Unlike some other celebrity expatriates, Neil Young isn't publicly endorsing a candidate in the upcoming federal election.
At a news conference in Rogers Arena with David Suzuki earlier today, the rock star and environmentalist said that he's become so "disillusioned" with Canada's political system that even if he could fill out a ballot, he wouldn’t vote.
The conference was held to announce Young's $100,000 contribution to Suzuki's Blue Dot initiative, a grassroots environmentally focused movement that seeks to develop support for amendments that will enshrine the right to a healthy environment in the Canadian Constitution. Young said that proceeds from his concert this evening at Rogers Arena will make up the bulk of the donation.
“We believe that it should be every Canadian’s right to expect a guarantee from our Constitution to clean air, clean water, clean soil, and a diversity of other living things,” Suzuki said. If the amendments were made, Canada would join more than 110 countries worldwide that have similar guarantees in their constitutions.
Of the initiative, Young said the amendment would create a legal platform for Canadians to take on the aggression of multinational corporations “in their quest for more cash at the expense of our environment and our livelihoods”.
It didn’t take long for the conversation with reporters to become political, and soon the focus was on the upcoming election.
“I’m not happy about Canada’s endless search for a drop of oil; I’m not happy about the backwards leadership that is looking over its shoulder at what used to be, trying to make it happen again. I think it’s sad that Canada’s leadership is so irresponsible,” Young said.
When asked by a reporter whether he had perceived any change in Canada’s reputation abroad while touring, the musician said that the country that was once a leader has “taken a 180”.
“The economy that they are talking about saving is not real...we’re just digging a huge hole, like that hole in Alberta. We’re digging a huge hole and we’re going to have to dig our way back out of it, because all of our children are going to be at the bottom of it,” Young said.
“It’s a tragedy to see what this government has been able to do.”
Suzuki expressed similar frustration with the way he has observed current leaders separating environmental issues from economic issues, especially in light of Green party leader Elizabeth May’s absence from the September 17 Globe and Mail leaders debate.
“It’s really disappointing to me to listen to the conversation in this election," Suzuki said. "Everyone acts as if the environment is somehow the Green party’s specialty, so we act as if its somehow separate from economics—and since Elizabeth May wasn’t at the debate about the economy, well, we don’t have to talk about the environment."
“They’re intimately connected,” he added, noting that many of the world’s top economists, including Sir Nicholas Stern, have said that action needs to be taken to protect the environment or the world economy will soon face a crash.
When a journalist asked whether or not Young would be voting come October 19, the artist focused on the federal government’s faulty structure and the disproportionate power of corporations in Canada.
“If a candidate stood up and said, ‘We have to reform and change the way things work so that people are represented again, instead of corporations....then I’d be more inclined to participate in the whole electoral process,” Young said.
“I’m not sure I’ve completely abandoned it, but right now I think it’s so broken that that’s why so many people are having trouble dealing with it.”
When the reporter followed up by asking if Young had advice for voters that might be similarly disillusioned, Young said people should vote for “a candidate that wants to change these things.
“And if there is nobody that wants to change them, then we don’t have a candidate, so there’s no reason to vote.”