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Sunday, June 25, 2006

Interview with Green Leadership Candidate May - 6

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Here is the 6th part of my interview with Green Party of Canada leadership candidate Elizabeth May. This segment of the interview with the media-darling Green includes the end of our foreign affairs discussion, as well as the first part of May's views on health.

Foreign Affairs



i) Is there an environmental aspect to giving aid to poor countries? Is there an interest for Canada to, as Bono suggested to Paul Martin, devote 0.7% of GDP to foreign aid?

Clearly, yes. As determined by the Rio Earth Summit, based on the report of the World Commission on Environment and Development (The Brundtland Commission, 1987) there can be no sustainability in situations of massive inequity. Twenty per cent of the world's population (those of us in industrialized countries) consume 80% of the world's resources.

The target of 0.7% of GDP to ODA is not Bono's idea. It was former Prime Minister Lester Pearson's idea, and every Prime Minister since, up to Paul Martin, has endorsed it. In fact, the last Progressive Conservative Prime Minister of Canada, the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney, recommitted Canada to it very publicly at the Earth Summit in June 1992. At the time of the Earth Summit, Canadian aid was 0.45% of GDP. With Chretien's cuts to ODA it dropped to 0.25% and has since been inching up to recover ground. It is not yet back to the 1992 levels.

Many other donor nations are committed to it and refer to it as the Pearson target.



j) Can you share your views on economic globalization?


No global green world view could insist any country is an island, so an international perspective is critical. However, economic globalization is different from internationalism. If by economic globalization, the question assumes the following general characteristic of the now-discredited model of globalization – privatization, de-regulation and increased corporate rule – I would be sharply critical. If one means by economic globalization continuing trade, then the question shifts to how can one ensure the sustainability of trade? Can all trade be made fair? How can the local be favoured, for sound environmental reasons, without standing accused of protectionism?

The European Union model provides a very different model than that of NAFTA. It is worth examining and studying these issues so that Canadians know that not all trade agreements are created equal. [Editor's note: An analysis I wrote with partners for a recent economic class found that the EU's central bank was the source of many problems for Germany's economy. Nevertheless, I agree with May's point about continuing to trade, while ensuring that trade is fair.]

10) Health


a) What is the relationship between health and the environment? What factors influence that relationship?


I have taught at the undergraduate and masters level at Dalhousie University in the subject of Health and the Environment, as the first Chairholder of the Chair in my name at Dalhousie. This is (I apologize) a very long answer for which I only have room for a brief reply. [Ed's note: I don't know what a long answer with only room for a brief reply means, either. My guess is that May meant it's a complex issue that she couldn't answer fully, given time constraints.]

The relationship between human health and the environment is an intimate one. The current epidemic levels in Canada of childhood asthma, childhood cancers, adult cancers, immunological deficiencies and neurological deficits (premature aging of adults in early dementia in adults and increased levels of ADD, retardation and autism in children) are all very likely impacts of our toxicified world.

In developing countries, over 55,000 children under 5 years old die every day from water pollution related illness.
[Ed's note: I told you she has a wealth of knowledge! How many of you knew that? I certainly didn't.]

b) What are the Green Party's priorities in the health portfolio? What can be legislated (that would be enforceable) to pursue these priorities?


The 2006 Green Party Platform was very strong on identifying the need for prevention of illness by removing dangerous chemicals from our environment. In my view, the platform needed work to ensure a clear Green commitment to protect the legacy of Tommy Douglas in maintaining a public universal health care system. We must push back against the creeping threat of privatization.


c) Specifically, describe your opinions on the environmental causes for disease, and cancer in particular?


Cancer rates continue to climb, even though for many forms of cancer treatment and early detection improve. As Dave Renauld of CAW in Oshawa puts it, "the war against cancer is the only war where we have never engaged the enemy, and the enemy is carcinogens."

And that's part 6 of our interview with Green Party leadership candidate Elizabeth May. Tomorrow: Health and miscellanea conclude our interview. Questions partly came from a contest we held. Previously, we published interview segments on leadership, the economy, and foreign affairs.

If you want to follow our coverage of the Green Party's leadership race, consider our free newsletter. It's sent out twice a month.
Here are some related articles:

Creative Taxing Can Save the Environment
The Tangled Bank Science Carnival
Foreign-Affairs-Media Criticism and Interview

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