Elizabeth May with fiancé John Kidder in the Parliamentary Library in Ottawa. Photo: Julia Kidder.

Elizabeth May with fiancé John Kidder in the Parliamentary Library in Ottawa. Photo: Julia Kidder.

Elizabeth May feels people are looking at the Green Party with new eyes

Green Party leader is hoping for a breakthrough for her party in the October federal election

In conversation with The Journal after her Community Matters town hall meeting in Ashcroft on March 5, Green Party of Canada leader and Saanich-Gulf Islands MP Elizabeth May was asked whether the Green Party had more work to do to get away from the idea that they are mainly concerned with a single issue.

“Absolutely. Right now Canadians are looking around and thinking ‘I don’t feel like I want to vote “fill in the blank”.’ A lot of people are no longer as rooted in one party only. Growing up in Cape Breton, you used to feel that if someone’s parents were Liberals, they were always going to vote Liberal. It was almost genetic.

“That’s changing. People are looking around and thinking ‘Where do I want to put my vote? Who’s earned my vote?’ And almost by process of elimination people find themselves looking at the Green Party with new eyes. So we really have to explain ourselves. We’ve always had credible platforms, budgeted programs that are more detailed and fiscally sound than other parties. But a lot of people don’t know that, because the media coverage hasn’t shown us as the viable option. Now they are.

“Going into the 2019 election we do have work to do. We have an obligation to offer Canadians a viable alternative that answers the questions that they have.”

One of the main questions, May said, was to do with the idea that the Greens are against the economy; that if you care about the environment you are somehow against the economy. “That isn’t valid, but it’s been pitted like that for so long that people have a tendency to assume that’s going to be a problem in voting Green.”

May said that the 10 elected Green Party members—federal and provincial—in Canada have set a standard for being hard-working and ethical. “We’re open to ideas, and wanting to cooperate with others. That’s one of the key things that makes us different from other parties. We want to get the best of the ideas from everybody and work on them together.”

Asked if she wanted to predict how many Green Party candidates might be elected in October, May said it was hard to say. “When I look at the variables I see that a lot is in flux. I’m not trying to be deliberately cagey, but look at what happened to the NDP in Quebec in 2011. That could happen for us this time.

“In the Outremont by election [on Feb. 25] we placed ahead of the Conservatives and ahead of the Bloc Québécois. That’s the best showing the Greens have ever had in Outremont. It’s not the same as saying we’re poised to win Outremont, but for the first time the Quebec media began to say ‘Wait a minute, the Greens could win seats in Quebec.’ Once people begin to say we could win, that’s when voters begin to think ‘Oh, it’s not a wasted vote,’ and they begin to look at our candidates differently.”

May said that she had expected the subject of trains to come up at the town hall in Ashcroft, but not to the extent that it did, and that she had learned a lot. She added that conversation in rural New Brunswick regarding trains was a lot like the one in Ashcroft, although with more emphasis on the inadequacies of passenger travel.

“Where you find a lot of conversation around rail safety is in Montreal, where people are still reeling from Lac-Mégantic.”

Regarding the SNC-Lavalin affair, May said that she did not expect to see any further cabinet resignations, and wondered how much pressure had to be put on every remaining member of cabinet to get their signature on a letter of support for the Prime Minister. “There may be some unhappy [people] who signed that.”

May planned to fly to Ottawa overnight on March 5 to attend the Justice Committee meeting on March 6 to ask questions. “I have a lot of questions, and I hope we make some headway in answering the key bits where there’s missing information.”

May had nothing but praise for the ethics and intelligence of Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott, both of whom have resigned from Cabinet over the SNC-Lavalin affair. “They’re both really impressive, and they’ve both done the thing that people with integrity will do. The extent to which that wasn’t anticipated by the old boys’ club that really runs things is fascinating.

“The gender analysis of this episode, when it’s all over, will be really, really interesting. The pressure … in Jody Wilson-Raybould’s testimony, there were a lot of men pressuring her. And Bill Morneau’s response to Jane Philpott leaving was ‘I know they were close friends.’ They’re both women. Women apparently, according to Bill Morneau, form little pinky-pacts where if one goes the other has to go too.

“No, that’s not the case. These are people of integrity, and in our political system it’s so rare for a cabinet minister to step out of that post.”

May said she was doing a lot of digging into the SNC-Lavalin affair, and had a lot of questions. “Where’s the evidence and analysis that would suggest that SNC-Lavalin could fold and all these people could lose their jobs? I don’t see it. There’s a lot to dig into here before I’ll feel as if I know what happened.”

Former Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick recently had a dire warning about the upcoming election, saying that he worried about the “rising tide of incitements to violence” and that he feared “somebody is going to be shot in this country this year during the political campaign”. May called the words a “diversionary tactic”, and said “I don’t think that’s Canada, and I think Michael Wernick’s testimony was unhelpful. Anything that gives oxygen to the idea that we’d take violent actions against people in private life I don’t appreciate, as a person in public life.

“I hope the election won’t be ugly. Of all the leaders of parties and of all the party strategies so far, it’s Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives who’ve been willing to play footsie with white supremacists, willing to run fear-based campaigns. We’ll see if the election unfolds in ways that elevate discourse, or move us closer to the kinds of things that go on in the U.S.”

May said that she is concerned about the potential for social media sites like Facebook to have paid-for advertising and the spreading of fake news designed to advantage one party over another. “Canadians, as intelligent and critical thinkers … I think the best defence against that kind of thing happening is to actually be prepared to be a watchdog. If they see something where they go back to the original media site over some claim that strikes them as unlikely, and it turns out it’s a manipulated propaganda site, they’re going to get on board a campaign that does #don’tbelievethisnewssite. Whatever it takes to say ‘We need to make decisions based on information from reliable news sources, not propaganda websites.’”

Current infrastructure funding, where the costs are split between the federal and provincial governments and municipalities, sees the federal government paying 50 per cent, the provincial government paying 33 per cent, and the municipality paying 17 per cent. The federal government considers a “rural community” to be anything under a population of 100,000, putting Ashcroft in the same boat as Kamloops. The difficulty that very small communities have in raising their 17 per cent share of infrastructure funding was pointed out to May.

“This is a big issue in my riding too,” said May. “A municipal government is still treated as if it’s a child of a province. Most of the critical infrastructure needs are found at [the municipal] level of government. One of the things we’d like to do is create a council of Canadian governments, where there’s a seat at the table for policy-making for municipal governments and First Nations.

“The access to a tax base is so small for municipalities compared to the provinces and feds. The split clearly isn’t sensible. You’re not going to find the tax base here to raise the kind of money that’s needed to gain access to infrastructure funding. But every community in Canada has a huge infrastructure deficit. There’s a better way to deal with it, and cost-sharing isn’t it.

“Infrastructure projects for small and rural municipalities should be 100 per cent federal. Just get it done, because it’s such a barrier when rural municipalities first have to beg the province and then find their 17 per cent. It’s not workable.”

May said that she had had a wonderful visit to the area. “The school, the theatre production of Shrek: I’ve been very fortunate to have had a lot of really great experiences of connecting with community. I visited the screwdriver factory and got my own personalized screwdriver with my name on it.

“Visiting Ashcroft, it’s clear that the number one asset of this community is the community spirit of talented people who love living where they live.

“Small communities are capable of doing amazing things, and Ashcroft is a great example of that. Really impressive.”



editorial@accjournal.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Forty-seven vaccination clinics will open across Interior Health beginning March 15. (Canadian Press)
48 COVID-19 vaccine clinics to open across Interior Health

Select groups can book appointments starting Monday

Seniors in the Interior Health region can book their COVID-19 vaccinations starting Monday, March 8, 2021 at 7 a.m. (File photo)
Seniors in Interior Heath region can book COVID-19 shots starting Monday

Starting March 8 the vaccination call centre will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily

The two suspects arrested south of 150 Mile House Tuesday, March 2, following a high-speed chase with the RCMP have been charged. (Will Roberts photo)
High-speed chase suspects charged, remain in custody after arrest south of Williams Lake

John Craig and Maggie M. Higgott appeared in Williams Lake Provincial Court March 4

Interior Health reported 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5. (Black Press Files)
Interior Health reports 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5

Over 300,000 vaccine doses have been administered provincewide.

A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. high court finds in favour of large landowner in fight over access to Stoney and Minnie lakes

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company blocked road and trail access

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Tam says the addition of two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster

Const. Allan Young. Photo: Abbotsford Police Department
Manslaughter charge laid in Nelson death of Abbotsford police officer

Allan Young died after an incident in downtown Nelson last summer

The Kimber family of Boston Bar lost their home in a fire. Blaine Kimber’s daughter created a fundraiser to help rebuild the home with the goal of $100,000. (Screenshot/GoFundMe)
Fundraiser created for Boston Bar family that lost everything in weekend fire

Witnesses say the Kimber family escaped the fire without injury, but their home is a total loss

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

Sarah Cotton-Elliott said she believed her children took a back seat to arranging equal parenting

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Most Read