greens
Credit: Courtesy of Michael Barkusky

BC Green candidate for Vancouver-Quilchena Michael Barkusky (left) and volunteers on the campaign trail at 16th and Arbutus in Vancouver

The Vancouver-Quilchena nominee merges fiscal responsibility with environmental goals

As a kid growing up in South Africa, Michael Barkusky witnessed the rise of civil unrest. He worked for an opposition party in his high-school and college days before being drafted into the country’s military. After serving two years there and sensing a grim future for the nation, Barkusky fled to Canada to get an MBA in accounting from UBC in the early 1980s.

He got his CPA designation and started his own accounting firm on Cambie Street in Vancouver, where he mostly works with small businesses. But his interest in politics, and his desire to see parties work cooperatively in government, never really went away.

Barkusky first ran for the BC Green Party in Vancouver-Quilchena in 2017, coming in third behind now–BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson and the BC NDP’s Madeline Lalonde with just under 15 percent of the vote. He’s quick to point out that the mark was the highest ever in the riding—both in percentage and vote total—for a BC Green candidate.

Now he’s back for another clash with his old friend Wilkinson (they both spent time on the executive board of the BC Mountaineering Club in the ’90s, the former as treasurer, the latter as president).

“We’re old friends—not super in touch with one another, but [we] respect each other and know each other quite well,” he says on a call with BCBusiness after a morning spent waving signs on Arbutus Street. “I almost feel a bit sorry for him; it’s been a rough election. But he’s an effective on-the-ground organizer within his party.” 

As with any underdog race, there are a few shreds of optimism in the Green hopeful’s voice: “His vote totals did drop from the first time he ran in 2017, and by the very unscientific test of the honks we got today, we think we may do better this time around than the 15 percent.”

But Barkusky, who considers himself on the “bluer side” of the Green Party spectrum, acknowledges he’s likely fighting a losing battle.

“I’m in this, I think, to do my bit for keeping the Green Party strong—that, to me, is very important,” he states. “I think the NDP has governed much better in a minority government than if they’d had a majority, I’d really rather not see them win a majority. I suppose the polls are saying they will. [NDP Leader] John Horgan is not the favourite political figure of those in the Green Party, as you can imagine. I don’t want to see the BC Liberals back in power, but I think if we held the balance of power, we could moderate both parties.”

When it comes to the BC NDP, that means “stopping them from doing economically silly things, and encouraging them to be ambitious on the environmental front,” says Barkusky as he points to things like subsidizing the fossil fuel industry on the former and the lack of an endangered species act on the latter.

“There are provinces we don’t think of as environmental leaders, like Quebec and New Brunswick, that have it, and we don’t,” he explains. “[The NDP] said they’d do it, but they haven’t done it yet. And I bet if they get a majority, they won’t do it at all.”

Barkusky says he doesn’t agree with fossil fuel subsidies that the current NDP government continued to allow during its reign. “Often these things are more driven by politics than economics,” he argues.

“Politically, it can make sense to both have a carbon tax and subsidies to fossil fuels because they satisfy their own constituencies and one is not really noticing the other. But economically, it doesn’t make sense. Your one policy is trying to shrink the sector; the other is trying to grow it.”