Green party platform unveiled

Like it, or lump it – that’s the Green Party’s message to Canada’s biggest polluters and Prime Minister Harper’s government.

At a news conference in Ottawa last week, the Green Party’s newly-elected leader Elizabeth May unveiled the Party’s environmental program. She also took the opportunity to call attention to the Harper government’s defence of its billion-dollar claw-back of money set aside for a range of federal health and environment programs.

“It’s rather discouraging,” she said in an interview on Wednesday with The Concordian.

“The Conservative government should be cutting subsidies to the oil and gas sector, not chopping programs that affect aboriginals, women and youth.”

Her remarks came on the same day that Canada’s Environment Commissioner Johanne Gelinas hammered the former Liberal government and also the Conservatives on their poor performance record when it came to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“It’s just more evidence that Prime Minister Harper’s government is out of step with the world and he is doing what he can to sabotage and stop everything,” May said.

May called for unwavering support of the Kyoto Protocol and said that if her party was in power, the plan would remain in force, in spite of the nay-sayers who think that climate change is not a serious issue.

She also suggested ways Canada could meet its commitments under the protocol. The plan would use a tax system to reduce greenhouse emissions, penalizing users of toxic fuels with a carbon tax, while cutting taxes for alternative energy and fuel-efficient vehicles.

“It is very possible,” May said, “to have a Kyoto plan that reduces smog. It is not possible to have a good plan that will reduce smog and ignore Kyoto.”

Most of the political debate on the climate issue so far has focused on how to cut greenhouse emissions. But scientists say a substantial warming is already “locked in” due to the high levels of past emissions, creating a need for adaptation efforts.

Gelinas said that the Harper government has not yet put in place key measures to support Canadians in adapting to the changing climate.

“Canadians are facing risks such as the spread of disease, more droughts in the Prairies, melting permafrost in the North, longer and more intense heat waves and smog and rising coastal waters,” Gelinas said.

The report refers to the government’s announcement last April that Canada could not realistically meet its Kyoto goals.

That announcement makes May nervous. “We have to apply a full-court press,” she said. “The kind we saw under the Mulroney Conservative government that led to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. The Mulroney Conservative government stood fast during a time when the United States and other countries were against any environment protocol.”

May doesn’t have the same faith in Harper as a leader as she did with former prime minister Brian Mulroney in 1990. “Harper does not have the same political will,” she said. “We have a long way to go and we need to get back on target because this government has not lived up to its Kyoto promises.”

The Harper government is preparing to clarify its position on Canada’s commitment to the Kyoto accord to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a lacklustre commitment May expects will eventually spell out Kyoto’s demise.

“In the last few weeks alone, the Harper government has broken promise after promise to the world. Our Kyoto commitments are critical and urgent, yet no plan exists to meet them.”

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