Ernie Sellentin ready to dig in for Green Party
By Spencer Anderson
Ernie Sellentin isn't afraid to get his hands dirty in the garden. Politics won't be an exception, says the environmental consultant-turned Green Party candidate.
The former logger bets the political ground is fertile for a new campaign to take hold. The new riding of Courtenay-Comox means there is no incumbent to fight and no baggage of elections past.
But Sellentin's party has never formed government, or even held a seat in the legislature until the party's leader, Andrew Weaver, was elected in 2013.
Sellentin is also facing off against two better-known and better-funded opponents: former Courtenay councillor Ronna-Rae Leonard for the NDP, and former 19 Wing commander Jim Benninger for the Liberals.
But the Green candidate also knows a thing or two about making his own luck.
After working for decades as a logger, he returned to school, earning a diploma in environmental assessment from North Island College in 1999, followed by a B.Sc. From Royal Roads University the following year.
He went on to establish Sellentin's Habitat Restoration & Invasive Species Consulting Ltd., a successful consulting business that now employs several other people.
Sellentin is also not a newcomer to the Comox Valley, having lived in the area since 1981 after moving from his birthplace, Texada Island.
And he says his appeal as a working person and a small business owner who has created jobs in the 'green' sector will resonate with voters.
He said post-secondary training needs to better equip students for after school.
"I went back to school as a mature student at 45, and when I got out of university at 49 years old, there were no jobs that actually linked my degree to anything that I actually do right now," he said during the opening of his campaign office at K'ómoks First Nation.
"You know, when you come out of university, it'd be nice if there were more programs that you were actually trained to do, jobs that you were actually able to do when you come out of there and that doesn't happen," Sellentin continued.
"At the college here, there is no training in sustainable jobs like, say, installing solar systems, those kinds of things. We don't have that happening here."
Selletin said improving public education is also a main reason for running.
'My daughter has gone through school cuts, she's in Grade 11 now – she's gone through school cuts from Kindergarten to Grade 11," he said.
"I don't blame the school boards. I pity those poor trustees that have had to deal with budget cuts for 15 years. You can only cut so deep, and the damage is done."
Sellentin said greater control over the local watershed is also a priority.
"I see a lot of people discontent with the way things are going," he said. "It's not about one big project after another, a big bridge in Vancouver or a big hydro dam up in the Peace or LNG. It's about local jobs for local people here, and sustainable jobs and we can have them."
His pitch to voters? Vote your beliefs.
"I'm running for a non-traditional party," he said. "But I believe in the values. I've been here. I can see the results of what's going on."