No “One-Issue Party”
Elizabeth May Shares Green Perspective at Concordia
When Elizabeth May spoke at Concordia this weekend, she didn’t hold back.
“From what I can discern, Stephen Harper is really good at destroying things,” she said to a nearly full auditorium in the EV Building. “He has shown no capacity to build anything new, but he’s excellent at ripping things apart right down to their roots.”
The federal Green Party leader is approaching her second anniversary as a member of parliament. She came to the university on March 16 to discuss “the Green Party perspective.”
Her speech, hosted by the Concordia Green Party, summarized her experience as the sole elected Member of Parliament of her party.
Along with the free Green Party swag, a few “Stop Harper” pins were also floating around the event. With the Greens working to shake their “one-issue party” label, May spoke more to the governance and electoral reform she wants to see.
“I don’t fancy myself a dictator, and clearly [Harper] does. And I’m not kidding, he’s destroying the mechanisms and the levers of responsible governance,” said May.
“I say this without a trace of hyperbole or exaggeration: the Prime Minister’s Office is dangerous. It’s unaccountable, it has now access to $10 million a year for its budget.”
May highlighted the fact that the prime minister was by definition first among equals, and that American-style hyper-partisanship has been slowly creeping into Canadian politics since Pierre Trudeau’s tenure as prime minister.
She stressed, however, the crucial line between civil service and politics that the Prime Minister’s Office has crossed under Harper.
The Canadian government announced last year that they’re halfway to their 2020 greenhouse gas targets, up from 25 per cent from the year before, as reported by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
An important change, however, is how the math was done.
The announcement was based on an emissions trends report by Environment Canada that used 2020 “business as usual” potential emissions levels, meaning emissions levels if the government had taken no action.
With the new math, the emissions trajectory exceeds the levels pledged in the Copenhagen Accord—instead expecting 113 more megatons of carbon dioxide.
It’s this kind of “cooked books” that May argues Stephen Harper can get away with in a political climate of hyper-partisanship and influencing language and methodology used by government bureaucrats.
“You simply could not have gotten Environment Canada to put out propaganda garbage like that under any previous prime minister,” said May, who worked as the environment minister’s senior policy advisor when Brian Mulroney was prime minister.
Along with environmental and economic reform, May also stressed the need for electoral reform—specifically a move to proportional representation which would have prevented a conservative majority and made Green Party votes across the country amount to more party representation in the House of Commons.
It would benefit parliament to see a party without a whip, said May, who claimed she was the only Member of Parliament who read through every Bill presented to the House.
On the environmental front, she’s optimistic that a watershed moment is coming soon, with U.S. President Barack Obama increasing his talk of climate policy.
May pointed to the all-party climate caucus, chaired by Liberal environment critic Kirsty Duncan.
In coming weeks, the caucus is holding an information session open to senators and MPs, where top scientists will explain the significance of the two-degrees Celsius average global temperature increase—which many consider a threshold for manageable climate change.
“There are far more individual MPs than most Canadians would imagine on all sides of the House who think climate is a serious issue and want to do something about it,” said May in an interview with The Link after her speech. “At some point, I think the partisan spin has to wear off.”