Nfld. & Labrador

Elizabeth May brings 'tough message' to oil-producing N.L.

Green Leader Elizabeth May says Newfoundland and Labrador needs to stop oil and gas production.

May is pushing the need to move away from the oil and gas industry

Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada, is making several stops in St. John's on Tuesday, including a session of the Muskrat Falls inquiry that is open to the public. (Patrick Butler/CBC)

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May visited Newfoundland and Labrador Tuesday ahead of the fall federal election, and brought a tough message of decarbonization to a province that depends on the oil industry for royalties and jobs. 

"We need to stop any expansion of fossil fuels. We need to ramp down to a total phaseout," said May, who told CBC News she doesn't want the oil industry to expand.

"Those days are over. We're moving to an orderly transition."

She's been touting Greg Malone, the party's candidate in the riding of Avalon, currently held by Liberal Ken McDonald. Malone is well known as an actor in CODCO and a performer in the Wonderful Grand Band.

Malone previously ran for the NDP in a byelection in St. John's West in 2000, narrowly losing to Loyola Hearn.

We're going to be left behind with the economy of the past.- Greg Malone

He's on board with the Green agenda.

"We're way behind in green technology, in renewable energies, in the real economy that's going to be the economy of the future," he said. 

"We're going to be left behind with the economy of the past."

Treat oil workers better than fishermen: May

Currently almost 16 per cent of the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador, or about $5 billion annually, comes from the oil industry.

The Newfoundland and Labrador government has a plan to grow the industry as a way of boosting both jobs and revenue for provincial coffers.

May compared the need to shut down oil and gas production to the need to shut down the cod fishery in the early 1990s. 

Elizabethe May, right, makes a stop in St. John's with the Green Party candidate for Avalon, Greg Malone, left. (CBC)

"We should manage it much better," said May.

"We'd never put oil and gas workers through something like what people went through."

It's important to focus on the facts about the impact of climate change, May said. If nothing is done, she said, then within a lifetime human civilization globally will not have survived.

"That's a tough message."

Kelly Blidook, who teaches political science at Memorial University, agrees that the party's message is a hard sell in a province so heavily invested in oil.

"I don't think that it fits very well with what a lot of people in the province want," he said in an interview.

"Beyond that I think that it's a political culture that's still strongly rooted in the traditional parties. We haven't seen much movement in that and so new parties just have a hard time breaking in, regardless of where they're coming from."

May is also set to speak to the inquiry into the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project while she's in the province.

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

About the Author

Peter Cowan

CBC News

Peter Cowan is a St. John's-based reporter with CBC News.

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