Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May (centre) at a town hall meeting at the Ashcroft HUB on March 5. Photo: Barbara Roden.

Federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May holds Ashcroft town hall

‘We’re looking at this election to win more seats.’

Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada and the MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands, was in Ashcroft on March 5 to talk to students at Desert Sands Community School. She then held a town hall meeting as part of her “Community Matters” tour, which sees her visiting more than 20 communities across the country, before sitting down with The Journal for some questions.

More than two dozen people were there to hear May give a short talk about the Green Party and then answer questions. May said that she feels the upcoming federal election in October presents the Green Party with an opportunity it has never had before.

“We’re looking to this election to win more seats. There’s a split vote on the right [between the Conservatives and the new People’s Party of Canada], the Liberal brand is clearly tarnished, and Justin Trudeau is in free-fall at the moment. The NDP are in free-fall, and people are looking around and thinking they might vote Green this time.”

She noted that the Green Party has made steps in overcoming its image as a one-issue party, and was the first to support national Pharmacare, a guaranteed livable income, legalized cannabis, and same-sex marriage. “Others take our ideas and run with them, and that’s fine. My mother used to say that you can accomplish anything if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

May said she’d like to see a minority government after the election. “Parties will have to cooperate with each other to govern, and have good policies. The Green Party is all about consensus. We could have a very positive result from this election, and come out with the government we need.”

Many of the questions from those in attendance had to do with trains, particularly the shipment of dangerous goods by rail. May said that she wanted municipalities to have information regarding what is on the manifests of the trains coming through their towns, and that the entire rail system in Canada needs overhauling to make it more efficient.

“Better rail passenger service is needed as well, especially since Greyhound has gone. People shouldn’t be so dependent on cars. The companies should be prepared to lay more track, since freight owns the tracks since privatization, and passenger trains get stuck on a siding, which is a major impediment.

“It’s a very antiquated service, and it’s not in the public interest of Canadians to have freight and passenger trains that are so inefficient. It shouldn’t be rocket science to fix the rail system, but [Transport Minister] Marc Garneau is a rocket scientist, and he can’t fix it.”

May noted the similarities between what her Gulf Island constituents faced after a severe storm on Dec. 20 last year and what Ashcroft residents faced in the immediate aftermath of the Elephant Hill wildfire in July 2017. “No power, no internet, no cellphone service, no landlines, limited road access. But people came together, and the community response was quite inspiring.

“We know we’ll have more extreme weather events with climate change, and we need that social cohesion to save lives. Dealing with disasters is a nationwide issue.”

May noted that she does not believe in party solidarity. “We have an obligation to the people we serve at home. Everyone is free to vote as they feel right in the Green Party. I hate watching smart people forced to vote in ways they don’t believe. That’s not democracy.”

May concluded by thanking everyone who had come out. “It was awesome having a Community Matters town hall in the HUB!”

Next week: May sits down with The Journal for some questions and answers.

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