Elizabeth May is the Leader of the Green Party of Canada and one of our country’s most respected environmentalists. She is a prominent lawyer, an author, an Officer of the Order of Canada, and a loving mother and grandmother.
"Old age is not for sissies," said Bette Davis. Indeed, it is not, but the images from our childhood of what it meant to be "old" have changed dramatically. Of course, as I enter my 60th year, my perspective on what it means to be "old," of necessity, shifts. As another popular aphorism, puts it "the hardest thing to decide is when middle age begins." Thanks to advances in health care and a focus on healthy living, Canadians are living longer. And today's senior has different issues and challenges than in our grandparents' day. I see it every day, as my riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands is one of those with the highest proportion of older citizens. While so much in the mass media sees only the negatives of this aging demographic, there is much to celebrate.
The essence of Westminster Parliamentary democracy is that all MPs, including the Prime Minister, are equal, all are elected to represent their constituents, and that, even though a Prime Minister with a majority government can gather up all the levers of power, the Parliament is ultimately supreme. All of this relates to Canada's other distinguishing feature -- that we are a constitutional monarchy. None of this applies to the US system of government, in which checks and balances prevail and the Executive is directly elected.
Earlier this week, our Minister for Natural Resources, the Hon. Joe Oliver, went to Washington on what the Canadian media mistakenly insists on calling a "charm offensive." It really cannot be described as having anything to do with "charm" when the minister, fresh from having told La Presse that scientists are less worried about global warming; that 2 degrees is not a big deal, decided to insult one of the USA's most respected scientists, James Hansen.
As the pro-bitumen export crowd notices the gathering storm clouds over their Northern Gateway and Kinder-Morgan options, and, further south, sees long shadows falling over the Keystone XL pipeline to refineries on the shores of the Texas Gulf coast, support is mobilizing for pipelines running east.
Debate has been about how best to export raw, virtually unprocessed bitumen -- as much as possible and as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, the eastern half of Canada depends on imports of foreign oil from Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Kazakhstan, Venezuela, and Norway. As Gordon Laxer of the Parkland Institute tried to point out to a Parliamentary committee (before the Conservative chair ordered him to stop talking and stormed out of the room), Canada has no energy security.
Harper's public relations and spin team hit Vancouver in March claiming to have substantially revamped environmental protections for pipelines and tankers. Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver and Minister of Transport Denis Lebel described their new regime for oil spill safety against the backdrop of the Port of Vancouver. Minster Joe Oliver trotted out a line we are bound to hear more often, in the boilerplate of nonsense to which we seem to be inured, that the Exxon Valdez spill could never happen in Canada.
Imagine you have this avuncular Uncle Joe. He doesn't read much about climate science, but he looks at the websites that tell you the whole thing is overblown and there's really no risk. It would become annoying. It would cast a shadow on the predictable dinner conversation at family gatherings at which you grit your teeth and to try to bring him up to speed on the science.
But when those same attitudes and willful blindness form the basis of federal government policy as expressed by our federal Minister of Natural Resources, it is a sign of negligent disregard for the public interest. It is unacceptable.
I am frequently asked how I maintain a positive attitude when confronted by Stephen Harper's destructive agenda -- dismembering our environmental laws and policies. Honestly, I can respond that most days I am encouraged by the ability of one MP to make a difference. That was not the case last week as, sitting late in the House for votes, news came over my Blackberry that the Cabinet had decided to withdraw from the United Nations Convention to Combat Drought and Desertification (UNCCD). It had the effect of a swift kick in the gut. I had to fight back tears for a day or so … just like when I read Bill C-38. I felt devastated.
I am happy to have a chance to answer the question posed by Gerry Nicholls' March 29 opinion piece, Why Doesn't Elizabeth May Just Join the Liberals?
I am a member of the Green party because it is the only party that reflects my values. Global Green values link more than 80 Green parties around the world, as they do federal Greens and our provincial relations. In these six foundational principles, I found an ethical choice for my political home: social justice, grassroots democracy, respect for diversity, human rights, ecological sustainability and peace and non-violence.
In his Saturday National Post column, Rex Murphy claimed that Canada's Green party has no goal other than to get me elected as an MP -- and that this has been the case for "two or three general elections."
In fact, I have led the party into only two general elections. The Green Party, unlike any of the other parties represented in Parliament, is truly grassroots. The leader is not the boss, and electing the leader was not a priority before 2011.