Filmmaker-turned-politician Avi Lewis garnered endorsements from celebrity guests and local Sunshine Coast leaders at his Saturday campaign launch, which drew more than 400 people.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, environmental activist David Suzuki, English protest rocker Billy Bragg and actors Jane Fonda and Emma Thompson made appearances at the May 22 riding association meeting where Lewis was acclaimed as NDP candidate for the federal West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country riding.
His wife, writer and climate activist Naomi Klein, co-moderated the event.
In a poignant moment, former Ontario NDP leader and human rights activist Stephen Lewis, ill with cancer, appeared on Zoom with his wife Michele Landsberg to endorse his son. “It’s hard to know what to say when your own son is the candidate,” he said. “There’s such an intense feeling … that we’ve got the right moment in time and the right candidate in time to take us forward.”
As for local endorsements, among the first to speak at the meeting was volleyball Olympian, former School District No. 46 board chair and poverty reduction advocate Betty Baxter, telling attendees Lewis’s activism “is what’s needed.”
NDP MLA Nicholas Simons and former Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) chair Donna Shugar supported Lewis’s nomination in recorded videos.
The meeting aimed to build a groundswell of support for Lewis in what Klein described as a “long shot” riding that’s never had an NDP MP.
“No single candidate can shift those odds,” said Klein. “Only one thing can, and that’s a movement.”
The challenge was echoed by Singh in his speech introducing Lewis. “Avi knows that this riding is going to be a tough riding,” said Singh. “It’s going to take a lot of work, and I’m confident Avi is going to put in the work necessary to represent the people.”
More than 75 people signed up to volunteer, and at least 105 donors raised about $15,000 over the course of the virtual event. Combined with the pre-launch donations, more than $45,000 has been raised.
In his opening remarks, Lewis thanked those attending the “gigantic, multi-page Zoom spectacle,” and used his speech to ground himself in Halfmoon Bay, his career in journalism and filmmaking and focus on grassroots and “place-based” solutions to climate change, housing and inequality, describing himself as a “people’s accomplice.”
He called for a “Green New Deal for all,” that involves government spending to repair the climate, increase jobs, improve public transit and housing, and increase investments in public health, education and “the care economy.”
“I’m running, and I’m running right here where I live. The Sunshine Coast is my home,” he said.