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MIKE SIMPSON

Principled. Proven. Proactive.

 
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ABOUT

Our Common Future

Mike has been championing the rights of future generations to live sustainably for decades. As an award winning film maker he made documentaries about human rights, sustainable development and the environment. As the founder and leader of One Sky - The Canadian Institute of Sustainable Living he spearheaded projects from protecting the rainforest in the Amazon to working with war affected children in West Africa.  He has promoted global solutions at the local scale  from renewable energy in Nigeria to appropriate technology in El Salvador. He has lived a life of social action and social justice, working in the private sector with civil society and advising governments. For the past seven years Mike has been the Executive Director of the British Columbia Council for International Cooperation and an active network leader, whether in the halls of the United Nations and Ottawa or the front lines of civil society activism. Today, as the proud (but very concerned) Dad of a nine year old girl he is a nominee for the Green Party. You can read more about his early years making films, his middle years running a successful non profit and his recent life as a network leaders as well as his vision in 2021 for future generations in the pages below.

 

LIFE AS A DOCUMENTARY MAKER

The Early Years

Mike started making television in his early years, cutting his tender teeth as the production manager of Whitehorse Television in the Yukon where he lived in a cabin deep in the woods.   At the age of 23, after cycling in Central America and witnessing the wars,  he started his own video production company, Variations on a Wave, in Victoria BC where he lived onb and learned to love wooden boats. Variations focused only on making the world a better place through film.  Into his thirties he made programs on human rights, the environment and sustainable development, often shooting for the news or grass roots movements and non governmental organizations. From hanging out of helicopters for Greenpeace to taking video testimonials of torture victims in Central America with Human Rights Commissions to camping on the frontlines of endangered spaces with First Nations in BC, these years of documentary film making taught him a lot about people, our planet and resiliency... through action. Running his own company, having employees to pay and balance sheets to track taught him a lot about the private sector. Witnessing people trying the make the world a better place and trying to do them justice through story telling taught him a huge amount about humility.  


What did it teach him about politics? There is always more to the story than it first appears. Politicians are wise not to see our world in black and white but in the full spectrum of its many shades and colours. 


Some of his productions and awards are listed here.

"The Monarch: A Butterfly Beyond Borders" (1998, director, camera): 1 hour for Discovery Canada exploring the natural history of this astonishing insect, and the threats to its annual migration. Filmed in Canada, Mexico and the U.S. Awards - International Wildlife Film Festival, Gemini nomination, Hazel Wolf Environmental Film Festival, Bronze Apple, National Educational Media Network, Columbus International Film & Video Festival.


“Burning Rivers” (1992, co-director/producer, camera): Award-winning documentary on environmental degradation and social issues in Guatemala produced with over a dozen Canadian and Central American NGOs. Best of Show (International Category), North American Association of Environmental Educators (NAAEE), 1993; Earth Peace Festival (Burlington, Vermont), 1993; Films des Femmes (Creteil, France) 1993; Latin American Film and Video Festival (Caracas, Venezuela) 1992; Canadian International Film and Video Festival (Ottawa, Canada) 1992. Broadcast by Knowledge Network, Vision TV and a variety of American stations. Co-author of a 32-page user guide to accompany the video.  Published by VIDEA (1992).

“Forests Forever”  (1996) co-producer/director, camera: A one hour documentary about the forest industry public relations campaigns in B.C. Involved research and location work with different forestry stakeholders including loggers, logging corporations, government and environmentalists.


“Trees, Toilets and Transformation: Inspirations from El Salvador” (1995 co-producer/director, camera, editor): Half hour program looking at the work around appropriate technology and sustainable development in El Salvador and it's connections to the lives of Canadians.  Produced for the GAIA Project to be used in schools and broadcast on Vision TV.


“To Hear Her Name” (1995, first camera): Thirty minute documentary in Croatia regarding the post-traumatic therapy of women by women in the Bosnian conflict (including the use of rape as weapon of war).  Produced by Gumboot Productions for the Women's Television Network.

“The Underwater World of Hakai” (1995, editor): An educational program depicting the flora and fauna of Hakai marine park in B.C. Produced for Archipelago Marine Research and B.C. Parks.

“The Open Door”  (1995 camera, editor): Half hour documentary on life on the streets in Victoria, B.C. and the work of an agency to support houseless people, the Open Door.

“The Forest of Reconciliation” (1994, co-director/producer, camera): A six minute magazine piece on a reforestation project of 75,000 trees to honour those who died in the civil war in El Salvador while restoring the local ecosystem.  Produced for Spirit Connection, broadcast on Vision TV.

“When the People Lead” (1993, co-director/producer, camera): A thirty-minute documentary on the first return of Guatemalan refugees from Mexico to Guatemala. Produced in co-production with CIDA, broadcast nationally on Vision TV.  Versioned in French, Spanish and Ojibway.  Screened at the Arusha One World Festival (Calgary, AB), Courtney International Film Festival (Courtney, BC), others.

“Project Accompaniment” (1993, co-director/producer, camera): A six minute short about the Canadian NGO, Project Accompaniment, and their involvement in the first return of Guatemalan refugees.  Produced for Spirit Connection, Vision TV.


“Guatemalan Weavers” (1993, co-director/producer, camera): Six minute piece investigating why and how Guatemalan widows have formed weaving co-operatives, and their connection to groups in eastern Canada.  Featuring Canadian singer Lennie Gallant.  Produced for Spirit Connection, broadcast on Vision TV.

“Haisla Totem” (1993, location camera): A 20-minute magazine special about a Haisla totem pole, which was in the Swedish Museum.  Produced for Sveriges TV (Sweden).

“How Much Is Enough?” (1991, director, camera): 2 parts in a series “How To Save The Earth” with Jonathon Porritt. This program examined population growth in the South and over-consumption in the North as the two biggest environmental problems facing the world. Co-Production with Channel 4, NRK, TVO, Access, SCN, Knowledge Network, CIDA, and North-South Productions, England. 1993 Award: North American Environmental Film Festival

n German T.V. News  (1993, location camera, production assistant): Independent production on B.C. forest industry.  Produced by Michael Mutz.


“Parks for All Seasons” (1990, co-producer , editor): A multi-purpose A/V about Capital Regional District Parks used to encourage public use and enjoyment of Victoria's parks.


“Kyuquot Sound: The Vanishing Rainforest” (1990, Co-producer/director): Half hour Program about a remote wilderness area on Vancouver Island and the forest resource conflicts.  Produced for the Sierra Club of B.C. for use in schools and public education.  Broadcast by Knowledge Network.


“Agriculture: Moving Toward Sustainability” (1989 co-writer/producer, camera): A 12 minute analysis of the state of agriculture in Canada for the State of the Environment Reporting Branch of Environment Canada.  Location work across Canada.


“Caravan to El Salvador” (1989, camera, producer): A half hour program documenting a caravan of 3.5 million dollars of aid on it's journey from Vancouver B.C. to El Salvador.  


“Clayoquot Sound, Not Clearcut Sound” (1988, camera, producer): First program about Clayoquot Sound, a wilderness location on the west coast of Vancouver Island and local efforts to develop the area sustainably.  Produced for Sierra Club of B.C.


“Carmanah: Valley of the Giants” (1987, camera, producer): A half hour documentary on the Carmanah Valley, the logging industry's plans to cut it and the environmentalists fight to preserve the valley.  Produced for the Sierra Club of BC


“The Stein” (1987, camera, producer): A one hour documentary on the Stein Valley and the native communities struggle to keep it as a wilderness area.


“Willing to Learn” (1989, camera assist): A collaboration and participatory half hour drama with New Horizons popular education group in St. Vincent.

n Award: Tam Tam Film & Video Festival, Rome. 1989


 

LIFE RUNNING A NON PROFIT

The middle years

We change and grow. One day, overwhelmed by the seeming nastiness of humans, Mike asked himself how bad can it get? He decided to confront this question either by going to the Congo to understand the genocide there or to make a film about the use of child soldiers in Sierra Leone (in a war that was about blood diamonds). Sierra Leone really caught his attention and after an emotionally moving attempt to do a story treatment for a documentary he decided (based on how desperate things were) to start a non-governmental organization. He had been an active board member of the Sierra Club of B.C. and had founded the GAIA Project a successful non profit project.  Running a non profit seemed like a natural evolution.  The story teller turned into a story character. His idea was simple - stay small, nimble and creative... and get things done in difficult places.  At this point he was settled in Smithers, B.C. where he had built a straw bale house and a sustainable office building complete with solar panels, hot water heaters and a community garden and carshare coop. One Sky the Canadian Institute of Sustainable Living quickly grew from being small into more than a decade of projects, with many staff, volunteers and amazing initiatives. Mike remains very proud of all the people and lives One Sky impacted from installing the first grid inter-tied renewable energy system locally to helping facilitate the first indigenous held land conservancy of the Queros in the Amazon. The One Sky years taught him that a few determined people can, indeed, influence the future and change our world.


Some notable initiatives that occupied his energy, time and love include ​the supervision and management of up to 19 core staff and contractors with three offices in three countries and an annual budget of 750,000.  One Sky carried out programming in Sierra Leone, Peru, Bolivia, Nigeria, Cameroon, Mali and Canada only some of which includes:

  • Peru: Leadership Development Project Brazil Nut Trade – Private sector leadership toward community resilience, environmental sustainability and market efficiency with leaders in Brazil Nut trade financed by Candor and COSTCO. (2013-2014)

  • Nigeria REDD readiness  – Two year IDRC funded initiative on REDD readiness (climate change mechanism) in the forest sector with communities in the oil ravaged Niger Delta (2010-1012)

  • Nigeria: Leadership Development of Civil Society (2007-20011) $500,000 integral leadership development program with 30 civil society leaders in Cross River State, Niger Delta working on everything from rainforest and primate protection to sustainable livelihoods.

  • Nigeria: Cross River Environmental Capacity Development Project, bilateral program, $ 2.2 million, funded by CIDA, 2003-2007. A huge project in a difficult place on the planet.

  • Canada Car Share Coop – founded first car share coop in Northern BC GO2 carshare with staff and automobiles.

  • Peru: Mapacho River Watershed Environmental Capacity Development Project, $545,000, funded by the Voluntary Sector Fund, CIDA, 2007-2010. A project deep in the Amazon working with local indigenous people and conservation groups. 

  • Sierra Leone: Four different Environment and Sustainable Development Projects $400,000 funded by CIDA 2000 -2007 in post conflict context working with Friends of the Earth Sierra Leone. 

  • British Columbia: Energetic Olympics, $160,000, funded by Public Engagement, CIDA, 2007-2009 conservation of energy project and climate change.

  • Seven successive CIDA internship programs as well as open and short-term internships (40 interns and short term staff). Primary supervisor.

  • Sierra Leone: Greening at the Grassroots, $150,000 funded by Innovation Fund, CIDA, 2006-2008. Working with women on food security in post conflict context, Kono region. a great project involving micro-finance.

  • Canada: A Fork in the Road, EcoAction, $50,000 2007-2008 working on climate change and food security.

  • IDRC Research Programs – Three independent IDRC research projects

  • West Africa Alive, Two Global Classroom Initiatives, $150,000 CIDA, 2007-2009 to promote global citizenship in Canadian schools. 

  • Community Action on Energy Efficiency (CAEE), 2006-2007 to promote energy conservation in Canada

  • Smithers Community Energy Plan, Burns Lake Community Energy Plan on local energy footprints

  • El Salvador: Landmines Project management, $ 200,000 funded by CIDA, 2000-2003

  • Ecological Governance Project (CEN) $150,000, 2006-2008

 

LIFE AS A NETWORKER

The not so middle years...

Running projects, organizing people and fostering leadership led Mike to believe in the power of networking and understanding multiple leadership. He moved to the Sunshine Coast in 2012, built a timber frame home for his daughter and decided to focus on advocating for change through professional networking. In 2014, he became the Executive Director of the British Columbia Council for International Cooperation (BCCIC) and successfully led the Inter Council Network of Provincial and Regional Councils for the next five years (during this time he was involved in raising over 100 million dollars for small and medium sized organizations working for a better world). He was also a board member of the Canadian Environmental Network (where he had been actively involved as a leader for over 25 years) and a board member of Cooperation Canada, both large Canadian networks focused on making the world a better place. He enjoyed his time at BCCIC working on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations and, of course, climate change. He led delegations and participated in international meetings like the Paris 2015 climate and 2015 SDG meetings, the high level political forums at the UN and many, many consultations with government.  He remains very proud of what his team accomplished at BCCIC under his leadership and he learned that when we work together we are much, much stronger. After touring BC many times and working with over 1000 leaders in 32 communities he remains convinced that Canada can play a leading role to transform our world and be a global citizen. Today, he continues to focus on the Sustainable Development Goals as the core 17 global issues that we must all work on locally, including here in on the West Coast. Some of the accomplishments of BCCIC under his leadership include:

The largest Canadian delegations to the United Nations High Political Forum that includes a lengthy months long bootcamp for young people to tackle the SDGs and national reporting on Canada's performance.  

The largest and most active climate youth program in Canada including youth delegations to the international climate and preparatory meetings. 

Active participation in the Commission on the Status of Women meetings including sending 45 delegates this past year. 

Actively engaging Canadians through the longhouse dialogues at the largest women's conference in the world with the local Squamish and other First Nations. 

Co-facilitating the United Nations Partners for Review meetings in Vietnam and Mexico as well as participating in Berlin and other international meetings including the Global Forum on Multi-stakeholder bodies in Colombia.

Undertaking an enormous amount of research and reporting on sustainability to hold Canada accountable in a troubled world including annual reports on the SDGs and numerous policy briefs. 

Workshop after workshop on building the capacity of our non governmental organizations to further their causes. BCCIC promoted the idea of learning to do better under his leadership because the causes outnumber the people who are involved. 

BCCIC was a small operation, deeply in debt when Mike arrived. Today it is a thriving, vibrant, fiscally sound network leading a profound movement to change the world.  It is a huge team effort of paid staff and volunteers he has been proud to lead for the past seven years. You can find out more about BCCIC here. 

 

LIFE NOW IN 2021

The year we are living...

Today, Mike lives with his partner Stephanie Grindon in Elphinstone Area E near Gibsons. Stephanie is well known to many in our riding as a long time active Green Party member. Mike has a nine year old daughter who is a determined climate activist and singer.  The family has recently  established a budding solar powered permaculture operation on Gambier Island in Howe Sound.

Our times are changing.


In a little over a year the world has been overturned by a virus. A tiny bit of DNA has changed our global identity forever. We are clearly living both locally and globally at the same time. The global systemic shock of a changing climate looms similarly large today along with threats to the core integrity of our biosphere. How do we navigate these crazy times during which everything seems to be going faster and faster and disparities grow wider and wider. How do we protect the places and beings we love in such a world?


Mike has  been a story teller, an activist and a networker (with a bit of philosophy and theorizing thrown in along the way). He has been asked four times to enter politics but has never felt it was quite right until recently. 


People say he is a good speaker. They say he can articulate causes and motivate people. They say he can create a team approach and he gets things done. They tell him his real world experience in so many countries and cultures (over fifty) is valuable. 


Accepting an invitation to be a nominee for the Green Party is an honour that aligns with his personal values. He knows that the life of a political leader is often met with derision but he holds dear the many political leaders who have spoken their truth and held to principles. Daring, decisive committed political leadership is what we need now and the Green Party of Canada is the path forward. 


It is a path, with your help he hopes to take..with his eyes wide open and a heart that is deeply motivated by gratitude.  If his values, and the values of the Green Party, resonate with voters in the coming election we can make the world a better place. Mike will be a clear voice in Ottawa for future generations. 

We face a formidable virus, a changing climate, economic turmoil and a myriad of global challenges. Experienced, proven leadership that fosters cooperation, collaboration inclusion and teamwork based on ecological principles and social justice is the way forward in 2021. Mike hopes to express, embody and enact this view, pushing hard for a better future as the local Member of Parliament in the riding of West Vancouver - Sunshine Coast - Sea to Sky Country.