Federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May was in Ashcroft on July 12 with John Kidder, the Green candidate in the Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon riding. Some three dozen people were at the Ashcroft HUB to listen to May and Kidder talk about the Green Party and the upcoming federal election and answer questions.
The Journal was able to sit down with May after the event. She had just made a whistle-stop tour up the Fraser Canyon, and in three days’ time was flying back to Ontario to stump with Green candidates in Guelph, Orillia, and Barrie (“I don’t just do this with candidates I’m married to,” she joked). Later in the month she is scheduled to be in Nova Scotia and then Newfoundland and Labrador.
“We have a lot of great candidates,” she said. “Obviously, with 338 [candidates] I won’t get to every riding. We’re getting across the country as much as possible before the writ drops, because once that happens it’ll be harder to get to smaller and remote communities.
“The major urban centres get most of the attention, so we want to make sure we get to as many of the more out of the way communities—from the point of view of a national tour—as we can before the writ drops.”
Asked if a Green Party government could do anything to help workers in the struggling B.C. forestry industry who have been hit by mill closures and curtailments, such as changes to Employment Insurance, May said EI could certainly be expanded. “More fundamentally, although forest management is clearly provincial, we have a national climate emergency that requires we get iron in the woods to get out dead, standing fuel.
“There’s a lot of places where we could get forest workers to create fire breaks. This is something the government would be doing. It’s not commercial; there’s no market to do this. But to do a hazard mapping of communities where—if a fire got out of control—how would you get people out? Where do you need strategic fire breaks, and who’s going to build them?
“We can’t just ignore the fact that the forests are full—particularly in this region—of a lot of fuel that is tinder-dry. And we need to plant trees everywhere.”
May was asked what she would say to people who—when the subject of a carbon tax is raised—claim that any efforts Canada makes are meaningless in a global context.
“We’re world leaders on climate, and have been in the past,” she said bluntly. “I can’t imagine any Canadian political leader who would say ‘Canada doesn’t matter.’ Canada always matters.”
She noted that in 1987, Canada was a very small contributor in terms of ozone depletion. “We were not a big player. But we led the charge in developing a treaty—the Montreal protocol—which literally saved the ozone layer, which is now in the process of repairing itself.”
May added that while Canada is a small country, population-wise, we’re one of the top three polluting countries on a per-capita basis when it comes to emitting greenhouse gases. “There’s no way of analyzing this in which Canada doesn’t matter.”
The Green Party is a supporter of the idea of a guaranteed livable income, and May was asked how to “sell” this to people who see it as a way for others to freeload.
“I think you have to persuade people on evidence that it saves money,” she said. “The cost per year of housing someone in a prison: it costs much, much less to ensure that every child in this country gets a decent breakfast, goes to school, has clothes on their back, and has a decent home to go to.”
She said that Canadians need to focus on compassion. “We want our children to get a good start in life. Children who live in poverty—and there are an unacceptable number of them, particularly in this province—happen to live in homes with parents who are in poverty. Eliminating poverty is going to cut costs in our health care system, in our criminal justice system.
“We have to end programs that treat poverty by putting Band-aids on them. Those are very expensive programs. We pay people, at a provincial level, to find out if a single woman has moved in with her boyfriend, because if she has she loses her welfare payments. That’s a shame-based system, and it isn’t healthy, and it’s also expensive.”
May said that the Green Party’s platform, along with the associated costs, has been submitted to the Parliamentary Budget Office for costing; something no other Federal party has done thus far. The report is due back in August, and May hopes to make it public as soon as possible after Labour Day, since people’s minds are elsewhere during the summer.
“I’d like our full platform to be out there before the writ drops, so that people know we’re serious, that we have a full platform. And we’re going to balance the budget by the same year that [Conservative Party leader] Andrew Scheer says that he’s going to balance the budget.”
Part two of the interview with Elizabeth May will run in next week’s issue, where May discusses flooding concerns, whether or not she senses a shift toward the Greens, and her unique idea to ensure all First Nations reserves have potable water.