Green Party Leader Elizabeth May kicked off her party’s campaign in Victoria Wednesday, saying fighting the climate emergency is the burning issue this election.
“We are going to be experiencing climate emergencies, even with our rapid plan to phase out fossil fuels and be carbon neutral by 2050,” May told about 200 party faithful at the Delta Ocean Pointe on the first day of the federal election campaign.
“I wish I could promise people if we do this we won’t have forest fires, if we do this we won’t have floods. We can’t,” said May, MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands. “The atmosphere is already perilously loaded almost to the point of no return.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked Gov. Gen. Julie Payette to dissolve Parliament on Wednesday morning, triggering the start of the campaign. Election day is Oct. 21.
In a speech focused on the climate change crisis, May also addressed the party’s promises to fight for social justice and human rights while providing universal Pharmacare, universal childcare and a guaranteed liveable income by the middle of the century to eliminate poverty in Canada.
All the promises are being costed, she said; $400 million alone has been allocated to help workers transition out of the coal sector.
May also took questions about the party’s policy with regard to candidates who may support anti-abortion bills or Quebec separatism.
On Monday, she told the CBC she would not try to prevent anyone in her caucus from putting forward legislation on the issue, despite personally believing women should have access to safe and legal abortions.
The party later clarified that all candidates running under its banner are required to support abortion rights.
“The Green Party is 100 per cent solid that we will not retreat one inch from a woman’s right to a legal and safe abortion, ever,” May said.
With regard to separatism, she said the party will not let candidates break a sacred pledge that every MP makes — “an oath to support, defend and protect Canada.”
May stood at the podium surrounded by her party’s candidates — including her husband John Kidder, who running in Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon, and Paul Manly, who won a seat in Nanaimo-Ladysmith in a May byelection.
The Green leader said scrutiny of the party’s candidates in the past week feels like a “hazing,” but reassured supporters she is the most seasoned elected leader running.
“Things have been taken out of context, for sure. I hope I can put it all to bed right now,” said May, as she asked all the candidates on the stage to put their hands on their hearts and make a pledge.
“We will never allow any retreat from a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion,” she said. “We will never do anything that threatens separatism in this country. We won’t play footsie with white supremacists, we won’t play games about whether people are against Alberta — we are not, we are for Alberta. We won’t play games around separatism for Quebec.”
May, who is running in Saanich-Gulf Islands, assured local constituents she isn’t taking anything for granted.
She said she is deeply honoured “that for the last eight years the voters of Saanich-Gulf Islands have chosen me to be their member of Parliament.” May beat Conservative Gary Lunn, a cabinet minister, when she won the riding in 2011.
May said she will try to attend as many all-candidate debates as possible while also attending national debates and supporting Green candidates across the country.
Several people in the room raised their hands when Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke candidate David Merner asked who had previously supported the NDP or Liberals.
But when asked which party the Greens expect to take votes from this election, May said: “Greens don’t split votes, Greens grow votes.”
“This election is about telling Canadians the truth about how serious the climate emergency is,” said May, who invited student environmentalists onto the stage with her.
“When Greta [Thunberg] says the house is on fire, the appropriate response … is to say: ‘All the little ones, go out quickly and get to safety. We’ve got this. We’ll call 911. We’ll put out the fire. We’ll deal with this.’
“And to the people in this country who don’t understand this is serious, if I have to, I’m going to throw you over my shoulders and take you out of the burning building — because we’re gonna save you too.”
— With files from The Canadian Press