Swift Current resident and small business owner Maria Lewans is running as an independent candidate in the Cypress Hills-Grasslands federal riding.
She feels that society needs to change profoundly and the political parties in this federal election are not able to implement transformative change.
“We're digging ourselves deeper into our problems instead of getting out,” she said. “I didn't think any of the other parties were really addressing the situation. I don't think re-arranging our taxes, giving tax breaks, filtering money here and there, is going to do anything. Our problems plaguing society are very deep-rooted and we really have to start at the basics and think about how do we want to be living life, and how do we want our society to be structured and think about it from scratch, instead of trying to fix a broken system.”
Lewans grew up on a mixed farm north of Shaunavon and she served as the SRC president at high school. She studied kinesiology at the University of Saskatchewan and thereafter completed a plumbing course at SIAST.
She has been a Swift Current resident since 2006. She worked at two local construction companies before she started her own plumbing business. In October 2016 she was a mayoral candidate in the municipal election in Swift Current and in the March 1, 2018 provincial by-election in Swift Current she was a candidate for the Saskatchewan Green Party.
Lewans feels she can make a difference by running as an independent, instead of representing the platform of a political party.
“I think I can present ideas,” she said. “My platform is more based on solution-based policies rather than pointing out what's wrong. We still have to address what's wrong, but I think we need to really start thinking about solutions that are do-able and sustainable in the long term and I don't think we should tip toe around the topics. We just need to get right to the point.”
Her goal as an independent candidate is different than other candidates, who are looking for voter support for their party’s point of view.
“I'm not going to tell people what they want to hear,” she said. “I'm not going to try to win votes. I'm going to say what I think and what I think we have to do as a society and I'll trust that people are smart enough, once they hear all the points of views, that they'll make that decision.”
A key focus of her stance is the need for a more sustainable lifestyle and living in closer harmony with the land.
“I want to present this idea of rethinking what employment could be and how we're living,” she said. “So I think part of that is restoring nature a lot. I want to push the importance of having a healthy ecosystem and how that's linked to healthy people. We're only as healthy as our soil, and right now our soil is on life support.”
Living in smaller communities will create greater possibilities to have more self sufficient and sustainable lifestyles. At the same time, it will avoid the depopulation of rural areas.
“I want to stop land sales to investors and make it possible for people to homestead in small, sustainable communities,” she said. “So it's trying to get people out of cities and living these sustainable lives. … Instead of being in industries or in front of computers and in offices, our jobs could be restoring the land. We can get people out there just restoring nature and learning old skills. I think that's important that we teach our children how we can live with the land again.”
Lewans feels agricultural practices need a serious rethink, and there has to be a shift away from industrial agriculture. She supports the elimination of synthetic chemical and fertilizer use, and a move to sustainable food production through regenerative and organic agriculture, food forestry, and permaculture.
“We need to rebuild our wetlands and get natural shrubbery going,” she said. “Wetlands are essential for filtering and cleaning our water, which has become increasingly contaminated, and there's a lot of accumulation of toxins from agricultural sprays to pharmaceuticals to run-off from the roads.”
She is against the use of genetically modified seeds, and she opposes seed patents. Farmers must be allowed to save seeds to grow crops in future years.
A sustainable economy will require that people learn to live within the limitations of the resources that are available locally. The local production of food and products will reduce the need for international trade, which is an inefficient way to use resources.
“It's about regaining our sovereignty and part of that is through food sovereignty,” she said. “When we create this more localized thing, we don't need to trade. You produce it locally and it means learning to live with what we have. We're going to produce our own food and we're going to eat what grows here.”
She is concerned about the dominant role of technology in society, for example through the internet and social media.
“Social media is causing high anxiety and depression among youth and adults,” she said. “It's limiting our ability to be able to interact with each other and it's just dividing us. It's another platform for bullying and people are creating these online personas or facades and I think it's quite stressful.”
She supports the shut down of artificial intelligence research, and she is against the use of technology to replace human jobs. She does not think the Green Party’s robot tax, which is proposal to fine companies if technological developments or automation takes away jobs from humans, is a realistic approach.
“I say why don't we just get rid of this technology,” she said. “Every piece of technology takes a job away from a person.”
Lewans acknowledged that some of her ideas might seem extreme, but she believes extreme times call for extreme measures.
“If we're not proactive about this, we're going to be forced to one day,” she said. “We're killing our soil and we're killing our land, and we can't do this much longer. So if we don't change and learn to adapt, we're going to be forced to change and I think if we're forced to change, it's not going to be as nice. So it's getting ideas out there and getting people to think.”
Voters will cast their ballots on Oct. 21 in the 2019 federal election. The other candidates in the Cypress Hills-Grasslands electoral district are William Caton (Liberal Party), Bill Clary (Green Party), Lee Harding (People’s Party of Canada), Jeremy Patzer (Conservative Party) and Trevor Peterson (New Democratic Party).