On Monday May 26th, Elizabeth May became the third federal leader in as many months to pop in on party faithful to get them ready for a potential by-election in the near future. Stumping for local Green candidate Mike Nagy, May played to a packed house at the Guelph Youth Music Centre making speeches, helping to recruit eager campaigners and taking audience questions.
It didn’t take too long into my interview with May following her Q&A before she launched into her disappointment in Jack Layton’s sudden disproval of carbon taxes. “It boggles the mind that he’s against the carbon tax. It’s got to give him some pause when David Suzuki attacks the NDP and says that they’ve made a huge mistake.”
Layton was quoted in The Globe and Mail the week before saying “With energy costs soaring in Canada, we've got to ensure that the solutions to climate change don't aggravate an already dire situation for those who struggle to make ends meet.” Adding, “We shouldn't punish people, and that's what a carbon tax does.”
One of the goals of the evening was to rally support to help get May into the nationally televised leaders’ debates. Her inclusion, however, does not have the support of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, or the aforementioned NDP leader Layton. But more than not being allowed to debate as of yet, May senses something else afoot in both Layton’s refusal to allow her to participate and in his repudiation of the carbon tax.
“The strategy is ‘the enemy of my enemy,’” said May, “that when the Liberal Party is crushed and eliminated, than the NDP can replace them as the natural alternative to the Conservatives. It’s politically inspired and it doesn’t make sense ideologically. It doesn’t make sense in terms of climate crisis and it panders to the idea that gas prices will go up if you have a carbon tax.”
Carbon taxes have become a staple in many Europeans countries as a way to help battle global climate change. In a time of increased gas prices, May says that a carbon tax is even more attractive because the bulk of the revenue will come from oil sands and oil production, creating nearly $40 billion in new revenue. This new money could make the government able to provide tax cuts in other areas, rather than offering what May calls “superficial” trims to the GST, which was done pure in the interest of “political capital.”
“The bottom line from anyone who’s a resource geologist and who’s looking at the International Energy Agency Report, is that we’re running out of cheap oil. So with supply and demand, basic economics, the price is going to go up. How do you have a public policy response that protects people from high gas prices?”
As for the leader’s debates, May already has a vote of support from Stéphane Dion, while Gilles Duceppe’s people have also voiced support for her getting a podium in the next election. “Only Stephen Harper and Jack Layton don’t want me there,” she explains. “It’s a very interesting dynamic. It’s a two tier cause where the Greens want to see a Liberal minority government and the NDP want to demolish the Liberal Party even if it means locking in the Conservatives.”
Aside from being the leader of only the fourth federal party to ever have candidates run in every riding in Canada, May also desires to be a part of the debate in order to return some sense of civility to national politics. “Parliament right now is dreadful. It’s toxic. The hostility from Question Period filters in to parliamentary committee. When there are five committees under Conservative MP lead filibusters it’s really distressing.”
The question remains though: when is the Conservative minority government going to fall? May thinks Harper’s too clever to allow that to happen before he’s ready, but she also supports Dion’s method of “strategic patience,” a term coined by Liberal MP Bob Rae in describing his leader’s pacifist stand on challenging Harper’s power. “I don’t know how refusing to succumb to a bully makes a person look weak, I think that’s actually fairly resolute,” May says.
May also doesn’t want to rush the inevitable and thinks that we should all use this time to seriously think about where Canada is going and where we’d like it to go. “I think that this next election will be the single most important election in Canadian history in terms of the choices to be made. We can’t afford to go into the next election with people feeling disaffected, people have to be wide awake and paying attention.”
As for post-election results, May feels very certain of a Green future with at least a couple of seats in the Commons held by her party. “I know we’ll be in the House, I feel very confident about that. The critical thing for me, other than where we are is to make sure Harper isn’t Prime Minister.”