Renegotiate NAFTA, new Green party leader says

The new leader of the Green Party of Canada has called on the government to give notice to the U.S. that it wants to end the free-trade deal.

The new leader ofthe Green Party of Canada has called on the government to give notice to the U.S. that it wants to end the free-trade deal.

That threat could be used as a lever to improve the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Elizabeth May told cheering delegates in her acceptance speech Saturday.

May, elected with 65 per cent of the votesat Saturday's convention, said NAFTA works for the U.S., but not for Canada.

Alluding to the Conservative government'srecent proposed settlement of the long-running softwood lumber dispute, May said Prime Minister Stephen Harper has demonstrated that "if you push us hard enough, we'll finally say 'uncle.' "

While Canada has won many legal rounds in the softwood fight, the government opted for a negotiated solution.

"We're not against trade, " but it must be fair, May said.

'Cancer epidemic'

She also said the party would focus on the prevalence of cancer: "This country and all of North America is in the midst of a cancer epidemic that nobody wants to talk about."

She also took on economic growth, comparing it with the way cancer spreads."Unlimited economic growth is the ideology of the cancer cell."

And she said the idea that Canada cannot meet its Kyoto targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions is "the big lie."

May criticized U.S. spending on nuclear weapons and its budget deficit, which some analysts fear could destabilize the world economy.

Popular support but no seats

The Greens didn't elect anymembers in the Jan. 23 general election, but the party did get about 4.5 per cent of the vote, enough to secure $1 million a year in federal funding.

Without a seat in Parliament,they don't have easy access to the media, and won't be allowed to join the televised leaders' debates whenever the next election is called. But commentators on CBC Newsworld said May,a former Sierra Club executive director and environmentalist, would be able to make her voice heard.

She told delegates that many people voted Green because they rejected all the other parties. Now, she said,the party must promote programs that give people something positive to vote for.

May beatDavid Chernushenko, the party's deputy leader, and Jim Fannon, a four-time Green candidate who founded ahemp-food company and sells real estate in St. Catharines, Ont.

May andChernushenko were frontrunners to replace Jim Harris, who announced earlier this year he was stepping down as leader.

Thousands of ballots were mailed in before the leadership convention, and 300 morewere cast this weekend at the Ottawa Congress Centre,where party organizers turned off the escalators to save energy.

Support from all quarters

Harris,who became the party's leader in 2003,said the Greens draw support from across the political spectrum.

"If you were a Progressive Conservative, as I was, where do you go? The Green party supports Kyoto," he told CBC News. "We were opposed to the war in Iraq and yet at the same time we're fiscally responsible. This is something that's attractive to people."

Delegate Jane Sterk said the party still faces a number of challenges, including having its ideasadopted by mainstream parties.

Liberal leadership hopeful Michael Ignatieff has suggested a carbon tax, an idea thathad been lifted directly from the Green platform, Harris said, and an idea the Liberals would never implement.

With files from the Canadian Press