to right were MP Jenica Atwin (GPC), MP Richard Cannings (NDP), MP Larry Maguire (CPC), the Honourable Joyce Murray, Minister of Digital Government (LPC) and MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq (NDP).
In response to COVID-19, we extended placements for select Interns, one through the summer and one through the fall. Through the summer, our MP partner was the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Canadian Heritage (LPC). We are one of very few organizations to place Interns with Ministers of Canada.
Our MP Partners had nothing but praise for the interns placed in their offices.
As a first time MP, the insights, contributions and level of teamwork provided by my GreenPAC Intern were invaluable. It is clear that GreenPAC carefully selects qualified, passionate individuals to participate in the program and my team and I are extremely grateful.
The GreenPAC internship placement was an incredible learning experience for me.
My MP and the staff taught me so much about environmental issues, how Parliament works, and ways to make positive change in politics.
As someone who hopes to run for office in order to push for environmental justice, I feel extremely grateful for the opportunities the internship has opened up for me. Despite the COVID-induced hiatus, I feel much better prepared to understand what skills and knowledge I still need to develop and for what to expect if I make it into an elected position one day.
Alison was hired by MP Jenica Atwin over the summer and now works as a Constituency Assistant for B.C. MLA Anne Kang.
As an intern who worked in Mumilaaq Qaqqaq’s office and who self-identifies as Indigenous, I am grateful for my experience, my journey and for all the lessons I learned. Mumilaaq taught me many valuable lessons over the course of the internship.
She taught me what life is like on Parliament Hill for a new MP. She taught me what it means to be a good leader, to stay true to yourself and to stick to what you believe is right.
Thank you for making my experience memorable and for always supporting me, Mumilaaq and GreenPAC.
Crystal Lewis is moving out east for post-secondary education and still considering pursuing public office in her home community of Squamish Nation.
Working in the Office of MP Larry Maguire broadened my perspective of environmental leadership and provided countless new opportunities.
I am looking forward to moving to Nova Scotia in the fall to study law with a thorough understanding of parliamentary procedure and the legislative process made possible by the GreenPAC Internship.
George Philp was hired by MP Larry Maguire over the summer and is now attending Dalhousie Law School in Halifax.
My internship with GreenPAC gave me the confidence I needed to seize new opportunities, make connections with other environmental champions and get an inside look at what it takes to lead in politics. GreenPAC works hard to ensure you are placed in an office that suits your goals. I felt right at home in MP Jenica Atwin’s office and was encouraged to take on projects, share my ideas and be part of the team.
Getting to experience life on Parliament Hill and see up close the making of policies that have real impacts on our lives was an incredible and unforgettable experience.
Kirsten Snider was hired as a Legislative Assistant for GreenPAC-endorsed MPP Jessica Bell at Queen’s Park.
What drew you to environmental politics?
I've been working in environmental organizations - mostly nonprofits and grassroots organizing - for a very long time, but I felt like I was always running into barriers and challenges.
At the end of the day, we were always asking a decision maker to make the right decision; to fund a project, to include young people, or Black, Indigenous, People of Colour (BIPOC).
I realized what I needed was to skill-up and level-up in order to figure out how to navigate political spaces to be able to be more effective in advocacy. I think there's such a power in being at the table, and to having different decision makers who are not just going to perpetuate the same decisions that have been made for many, many years.
Tesicca was a Parliamentary Intern from 2018/19. In 2020 she ran for office and came within 1458 votes of winning, despite running against an incumbent (and former leadership contestant) whose party has had a solid hold on the riding since 1991. She ran an ambitious campaign that inspired all who were involved.
100 DEBATES ON THE ENVIRONMENT
It was a big, game-changing idea. Issue-based debates have never been done on this scale in Canada.
On any issue. Not even close.
On October 3rd, debates on the environment happened simultaneously in over 100 ridings across the country – from Vancouver Island to Halifax to Yellowknife.
Spotlight: Afreen Ghouse, 100 Debates Organizer
Leading five debates was a whirlwind experience; trying to coordinate between the schedules of 23 candidates, mobilizing local citizens, inspiring and guiding youth to participate so that their voices could be heard on an issue that matters to them. Each day held a new surprise, a new obstacle, and a new lesson learned, but it was worth it to see the total turnout of over 1000 participants.
The debates started crucial conversations and inspired critical thinking regarding civic engagement and environmental leadership.
I believe that seeing participants from a range of different demographics engaged with a specific cause, strengthened citizens’ resolve to take action and make a difference. My favourite moment was hearing from students about how the debates changed their perspectives and how the event motivated them to get more involved with the elections and politics even before they are of voting age.
It was through this journey of organizing the ‘100 Debates on the Environment’ that my own passion was ignited, pushing me to pursue a career in environmental advocacy and climate change awareness. For that, I am incredibly grateful.
Afreen has since joined our team as Community Engagement Coordinator for Every Day Advocates.
During elections, GreenPAC screens political candidates and
identifies proven environmental leaders in all major parties.
The Expert Panel makes the final decisions on who GreenPAC endorses during our provincial and federal endorsement election campaigns. The Panel is made up of credible, independent members who have no ties to political parties and are not on the payroll of any environmental NGOs. Panel members reflect a diversity of views from various parts of the country and areas of expertise.
Spotlight: Lynda Collins, Expert Panel Member
Environmental leadership across all parties has never been more important. I got involved in the Expert Panel because I believe that initiatives like GreenPAC have the potential to make a historic difference in our political processes. It’s inspiring to endorse environmental champions with a proven track record of making a difference in our communities.
I’m grateful for the opportunity GreenPAC provides all of us to advance sustainability through the democratic process.
Environmental protection can only be achieved through collective action. Greening government is the only path to a sustainable future and GreenPAC provides an exciting tool for achieving that necessary transformation.