Debrief at the Desk: Lisa LaFlamme speaks with Green Party Leader Elizabeth May
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May has some lofty goals for her party, but believes they’re feasible under her guidance.
The Green Party platform includes free post-secondary education, universal Pharmacare and cutting 60 per cent of carbon emissions by 2030 -- all with a $62-billion price tag.
In the first of CTV News Chief Anchor and Senior Editor Lisa LaFlamme’s five-minute interviews with the major federal party leaders, May talks about her party’s plan in a possible minority government, the feasibility of her climate goals and how the Green Party would handle the added costs of her platform.
Lisa LaFlamme: We are three weeks away from election day and tonight we have our first five minute debrief at the desk -- interviews with the main party leaders on key campaign promises. Tonight we are thrilled to have Ms. Elizabeth May of the Green Party joining us.
Ms. May, first of all today you called this a referendum on climate change. Explain that.
Elizabeth May: Well this is the last federal election before it becomes really too late to make the changes we need to make. And I know that sounds apocalyptic or perhaps too severe and the way we're judging it but we base our positions on science and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is clear that the changes we need to make must be achieved by 2030. They are approximately twice what the other parties say we must do, and if we miss our chance in this election, the window on holding on to a survivable climate will have closed before 2023.
LaFlamme: OK so obviously Canadians are listening. There is no doubt about that -- we see the numbers going up in the polls -- so be very specific when you talk about those changes. What changes do your policies require Canadians to do? What concrete changes in their lifestyle?
May: Actually there's very little that changes in a person's lifestyle. I mean you plugging in your car as opposed to stopping at a gas station is a change in a lifestyle. But what really needs to change is the leadership from governments. So when we protected the ozone layer in 1987, Canadians didn't feel that this was a big change in lifestyle -- the products they bought no longer had chemicals that depleted the ozone layer. Governments have to take responsibility. Programs have to be put in place. We spell it all out in our plan which is called Mission Possible.
LaFlamme: OK so if you are able to get your wish it would be a minority government or you being prime minister?
May: Oh I wouldn’t mind being a majority prime minister, I’ll take it!
LaFlamme: If that doesn’t happen however and it's a minority government, that gives you some influence depending on how many seats you have. What would a minority government have to commit to for you to support it?
May: We have to set partisan politics aside and I know that sounds too utopian but we're talking about our kids having a liveable world. We have to stop beating each other up like a “Punch and Judy” show and base government policy on science and the science is clear. So we're not putting political obstacles forward. You can't negotiate with physics. Our plan is the only one that is consistent with the advice of global science.
LaFlamme: So what specifically would a minority government have to commit to for you to support it.
May: We'd have to cut our emissions of greenhouse gases by 60 per cent by 2030 so that we can get to carbon neutrality by 2050.
LaFlamme: So that means what?
May: This implies a major investment in electricity grid infrastructure improvement, renewable energy only into our electricity grid -- phasing out our dependence on the internal combustion engine.
LaFlamme: And for the average Canadian, what is it. The majority of cars would need to be zero emission within 15 years. Is that realistic?
May: Absolutely. You should see the pictures that existed at the point that you could say, ‘Find the Model T Ford’ on the street 10 years later. These are pictures from the 1920s. Find the horse and buggy. The transition there happened through market forces. Disruptive technologies are coming along. The transitions are coming but right now governments are in the way, we need to help society move away from fossil fuels as quickly as possible.
LaFlamme: It's still so ambitious and if you don't get that commitment you would send Canadians back to the polls?
May: The reality of this is that ambition is necessary. You know, when (U.S. President John F. Kennedy) said, “We're going to put a man on the moon,” they had no idea how they were going to do it. We're actually dealing with science that we know how to do this. And we also know that if we don't do this we abdicate responsibility to all those kids that were marching on Friday and the kids that weren't marching. This is not a negotiable item, not politically, but in terms of it's an existential threat to Canada and every other country on earth. And we can't wish it away or put forward you know papering over with incremental changes. No. We really have to face facts, go off fossil fuels make that commitment and take care of our workers so no one feels vulnerable while we make a transition to a green economy.
LaFlamme: Well I can already see we need a lot more time because you talk about workers -- you've introduced what you call the “robot tax.” Are you afraid that it, on some level, is going to blunt the competitive edge if you've got big business paying for these promises, including if an audit of a piece of machinery comes in and a worker gets laid off?
May: Well look we're the only party talking about what happens to our workforce with automation and artificial intelligence. These are very viable and important discussions to be having because our workforce could be being replaced. We already are being replaced by automation, artificial intelligence is going to make a big difference. We want to protect our workers. We want to make sure Canadian society benefits from artificial intelligence and that we don't see a revenue slump because workers who are paying into our tax revenue base are replaced by robots who don't.
LaFlamme: Well I wish we had more time as always. But such a pleasure having you with us tonight.
May: Thank you Lisa. Appreciate it.
LaFlamme: Good luck to you on the trail.