Canada's buoyant Greens say they don't favor oil sands shutdown

Fri Aug 7, 2015 4:56pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The leader of Canada's small Green Party, which has a long-shot chance of holding the balance of power after the country's Oct. 19 election, said on Friday she does not favor shutting down the Alberta oil sands, a favorite target of environmentalists.

Elizabeth May, fresh from a praised performance in the opening election debate on Thursday, said her party instead wants the energy industry to upgrade bitumen from the sands at home rather than shipping it raw to be refined abroad.

"We need to be smart about this and none of the smart answers say you must shut down the oil sands today," she said in a phone interview.

Polls show the center-right Conservatives could lose their majority in the House of Commons in the election, possibly allowing the opposition New Democrats and Liberals to work out a deal to take power.

The Greens, with just two legislators, have normally won less than 10 percent of the vote. But they have strong support in parts of British Columbia and if they gain enough seats could play kingmaker.

May said she could "almost see no circumstances" under which she would support a government led by Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who opponents say has weakened environmental regulations.

She said any party hoping for Green support would have to agree to strengthen regulation and commit to a proportional representation system of voting. Canada's current first-past-the-post system makes it hard for small parties to win seats.

"We're very pragmatic as Greens ... we are not zealots. We are serious about government," May said.   Continued...

Canada's Green Party leader Elizabeth May speaks during the Maclean's National Leaders debate in Toronto, August 6, 2015. Canadians go to the polls in a national election on October 19, 2015. REUTERS/Mark Blinch