Myron Jespersen has seen his share of undemocratic governments in his time, and he said the mess they make of their countries is never good.
That’s one reason why the 58-year-old Port Alberni resident is running as the Green Party candidate for Nanaimo-Alberni.
Born one of seven children on a farm north of Edmonton, Jespersen earned a Bachelor of Arts in both history and anthropology from the University of Alberta in Edmonton before heading to a seminary to earn a Masters’ degree in theology.
“I never followed through on it, but I wanted to do international work and was intending to do that with the church, but I did part of my theological studies in India and sort of got into the world of relief and development, and that’s what I’ve done for most of my adult life.”
His most recent overseas posting, he said, was in South Sudan, where he served as country director for an organization called World Relief.
“Because of the war, there was essentially no government, so we provided health services in eight counties, as well as agricultural and education programs and building and equipping of schools.”
It was a difficult assignment, one of the worst.
“It was physically very tough,” he said. “There was almost no infrastructure, so we had to run everything off solar panels. There was no clean running water and — in one of the hottest places on earth — we couldn’t even run a fan to cool off.”
Jespersen moved to Port Alberni with his wife, Janice, four years ago, once the Sudan assignment ended.
“We used to come out to the coast to kayak, so when we thought about coming back to Canada, we thought, why not work where we like to play?” he said. “Janice got a job as a nurse and headed up the TB team for Port Alberni and I tagged along.”
Jespersen said he decided to run as a candidate for the Greens after serving as John Fryer’s campaign manager in the last election.
One of the issues that prompted him to make the move, he said, involved the lack of a real environmental focus by the other parties.
“There were two things,” he said. “One was the commitment by the Greens to the environment and they don’t have a special interest group to pull them away from that goal. We need to find a way to make the environment foundational for everything else we do, rather than talking about mitigating environmental impacts or, worse, utilizing the environment as a bank we can draw from without ever putting something in.”
The other issue, he said, concerns what he sees as the steady erosion of Canadian democracy under the Harper Conservatives.
“I value the stand the Green Party takes on democracy and working towards more grassroots participation in democracy,” he said. “We are eroding that in Canada and it pains me to see it. We applaud the end of dictatorships in the Middle East, but we see power being concentrated in fewer and fewer hands in Canada. It’s all about the leader. The most recent example was the announcements by the Harper government instead of the Government of Canada.”
Although Jespersen said this concentration of power in the PM’s office has been going on for some time, under various governments, he said the Harper Conservatives have taken it to a whole new level.
“It’s a very dangerous trend to go in that direction,” he said. “We need to find ways to stop it.”