The Current

Canadian industry is 'addicted to fossil fuels,' but the Green Party can change that, says Elizabeth May

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May says Canadians want action on climate change, but are stymied by living in a society "hardwired to fossil fuel use."

Goal isn't to come up with something politically palatable, it's to secure future: May

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May joins climate change activists and students as they gather in Calgary for a protest and 'die-in,' on the steps of the Calgary Municipal Building in Calgary on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. (Dave Chidley/Canadian Press)
Listen13:07

Read Story Transcript

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May says Canadians want action on climate change, but are stymied by living in a society "hardwired to fossil fuel use."

"It's very hard for an individual to take action in a system that's still subsidising fossil fuels, that's still promoting the idea that we can expand the oil sands," May told The Current's interim host Laura Lynch.

She said that what's needed is leadership and programs that help and encourage people to make sustainable choices, such as putting solar panels on their roofs, or plugging in their cars rather than stopping at the gas station.

"These are really good choices for the future, but almost impossible for the individual to do … against a structure in society that says we're addicted to fossil fuels, and we think that's just fine," she said.

"It's not fine. We have to stop doing it."

On Wednesday, May told CBC News she wouldn't prop up a minority government that moves forward with the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

If the Green Party wins enough seats, May said they could hold "the balance of responsibility" to tell the bigger parties "we won't let you get past the very first confidence vote, unless we see absolute evidence, a change in our target, a commitment to real action."

She stressed that her party is more interested in securing a sustainable future for the planet than advancing its own political power.

"How could we ever vote confidence in a government that's working against our children's interests?" she said.

"The goal here isn't to come up with something politically palatable, it's to do the right thing." 

If elected, she said the party wouldn't stop upgrades to other existing facilities that have already been approved, but that "we don't need a single additional inch of fossil fuel infrastructure."

Steel pipe to be used in the oil pipeline construction of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project sits on rail cars at a stockpile site in Kamloops, B.C. The plan to twin the existing 1,150 kilometre-long pipeline has been indefinitely suspended. (Dennis Owen/Reuters)

In a January report, the Parliamentary Budget Office estimated that construction of the expansion would create 8,000 jobs at its peak, and increase the price Canada can charge for oil on the global market, to the tune of "a $6 billion annual impact on GDP during the five-year period from 2019 to 2023."

May said that plenty of jobs will be created by the transition from fossil fuel to sustainable energy, adding that "the way we have to address just transition is to include the workers, include their communities."

"We put four hundred million dollars in our budget for the coal sector workers," she said, explaining that these workers are highly skilled and can transfer those skills to the renewable sector.

"It's important to make sure that no worker feels that there's sort of a trap door under them, and they don't know when it's going to open."

'This is the most important election in Canadian history," says Green Party Leader Elizabeth May. 0:48

Platform costs got failing grade

The Greens were the first party to release the costs and benefits of their election promises, which include $26 billion for pharmacare, $16 billion to abolish tuition fees, and a guaranteed livable income.

A review of the 23 proposals by the Parliamentary Budget Office said that 13 had "high uncertainty," and 10 had "moderate uncertainty."

The Institute for Fiscal Studies and Democracy at the University of Ottawa also gave the plan a failing grade.

In a statement to CBC News, the Greens said they were "undertaking a review and will present a revised version in due course."

May said that the party has submitted additional documents to the University of Ottawa.

"I'm confident that we will get more than a passing grade once they see the background document," she said.


Written by Padraig Moran. Produced by Max Paris.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.