Green Party at SFU welcomes party leader Elizabeth May

May reflects on on current Canadian politics, the Kinder Morgan pipeline, and electoral reform

By: Olivia Roberts

This past Friday, the SFU Greens hosted Green Party leader Elizabeth May, who is also the Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands.

May discussed many topics, including: the organizational structure of the Green Party, her opinions on partisanship in politics and the resultant negative consequences for Canadians, electoral reform, and the recently approved Kinder Morgan pipeline — a pipeline that would notably flow dangerously close to the SFU Burnaby campus.

The Green leader also talked about the organizational structure of the Global Greens, the Green Party of Canada, provincial Greens, as well as Green parties all over the world. She emphasized that, while there was no legal binding between “Green organizations,” they were linked by their common six core values from the Earth Charter, “an ethical framework for building a just, sustainable, and peaceful global society in the 21st century,” initiated by the United Nations Commission on Environment and Development.

The six core values are: non-violence, sustainability, social justice, ecological wisdom, participatory democracy, and respect for diversity.

May then went on to address her concerns of the increasingly partisan political system in Canada; she suggested that while these concerns were amplified during the Harper government, they still remain today.

She echoed sentiments that she had described in her memoir, “Who We Are,” saying that former prime minister Stephen Harper viewed all “suggested improvements to legislation [as] partisan attempts to wound him,” a sharp contrast to what May described in her early years in government under the Mulroney government as “government, when government was working well.”

Addressing the “broken promise of electoral reform,” May called to attention Canada being one of the last modern countries to practice first-past-the-post electoral systems.

She asserted that many of Canada’s shortcomings in government were a result of the electoral system — the root cause of government hyperpartisanship, and tactical voting (which ensures that Canadians are unable to vote for the individuals they would prefer, but rather the candidate most likely to defeat the candidate an individual most dislikes).

May went on to endorse proportional representation, promoting mixed member proportional representation and single transferable voting.

As for the Kinder Morgan pipeline, May addressed the scientific and economic reasoning behind her opposition to the pipeline by declaring that not only would the pipeline be devastating for Canadian ecosystems, but would cause a net loss in Canadian jobs.  

She explained that while bitumen (a derivative of petroleum distillation), the resource that the Kinder Morgan pipeline would be transporting, is stable in its natural state, it is also solid, and thus cannot be transported via pipeline. Therefore, to transport via the Kinder Morgan pipeline, it must be mixed with a carcinogenic and flammable diluent, in order to flow in pipelines.

At the end of the pipeline, the diluent is removed, and the solid bitumen is shipped overseas for refining into crude oil, thus effectively moving jobs overseas that could easily be done in Alberta, if only there was a refinery.  

May argued that former premier of Alberta Peter Lougheed’s plan for a refinery (dating back to the 1980s) would not only cap global emissions, and curtail land disputes but also add many more jobs to the province than a pipeline ever would.  

As for what student activists can do to engage in the political landscape, May says to donate to environmental groups, and show up at protests, arguing that social media activism isn’t enough if we aren’t applying it to real world actions.   

Says Ian Soutar, Green Party BC candidate for Coquitlam-Burke Mountain, of the meeting: “If you’re sick and tired of being told that millennials are uninvolved and apathetic, this is exactly the kind of stuff that will prove them wrong.”