Dr. Courtney Howard, MD

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, Dr. Howard speaks French. She did part of her medicine training in St-Jérôme (Québec), and practiced medicine in Djibouti for 6 months, so she’s got a funny mix of different accents. Additional detail from Courtney: “I did French immersion from kindergarten to grade 12 and was a top graduating French student;  in fact I got the highest mark in British Columbia on the French 12 exam 🙂  But I do still have a funny accent :)”

Dr. Howard’s preference is to run in the Northwest Territories.  She’s received great support already from local leaders, and she would love to keep connections to the riding where she has been living for the past 10 years.   However, she understands that the Party might decide to send her to run in a by-election somewhere else in the country.  She grew up in North Vancouver, did her undergrad at Simon Fraser University, her medical school at UBC, and her family practice training in Victoria BC. She did her emergency training in Montreal, and lived in Ottawa for three years with frequent locums in North Bay and Sudbury Ontario.  As a result, she has family and community in many parts of Canada. The choice to run was something that was discussed at length with her husband and children; they are all in agreement that this is something they can do. 

Dr. Howard has about as much experience as it is possible for a physician of her age to have in medical politics. She has passed most of the motions on climate change and health that are part of the Canadian Medical Associations’ policy base, and has participated in a number Indigenous health forums. She has been on the Canadian Medical Association board for the last two years as one of the only women and one of the youngest members. She has been on the board of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) for a decade, and has been leading as President for the last three years. During her time on the executive, CAPE built its provincial chapter structure, and they now have provincial chapters in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, and one has been developed in the East. 

Dr. Howard is well known and sought after as an inspiring public speaker.  For two years prior to the pandemic, she has been able to keep up with requests for speaking engagements; this included multiple audiences with more than 1000 attendees.

A note : Elizabeth May was not involved in a political party prior to running for the Greens leadership; she was the Executive Director of the Sierra Club, and had to resign from her position in order to run. 

Yes, Dr. Howard is ready to move her children and husband to Ottawa. From early in the campaign, the family decided that Ottawa would be the place where her husband and kids would be located, as she would have the most occasion to spend time with them there.  

Yes, she would run for the Green Party during the next election. Depending on the leader elected, in the time between the leadership vote and the next election, Dr. Howard may or may not choose to have a public facing role within the Party. The advantage of not doing so, would be to allow her to step back into her position as President of CAPE and into her position as member of the board of the Canadian Medical Association.  This would allow her to continue the great strides she has made in raising the profile of climate change in regards to the health of Canadians.  

Yes, fully. 

Dr. Howard understands the large amount of work that it entails to campaign for proportional representation (PR).  This is something that Elizabeth May learned herself.  Although very important, Dr. Howard also understands that in order to create the critical mass necessary to change the discourse, more Green MPs need to be in power. The priority is to build capacity and train Canadian Green leaders that will be elected as MPs.  Only in a situation with a larger number of Green MPs in Parliament, will other parties be held accountable; at this time PR will become a real  possibility. 

Dr. Howard was one of the most vocal proponents of a plant rich approach to the new Canadian Food Guide. As President of CAPE (Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment), Courtney wrote all of their submissions, influencing both the new Canadian Food Guide and their National Food Policy processes. After attending meetings, over a number of years, she was told by the head of the Canada Food process that her submissions had been critical.  She promoted the launch of the evidence-based, plant rich, guidance it was generated, and has included the same presentations ever since. You can see multiple articles by her on the topic, often co-authored with Green Party co-founder Dr. Trevor Hancock.

Living in a part of Canada where there is an Indigenous majority, Dr. Howard is a passionate defender of the need for a culturally safe approach to food policy. For this reason, she does not support vegan oriented public policy; however, Dr. Howard often eats in a vegan manner and appreciates the benefits of this to both people and planet.

Dr. Howard believes that the Canada Food Guide is the best possible outcome we could have had in terms of an evidence-based, publicly acceptable, policy that protects people.

After long discussions with farmers and scholars, Dr. Howard has heard a consistent message: The most low input, low output, planet friendly agriculture, necessarily involves animals, as we get there when you are. 

Fact:  Courtney owns a farm in Manitoba that has been handed down and in her family since 1885.  She recently took over management, and, with the help of a local farmer, is transitioning to organic – and sure enough, he spread manure on her lands last year 🙂

Academics tell us that we need to decrease the herds in Canada by about 15% in terms of cattle In order to have the right amount for regenerative agriculture. We need to start with the factory farms as these are inhumane, offer no benefit to soil, and are not good in terms of zoonotic infection or antibiotic resistance.

In fact, Dr Howard has a lot of experience in medical politics, with the positions she held on the board of the Canadian Medical Association, as President of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment and as co-chair of the World Health Organization— Civil Society Workshop Group. 

“The first time I ever went to a Canadian Medical Association (CMA) general council meeting, I was yelled at in front of 500 people, so much so that it made national headlines!  We were talking about the need for local health impact assessments for resource extraction processes, and I just got lambasted. These issues can be very emotional for people: they may have family or friends working in industry — and our politicians and media have portrayed things in such a confrontational and inaccurate way that people can sometimes get really triggered. It’s hard to go back in after something like that, but I had really good support from my local community, the broader medical community, and my local Indigenous leadership — who were present at the meeting. So — I kind of mustered my resources and just kept showing up.” https://medium.com/@phalliance/profiles-in-planetary-health-courtney-howard-7589419239be  

Due to the pandemic emergency, Dr. Howard did not arrange for leave from her position as an ER physician until she was sure  her hospital would not be overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases.