Cameron Wigmore, Green Party Member: Green Party Leader Sets The Pace For Climate Change Debate

May 2, 2007

Green Party Leader Sets The Pace For Climate Change Debate

Elizabeth May was giving a sermon in church last Sunday and something she said was picked up by Stephen Harper and spun negatively to try to use it against her.

One thing that interests me is that the other political parties have realized that they are in a losing battle when it comes to criticizing Green Party policies (not only on climate change but also on economic stability & sustainability, social justice, etc) and now have turned to attacking the Leader of the Green Party of Canada, Elizabeth May.

I, as well as many other Greens, will continue to keep the focus on the solutions that the Green Party represents. It's up to the other national parties to choose whether they want to offer Canadians some policies that will lead to a healthy country with a healthy economy & healthy people, or more disinformation, spin, rhetoric and personal attacks.

We know that Canadians want solutions, not more finger pointing and childish back-and-forth attacks. While the Green Party offers common sense solutions in its policies and continues to rise in the polls, the other parties continue to sit at the same level of support or go lower.

May gets backing from Brits

Bruce Cheadle, Canadian Press - Published: Wednesday, May 02, 2007

OTTAWA (CP) - Elizabeth May was sharply criticized Tuesday, ...but the unapologetic Green party leader got some unexpected support from British royalty.

While Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Liberal Leader Stephane Dion and New Democrat Jack Layton all took turns denouncing the analogy, Prince Charles was making much the same point as May in a speech in London.

"I do not want my children and grandchildren, or anyone for that matter, saying to me, 'Why didn't you do something when it was possible to make a difference and when you knew what was happening?" the prince told a business conference Tuesday at St. James Palace.

"We can do it, just think what they did in the last war. Things that seemed impossible were achieved almost overnight."

In an interview Tuesday, May said the tempest over her weekend remarks to a church group were being both misrepresented and overblown.

May explained that the controversial quote attributed to her in news reports was actually her repeating the comments of a British journalist and environmental writer, George Monbiot.

Monbiot had told a conference on Saturday that there is a "new axis of evil" on climate change, naming U.S. President George Bush, Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Harper as the offending trio.

According to May, who says she took notes, Monbiot called the three "more culpable in the eyes of history than (former British prime minister) Neville Chamberlain's attempt to appease the Nazis."

May says she repeated Monbiot's opinion on Sunday when she spoke to a church group in London, Ont., at the invitation of the local Liberal MP who had defeated her there in a fall federal byelection.

The point, May said Tuesday, is that Monbiot was comparing the moral failure of meeting the targets of the Kyoto protocol on greenhouse gas emissions with Chamberlain's failure to appreciate the dangers of Nazi Germany.

"We run the risk of losing civilization," said May.


Curiously, Britain's foreign secrectary, Margaret Beckett, also used the Second World War analogy in a speech last week.

Beckett described climate change as a matter of "climate security" and recalled the pre-war actions of Chamberlain's political opponent and eventual successor, Winston Churchill.

"It was a time when Churchill, perceiving the dangers that lay ahead, struggled to mobilize the political will and industrial energy of the British Empire to meet those dangers," said Beckett. "He did so often in the face of strong opposition and not always with success."

Green Party Leader dismayed that comments were distorted

Statement by Elizabeth May, Leader, Green Party of Canada.

“I am dismayed that members of the Harper government have chosen to distort my comments to create a firestorm of controversy designed to distract attention from their failure to live up to Canada's Kyoto commitments.

"I can assure the Canadian Jewish Congress and all Canadians that I did not compare Nazi Germany and the Holocaust to any current issue. The evil of the Nazi regime is without parallel and stands alone for its deliberate, systematic and inhuman genocide.

“George Monbiot, best-selling author of HEAT and respected journalist at The Guardian, echoed the views of many people around the world when he expressed his deep distress at Canada's abdication of responsibility in the current climate crisis. As a failure of leadership and moral courage, he compared it to the appeasement efforts of Neville Chamberlain.

“I made reference to Mr. Monbiot’s statement to highlight the damage being done to Canada’s international reputation, something that should concern all Canadians.

“I deeply regret that the inflamed rhetoric around this issue has caused pain or offence.”

I would rarely if ever compare anything to controversial subjects for fear that it would make light of those events and distract from my point. Unfortunately, the inflamed rhetoric put forth by Harper distracted from May's point, and that hostile political opponent spun her words in a way to make it seem that she might have been making light of WW2, when in fact it is Harper who is making light of Climate Change.

Update: - Selective Memory - Let he who has not made a Neville Chamberlain reference cast the first stone

Aaron Wherry, | May 2, 2007 | 9:11 am EST
Scrumming with reporters after Tuesday's Question Period, NDP leader Jack Layton was asked for his take on Elizabeth May's questionable use of a Neville Chamberlain reference to describe the Conservative government's stance on the environment. Layton did not mince words.

"Well, we certainly would have never made any such comparison," he said. "I think it's very unfortunate and certainly not something that we consider to be wise or appropriate."

Pity Layton. His memory obviously fails him.

Now, I'm not generally in the business of doing the Green Party's homework, but a quick review of Hansard finds more than a few Chamberlain references on the record. In fact, here's Layton questioning then-prime minister Paul Martin about the Liberal government's failure to meet Kyoto targets:

"Mr. Speaker, enough is enough. We have been hearing those kinds of comments from the Prime Minister for 16 years since he began promising to clean up the air for Canadians and instead we have worse pollution than ever. He makes Neville Chamberlain look like a stalwart in standing up to a crisis. Smog is sending people to emergency wards at unprecedented levels. The prairies are drying up. We have forest fires like we have never had before. All we get are promises of plans to be brought forward some day. Will he bring forward a plan, yes or no?"

After QP, Liberal leader Stéphane Dion added his voice to those calling for May to withdraw the comments. One assumes he said the same thing to Liberal MP Robert Thibault, who, just a little more than a month ago, mustered this during a budget debate:

"I listened to the Minister of Finance when he was reading his budget speech. He said that the long days of bickering between the federal and provincial governments were over. I have not heard a quote like that since I read about Neville Chamberlain talking about peace in our times right before the second world war."

And before the Conservatives get cocky, let's remember this year-old gem from Peter MacKay, during a debate over extending the Canadian mission in Afghanistan:

"I do not expect members of the NDP to understand this. I fully expect that the Neville Chamberlains of the 21st century in the NDP do not want to be part of an effort that is aimed at elevating the lives of the people of Afghanistan. It is unfortunate that they would take this off track and try to debase the real activity, the important quality of life changes that are taking place because of our forces being in Afghanistan."

MacKay was at least speaking in reference to a military operation. But then, if a reference to Neville Chamberlain is always "inappropriate," a multi-partisan apology seems in order.


JimBobby said...

Whooee! Good boogin', CamFeller. I reckon there's a whole buncha paleo-partisans pouncin' on Lizzie May every dang chance they get. Polyticks as usual.

I figger our gal Liz is gonna come out on top o' this one. Them crybaby ConMen is already lookin' like whiners who love dishin' it out but ain't never apologized fer squat -- an' they had stuff they oughta 'pologize fer.

Pore ol' Jack Laydown ain't lookin' so happy-smiley these days. That's a good catch on the "We'd never..." Ha!!


Cameron W said...

Other recent stories on this subject:


Harper 'fanning flames' of controversy, says May - CBC

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May fired back at Prime Minister Stephen Harper Wednesday, accusing him of fanning the flames of controversy to distract people from criticism of his environmental plan.

May has been in the headlines for comments she made on the weekend that compared the government's approach to climate change to former British prime minister Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of the Nazis.

Speaking on CBC Newsworld, May said the comparison was not her own, but came from British journalist and author George Monbiot.

May said she included it in her address in order to illustrate international opinion of Canada.

"In citing that, what I was saying was, 'Look how far Canada's reputation has fallen, look at how the world is now looking at us for violating our international commitments on Kyoto,'" she said.

"I thought that was worth Canadians knowing."

PM desperate to distract: May
Harper raised the issue during question period on Tuesday, saying May's remarks drew criticism from the Canadian Jewish Congress.

He also invited Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion, who recently reached a deal with May not to run candidates against each other in their respective ridings, to distance himself from the Green leader.

May said Harper and Environment Minister John Baird are "fanning this into something I didn't say."

"I never drew any comparisons or diminished the Holocaust in any way. I would never do such a thing," said May.

"It's a desperate effort to distract attention from [Ottawa's] own abdication of responsibility in choosing not to even try to reach Kyoto targets."

May said Dion likely didn't know what she actually said in her weekend address at the London, Ont., church when he called on her to withdraw the comment.

May stands by comment
May blamed the London Free Press, which covered her address, for what she said was a failure to mention that she noted she was quoting Monbiot.

In its April 30 report, the newspaper wrote: "Borrowing a quote she said was made by a foreign dignitary about Prime Minister Stephen Harper, May said his stance on climate change 'represents a grievance worse than Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of the Nazis.'"

May said she stands by the "appropriateness of quoting George Monbiot."

"I do not think what I said in any way is inflammatory," said May. "I think it was the misreporting that led some to dive for cover."

Prince Charles and British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett recently likened the need to fight climate change to Britain's efforts during the Second World War, said May.

"This is the central issue of our time, whether we are able to take up our responsibility … to protect future generations," she said.

The Anonymous Green said...


I too received the "talking points" memo from John Chenery earlier today. What was rather apparent to me is that there was no direct apology to me or anyone else within the GP who may have been offended by these comments, in or out of context.

I am pleased to see some GP members are speaking out against this rhetoric at the GP site, finally. See here.

Some issues should go beyond partisan politics and spin. If the leader f***ed up, she should just admit it, and try to learn to control the unnecessary rhetoric, to avoid similar occurences in the future.

Cameron W said...

Toronto Star - Uncommonly Nasty Commons

May 03, 2007 04:30 AM
Susan Delacourt
Ottawa Bureau Chief

OTTAWA–It's happened twice this week in the Commons – Team Canada hockey captain Shane Doan and Green Leader Elizabeth May have been turned into targets over remarks they say they didn't make.

And they're just the latest casualties in a campaign of vilification that's running rampant in the Commons right now: Government critics are accused of being against Canadian troops or supporters of the Taliban, Doan is accused of being anti-French, and May of being dismissive of the Holocaust.

Veteran White House reporter Helen Thomas, a journalistic thorn in the side of President George W. Bush, is in Ottawa today to mark Press Freedom Day, and she'll be warning Canadians to resist getting dragged down to this level of political debate.

"It's déjà vu all over again," Thomas said of the Conservatives' attacks on their critics, explaining that it's a standard Bush technique to question the patriotism or values of his detractors. "I wouldn't think that would happen in Canada," she said in an interview yesterday.

Thomas, 86, a columnist for the Hearst newspaper syndicate, said she is also going to urge the Canadian media today to keep asking pointed questions of Harper, who has been entering and exiting the Commons through a back door for more than a week now, avoiding cameras and reporters.

During Commons question period, the Tories have answered questions with increasingly ferocious attacks on Liberals and their allies, such as May.


May has been castigated for two days by Harper and the Tories for remarks she made last weekend, linking climate-change inaction to appeasement strategies toward Germany before World War II. She was quoting from British environmentalist author George Monbiot, who told a Toronto green-living conference last weekend that Harper, Bush and Australian Prime Minister John Howard represented the "axis of evil of climate change."

May had a sinking feeling on Tuesday that it was already too late to make clear she hadn't compared Conservatives to Nazis or minimized the Holocaust, as the Canadian Jewish Congress was asserting. May said she was reminded of the old quote: "A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes."


The Commons doesn't seem to have a mechanism to correct mistruths or exaggerations. Utterances in the chamber are not subject to libel or slander laws because MPs are supposed to be free to speak there. An MP can make a "point of privilege" to complain he's been wronged, but non-MPs May and Doan have no recourse.

What's most worrying is that it doesn't seem to matter whether allegations are true anymore when they're made in the Commons – and that most of the time, it's the government, not the opposition as one might expect, on constant attack mode.

In recent months, Harper has twice levelled accusations about dark Liberal motives, based on flimsy or twisted information. He accused former Liberal cabinet minister Lucienne Robillard and MP Marlene Jennings of appointing their husbands to the Immigration and Refugee Board. Both men – in Robillard's case, an ex-husband – were on the IRB before the women entered federal politics.


Halton Liberal MP Garth Turner, a former Conservative, just laughed yesterday in the Commons when the Tories answered a question about high gas prices with talk about a Liberal "conspiracy." Turner's own question about income trusts was turned into an attack on his floor-crossing.

"I don't remember this kind of dysfunctional question period, ever," said Turner, who served in the Brian Mulroney government in the 1980s and as a cabinet minister under Kim Campbell briefly in the 1990s.

"It's a very, very partisan, very political government," Turner said. "They're a little down in the polls right now, they're extremely defensive, they're fighting back tooth and nail."

Thomas said she is sorry that political debate in Canada contains echoes of the Bush White House. "When they suck up to American presidents, they're in trouble. I like them better when they defy us," she said.

Cameron W said...

May attack is politically orchestrated - Hamilton Spectator

By Anton Volcansek, Stoney Creek
The Hamilton Spectator
(May 5, 2007)

Re: Elizabeth May

To charge that Green Party leader Elizabeth May is equating the Conservatives with the Nazis is an outrageous twisting of her words and her intent. The grandstanding moral indignation of the government and Opposition smacks of political gamesmanship. It's time our elected members stopped playing games and got on with the business of governing.

May said nothing wrong. She did not claim that Neville Chamberlain was a Nazi. I don't think there's any historian out there who claims he was. He was misguided and tragically mistaken in thinking that appeasing the Nazis was in Great Britain's best interests.

Like Chamberlain, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is misguided and tragically mistaken if he thinks climate change is not to be taken seriously. He also doesn't seem to take Canada's involvement in torture seriously, but that is another matter.

In referencing writer George Monbiot's speech at the Green Living Show in Toronto, May mentioned Harper's "culpability" in not doing enough to combat climate change. Monbiot should be taken to task if anyone wants to challenge his view that world leaders who drag their feet on climate change will, in the eyes of history, prove more culpable than Chamberlain in his attempt to appease the Nazis.

The brouhaha and calling for May's head in Parliament by the various party leaders is a politically orchestrated overreaction to what she said. The sitting parties, threatened by the Green Party's ever-growing popularity, are attacking May's character, because they can't touch her where it counts -- on the key issues of the environment, health and the economy.

If anything, this attention is one more acknowledgement by the sitting parties of the Green Party's legitimacy and one more reason to include May in any future party leader debates.

Brian C. said...

Cameron, I think most people get what May stated. Yes, we realize that she did not directly compare anyone to a Nazi. However, her statement was the ultimate in preachy. From her pulpit, she stated that taking a moderate approach on global warming is the equivalent of comprising with Nazis. That comes across as needlessly arrogant to me and she even invoked Jesus in her talk.

I don't believe that guilting Canadians is the correct approach and, as such, saying that May said nothing wrong doesn't seem good enough. She needs to generate her message in a more positive manner, if she has that ability.

Cameron W said...

Comments on Green leader were completely misleading - Letter to the Editor - The Barrie Examiner

(Re: "Keep global warming debate focused on issues" in the May 8 edition of the Examiner)

My grandfather survived 11 years in Nazi concentration camps, so I am no fan of casual references to the Holocaust. Therefore, I am very disappointed that your paper has fallen into the cycle of misrepresentation of Green Party leader Elizabeth May's remarks in London last week.

Ms. May did not even mention the Holocaust. Rather, she reported on the black mark on Canada's international reputation which has been made by our government blatantly turning its back on our Kyoto commitments.She quoted George Monbiot, noted British journalist and author, who in his speech at the recent Toronto Green Living Show, compared Harper's refusal to address global warming with Chamberlain's appeasement policy toward Nazi Germany, and singled out Canada as one of the three worst offenders. The world is taking note of our negligence; we need to know what is being said about us, not pretend we still wear a shining halo.


This has nothing to do with the Holocaust. In fact, Prince Charles recently made exactly the same analogy - that the struggle to transform our economy to sustainability will be as great as the struggle to win the Second World War. So is our future Sovereign offensive, or lacking decency? Certainly not. He, like May and the Green Party, recognizes the seriousness of our situation and the cost of inaction.

Mr. Harper has deliberately distorted this to smear the opposition and draw attention away from the failings of his own government on the environment and Afghanistan files. He has gone so far as to attack Ms. May in the Commons, where she is unable to defend herself. All the more reason for her to win a seat in the House, so such unfair mudslinging can no longer go unanswered.

Erich Jacoby-Hawkins

Green Party of Canada