"It’s arguable that we now live in a dictatorship, punctuated by manipulated elections," says Elizabeth May.

"It’s arguable that we now live in a dictatorship, punctuated by manipulated elections," says Elizabeth May, leader of the Federal Green Party. May will discuss what can be done to prevent a slide into “elected dictatorships” during her March 24 lecture titled "The Crisis in Democracy"
"It’s arguable that we now live in a dictatorship, punctuated by manipulated elections," says Elizabeth May, leader of the Federal Green Party. / Photo courtesy of the Federal Green Party
“it’s arguable that we now live in a dictatorship, punctuated by manipulated elections,” says Elizabeth May, leader of the Federal Green Party. / Photo courtesy of the Federal Green Party

Federal Green Party Leader Elizabeth May will deliver the annual Mallory Lecture, “The Crisis in Democracy” at McGill Institute for the Study of Canada on March 24.

Elected as Canada’s first Green Party MP in 2011, May was chosen by a vote of all MPs as 2012 Parliamentarian of the Year and by Hill Times as 2013 Hardest Working MP. As youth participation plummets and a troubling cynicism towards democracy mounts, May will discuss what can be done to prevent a slide into “elected dictatorships.”

May comes to McGill as a Mallory Lecturer, created in honour of Jim Mallory, a former professor of political science and one of the founders of Canadian Studies at McGill. Previous speakers have included, among others, Graham Fraser, Bob Rae, Alain Dubuc, Phyllis Lambert, Tom Kent, Chantal Hébert and John Gomery.

The 2014 Mallory Lecture will be held on March 24 at 5 p.m. at the Faculty Club (3450 McTavish). It is free but space is limited. RVSP here.

By Elisabeth Faure

In the past, you have supported the “Women in House” programme here at McGill, which sends young female students to Parliament, where they are paired with female MPs and shadow them for a day. What advice do you give to young people who tell you they want a career in politics?

It is so rare to hear young people tell me they want a career in politics, that my first impulse is not to give them advice, but to give them a hug and a huge cheer! If they ask for advice, it would be this: Start volunteering. Pick any political party (preferably Green in colour, but any that fit your values) and offer to help out. Between elections, you can help in a party HQ, or in an MP’s office. As an election campaign nears, offer to canvass, answer phones, whatever! Offer to be a candidate. Offer to help with policy. Don’t wait. Jump in!

Your party, the federal Green Party, holds only two seats in the House of Commons, and, until recently, you were its sole MP. What are some of the unique challenges involved with running such a small caucus?

Fortunately, as leader of the Green Party of Canada, I am not allowed to run anything. The party is firmly rooted in respect for grassroots democracy, so I honestly don’t run anything other than my own life (and even there I feel as though my electronic calendar is not in my control and has become a tool of the Devil.) What I do try to do is exemplify the change we want to see in the world by modeling ethical behaviour, hard work and an unswerving commitment to a dramatic re-ordering of our priorities as a country.

We recently held a major conference here at the MISC on the subject of “Petrocultures.”How would you develop Canada’s oil resources if you were Prime Minister?

This question has the same answer as how to make love to a porcupine – “slowly and carefully.”

A Green administration would return to the pre-Ralph Klein plans of the late Peter Lougheed. We would take the money off the table by creating a sovereign wealth fund, as Norway has done, ensuring that government does not live off oil rent. We would ensure the best and most modern regulations of air quality, water quality and carbon reduction. Along with that, would be a framework of a national strategy to meet targets for greenhouse gas reductions.

This would all take place in the context of a national energy policy in which energy security and value-added production (i.e. not raw bitumen exports) were priorities. As this question refers to all oil resources within Canada, a Green administration would ensure the most productive and biologically sensitive marine zones were off limits to oil and gas, including the Gulf of St. Lawrence, much of the Arctic and coastal British Columbia.

Your lecture is titled, “The Crisis in Democracy.” Do you truly think our democracy has reached a state of “crisis”? If so, what must be done?

Oh yes. We are in crisis. In fact, it’s arguable that we now live in a dictatorship, punctuated by manipulated elections.

The symptoms of the problem are easy to spot – low voter turn-out, with worryingly low levels among young people with no sign they will start voting once they are over 30, a less than vital Fourth Estate, undermined by an alarming level of concentration of media ownership in very few hands, public apathy, indifference bordering on antipathy toward the whole process, excessive power in the hands of the few (or the one, since I refer to PMO), a loss of respect for the fundamental principle of the supremacy of Parliament, misuse of the talents of Members of Parliament of the large parties as MPs are expected to toe the party line on every issue, big and small, and its flip-side, excessive control by the unelected top party brass in all three main parties.

What must be done? Pass Michael Chong’s Reform Act C-559, curbing powers of leaders to run roughshod over their caucuses. (See above re Greens, our by-laws already restricts leader’s powers). Get rid of the First-Past-the-Post voting system and move to Proportional Representation. Cut PMO down to size (start by cutting the budget in half, but ideally cut it to zero.) And the rest of the prescription for a healthy democracy will have to wait for my lecture!


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Cynthia Morrison
10 years ago


Matthew Foley
10 years ago

I wish I could attend! I’d love to get into politics, but alas, I have a family to raise & can’t afford time to volunteer :s

gene fritsch
10 years ago

How has this changed any? its always been this way in canadian politics. you don’t want to vote on party lines? fine, as leader of the party i won’t sign your nomination papers next election.
As long as I can remember, the party in power has never voted itself out of power despite proposing and passing some vile legislation.
Throw out FPP voting, then the money in politics and then we might see MPS who are actually working for Canadian citizens.

Randy Millage
10 years ago

Save Canada. Defeat Harper.

Steve Wilkinson
10 years ago

I believe the PMO has too much power, and Stephen Harper does abuse it on a regular basis.
I would also say bills should be restricted to one subject and one subject only. The budget is just that, and not an omnibus bill, that includes non-related bills into one nice package. The “Budget” passes with little or no debate, as well as all the bills that were neatly stuffed into the budget.
How about all Canadian politicians become transparent and honest. After all politicians work for us … maybe it is time we remind them of that.

Joan Stewart
10 years ago

We are now being ‘ruled’ by a fascist government. And the frightening part is that there will be no proportional voting in time for the next election, if ever. And conservatives are laughing, knowing that there will be another split of votes which will allow them to carry on for at least another term.
Not seeing any way out of this. Very discouraging for active voters.

Janet Hudgins
10 years ago

Elizabeth is a great MP and we have to get her some help. She’s moving mountains on her own while Harper does his best to thwart everything she needs to do.
Dictatorship? You bet. He’s dictating to everyone in the House, the Senate and you and I. He makes it clear that he has no responsibility to voters, not even the basic courtesy to answer a question. Dirty politics at its worst.

Peter stock
10 years ago

Stephen Harper is a dictator and will be shown the door in 2015.
Stephen Harper is also the worst prime minister in Canada’s history and has manipulated our election system for his own gain ,,,,,,,,ahead of the country’s and that borders on treason.
This is the man that brought the G 8 to toronto……

Ron McKinnon
10 years ago

I`m a staunch Liberal, I`m afraid, but notwithstanding that, we do share values with the Green party, and I salute Ms May and the work that she does. I appreciate that she`s out there working for Canada. I would like to interject a point here, about the voting system we use: I fully share the view that FPTP has to go, but I can`t get behind PR, for a number of reasons. But those aren`t the only choices. I have done a fair bit of work to propose another alternative that is hands-down better than FPTP, as I think most… Read more »

Adam Ray
10 years ago

May is a joke . She preaches democracy yet here in her own riding she won’t spend the time to meet with her constituents . Her office won’t even reply to requests for meetings . Some voice of democracy.

Craig Miller
10 years ago

Elizabeth May might not appeal to all but the overall point she has to make about protecting our environment and democratic rights in this country is one we should all stand behind. If we take on the next election in 2015 with a negative outlook we are going to end up right back where we began with the conservatives playing ball hog with our laws and tax dollars to continue the creation of this elected nazi style regime. However, even if we do lose yet again there is always the alternative of mass public revolt removing the government and replacing… Read more »

10 years ago

I agree whole heartedly with Elizabeth may on this statement. This country is in very serious trouble and our complacent citizens are jot aware of this perilous situation. uI HAVE SEEN THE ENEMY AND IT IS US BECAUSE WE ARE ASLEEP AT THE SWITCH. OH CANADA !!! WAKE UP!!

Les Horswill
10 years ago

Historically, constitutionally, culturally, and terminologically, her characterization of our national governance is farfetched and, more importantly, unreasonable — whether we like or loathe Stephen Harper. Indeed, she’d have been more credible if she’d got personal about the behavior of Stephen Harper, rather than deprecated our representative democracy.
May would like to convince Canadians to support proportional representation; others favor preferential ballots, formal recall procedures, or the status quo. I’d like an elected Senate. All of us want to reform our political system. However, we’re not — even in our dreams — freedom fighters opposing a “dictatorship.”

9 years ago

People are only going to realize this when people start going missing. Oh wait, THAT’S ALREADY HAPPENING.