Elizabeth May was invited to speak in the Student Union Building by the Young Greens club. She spoke about the history of environmental protection, the current Canadian political landscape, and the need for electoral reform.
Her deep knowledge of environmental and political issues engaged a diverse crowd of students, university faculty, and local residents.
May is an absolutely charming woman. She speaks casually, honestly.
What do you think the insurgence of Green votes in B.C. means for the federal Green party?
Nothing but good news. We’re polling really well now right now across the country. It’s two years out from the next federal election, and we’re already starting to hear from people who want to run for the Green party because they now know that running Green can actually get you elected. That is the kind of message we need people to know. It is of course an important way to send a signal, but it’s more than that; there are ridings where we will win seats.
And what about the Site C dam and the Trans Mountain Pipeline?
Well, I wish that the NDP had been open to stopping construction on the Site C dam while it went through. But I do know from my friends in the B.C. Green caucus that in that negotiation, the best they could get was the commit to send it to the public utilities commision. We have to hope that there is an opportunity for British Columbians to submit comments to that commision. And I think it’s critical that we stop Site C, but it will depend on what the B.C. public utilities commision says about Site C.
After Kinder Morgan, the commitment is very clear. I was an intervener in the Kinder Morgan hearings and they were appalling. I was the only MP actually, to participate in the final arguments and fight Kinder Morgan. So was Andrew Weaver the only MLA. So if you’re looking for elected people who participated to fight Kinder Morgan, we’re both Greens, federally and provincially. And Adam Olsen actually participated as well, but on his own as a Tsartlip person, and brought forward the Douglas Treaty issues.
Anyway, I think it’s really one of the bigger wins out of the May 9 election, is the B.C. government now intervening in the court cases on the side of the people and governments that want to stop Site C and stop Kinder Morgan, as well as having retained the services of Thomas Berger. He’s of course one of Canada’s most respected jurists, he was the commissioner of the Mackenzie gas pipeline here back in the 1970s. He’s hugely respected, and he is now the external council for the government of B.C. in order to fight Kinder Morgan. So I’m very encouraged.
There’s some good progress being made on that front.
Yes, well the court cases from the City of Vancouver and City of Burnaby are so strong, the Tsleil-Waututh, Musqueam, and Squamish First Nation cases are on top of that. And they’re raising different legal points as well as the court cases from environmental groups, arguing that the Species at Risk Act will be violated because this other resident killer whale population will be exterminated.
You went to law school, you’ve done very well since then, now so many students look at their degree and are wondering, “What am I going to do?”
Well you know, I never did a conventional career, my family moved to Cape Breton Island and we opened a restaurant and gift shop. So I don’t have an undergrad degree, I waitressed and cooked through my 20s. I got into law school as a mature student without an undergrad degree. I’ve been enormously lucky that from there I was able to find work in law. And then I basically haven’t practiced law for many, many years because my environmental work lead me away from law and towards running an environmental group.
What do you say to students then?
I think it’s still safe advice to tell young people: Charge out in the world, and take your space. Demand your space. Find ways to not make a living become more important than having a life. And even in the precarious employment opportunities that exist for students today, I think between NGOs, and self-employment, and finding jobs in places where people are looking for smart people, that the future is still good for people who are committed to an issue. If you’re committed to making a big income, I think your life is less interesting, and you may be more disappointed.
But if you want to have an important and meaningful life, nothing stops you. It’s the paycheque.
And of course, student loans will be limiting, so that’s why we really want to address the crisis in educational costs for students, it really needs to be dealt with.