By Steve Hubrecht
steve@columbiavalleypioneer.com

Green Party candidate, Rana Nelson, is one of two new faces among those running in Kootenay—Columbia this federal election. 

The Conservatives, NDP, and Liberals are each running the same candidate in the 2021 elections as they did in 2019, but Nelson sees this as being to her advantage, telling the Pioneer she’s fresh on the political scene, and that given the divisive and, sometimes stagnant, nature of federal politics for the past decade. It’s high time  for something new.

Nelson adds that, although she’s new to politics, she’s had a deep passion for issues for years, saying “I’ve always been part of the social justice movement.”

She grew up in Saskatoon where, as a child, she attended the city’s ‘open’ school, an alternative education institute that operated as part of the public education system. The hands-on, experiential two-classroom school was led, on a rotating basis, by the parents and caretakers of the students, and featured plenty of collaborative learning and educational field trips.

“I definitely had a different upbringing. My parents wouldn’t let me in a McDonalds, for instance, when I was really little, which, in hindsight, in terms of healthy eating and lifestyle, I’m grateful for,” Nelson told the Pioneer. “The end result was that I grew up with a strong sense of connectedness to the world around me.”

Nelson was (and still is) a voracious bibliophile, reading everything and anything as a teenager, and, after a stint working as a lifeguard in Yellowknife, went on to earn an English degree at university. That lead to a series of writing and editing in Toronto, some in the health industry, and at one point she wrote a medical dictionary.

After spending time in a big city, Nelson switched things up, moving to tiny, remote Telegraph Creek in northwestern B.C., the only community on the Stikine River. The move came for two reasons: Nelson had never wanted to live in one place her whole life, and her partner was with the RCMP and had just been posted there.

“We got married in Banff, then just kept driving west (to Telegraph Creek),” recalls Nelson.

In the remote town, Nelson worked at the tourism lodge, running trips down the Stikine, and taking life lesson from her neighbours: a First Nations couple still practicing traditional net fishing. Stints all across Canada, west and east, followed, and she lived on Vancouver Island, in the Yukon, and in Ottawa.

“I loved Ottawa, I would go to the Library of Parliament, on Parliament Hill, and just sit there surrounded by books. For somebody like me, it was amazing.” 

From the nation’s capital, Nelson and her partner moved back to Saskatchewan,to be close to family, and then missing the outdoor lifestyle of B.C. too much, they moved west again, settling in Revelstoke.

They’ve been in Revelstoke for eight years, raising their three kids. Their eldest daughter started university this year, their middle daughter is in high school, and their son is 11.

“We love Revelstoke. We came for what everybody comes to the Kootenay for: the skiing, the biking, the hiking. It’s a great place to raise a family,” says Nelson.

When not ripping turns at the ski hill, soaking up the solitude of nordic skiing, or hiking to alpine meadows during peak wildflower season, Nelson also enjoys walking as much as possible, participating in live musical theatre (along with her whole family), the occasional improv night, and reading as much as possible. 

Nelson has worked in a number of jobs in both the private and public sectors, including stints with Work B.C., and numerous freelance writing and editing gigs. 

She feels this broad background helps her campaign. “I’ve been able to meet many people from all walks of life. I know the challenges they face. There are people falling through the cracks, and we need to help them,” she says.

Nelson, a fan of proportional representation, voted for Trudeau  in 2015, then “was furious when he did not deliver on his promise that would be the last election under the first-past-the-post system,” she says. 

“That was the last straw. I got fed up, I got frustrated and now, I’m getting involved.”

She says her campaign is going well so far, running on issues of climate change, a stronger social contract, housing and food security, and making sure recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic leads to a circular, greener economy. “It’s been a growth experience,” she says. “The vastness of the riding is a challenge, but I love knocking on people’s doors.”

Nelson also says she’s heard fears about vote-splitting from would-be green voters who are considering instead backing the NDP. “We should be voting out of inspiration rather than fear,” she says. “If everybody who wanted to vote Green in this riding does, I feel we truly have a great chance of getting me to Parliament.”

Jumping from 10 per cent of the vote to winning a riding may not be easy, but Nelson noted that the Green Party candidate in Fredricton did just that in 2019, and says, if that can happen in New Brunswick, it can happen in Kootenay Columbia.