Green Party leader Elizabeth May is urging Canadians to vote for change in this fall’s federal election — and not to vote strategically out of fear.
“In this election, everyone needs to vote for what they want,” she said to an audience of about 200 when she brought her Community Matters tour to Lakehead University July 17.
After the October election, there could be six parties represented in the House of Commons, which leads May to believe there will likely be a minority government. She said it will be “the most promising election we’ve ever seen”, noting a minority government forces parties to work together.
It’s the most she can ask for under the first-past-the-post system that’s in place — a system that “promotes higher partisanship and dog-whistle politics,” she said.
“It positively punishes the spirit of co-operation in the House of Commons.”
While taking questions from the audience, May was asked if the Greens would give confidence to any government that is not in favour of changing the system.
May said when it comes to confidence votes, her party’s No. 1 priority is the climate crisis, followed by the electoral system.
One person asked May where she stood on women having abortions during their third trimester.
“The position of the Green Party is we must ensure every woman has access to safe, legal abortion,” she responded, adding she was “horrified by what’s happening south of the border” in states that have further restricted access to abortion.
She didn’t directly address third-trimester abortion, and a man in the crowd called her out on it, asking for a yes or no answer.
“It’s a red herring,” another audience member shouted.
“Exactly,” May said.
May was also asked if the Greens have a “specific” plan to transition Canada from fossil fuels to green energy.
She said none of the other parties has a comprehensive plan like the Greens’. Her party, she said, would work to remove carbon from electricity production. Once that is achieved, she said, it would be time to get rid of the internal combustion engine and go green.
“The cost of energy is going to go down dramatically,” she said.
An audience member who has traditionally voted for the NDP asked May why she should vote Green this time.
May began her response by pointing out she was the only MP to vote against the extension of Canada’s mission in Libya in 2011.
She also suggested her MPs would have more autonomy when it comes to voting in the House.
“An NDP candidate can be fantastic. An NDP government can be fantastic,” she said, but added, “when push comes to shove,” their MPs toe the party line.
Stephen Makk, the People’s Party of Canada candidate in Simcoe North, asked May what a Green government would do with the now federally owned Trans Mountain pipeline.
May said it’s unfortunate the Liberal government decided to purchase a 65-year-old pipeline for $4.5 billion. While the government is stuck with the pipeline, “we’re not stuck with spending a further $10 billion to $13 billion to expand it,” she said, adding a Green government would not allow its expansion.
An audience member concerned about “fake news and fake science” asked what May would do to address the issue. She quoted Stephen Leacock: “In ancient times, they didn't have statistics, so they had to fall back on lies.”
She urged people to be “critical thinkers” and to not share articles on social media without having first read and understood them.
Near the beginning of her talk — the 27th one on her national tour — she said she had heard similar questions from audiences across the country.
“It has already informed a lot of our platform ideas,” she said.
One example of the town hall meetings influencing the Green platform is the need for a national transportation strategy, which could include “beefing up VIA Rail,” making it more affordable and more frequent.
Rural communities need more transportation options, she added.
“We’re one of the richest countries on Earth, so of course we can afford it.”