Green Party’s May interested in the common good, but supports abortion, gay marriage

  • April 23, 2007
OTTAWA - Green Party Leader Elizabeth May hopes to change the conversation in Ottawa.

Though best known for its environmental stance, the Green Party also stresses social justice, fair trade instead of free trade and non-violence. But Mays views on families, communities and the common good may also attract Catholic voters and potential candidates.
{mosimage}"The language around common good which is strong in modern Catholic thought has been removed from modern discourse and is at the heart of the Green Party," said May, an Anglican, in a recent interview at her party headquarters in Ottawa. "It calls for a values shift.

"There used to be an assumption that government existed with the goal of working for the common good. We've moved into this kind of selfish zone where every politician appears to think that the way to get votes is to appeal to every person's selfish drive.

"The state's policies are eroding family and community," she said, noting land use planning promotes roads and highways and government subsidizes tar sands development and fossil fuels' use. Instead of revolving around the automobile, she'd like to see communities revolve around the child.

She criticized the government's "overwhelming preoccupation with economic growth" and how "social programs take a back seat." Instead she advocates fiscally responsible social programs. She said she rejects both capitalism and socialism because they rely on the idea of unending economic growth, something she sees as impossible on a finite planet.

Though some of the Green platform resembles Scandinavian welfare statism, a plank calls for tax changes that could enable a parent to choose to stay at home with children. The party wants tax reform to recognize the "value of the unpaid work of women."

For May, moral issues go way beyond issues like same-sex marriage and abortion.

"Every aspect of our life imposes some moral choice," she said.

"Does our generation have the right to destroy creation?" she asked.

Not only does May believe the planet is at stake, she also fears for civilization. A big fan of the late Jane Jacobs, May agreed with Jacobs' assessment in her prophetic Dark Age Ahead of the dangerous strain on families and communities. May also agreed with Jacobs' warning of cultural amnesia resulting from the deteriorating quality of education.

"There's a very dark age ahead if we ignore the intangibles," she said.

Though clearly pro-choice, May has been attacked for her nuanced views on abortion. During the London North Centre by-election campaign, she told the Sisters of St. Joseph in the riding: "Abortions are legal because they must be to avoid women dying. But nobody in their right mind is for abortions.

"I've talked women out of having abortions, I would never have an abortion myself, not in a million years," she told the sisters.

May said she supports former U.S. president Bill Clinton's view that abortion should be safe, legal and rare. She advocates giving women real choices so they can keep their pregnancies. May considers abortion and same-sex marriage charter rights, however, in opposition to the official teaching of the Catholic Church on the issues.

May does not see anything against same-sex marriage in Jesus' teaching, noting more damage has been done to marriage by heterosexual couples. She said she respects people who hold traditional views, pointing out her Anglican congregation is split on marriage.

"We are committed to respect for difference," she said. The same principle that makes a healthy ecosystem makes a healthy society and that's diversity, she said. Forcing a one-size-fits-all consensus on everyone would resemble a monoculture, and monocultures are weak, susceptible to infestation and lack resilience and strength.

An environmental activist since the 1970s, the United States-born May successfully led the fight against spruce budworm aerial spraying near her Cape Breton home. She obtained a law degree and authored five books. From 1986 to '88, she served as a senior policy advisor for the Mulroney government's environment minister. She served as the Sierra Club's executive director from 1989 until she stepped down to run as Green Party leader in 2006. In 2005, she was inducted as an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Last November, May came in an astonishing second in the London North Centre by-election, ahead of the star Conservative candidate. In the next federal election, she plans to run against Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay in his Nova Scotia riding.

Liberal Leader Stephane Dion has agreed not to run a Liberal candidate against her. She defends the agreement as one that transcends partisanship. In return, Dion gets May's public praise for his green platform and his leadership. She will also not run a Green candidate in Dion's sure seat.

Though May describes the Green Party as neither left nor right, she has positioned herself to the left of Stephen Harper's Conservatives and has been trying to get Liberals and New Democrats to work with her to defeat Harper. The NDP, however, refuses to co-operate.

May was furious about the last federal budget, calling it an effrontery to describe it as family friendly because Nova Scotians have to leave their families to find work in the Alberta oil fields. She'd like to see government promote Fr. Moses Coady's Antigonish Movement principles to "make jobs at home for the people at home."

"The Antigonish Movement was the best movement that was ever invented," she said, noting it was especially useful in disadvantaged areas.

The recent Quebec election's surprise rise of Mario Dumont's ADQ party shows voters might be in the mood for a conversation change. However, as May's public profile rises, attacks are mounting. One NDP pundit recently described May as a "social reactionary."

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