Green Party leader Alex Tyrrell on free public transit, Anticosti Island and why Couillard bailed on the Outremont debate

alex tyrrell pvq

Alex Tyrrell is the new leader of the Quebec Green Party. He’s also a candidate in today’s provincial by-election in Outremont, running against Quebec Liberal leader Philippe Couillard. While Couillard had initially agreed to debate him, the PLQ boss has since backed out.

“The small parties have tougher questions to ask than the big parties do,” Tyrrell theorized about Couillard’s change of heart in a phone interview, “it would be a lot easier for him to debate Pauline Marois or Francois Legeault than the leader of the Green Party or candidates from Option Nationale or Quebec Solidaire.”

Tyrrell would have pressed Couillard on Anticosti Island and the fracking agreement former Liberal leader Jean Charest signed with the private sector, where residents only get 3% of the royalties (known in some circles as “the theft of the century”). While Premier Pauline Marois had campaigned against hydraulic fracturing for shale gas, she has done an about face since being elected simply by changing the wording. Apparently “oil shale” is okay for her, or fine enough that she would have no reason to attack Couillard on the issue.

Tyrrell also thinks public transit is extremely important. The Greens haven’t had their policy convention yet (Tyrrell was only elected leader a few months ago), but when they do, Tyrrell will be arguing (as he is in Outremont) for free public transit.

“Free transit is really an incentive that will be matched with a major expansion of the public transit networks across the province,” he said, “it’s also a social justice issue. We think it’s completely unfair that people have to pay $77 per month if they’re not a student for an STM pass and more if they come farther away. It’s counter-intuitive.”

Tyrrell thinks the incentive approach is much better than some heavy car tax. He feels that making public transit a province-wide priority and increasing funding to this shared provincial/municipal responsibility will achieve both social justice and environmental goals without penalizing workers who live far from public transit and need their cars.

“Even if some people live far from major cities,” he argues, “if we reduce the number of cars in the cities, it will reduce climate change.”

The riding he hopes to win tonight is not only a transit hub, it has been Liberal for quite some time. While Tyrrell admits that residents there have been represented by a fair share of cabinet ministers, it doesn’t mean the Liberals have been listening to what they want.

“For the longest time, they’ve been taken for granted by the Liberal Party,” he says of Outremont electors, “there’s a pattern of the Liberal candidates not showing up for debates and not being involved in the riding.”

Tyrrell would like to change that and has been going door-to-door in Outremont to get that message out, despite having to split his time between Outremont and leading the party. He’s found that people there are disappointed that, while the Greens and other smaller parties are running, the major parties (PQ and CAQ) are treating it like a foregone conclusion that Couillard will win.

“The feeling I’m getting,” he recounts, “is that the people are disappointed that the other parties aren’t running and that the by-election is being abused not only by the Liberals but by the other parties as well who are refusing to participate. I think they’re not very happy about being taken for granted.”

* polls in Outremont and Viau are open until 8pm tonight, Monday December 9th. Voting info is available at monvote.qc.ca

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