Less than a week after participating in the first all-leaders debate of the 2015 federal election campaign, Green Party leader Elizabeth May was in Squamish for a town hall meeting in support of local candidate Ken Melamed on August 10.
In her opening remarks, May talked about the strength of Green candidates in B.C., and the role that Members of Parliament are supposed to play in Canadian democracy.
"The substantial choice you have in this election is who should be your Member of Parliament, because Members of Parliament in Westminster Parliamentary Democracy are equals. What a concept," May said.
"It isn't supposed to be CEO of Canada Inc., or lord high emperor of all of the domain as far as the eye can see. I think that's Stephen Harper's version."
Green MPs will be free to vote whichever way they choose, May said, something no other party will promise.
"If you want representation for your views, you can count on me to represent you," Melamed said. "I don't serve another agenda."
Melamed was named the Green Party's finance critic last summer.
"We believe in sensible budgeting and answering questions for Canadians, and Ken is helping me do that in developing the platform and the budget for the next election," May said of the appointment.
"Having balanced the budgets in Whistler and handled a multimillion dollar event like the Olympics, I wanted someone with practical experience."
About 90 people were in attendance for the meeting, which started with remarks from Melamed and May before attendees broke off into groups to talk about the issues. The second half of the meeting consisted of a question and answer period.
It took just two questions for Woodfibre LNG to be brought up.
"One thing is we should cancel all subsidies to LNG," May said, to applause from the crowd. "This is not natural gas anymore, this is fracked gas, and fracked gas over its lifetime has the same carbon footprint of coal."
The question led to a broader discussion about Canada's environmental protection laws, many of which were repealed by the Harper government under omnibus budget bills C-38 and C-45.
May took Harper's disdain for the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act personally, having worked on the legislation herself in the 1980s.
"In its place we do not have environmental assessment, we have bogus talking points and spin," May said.
"We need to have rigorous reviews that are neutral, evidence-based, science-based, and then if any operations go forward they need to be sure that they have community support and do community consultation."
Environmental stewardship is a staple of the Green Party, but it was far from the only topic up for discussion at the meeting.
"There are a lot of things in the Green platform, and one of them is to put people to work right away. The economy and jobs right now are critical," May said.
"It's the time to make sure we put Canadians to work. We need to invest in renewable energy, because it's there for the taking. It's the fastest growing sector (and) the prices are coming down.
"The easiest thing that we can do to put people to work while at the same time fighting carbon pollution, is to put together an army — a literal army — of carpenters, contractors, electricians, plumbers, to go to every part of this country and make sure that our built infrastructure (is energy efficient)."
The Greens also propose to increase the corporate tax rate to 18 per cent from 15 per cent.
"The myth that lowering corporate tax will result in investment and it will create jobs in Canada has not worked," Melamed said.
"The profit that corporations have taken as a result in the drop in tax (under Harper), is now parked in offshore tax shelters. $600 billion at last count, in what my party calls dead money."
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the Green's platform is the party's commitment to a Guaranteed Livable Income — a cheque delivered to each and every Canadian, regardless of need.
"In concrete terms, the No. 1 strategy of the Green Party is to eliminate poverty... it makes a ton of sense. We've got good data," May said.
"It will save money in our health care system, save money in the criminal justice system, it will create incentives for people who are low income. "
To implement such a system, the Green Party would form a Council of Canadian Governments made up of federal, provincial, municipal and First Nations governments.
"The Guaranteed Livable Income will give everybody a chance to participate in Canadian society," Melamed said.
"It's been demonstrated that we can end some of the wasteful programs. We have a very complex series of programs in Canada to help people in need. Not only are they not working sufficiently, but it's very complicated and very costly, so to simplify that under one program, we can provide that universal benefit to people, get them working, help them be included in society.
"We don't think it's right to leave people behind in our country. We are a country that is fair and just."
Other topics brought up at the meeting included the move to a proportional representation electoral system, the inclusion of Canada's First Nations on every national issue and the need for a national pharmacare plan.
After the meeting, Melamed said he was pleased with the turnout.
"People took time out of their busy schedules on a beautiful summer evening because Canada is important to them," he said.
"What we're finding is — and this is why we're confident that we can defeat the Conservatives here — the Green Party represents something fresh. It's a new voice in Canadian politics, and Elizabeth May has been an inspiration to so many people.
"She has a following of her own, but people have come to the party out of this love for the country, love for where they live and a desire to see Canada get back on track."
If elected, Melamed promised to follow in May's footsteps of accountable leadership.
"What's important to me is what's important on the minds of the people in the riding, so my promise is to represent my constituents," Melamed said.
"I know Elizabeth has set a really good leadership example in her riding. She holds between six and eight town halls a year just to stay current with the issues of the day, so that's something that people can count on here in the riding."
For more on Melamed's campaign visit www.kenmelamed.ca.
The Green Party platform is continually evolving, and a draft budget is expected after Labour Day.
For more on the Greens' position, visit www.greenparty.ca/en/our-vision.
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