Where Is The ‘Green" In Canada’s Green Party? Where Is The "Green" In Any Federal Party?


By Tim Murray

In a communication dated May 8, 2009, federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May made several questionable assertions.

First, she argued that climate change was not caused by overpopulation but rather by over-consumption—ours, that is, the wealthy 20% of us in the world. And she insisted that it was demonstrably false to assign responsibility for Canadas environmental damage to either population growth or immigration (as if these two were not bound up together!).

Thus, in Elizabeth Mays world, the 5 million immigrants who have arrived here since 1990 don't cause significant environmental injury. In Ms. May's words, The vast damage to ecosystems and dumping of GHG (green house gasses) into the atmosphere is driven by export markets, not by local demand. However, according to John Meyer of Canada's former Zero Population Growth, an organization to which Elizabeth May belonged, Canada's mass immigration-driven population growth is largely responsible for why Canada has greatly exceeded its 1990 Kyoto promises.” If one listens to Ms. May, and “small-g'” green politicians of all stripes, Canada is like a vast ghost town populated only by wicked energy companies and multinationals who lay waste to our land so that they can serve foreign customers. To her, the number of Canadian “ghosts” does not matter. To Mr. Meyer, on the other hand, the number of “ghosts” is the major issue.

Second, May makes her oft-repeated point that international migration, as it involves just 3% of the global population, is a trivial concern. However, three per cent of the world's 6.8 billion amounts to around 200 million people—a number which is not trivial to the recipient countries. Australia, Britain and the U.S. , and EU countries like Spain, Italy and Greece will testify to that. Even India has been motivated to build expensive fences to cope with a foreign influx. In Canada, pollution, traffic gridlock, housing shortages and construction on farmland are not trivial issues. Both Ontarios environment commissioner Gordon Miller and UBC's Dr. Michael Healey in his $3 million federally-commissioned report on B.C.'s Lower Fraser River Basin, have warned of the ecological devastation that projected immigration will bring to the regions they focused on. To Miller and Healey, these are not trivialities. For May, the solution is to straddle two horses: Densify Canada's urban centres and disperse New Canadians into depopulated northern and rural localities. However, the question we should ask before we densify is this: Why are we bringing these people to Canada in the first place since there is no compelling case that we need them? And the question we should ask about dispersing New Canadians into depopulated northern and rural localities is this: If Canadians left those places because there were no economic opportunities there, what are New Canadians going to do there?

Third, as climate change is her fixation, May is anxious to pinpoint export-driven GHG's, particularly the tar sands, as the scapegoat and bogeyman for Canada's environmental troubles. As many Canadians know, around 70% of Canada's present population growth is attributable to immigration. In Metro regions such as Vancouver, immigration is responsible for 85% of population growth. Assuming regular and temporary worker immigration remains at 400,000 per year, and an average Canadian per capita GHG output of about 21 tonnes, around 3 to 4 years of immigration will cumulatively generate as much GHG as the entire tar sands project did ( about 50 million tonnes) in 2008. Even the 440 square kilometres that the tar sands has already despoiled is but a fraction of the acreage, much of it prime farmland, that immigration-driven housing construction has consumed across Canada, especially in southern Ontario.

Fourth, May believes Canada should be ready to accept environmental refugees. Her trump card for this issue, of course, will be white guilt. According to her and others, since our over-consumption drives climate change, then we are morally obliged to admit millions of third world refugees from coastal settlements that are overtaken by rising seas. Ms. May seems to think that these countries bear no responsibility for the fact that many of them have failed to limit reproduction in their populations and therefore contributed significantly to their own demise. Furthermore, like those who use the environmental refugee argument, she will not say how many of these people Canada and other countries are obliged to take? Is it 10, 20, 30 million? Is the sky the limit? After all, in May's cosmology, population growth in Canada is of little environmental concern. Ironically, her Green Party allies abroad disagree with her view. For example, Greens in New Zealand, Australia, and Hawaii have called for a population plan which would accept refugees only if other planned immigration is reduced. What is illogical about Elizabeth Mays position is that if millions of coastal inhabitants will be displaced by climate change, how would their injection into Canadas hostile, energy-demanding climate do anything but accelerate the very process of global warming that rendered them homeless?

As The Science Council of Canada wisely stated in 1976, conserving Canada's limited resources, and controlling its population growth/immigration are the two most important things Canada must do to provide for its future. Elizabeth May would have us believe that we can ignore one of those essential factors : Canada's population growth and its high immigration levels. By saying that “The vast damage to ecosystems and dumping of GHG (green house gasses) into the atmosphere is driven by export markets, not by local demand.”, she suggests that Canada should curb foreign demand for its resources, but pay no attention to an unending and rapidly-increasing Canadian demand for its resources. In other words, she seems to think that Canada has an infinite amount of “wood to hew” and an unending supply of “water to draw” to satisfy its perpetually growing population. The Science Council of Canada dispelled that idea and she should recognize that.

Other political parties should not think they stand on superior ground. They are the ones who have actually caused much of the environmental damage in Canada. The refugee policy and immigration prescription (an annual regular immigrant intake of 1% or more of our current population level, effectively 30% above the current intake) of the Liberals, the NDP and probably the BQ is similar to that of Canada's Green Party. Even the Conservatives, not known for having a nagging environmental conscience, undoubtedly have members who would agree with Ms. May and the others. In other words, MP's from all federal parties are intent on pursuing some form of ecological suicide. It is just that as leader of a party that is perceived as the standard bearer of environmental concerns, she should be different. And, her refusal to admit that domestic population growth has a manifest environmental impact warrants exceptional focus.

One is tempted to ask: Is Elizabeth May the leader of the Green Party of Canada or the Green Party of the Third World? Does she have any fealty to Canada, to our people, our landscape and our wildlife? If more than a thousand species in Canada are now at risk from sprawling cities, does she think another 30 million new consumers will improve the futures of those species? Does she think that failed smart growth recipes and precariously defended park reserves will defend species indefinitely from growth? Does she not see that her imported cultural diversity must come at the expense of our biological diversity?

Does she share the same delusional image of Canada that her parliamentary rivals seem to have : that of a subtropical cornucopia of universally fertile land with a long growing season ? A boundless treasure trove able to sustain a boundless population?

Where is the green in Canadas Green Party? Can it be found anywhere on the federal landscape?