“Before voters take her seriously, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May must be frank and clear about what her newfound willingness to partner with the Scheer Conservatives would mean in practice.”
rabble reporter Karl Nerenberg is absolutely right. Canadians have a right to know where I stand. If a newly elected caucus of Green MPs were to find ourselves with the balance of responsibility, we would talk with all the other parties. That is the process. But we will never agree to a single confidence vote in favour of a government that is not in lock-step with a commitment to hold to the clear warnings of the global scientific community that we must achieve the Paris target. That target is no more than 1.5 degrees global average temperature increase (above that before the Industrial Revolution). It requires the rapid phase-out of fossil fuels as well as massive reforestation. Small measures, like keeping existing carbon taxes in place, are woefully inadequate.
It must be noted that Canada’s current target was put in place under former prime minister Stephen Harper and is wholly inconsistent with the Paris target. Only the Greens have a plan to meet the 1.5 degree Paris target. None of the others have commitments that come close.
Canadian prime ministers — even in a minority — have significant autonomy and power to do huge damage that never requires a vote in parliament. The points made by Nerenberg in arguing that I had somehow missed the inherent dangers of Conservatives in power are exactly the points I made in January 2006 to the NDP telemarketer who caught me at home cooking dinner and tried to convince me to donate. At that time, I was not a member of any party. As executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada, I pushed back, expressing my horror at the NDP decision to bring down the minority government of former prime minister Paul Martin. That administration had just brought in a commitment (with all provincial governments buying in) to universal childcare, to the Kelowna Accord with Indigenous nations, and to a real plan for Kyoto (now long forgotten). The telemarketer had pressed on “There’s no need to worry about Stephen Harper,” he told me. “The most he could get will be a minority.” I laid out for that telemarketer all the things a prime minister could do without ever taking them to Parliament, just as Karl Nerenberg did in his article on Monday, July 22.
Exactly as I had feared, within weeks of becoming prime minister, Harper cancelled our commitment to Kyoto — without a single debate in Parliament. He cancelled the billions of dollars for climate action announced in the 2005 budget. Just as when Canada is on the right side of history, under Harper, we punched above our weight becoming climate saboteurs.
We cannot negotiate with the atmosphere. The window on 1.5 degrees is closing. Without a complete shift in direction, we will blow past 1.5 degrees, past two degrees and put ourselves on an irreversible course to the point of no return — before the next election in 2023.
What is the “point of no return?” It is going to two degrees and tripping over the red line to unstoppable, self-accelerating, runaway global warming — in which the worst case scenario is too terrifying to contemplate.
The stakes are too large for a typical political cop-out. While we have the chance to secure our children’s future, Greens will never agree to support any government that fails to address the climate emergency. As we propose in “Mission: Possible, the Green Climate Action Plan,” we have to reduce the partisanship, put in place the equivalent of a “war cabinet” and make survival the business of government.
So “the very best thing” is not propping anyone up. It is serving as prime minister in a nation mobilized and unified to ensure Canada once again punches above our weight and gets us — humanity — through the climate emergency to a livable, thriving world grounded in equity and justice.
Elizabeth May is the leader of the Green Party of Canada and its first elected member of Parliament, representing Saanich-Gulf Islands in southern Vancouver Island. Elizabeth is an environmentalist, writer, activist and lawyer, who has a long record as a dedicated advocate — for social justice, for the environment, for human rights and for pragmatic economic solutions.
Photo: Elizabeth May/Facebook