Last in the polls and amid climate crisis, Green Party leader defends record ahead of final election sprint
TORONTO -- Green Party Leader Annamie Paul is defending her party’s performance in the federal election campaign, with the party trailing in national support polling despite climate change being one of the top issues for voters.
In an interview with CTV National News on Friday, Paul said that while it was good news most parties recognize there is a climate crisis, it means there are multiple plans vying for attention -- some less realistic than others.
“It is really challenging to distinguish between plans that aren’t really a plan and plans that are credible,” Paul said. “It’s bad news that there are parties that still are not being up front and honest with the people of Canada about what we need to do about it.”
The Green Party has also faced a summer of infighting, with some party members pushing for a vote on Paul’s leadership before the election campaign even began.
Paul said there has been “noise” that has distracted voters from her party’s “prime messaging.”
The climate crisis, and what each federal party says they will do about it if they are elected, has been a major part of the campaign trail this year, as B.C., parts of the Prairies and Ontario have battled wildfires, heat waves and drought. It’s also presented an opportunity for mud-slinging between parties.
The Green Party platform says that it will aim for Canada to have net-negative emissions by 2050, end all government support for fossil fuels, speed up increases in carbon pricing, place additional levies on imports from countries that do not put a price on carbon, and move Canada to fully renewable energy sources by 2030.
By contrast, the NDP has vowed that by 2030, Canada would have carbon dioxide emissions at 50 per cent below 2005 levels, while the Liberals are promising to cut emissions 40 to 45 per cent below 2005 levels by the end of the decade. The Conservatives want to follow Canada’s reduction target under the Paris Agreement – which is lower than the government’s current goal.
Here is the full text of Paul’s interview with CTV News National Affairs Correspondent Omar Sachedina.
Note: This transcript has been edited for length and grammar.
Sachedina: You're stepping into this final weekend of campaigning last in the polls at a time when the planet is in a climate crisis and you're supposed to be the party that champions the environment. Why isn't your message resonating with more?
Paul: There are many parties that have climate messages. I know that it is really challenging to distinguish between plans that really aren't a plan and plans that are credible. It's good news that all the parties, well, with the exception of the People's Party, recognize that we're in a climate crisis. It's bad news that there are parties that still are not being upfront and honest with the people of Canada about what we need to do about it.
Sachedina: Andrew Weaver, the former leader of the B.C. Greens, did not endorse your plan. How much of a blow is that?
Paul: Andrew Weaver is someone that I respect, but I respectfully disagree with him. Our climate plan was put together by five climate scientists who are part of our shadow cabinet and another one who is about to get his PhD. It was reviewed.
Sachedina: But he [Weaver] also has a significant level of credibility, he was for example, the Canada Research Chair in Climate Modelling and Analysis and the author of several UN climate reports, so is it too dismissive to say that you just don't agree with his position?
Paul: No, I don't think so. You know, we have members of the National Research Council who are running forests. We have people who are just as respected in their fields. And of course, we always do a lot of work consulting with civil society as well.
Sachedina: I want to move on to the climate within your own party. As an outsider, it looks toxic. It looks fractious. Candidates don't want you to campaign with them. There's one defected to the Liberals, an MP. There's one candidate in Quebec who's attacked your leadership on social media. What's going on?
Paul: What's going on for me right now is this election. You know, some of the things that you describe are things that certainly have made it already challenging for fantastic candidates to focus on the main messages of the campaign.
Sachedina: But there is tension.
Paul: To be fair, every single party has had candidates that they've had to remove as candidates. They've had candidates openly criticizing their leaders
Sachedina: But in your case, your candidates are openly saying: “don’t come in our riding and campaign with us.”
Paul: The reason that they’ve said that – and I respect that – is that again, it’s being distracting. The kind of question you're asking me is the kind of question that I get asked, as opposed to what are your plans for the climate? What are your plans for affordable housing? How are you going to support this community? And so they don’t, and I don't want the internal issues to be a distraction from their central messages.
Sachedina: You have said that you have felt “pushed out from your party” because of sexism and because of racism.
Paul: Politics still remains a very hostile, unwelcoming place for diverse peoples. It's the reason that we have so few of them in politics. And I think that's a great loss for all of us. And we know that that means that our public policy is compromised. And for someone like me, it's all about the public policy and how we can create good public policy on behalf of people in Canada.
Sachedina: You insist on running in this riding that is a Liberal stronghold, but at a certain point, being the leader of a party without a seat in the Commons, in the nerve centre of power in this country becomes untenable. So if you don’t win a seat this time, will you step down as leader?
Paul: First, I did not insist on running in this seat, I chose to run in the seat after consulting with my party, with our membership, after doing all of the due diligence that one should. There seems to be this perception that there was some seat waiting out there for me, that Greens were absolutely guaranteed to win - and there wasn't. So I chose a place where the community knew me very well, where we did incredibly well in the by-election, and where I felt that I wanted to offer my service and where if we made a breakthrough, it would make a very big difference for the Green Party in the future
Sachedina: Well, the final countdown is on
Paul: That’s right
Sachedina: Thank you for your time
Paul: Thank you very much
With files from The Canadian Press, and CTVNews.ca Producer Sarah Turnbull