Federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May was at Western Monday afternoon to lecture on climate change to a political science class.
May was formerly executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada, an environmental activist group. She has been involved with climate change since 1986, when she was senior policy advisor to the Minister of Environment.
The lecture, titled “Kyoto and Canada’s Role in Climate Change,” was a non-partisan event. May, who seeks election in the riding of London-North-Centre in the Nov. 27 byelection, spoke with The Gazette following her lecture.
“There is a parliamentary tradition that when you are the leader of a federal party, you should in the democratic spirit use the first opportunity to go before the voters,” May said. She said this byelection was her first opportunity.
May added it’s parliamentary tradition for the ruling party not to oppose a federal leader in the byelection, a tradition the Conservative government is ignoring by fielding Diane Haskett as a candidate in the riding.
“Parliamentary tradition actually supports what I’m doing; it doesn’t support what Diane Haskett is doing,” she said.
May also discussed the Green Party’s youth appeal.
“We’re the party that wants to protect your future more than any party out there,” she said, adding the Green Party’s platform includes both environmental responsibility and economic responsibility.
“Traditionally, the strongest support for the Green Party comes from youth.
“The residents of London-North-Centre can make history by sending me to the House of Commons...and make sure [parliament] focuses on issues that really matter, and not on the absolutely trivial mud-slinging and nonsense that goes on in Ottawa,” May said.
May stressed the importance of having a seat in parliament so she could participate in televised leader debates in the next federal election.
“I’d ensure that, no matter what else happened, the debates would focus on issues and substance and didn’t ignore critical issues ever again.
“That’s why students should vote for me.”
On the issue of climate change, May criticized government policy.
“Our inaction [on climate change] is appalling,” May said. “Canada threatens global progress on climate change.”
According to a new poll for CanWest News Service by Ipsos Reid, 26 per cent of participants said the environment was more important than any other issue. No issue had a higher percentage.
“It means this is our historic moment for a breakthrough,” May said. “Canadians need a new political opportunity, a new option that puts these issues front and centre and doesn’t get distracted by short term partisan goals.”
The poll also revealed 52 per cent of Canadians favour a special carbon tax to increase the cost of using fossil fuels for consumers and industry. Among young people between 18 and 34 [years old], 64 per cent supported a carbon tax.
“Carbon taxes send the market the signals it needs to start reducing — it’s that simple,” May said.
May discussed how European countries reduced greenhouse gases while simultaneously improving the economy. She said the key was higher energy pricing to reduce companies’ expenditures.
“Once you get the prices right, businesses figure out what to do.”