Green Party leader Elizabeth May ended her appearance in Campbell River Saturday with a lesson from history that brought supporters to their feet.
At the Maritime Heritage Centre, she told the story of the hundreds of civilian boats that were commissioned in 1940 to rescue a couple of hundred thousand British troops stranded on the beaches at Dunkirk.
“That’s about as dire as it gets,” she said.
For May, this story of defying the odds in the face of inevitable doom against the Nazis serves as a metaphor for tackling insurmountable challenges.
“The things that seem impossible are the only things worth doing,” she said.
It could also describe her standing in Parliament. With this fall’s election though, May is optimistic the time is right for her party to make gains, especially if Canadians end up with a minority government that includes members from a half dozen parties, including newcomers like Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada on the right, along with the more familiar parties.
“This election’s very different,” she said.
To help, May is enlisting candidates like Mark de Bruijn, who is running for North Island-Powell River. De Bruijn and his partner Carol Thatcher live in the Comox Valley. He has worked as a science teacher, school principal, college lecturer and biologist for environmental assessments of pipeline projects. For more than 20 years, he has been involved with a network of international communities and small businesses in experimenting with cooperative governance and sustainable approaches to living, so the Greens for him are the natural choice.
“This is a party that’s based on collaboration and teamwork and respect,” he said.
He complimented May, citing her as the choice among Parliamentarians as the most ethical.
“If ethics matter to you,” he said, “there’s really no option left.”
May pointed out that the riding has been contested, as it was in other cities in the country.
“A contested nomination says a lot about where we are as Greens,” she says.
Both the leader and the local candidate spoke about the need to keep pressing Canada to meet its commitments. The time is gone, each said, to reverse the trend of climate change. The hope now is to mitigate the damage. To do this, Canada will have to commit to efforts to keep the temperature growth below the tipping point of two degrees Celsius.
“I’m actually quite hopeful we can do this,” May said.
She did discuss some of the obstacles associated with climate change, drawing attention to “feedback loops,” such as the loss of the albedo effect to reflect sunlight as more Arctic ice melts or the increase in carbon as more permafrost disappears. Both May and de Bruijn said the time is now to take measures that keep the rise to no more than 1.5 degrees and not wait until 2030 – referring to plans to reduce carbon emissions by 30 per cent by 2030.
Journalist and author Andrew Nikiforuk, who served as MC for the event, asked about the debate between environmental and economic interests.
“It’s kind of the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about,” he said.
May again went back in time to discuss the Rio Summit in 1992 and how leaders from George H.W. Bush to Fidel Castro made commitments to reduce carbon emissions, yet in the time since, the “carbon club” has undermined efforts. She conceded that disruptive technologies will come along to change the present economy but suggested the place of oil and gas in the economy is not as large as some might think, stating the oil sands have never amounted to three per cent of the GDP. She also pointed to countries like New Zealand as examples of ones that are adapting other measures of progress beyond GDP, but she conceded they still have a lot of work to do.
“Nobody wants to hear the truth in politics. It’s very hard in politics to tell the truth,” she said. “I think people know this is wrong.”