Left to Right: Richard Zurawaski (Green candidate for Halifax West) Lil MacPherson (Dartmouth-Cole Habour), Green leader Elizabeth May, and Jo-Ann Roberts (Halifax). Photo: Jennifer Henderson

Green Party leader Elizabeth May, flanked by her candidates in HRM, unwrapped the costs of their election promises in Halifax yesterday. There are some substantial ones: an estimated $27 billion a year for universal Pharmacare, $18 billion a year to provide dental care for poor Canadians, and $1 billion more each year to support daycare and the Canada Child Benefit until that amount reaches 1% of GDP. Amazingly, that’s not expected to happen for 10 years. There’s of course money for green housing projects and money for municipalities that would flow from a one percentage point cut to the GST.

To pay for it all, picture Elizabeth May decked out in a green Robin Hood outfit (careful with costumes) wandering in Sherwood Forest. There are a number of changes that affect big corporations and wealthy Canadians that the Greens claim will pay for their spending plans and lead to a balanced budget five years after forming government.

“I’m often asked how are we going to pay for support for people and climate action but they never ask how the old-line parties will fund oil and gas subsidies or tax cuts for large corporations,” said the Green leader. “We can afford to redirect money from tax loopholes and corporate handouts to invest in the lives of people.”

The Green platform would no longer allow executives to write off entertainment expenses such as box seats. It promises to do away with offshore tax havens and end subsidies to oil and gas producers as well as some mining interests. It would close the loophole that allows capital gains to escape the taxman. Where the Greens get most creative to find billions for their programs is not going to win many votes on Bay Street.

The platform would impose a 1% tax on wealth over $20 million (not a problem for most of us). The Greens would hike the corporate income tax rate substantially — from 15 to 21% — while maintaining the small business rate at 9%. There will be a banking tax set at point-five or 0.5% on the value of every financial transaction. And, May said they have plans to introduce a tax on video-streaming services such as Facebook and Netflix, which currently pay no tax in Canada. They would impose a 10% tax on sugary drinks before the sales tax.

You can check this site where the Parliamentary Budget Office reviewed 24 cost commitments made in the Green Party platform and suggests with what degree of certainty or skepticism the party’s promises should be taken. Have fun.

The Green Party is the one most often perceived as going to the wall to make changes that will cut carbon emissions to reduce or at least slow down the pace of global warming. While the other federal political parties chew over how much carbon needs to be cut and what type of taxes and incentives will force companies and individuals to change their behaviour, Elizabeth May’s Green Party goes further.

“By 2030, the Canadian grid will be de-carbonized,” May declared, “from coast to coast to coast. Our ‘Mission Possible’ platform accelerates this shift to zero carbon emissions, which is doable by 2030.”

That Green Party promise comes into direct conflict with an agreement the Nova Scotia Liberal government has with the federal Liberal government to transition Nova Scotia off coal at a slower pace to avoid “rate shock” for consumers.

“By agreeing not to force the closure of all coal plants by 2030, it allows the flexibility to operate coal plants when we have to — for example, when the wind isn’t blowing or it’s very cold in the winter — on the condition that by the end of 2050, Nova Scotia has cut emissions by the same amount as if the plants had been closed in 2030,” said Murray Coolican, Nova Scotia’s deputy minister of Environment, in November 2016 after a deal was struck with the Trudeau government. “This equivalency agreement with Ottawa protects ratepayers from a significant price bump tied to using natural gas.”

During the previous 10 years, from 2005-2016, as renewable energy targets began weaning Nova Scotia Power off coal, ratepayers experienced a 63% increase in their power bills. The Trudeau government agreed to extend the life of  the coal-fired power plants in Cape Breton and Trenton until 2040 so they could run on an “as needed basis” to back up renewable sources of energy such as wind and imported hydro from Muskrat Falls (now scheduled to arrive by June, 2020) and possibly hydro from Quebec.

Imports should lower Nova Scotia’s dependence on fossil fuels from 64% to something closer to 40%. But that still makes May’s insistence on a zero carbon grid by 2030 a promise with potentially big consequences for Nova Scotians if the Greens were to form government.

So how would a Green federal government deal with Nova Scotia’s agreement to keep the coal plants open until 2040?

“Our plan is not optional,” said Green leader May firmly in response to that uncomfortable question. “We hope it is one that Greta will find acceptable.”

Greta Thunberg, unless you have been living under a rock, is the 16-year-old Swedish woman who has inspired young people all over the world to take to the streets to convince governments action on climate change can’t wait. (A demonstration planned for downtown Halifax tomorrow is likely to be the largest in provincial history.)

Canada’s Green Party has benefited from the attention young Greta has brought to its core value. And yesterday’s release of a costed platform where the Parliamentary Budget Office had a finger in the pie is an attempt to persuade Canadians that the Greens may be more than a one-trick pony.

A smiling white woman with short silver hair wearing dark rimmed glasses and a bright blue blazer.

Jennifer Henderson

Jennifer Henderson is a freelance journalist and retired CBC News reporter.

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

Only subscribers to the Halifax Examiner may comment on articles. We moderate all comments. Be respectful; whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims. Please read our Commenting Policy.
  1. “During the previous 10 years, from 2005-2016, as renewable energy targets began weaning Nova Scotia Power off coal, ratepayers experienced a 63% increase in their power bills. ”
    Unless this statement gets broken down between how much of the rate increase was due to coal price and how much was related to renewables this statement is meaningless. It sounds like something Darrel Dexter or Stephen McNell would say not a journalist.