Long-time environmental activist and self-described "background boy" Peter Tatroff is stepping from behind the scenes into the political spotlight for the first time, as the Green Party of British Columbias candidate in the West-Vancouver Garibaldi riding.
The 49-year-old father and grandfather is originally from Vancouver, spent eight years in Whistler and now resides on Bowen Island. He works as a stone mason and an event organizer, with such local entertainment credits including the 1998/99 World Ski and Snowboard Festival music lineup, a 1999 Wailers concert at the Longhorn and a fund-raiser concert for the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment.
Tatroff was with the NDP for 20 years and worked as a fund-raiser for Moe Sihota in the late 1980s. Citing dissatisfaction with the NDPs increasingly middle-of-the-road stance on environmental issues, he joined the green movement and became Paul Watsons campaign manager in the 1996 Vancouver mayoralty race.
A conversation with Tatroff reveals an election platform as varied and colourful as his past. Among his list of key local issues is the self-determination of First Nations, the cleanup of the Britannia Mine and the fisheries, saving the Elaho, expansion of rail services, the elimination of child poverty on Indian reserves, incentives for organic and green farming practices, and anti-corruption measures in the forestry industry. He believes around 20 per cent of the population is ready for the Green Partys message.
"When you look at the bigger picture, you see the world is rotting around us but many people dont see it here because they still have got it all," he says. "The Green Party has some rational answers for growing environmental problems and 80 per cent of people wont be ready to hear it until they start being affected by power and water shortages, for example."
Tatroff says studies he read some 15 years ago highlighted the need for British Columbia to sort out its environmental abuses and First Nations injustices if the province was to move ahead. He believes these issues are still not being addressed and investors are being put off as a result.
"The current NDP government has already acknowledged that we are cutting down our forests at an unsustainable rate," he says. "If this isnt turned around the province is in danger of losing its number one asset and future drawcard, eco-tourism."
Tatroff says the current expose over the forest companies fiasco regarding stumpage fees has already cost West Coast taxpayers $224 million in the past two and a half years alone. Quoting a report by the Sierra Legal team, he claims companies have been deliberately assessing cuts at the lowest stumpage rates and pocketing the difference. Tatroff says the Green Party wants to take 50 per cent of existing tree farm licenses from the corporations and put them into the hands of local communities and First Nations. The eventual replacement of the stumpage system with an open auction arrangement would also boost tax payers returns and free up money for other environmentally sustainable works such as organic farming, he adds.
The forced reinvestment by the forest industry in education is another policy advocated by Tatroff. He says the money lost through the stumpage system should be funnelled into eco-tourism training.
"There is around 30 per cent unemployment among loggers so companies such as Interfor should be retraining their workers into the opening-up field of eco-tourism."
Tatroff says supporting the sovereignty movement of First Nations communities is another key priority in the Sea to Sky Corridor. "This issue must be addressed by government, along with the child poverty that is still occurring on the reserves."
Tatroff traces his human rights and anti-war activism back to the late 1960s. He has volunteered for the Victoria Peace and Disarmament Group, Amnesty International, the Gustaphson Lake protest and the LilWat movement in Mount Currie. His other credits include acting as executive producer for Earth Day Victoria, organizing Khuzemateen benefits in Vancouvers Commodore, working on Stein Valley benefit fund-raisers and supporting efforts to preserve the Elaho Valley.
Tatroff is an avid mountain biker, kayaker and proponent of shared and public transport. He says he is a student of Zen and has tried to live a life in the spirit of compassion and respect for all living beings.