Picnic lays out election focus

Millennial voters seen as key to averting climate catastrophe

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Salt Spring’s MLA and MP joined forces Saturday for a community Green party picnic at Salt Spring Vineyards, where the potential ramifications of the fall federal election produced a sobering effect.

Hosted by Saanich North and the Islands MLA Adam Olsen, attendees were closely attuned to the national political situation. The few questions from the crowd focused on how to get more representation in the House of Commons for quick action on carbon reduction, which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently reiterated must happen by 2030 or it will be too late.

Both Olsen and Saanich-Gulf Islands MP Elizabeth May described the critical role that Greens can play, whether in a minority government, or even as the solo voice that May has provided in Ottawa for the past two terms.

“Our political system requires opposition,” Olsen said. “It requires people to be demanding answers to the questions the incumbent industries don’t want to answer. It requires there to be a level of transparency, accountability and pushback that frankly we haven’t seen in the pipeline debate on the West Coast.”

May has only recently received a fellow nationally elected Green in Paul Manly, who won the Nanaimo-Ladysmith by-election in May. She said it will be important to get more  colleagues in the October election to help turn around a climate disaster, but feels there is a real chance a productive minority government can be elected.

A question from one of the attendees was how to inspire millennials to vote. May suggested talking to people one-on-one about whether they vote, and if the answer is no, explaining why it is important to do so.

“We do have a lot of youth outreach, [but] I don’t think anything works more than talking to each other,” May said.

Another question was about federal grant programs that are focused on getting remote northern communities off diesel, and what could be done for communities that don’t fit that picture.

“What we’re calling for, as a Green party, is what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change told us on Oct. 8 we need to do, which is daunting,” May said. “When we crunch the numbers we come up with 60 per cent below 2005 reductions in greenhouse gases — by 2030. That means in a 10-year period slashing our dependence on fossil fuels by 60 per cent. It’s tough; it obviously won’t happen with programs that have a very narrow focus.”

May explained the Greens’ approach would be to create a “survival cabinet” similar to the war cabinets created during the Second World War, which would ensure all political parties were part of the decision making. Nationally funded initiatives with masses of community volunteers are needed to do things like plant trees, install solar panels and retrofit homes to become carbon neutral, May said. Other measures would include banning combustible engines, and making the entire Canadian energy grid run on renewable sources, both by 2030.

“We face an existential threat. It’s not one that can be dealt with by status quo decision making and incremental programs that work at the edge of the status quo,” May said.

“Status quo decision making is over. For our survival we have to leap over it, so it’s all hands on deck.”

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