Candidate acknowledges massive shift needed, says infrastructure remains important
BY JOHN CHICK
Special to the VOICE
Terry Teather and the Green Party aren’t just combating climate change, they’re fighting what they say has become a toxic political environment in federal politics.
“[We used to have] cross-party conversation,” Teather, the Greens’ Niagara West candidate in the October 21 election, told the Voice last week. “Devising policy and making sure they came up with the right answer through conversation, communication, and cooperation. We don’t have any of that now.”
As such, Teather notes that Green Party leader Elizabeth May began her political career as an advisor to Tom McMillan, the environment minister in the Progressive Conservative cabinet of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in the 1980s.
“They had a pretty good environmental plan and Elizabeth had a lot to do with that,” Teather said.
Some three decades later, he says, political polarization is hampering meaningful movement on climate change. The Greens’ primary focus has always been on the environment, a concern that seems to intensify with every driving rainstorm, drought or Atlantic hurricane.
“We’ve been ringing the bell on climate for the last two decades,” Teather said. “We look at policy through an environmental lens. And we think right now, this is the biggest issue. We are a scientific, evidence-based party.”
That appeals to the 67-year-old former high school teacher. The Niagara native taught in British Columbia for 33 years — running for the Greens in the Metro Vancouver riding of New Westminster in the 2013 provincial election —before retiring and moving back to Jordan Station.
While he knows he’s in tough here against incumbent Dean Allison in a deeply Conservative riding, he said it’s a battle worth fighting.
“My wife asked me when I got into this, she said, ‘You do know that is a pretty blue riding?’ “But that doesn’t stop the conversation from happening. Dean’s a good guy, but I can’t help he’s running for the wrong party.”
Teather says that as the climate continues to threaten future generations, more of them will identify with Green politics.
“I think there’s a movement particularly among young people,” he said. “That’s really what differentiates the Greens’ policy from all he others. The other parties’ climate plans … they don’t have a multi-pronged approach that we do.”
On the Liberals, he said, “You can’t have a climate plan and have and buy a pipeline at the same time.” On the NDP, he asserted that their climate platform, “doesn’t go far enough … it’s only to reduce emissions by 30 percent by 2030. Ours is 60 percent in 10 years.”
The proverbial elephant in the room the Greens are referring to is weaning the world off fossil fuels as soon as possible — meaning whatever oil is left in the ground should stay there. Teather argues that while it constitutes a massive societal shift, it’s doable without sinking the economy.
“There are potentially a huge number of green jobs, waiting,” he said, adding that the estimated $3.3 billion in annual Canadian government subsidies to oil and gas companies can be redirected toward clean energy.
“We value the skills that [oil sector workers] offer, and we need those skills in pipefitting, welding … and converting oil wells to geothermal, in a green economy.”
Two years ago, climate experts said a certain degree of global warming was “baked in” and irreversible. With that mind, Teather was asked how much of the Greens’ platform is mitigating the inevitable. Niagara has seen its share of flooding over the last decade, and he said the infrastructure must catch up.
“I think that has to be part of the program, especially in terms of supporting farms,” he said. “It’s going to become more and more intense. We’ve got to make sure there’s money in the coffers … little towns like Jordan Station, we haven’t had [water] systems upgraded in 50 years.”
Teather says the alternative is worse.
“I understand people don’t want to pay more taxes. People say ‘I don’t want a carbon tax,’ but my response is, wait until you get your insurance bill. You’re going to be fortunate to even get flood insurance in the future.”
On the matter of western nations being held to a supposed higher environmental standard than other massive polluters, such as China and Russia, Teather says we should be setting an example.
“This a time I think, where Canada can reassume a role of fighting above its weight on the world stage,” he said. “We need to be able to show other countries we have plan, and say, you can have a plan … it’s solvable. There’s going to be hardship, but there’s going to be worse hardship if we don’t do something.”