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Live chat: Byron Williston, Green Party candidate, Kitchener-Centre

Byron is an Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Wilfrid Laurier University. He grew up in Vancouver and Whistler and has been an ardent lover of nature, especially alpine mountain spaces, from an early age. He'll be answering your questions in a live chat, Tuesday April 12, from noon to 1 p.m.

  • Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to our latest online chat leading up to the vote on May 2nd. Today's guest is Kitchener-Centre Green Party candidate, Byron Williston. Thanks for sharing some time with us, Byron. Are you ready to answer some questions?
  • Hello Mike. I'm very happy to be here and I want to thank you for the opportunity to engage with the voters of Kitchener-Centre in this great high-tech format. So let's get the questions rolling!
  • Is this the election that finally sees a 5th Federal Party represented in Parliament? And what could/should a few Green MP's do to affect change in government?
  • Thanks for the question Bill. I think that Canada is overdue for such representation in the House, and I do believe this is the year we will see a Green MP representing unique views in the national debate. As regards changes in government, the very first thing a Green MP would do is try to eliminate the atmosphere of toxic partisanship dominating Ottawa, both in the work of committees and in Question Period. Often it is assumed that MPs behave like a bunch of schoolyard bullies in the House because of a lack of discipline. I think it's just the opposite. MPs are in fact instructed by their party leaders to obstruct and heckle. They can choose not to behave this way. We would do everything in our power to restore a sense of civility to Question Period. Once that is accomplished, we can move on to tough policy questions.
  • Why should a voter consider the Green Party when they head to the polls on May 2nd?
  • There are at least two good reasons. First, the watchword of the Green Party| is to live within our means, meaning that we should live in as waste-free a way as possible. One aspect of this is that we should live within our financial means. Although the Conservatives like to portray themselves as smart and responsible economic managers, nothing could be further from the truth. They have racked up a $56 billion deficit, they have run a deficit in 91% of their time in federal office, the top 5 deficits in Canadian history were recorded by Conservative governments, and so on. Furthermore, it is not the case that this financial black hole is the product of stimulus spending. Some is, but we were in a structural deficit before the recession hit, due to Tory policies. The Conservatives are, in fact, just the sort of big spending government they like to accuse the other parties of being. The Green Party will eliminate the deficit in 3-4 years. It's in our plan and it is fully costed. We are the party that is most fiscally responsible.
    Second, 35% of Canadians think of environmental issues as among the most imporant problems we face. All the other parties engage in hand waving about these issues. They make big promises, which are promptly placed on the back burner when they get to Ottawa. We will never renege on the responsibility to protect the environmental rights and interests of future generations. This issue is in our DNA. Green MPs will hold the other parties to account on this crucial issue.
  • Byron, The Green Party, specifically Elizabeth May seems to be spending all her time bemoaning not being able to appear on the debate. In fact, I hear very little of her actually speaking about the Green platform and the issues. Don't you think this is a questionable strategy?
  • Hi Thomas, and thanks for your question. First, excluding Elizabeth May from the federal debates IS a big story. It is a fundamentally unfair and undemocratic decision and the other party leaders are hiding behind the "consortium" on this issue. If they wanted to change things, they could, so I hold them responsible for the decision. Second, it is not the case this all Elizabeth is talking about. It may be what the media focuses on, but all you need to do is come to a Green rally to hear her views on a whole variety of issues: jobs, our status in NAFTA, strong and stable federal support for eco-smart municipal growth, F-35s, our health care crisis, and much more. I was at a rally on the weekend, and these are the things she spoke about. She did not mention the debate issue even once.
  • Nice to hear some Green Party discussion this afternoon since we won't be able to get Elizabeth May's perspective in the televised debate tonight. Great questions so far. Keep them coming! Next up is a question from Mike.
  • What will the Green Party do for Kitchener Centre that the Conservatives and Liberals have not federally?
  • Great question Mike. We could provide an economic renaissance for this area and for Kitchener-Centre in particular. The Green Party wants to provide a transition to the low carbon economy of the future. The way to do this is to shift the billions of dollars provided in subsidies to the tar sands, and shift it to R & D on green energy technology. Just think of the potential here! We've got all the creative capital in Waterloo (the universities, etc.) and the manufacturing capital here in Kitchener CVentre. We could be an internationally recognized hub of the new Green economy. The ideas and their implementation would happen right here. This is the way to bring back loads of manufacturing jobs to this riding. I don't hear any of the other parties saying anything as hopeful or as concrete as this about a federal-municiapl partnership that would significantly re-invigorate our economy.
  • Even if the Green Party makes it with one MP elected, how will that MP, or even two Green MPs, be an effective voice in the House of Commons when the party has such a small presence?
  • Hi Doug, thanks for this. Recently in Australia, just one Green MP was responsible for a significant shift in federal policy. And Green MPs just had a major political breakthrough in In the most conservative state in Germany. Green policies are spreading because they work, and the more people see this the more MPs will get elected.
  • To me the Greens are a one platform party, what will you do for the economy and health care?
  • Thanks Rex. There is certainly an impression out there that the Green Party is a one-trick pony, but nothing could be further from the truth. On health care, for example, we are committed to using the full force of the Canada Health Act to oppose any steps that open the way to a two-tier system. And we want to get tough on reducing the qunatity and variey of toxic substances in our water and food systems. We want to increase the number of hospital beds and begin training more doctors and nurses immediately. There's lots more of course, so please see our Vision Green document (on line, anytime) and have a look for yourself. By the way, we're the only party that keeps its full platform online 365 days of year for anyone to look at. We beleive you should be able to hold us accountable for our views all the time!
  • What are some immediate changes the Green Party could make to improve the environment?
  • Hello Janice. The very first thing we would do is tackle the climate crisis. Canada has a huge black eye on this issue and it's time to restore our good international reputation. We can do this by cooperating with countries that are taking the problem seriously rather than trying to obstruct forward-thinking international dialogue (the Tory approach). We also want to see tough federal action on genetically engineered oragnisms. This can start by introducing mandatory labelling of products that contain GE organisms, a move 80% of Canadains are in favour of but which the current government has resisted.
  • Byron, you mentioned earlier that the Green Party would eliminate the deficit in 3-4 years. How would the party accomplish that?
  • We would fund this with a tax shift, aimed in the first place at putting a price on carbon emissions. We believe that the price of things should be an accurate reflection of the costs of producing those things. This is called full cost pricing. Currently, oil and gas are priced in a way that does not reflect their true cost in terms of health and environmental damage. They are too cheap, contrary to popular wisdom. More generally, we think that we should be taxing things we don't want and not taxing things we do want. So the tax on carbon would be accompanied by reductions in income and payroll tax. In other words, the project is entirely revenue neutral. It is a tax shift, not a tax grab. Finally, the billions in subsidies going to oil and gas would be shifted to R &D on green energy options, plus implementation of those options. When these begin to gather steam in the economy they will be huge revenue generators.
  • You've got about 15 minutes left in our chat with Kitchener-Centre Green Party candidate Byron Williston today. Now is your chance to get those final questions in! Next up is a question from Bernie.
  • What is your reaction to some of the negative campaigning happening in Kitchener-Centre right now with regards to the use of social media? Is it fair for other candidates to draw attention to the Twitter slip-ups of another candidate?
  • Hi Bernie, thanks for this. The whole incident is rather unfortunate but probably inevitable given the unpredictable character of social media. Social media is a very powerful tool, but obviously needs to be used judiciously. Stephen Woodworth made an error of judgement but he did apologize for it so as far as I'm concerned the issue is settled.
  • Would you ever aspire to lead the Green Party?
  • Hi Mary. Well, right now I'm just focused on listening to the hopes, concerns and worries of the people of Kitchener-Centre. I want to represent this riding in Ottawa and I believe I have a genuine shot at doing just that. Elizabeth May is by far the most intelligent, tenacious and compassionate of all the federal leaders. We simply could not ask for a better leader.
  • There is certainly a perception out there that the Green Party might split the progressive vote. Yet when I look at the platform there seems to be policy on a wide range of issues that might appeal to all parties. Where do you see most Green Party support coming from?
  • Hi pm. I agree that this perception exists, but its a misperception. I think that much of our growing support is coming from people who have become disenchanted with the whole political system. 41% of eligible Canadians did not vote last time, and there is a reason for that. I think it's that people are genuinely disgusted by politics and I also think that this scenario is part of a conscious Tory strategy to "suppress" the vote. I'm urging people to translate their disgust not into apathy but into action at the ballot box. These are the people whose support we want most, not would-be Liberals or NDPs. Green is the party of the future and the future, friend, is now.
  • Byron, thanks again for sharing some time with us on this forum today. Unfortunately, we're fresh out of time. Any final thoughts before we say goodbye?
  • Thanks again for this opportunity Mike. Let me just emphasize how important it is for people simply to get out and vote. If everyone who can vote does vote we will be that much closer to having the democracy we want.
  • Thanks for joining us today, everyone. Be sure to stop by again tomorrow when Cathy MacLellan, Green Party candidate for Kitchener-Waterloo, joins our online chat at Noon.

    Til then...
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