Listening to Elizabeth May in Port Alberni

I just came back from a rally for Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May and her candidate in this riding John Fryer. A little about John Fryer. His qualifications are quite good, perhaps one of the best qualified candidates that has ever run in this riding for any party and would likely be a strong member of any Cabinet or Shadow Cabinet. He currently holds the Labour portfoilio in the Greens Shadow cabinet but his experience could easily qualify him for a Finance or Foreign Affairs critic as well.

Full Disclosure: I generally vote NDP. I have voted (in a Victoria riding) strategically, once, for a Liberal candidate (in the last Paul Martin minority). I have considered voting Green in the past but always gone with the “safer” vote in the end.

However, these past couple weeks of the 2008 Federal Election, the “debate about the national tv debate“, and now todays appearance of Elizabeth May in Port Alberni has been interesting for me. If a pollster phoned me today I would say I was currently undecided, but leaning towards the Green Party.

At todays rally Green Party leader Elizabeth May was strong, articulate and passionate. Some points that she made to the roughly 100 faithful in attendance:

She told residents here that she wanted to make young people understand that debate about public policy didn’t need to be about politicians, which, she said were probably only slightly above the paparrazzi (with apologies to those cameras in attendance) but about democracy.

She told a story about how, while Asst. Deputy to Environment Minister Sheila Copps, an American company, SD Meyers of Ohio, sued the Canadian government under NAFTA for following International treaties and banning the export of PCBs to the United States while those PCBs were illegal to import into the United States… the US Company won the case and Canada also lost a review of the case in 2003. (This has also happened in reverse as well for the California Gov. and a Canadian company.)

She told us that NAFTA was supposed to limit raw log exports but has failed to do so. She would renegotiate NAFTA (to applause).

She told us that the Green Party believes in balancing “the budget” both economically and environmentally. They do not believe in running deficits and being fiscally irresponsible and she used the events in the United States, and the policies that created the crisis, as an example of what her party would not support.

She spoke very forcefully, and passionately on Canadas role in International Affairs. Relating to us how we have gone from being pioneers in Peacekeeping, to 51st in the world for peacekeepers in active missions. We recently denied a request for 4 soldiers to be sent to the Congo as part of a UN mission there because we were “overstretched”. (UPDATE): She went on and asked why we are fighting a war on terrorism. “Terrorism is not a country… terrorists are criminals”, she said. You can’t fight a war “against a noun”, she quipped. The war was more about being under the sphere of influence of the United States, and more specifically the policies of George W. Bush.

She related how Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev made huge strides to rid the world of nuclear weapons and how George Bush and Stephen Harper have negated much of that momentum by disregarding the NPT.

She explained how political parties often talked up their platforms in order to get elected, and then did nothing that they said they would do because there were “trade-offs” that had to be made for the economy. She told everyone about the Green Partys 100+ page Vision document.

She detailed how her party had a very comprehensive financial plan. They would not go into deficit in order to pay for the social and environmental changes needed. They would restore the GST to 6% and give that 1% to municipalities because “if the Federal Government went on strike would we notice… but we would if our City did”. She would tax polluters heavily. She would introduce income tax splitting for all couples (presumably gay or straight). We would pay less to EI and CPP for every paycheque ever 2 weeks. And no one earning under $20,000 would pay taxes. And finally, those in rural areas would be able to apply for full GST rebates in order to pay for transport where public transport is not an option.

And finally, she lamented how if you went back in the Hansard of Parliament to the 50s and 60s you heard politicians speaking of the common good for all Canadians, but now, those words are not uttered. Rather the focus is on competitiveness and what will win the next election.

In all, she delivered an inspiring speech for those who attended. There were many fits of enthusiastic clapping. She understands how to work a crowd, she’s humorous, and quick witted. She enjoyed our loca Edward “Tat” Tatoosh, a Hupacasath Elder, and Blues musician of 50 years who greeted her to his ancestral lands. She addressed many issues that hit home including NAFTA, sustainable forestry and agriculture, and local transportation and infrastructure.

The one thing that has always troubled me about the NDP has been its fiscal irresponsibility. To me, I see the Green Party as a combination of the NDPs social and environmental values with the small-L liberal fiscal stewardship.

I look forward to the coming debate with all five political leaders. I think it will be a turning point in Canadian Politics… or should I say, Canadian Democracy.

The Westcoaster also has coverage of the event.

Edit: Looks like Elizabeth May has won the lottery for first to speak at the leadership debate.

Oh, and finally.. this visit by Elizabeth May marked the beginning of the beginning of sorts… of her cross-country, whistlestop tour of Canada. There will be a rally in Vancouver at 4PM at the train station before they take to the rails for a cross country journey. Ostensibly, this is to show the Greens credentials as carbon savers, rail advocates, and getting back to communities in a fashion not seen since, ironically enough, Diefenbaker.

You can follow the tour at: http://www.greentrain.ca/

2 thoughts on “Listening to Elizabeth May in Port Alberni”

  1. Appreciate the detailed description. Almost as good as live blogging!

    Am down in Duncan and couldn’t manage the trip up to Port Alberni. Wish I’d have been able to attend!

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