Face to Face 2021: Annamie Paul met 4 undecided voters. Here's what happened
The conversation was the fourth instalment of The National's Face to Face series
Green Party Leader Annamie Paul says the only distinction between the Conservative and Liberal climate change plans is that the Conservatives are being candid about their ability to hit their emission reduction targets.
"The difference between the Liberals and the Conservatives is that the Conservatives are being honest that what they're planning to do is not going to get us past 30 per cent greenhouse gas emissions reductions," Paul told CBC News.
"The Liberals are pretending that is going to get us to net zero by 2050 when they know full well that it won't. It's a choice between one party who is upfront about it and one who is still misleading people in Canada about it."
The countries that signed on to the Paris agreement committed to reducing emissions below 2005 levels by 2030. The Conservative target is 30 per cent, while the Liberal target is 40 to 45 per cent.
Paul made her remarks during the fourth and final instalment of The National Presents: Face to Face with the Federal Party Leaders — a series of interviews giving four undecided voters five minutes to ask questions of one of four federal party leaders.
Andrew Weaver's criticism
Paul was asked what party supporters should make of former B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver endorsing the Liberal climate change plan and campaigning with Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.
"With all due respect to Andrew, and I do respect him very much and I appreciate the support that he's offered me, I just think that he's wrong," Paul said of Weaver, who supported the B.C. NDP taking power after the 2017 election in a supply and confidence agreement
"I think he needs to reread their plan and our plan. And you know, it's still not too not too late for him to come campaign for me."
Before entering politics, Weaver was the Canada Research Chair in climate modelling and analysis at the University of Victoria's school of earth and ocean sciences. He was also a lead author on several scientific assessments published by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
WATCH | Paul on pushing climate policies forward:
Taking action on climate
Maren Mealey, from Halifax, Nova Scotia, is a 20-year-old student who has put her education on hold because of COVID-19. She said that climate change is her most pressing issue and that she wants to make sure she's voting for a party that will take action.
"You're making these big promises on the climate during your campaign," Mealey said. "But how do we ensure that they don't simply remain campaign promises and are translated into concrete policy and legislation?"
Paul replied that while her party is small and only has two seats in Parliament, Green MPs have shown themselves able to punch above their weight.
"We are very collegial, we're very cooperative, we're very respected on the climate," she said. "When we say something in committee or in the House, it's taken seriously."
Watch The National Presents: Face to Face With the Federal Party Leaders on CBC News Network, CBCNews.ca, the CBC News App (Apple or Android) or CBC Gem at 8 p.m. ET, followed by highlights on The National at 9 p.m. ET on CBC News Network, and at 10 p.m. ET on CBC-TV and online.
"Any Green that is elected to Parliament is someone that you can count on, absolutely, to be a climate champion, to work concretely across party lines on this non-partisan issue, which is how we are going to reduce global warming."
Asked by chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton which party Green supporters should vote for if there is no Green candidate in their riding, Paul refused to endorse another party as a second choice.
"They should vote for the MP, the representative that they believe is going back to Ottawa to get to work with all of the other parties on the climate," she said.
WATCH | Paul on ending fossil fuels and moving to green jobs:
Transitioning to green jobs
Alex Carrier, from Montréal, Quebec, said he was raised in poverty but has managed to achieve financial independence and wants to ensure that other Canadians are able to do the same thing.
"Your platform states that the Green Party plans to replace every fossil fuel job with high-paying green sector jobs," he said. "Could you describe the process and how long it would that take to get there?"
Paul said the skills workers from the oil and gas industry have are the same kinds of skills required to work in renewable energy industries. She said green jobs usually pay more than jobs in the fossil fuel industry.
Paul did not cite the specific skills valued in both industries but said that workers can be "transferred immediately, immediately, into those jobs without big retraining programs."
"We're not talking about years of ramping up new skills," she said. "So I'm very excited about that."
Economic cost of Green Party targets
Environmental economist Mark Jaccard, from Simon Fraser University, published an analysis of the four major federal parties' climate plans, placing the Greens in third behind the Liberals in first spot and second place Conservatives. Jaccard said the Green plan was "somewhat effective" but "very costly."
Pressed by Barton on Jaccard's claim that the Green Party's plan to cut emissions 60 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 would shrink the economy by 7.5 per cent, Paul said his analysis was wrong.
"First, I would say that he's simply not correct," she said. "We need to look at all the other major economies that are making this a priority, and we can't possibly tell ourselves that they've all decided collectively that they're going to ruin their economies and plunge their GDPs."
Jaccard did not provide an opinion on whether a 60 per cent reduction target was possible; his analysis only looked at whether each party's plan for hitting their targets was practical and how much they would cost.
The NDP says it would cut emissions by 50 per cent. Jaccard said the NDP plan would hurt the economy slightly less than the Green plan, shrinking it by 6.5 per cent, but added that its impact on reducing emissions would be "largely ineffective."
WATCH | Paul on vaccine passports and mandates:
Vaccine mandates and passports
Abby Williams, from Mississauga, Ont., immigrated to Canada 20 years ago and is the mother of six children. She said she is concerned about the introduction of a vaccine passport program in Ontario and its impact on her freedom.
"Why can't we find an alternative for the COVID passport? Because not all of us are on board with this," she said. "What are the alternatives that you can come up with?"
Paul said that her party does not support vaccine passports but cannot raise that issue at the federal level right now because Parliament has been suspended for the election.
"This is one of these things that, first of all, we should have been in Parliament right now talking about because this is the next phase," she said.
Paul did not suggest an alternative to vaccine passports but said that creating a panel to work "between levels of government" to craft clear messaging would help people understand the importance of getting vaccinated.
The Green leader said her party does not support mandatory vaccination and does not require its candidates to be vaccinated. Paul said she was not sure how many Green candidates are fully vaccinated.
WATCH | Paul on the Green Party's inner turmoil:
A party at war with itself
Jennifer Brule, from Ottawa, has voted for the Green Party in the past because she is concerned about the state of the planet. She said she is having doubts about supporting the party this time around.
"I'm still undecided because as a voter, what comes across is that there's a lack of unity with the Green Party and turmoil between the members," she said.
"So my question is, what can you say to convince me to trust the Green Party and give you my vote when it seems that the party members themselves are not getting along?"
The Green Party and its leader have been locked in a destructive dispute since the early part of the year, when internal party divisions over how to address the conflict in Israel exploded in public.
That dispute resulted in the Greens' New Brunswick MP Jenica Atwin defecting to the Liberals, while the party's governing council attempted to remove Paul and disclosed the financial difficulties it had been having.
Paul said that her party did not enter the election campaign as unified as she'd hoped, but voters should rest assured that her party remains focused on climate change.
"I know that it's disappointing to many people who are prioritizing the climate," she said. "But what I do know is that, again, when the chips are on the table, when we've had the opportunity to make a difference on the climate, we have always done that."
Pressed by Barton to state whether she accepts any blame for the discord within the party, Paul said that as party leader it is important to acknowledge mistakes — but she hadn't made any.
"Do I think that this is a situation of my own making? I definitely do not. But certainly, I think that it's important to have humility and to acknowledge that you're learning every day as a leader," she said.