One of the issues that was frequently raised in the last round of town hall meetings I held with constituents in January 2013 was the threat of the Canada-China Investment Treaty. As I write this, the treaty has still not been ratified. While this is very good news, the treaty could be ratified at any time by a decision of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet. If ratified, the treaty would be binding on Canada and on future Canadian governments for a minimum of 31 years.
Meanwhile, there have been a number of interesting developments in countries around the world related to this type of treaty, often called a Foreign Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement (FIPPA or FIPA). Australia recently undertook a cost-benefit study of investment treaties, which showed that these treaties create far greater costs than benefits. Since this study, Australia has taken a new and strong position: they have decided not to enter into any new FIPAs. Similarly, India also recently decided that it would not only reject any new investor-state treaties, it would also attempt to re-negotiate any existing treaties that contained investor state clauses. India’s new stance may come as a surprise to the PM as it was just last fall that Stephen Harper returned from India claiming a Canada-India Investor-State agreement was just around the corner. Meanwhile, South Africa is also reconsidering its investor-state agreements, and a recent international report which makes clear the social and monetary costs of these agreements is likely to influence other nations to also reconsider entering into investor-state agreements.
I am writing this newsletter in response to the large number of my constituents who have asked for more information on these types of treaties, and I hope you find this information helpful and will share it with others.In This Issue...
- What is an Investor-State Agreement?
- Is an Investor-State Agreement necessary to pursue trade?
- Why is the Canada-China Investment Treaty worse than NAFTA Chapter 11?
- What happened under Chapter 11 of NAFTA??
- Are these cases taken to court?
- In the House of Commons - Hearings on the Canada-China Investment Treaty
- In the House of Commons - How did Benin get better terms than Canada?
- Your opinion matters!
The Green Party today celebrates the UN International Day for Biodiversity (IDB), designed to promote and protect the diversity of our ecosystems, species, genes, even our landscape.
The IDB was first celebrated on December 29 when the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on Biodiversity in 1993. Canada played a leading role countering George Bush’s attempts to prevent it.
Just over ten years ago in 2002, the world’s leaders agreed to work on reducing the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010. Sadly, they have not achieved their goal. In fact, the various factors that lead to such loss have, in too many cases, intensified.
The consequences of this global failure will impact on our water, food systems, health, environmental and physical security, including the severity of climate change, and even our planetary culture. As usual, the poor are and will continue to suffer the most as they try to eke out a living from an increasingly barren and hostile planet.
The Green Party calls on the Harper Conservatives to do much more to support, both financially and practically, the implementation of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. This is not a “green” issue; it concerns the future of our earth.Green Party Marks International Day for Biodiversity
There are so many questions raised by the disclosure, by the Prime Minister’s Office no less, that the Chief of Staff cut a personal cheque to cover Mike Duffy’s illegitimate claims for a housing allowance in the place where he has been ordinarily resident for decades, that even to list them is a challenge.
The problem with most of the questions is that they start a bit later in the scenario than they should.
First up, was Mike Duffy promised a Senate seat if he worked really hard to sabotage the Liberals in the 2008 election?
I had been interviewed by Mike Duffy and known him for years. I was fond of him. I never thought he was biased one way or the other – until his coverage of the 2008 campaign. Some may recall me taking him on in a live interview when his introductory set up for Peter MacKay (interviewed just ahead of me) was so outrageous that I accused him of a lapse in journalistic ethics. When the interview was over, I remember thinking, “Well, I will never be on Mike Duffy Live ever again.” And when he was appointed to the Senate right after the election, I knew I was right as the show ceased to exist. His lapse of ethics was more spectacularly evident in broadcasting out-takes from the Atlantic bureau’s interview with Stéphane Dion. Opportunities to do “re-asks” are not uncommon and they are never broadcast. Doing so, when Dion’s team had been told they could ask the questions over again, was outrageous. It clearly impacted the election results.
The other questions also matter. Did the Prime Minister promise Duffy he would fix the financial and legal mess created by false claims for a housing allowance? Why would the Prime Minister do such a thing? Does Duffy have anything he can hold over the PM, such as proof of the Senate seat for journalistic shilling in an election campaign? Did the Prime Minister ask his Chief of Staff to write the cheque? Frankly, I can see no other reason why a smart person like Nigel Wright would do something so obviously wrong, unless he was directed to do so by the Prime Minister.
Normal people are asking questions like “who has $90,000 in their chequing accounts? Who has $90,000 in their chequing account and they have it to spare in case someone needs it?”
None of these questions matter as much as why is it that no reporter has been able to get a response from anyone in Harper’s administration about the chemistry of the atmosphere now being dangerously altered. The news that we have hit 400 ppm of carbon dioxide in the global atmosphere makes Mike Duffy’s expense account scandal look like the petty criminality it likely is. And, of course, there are approximately 1% as many words in our press about the 400 ppm news as there is about the Mike Duffy scandal.
The big crime continues to hide in plain sight while Stephen Harper continues his looting of our children’s future.
UPDATE: Just received news that Nigel Wright has fallen on his sword for the PM and become the literal fall guy. All questions still stand.Mike Duffy, Nigel Wright and Stephen Harper
VICTORIA, BC – Green Leader Elizabeth May reacted to BC election results tonight before leaving Victoria for Ottawa.
“I want to congratulate Green candidate Andrew Weaver for his win tonight. Andrew is the first Green ever elected in a provincial legislature in Canada,” said Elizabeth May, Green Party of Canada Leader and MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands.
“I know exactly how Andrew is feeling tonight: a mix of pure joy, exhaustion, and the sudden realization of the historical role he will hold as the first ever Green MLA in British Columbia. I am so happy for him and his constituents in Oak Bay–Gordon Head,” said May.
“I also want to praise Adam Olsen on his very strong showing in Saanich North & the Islands. Leader Jane Sterk and all BC Green candidates should be commended for their inspiring effort. For the Green movement in Canada, tonight’s results are elevating,” concluded May.
Communications Coordinator, Green Party of Canada
BC Voters Elect Their First Green MLA
OTTAWA – The Hill Times announced today the winners of its 21st Annual Politically Savvy Survey and Green Leader Elizabeth May, Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands, earned top honours in two important categories: “Hardest Working MP” and “Best Constituency MP”.
May was voted “Hardest Working MP” in 2013 (12%), beating Jason Kenney (11%), and Prime Minister Stephen Harper (9%).
In the “Best Constituency MP” category, May shared first place with Linda Duncan and Cheryl Gallant (5%).
“Elizabeth’s constituents will not be surprised by these results. We are so proud of her. As impressive as her work is in Ottawa, her constituency remains her priority,” said Emily McMillan, Executive Director of the Green Party of Canada.
“On the eve of provincial elections in British Columbia, these honours are a reminder for voters that the Greens will put country before party and work hard on their behalf,” said McMillan.
Elizabeth May won Maclean's Parliamentarian of the Year Award in 2012.
NOTE: Pictures of Elizabeth May during her local Town Hall meetings last January.
Communications Coordinator, Green Party of Canada
Elizabeth May Voted “Hardest Working MP” and “Best Constituency MP”
The CPP is sustainable and reliable, but it is time to review whether RRSP is working as a vehicle.
“Old age is not for sissies,” said Bette Davis. Indeed, it is not, but the images from our childhood of what it meant to be “old” have changed dramatically. Of course, as I enter my 60th year, my perspective on what it means to be “old,” of necessity, shifts. As another popular aphorism, puts it “the hardest thing to decide is when middle age begins.” Thanks to advances in health care and a focus on healthy living, Canadians are living longer. And today’s senior has different issues and challenges than in our grandparents’ day. I see it every day, as my riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands is one of those with the highest proportion of older citizens. While so much in the mass media sees only the negatives of this aging demographic, there is much to celebrate.
The group Moses Znaimer calls “zoomers” are not abandoning their love of tennis or skiing. The aging population is increasingly embracing the benefits of staying involved, especially as they give back to community through the donations of thousands of hours of volunteer work.
That is, of course, not to deny the challenges. Today’s seniors want to know that pension and retirement savings are adequate to maintain an active lifestyle. The Green Party supports expansion of the Canada Pension Plan. CPP is sustainable and reliable. It is time to review whether RRSP is working as a vehicle. Evidence suggests its uptake is very limited, it has a large impact on government revenues and yet it seems to benefit primarily those Canadians who least need it.
Staying active is challenging in a car dominated culture. An aging population increases the need for convenient, accessible, mass transit. As it becomes less safe to drive at night, seniors want access to public transit.
The most extreme challenges of aging are experienced by seniors living in poverty, a disproportionate proportion of whom are women. While the percentage of seniors living in poverty dropped dramatically from a high of approximately 30 per cent in 1976, to a low of 4.7 per cent in 2007, the poverty rates for seniors have begun to move up once again5.8 per cent in 2008. We cannot be complacent about the economic struggles of our seniors.
Meanwhile, the widely-repeated claim that the growth in aging Canadians as a proportion of our population will drive up health-care costs is not supported by the evidence. Empirical evidence suggests that the aging population is not a major cause of increased costs. According to the Canadian Institute of Health Information: “Analyses of the drivers of increases in public sector health expenditures over the last decade showed that the contribution of aging has been relatively modest. To date, system-level cost drivers such as inflation and increased utilization have played bigger roles in health spending increases,” according to Health Care Cost Drivers: the facts, CIHI, November 2011.
The largest single driver for increased health-care costs is the rising cost of pharmaceutical drugs. We are all too often seeing evidence of over-prescription of drugs, and registration of drugs that actually will harm more people than they help. While seniors are wrongly seen as the reason for increasing health-care costs, the reality is that seniors are particularly vulnerable to the excess use of prescription drugs.
That is not to say that our health-care system is ready for an increase in the diseases of aging, particularly dementia and Alzheimer’s. We need to significantly improve supports for family members. So often a senior becomes the full-time caregiver for their spouse. Particularly, seniors of limited means lose any potential for enjoying life as they sacrifice for their partner. Better respite programs, better supports for home care, as well as more beds in long-term senior care facilities are needed, with supports from both federal and provincial governments.
We also need to have a conversation about the loss of basic rights experienced by seniors in care. One of the most shocking trends that I have uncovered since becoming an MP is the loss of basic human rights for seniors in residential care. Shockingly, I have heard dozens of stories of seniors being denied access to family members, being placed on drugs they do not want, and even being denied the right to go home to family members who would welcome them.
And lastly, we need to grasp the nettle of the thorny ethical problem of assisted suicide and the right to die with dignity. The solutions will not be simple because the problems are complex. Nevertheless, Canadians are demanding better answers. We need to engage in a respectful, informed discussion starting with a review of the various legal regimes in use around the world. We need to ensure that discussion is grounded in bioethics and premised on an acute awareness of the slippery slope of creating the impression that some human lives are worth more than others. What we must not do is to continue to ignore the suffering of well-informed, adult Canadians who wish to make a choice to die with dignity in their own country.
Originally printed in the Hill Times.Being old is not what it used to be
OTTAWA – The concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere has reached the 400 parts per million (ppm) milestone today according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Over the last million years, CO2 never exceeded 280 ppm (based on actual readings of atmospheric chemistry from Antarctic ice core data.) Concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHG) are a very different measurement than emission rates. Concentrations have a very long lag time and will not be able to be decreased except over centuries, while emission rates can go down overnight. It is critical to start reducing emissions, because existing concentrations mean that we will see warming over the next 100 years from today’s emissions.
Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May and Dr. Andrew Weaver, a BC Green Party candidate running in the upcoming provincial election, believe that this unwanted milestone in the climate saga could be a turning point towards clean technology to reverse this trend.
“We are in a danger zone as we hit 400 ppm. We must move to immediate reductions in GHG, and shift to new clean technologies,” said Green Leader Elizabeth May, Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands.
May recently tabled a private member’s bill to cap the carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired plants.
“It’s clear that emissions from these plants are some of the most dangerous for the planet. Using clean technologies that exist today can help us move into the 21st century,” said May.
There is a consensus in the scientific community that greenhouse gases should be limited to levels that would avoid allowing global average temperatures to rise by 2 degrees Celsius. Scientists have marked that wide red line in a band from 425-450 ppm.
Climate scientist and Deputy Green Party Leader of British Columbia, Dr. Andrew Weaver, says this moment can bring a new economic reality to BC. Weaver is urging BC voters to elect Greens who are supportive of CO2 reduction policies.
“Scientists have done their job. We now need to get on with the business of solutions and create new and viable jobs,” said Weaver.
British Columbians vote on May 14 and Greens hope that the election results will return BC and eventually Canada to its position as a leader in the fight against global warming caused by rising CO2 levels.
Communications Coordinator, Green Party of Canada
400 ppm: A Dangerous Pollution Milestone Has Been Passed
OTTAWA – The Green Party of Canada wishes to mark the first-ever World Lyme Disease Day on Saturday, May 11th.
Green Leader Elizabeth May introduced a Private Member’s Bill in June 2012 calling for the development of a national strategy to address the challenges of the timely recognition, diagnosis, and treatment of Lyme disease. The bill also calls for funding for provinces and territories to implement the strategy.
“Lyme disease can be devastating. Too many Canadians are now disabled, deprived of the joy of family and friends, of school or work, due to Lyme disease. The public and the medical community need to be educated as to the increasing incidence and range of this disease,” said Green Leader Elizabeth May, Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is spread to humans and animals through the bite of certain types of ticks, particularly the black-legged tick. Notoriously under-diagnosed and under-reported, the disease can cause serious symptoms if left untreated including recurring arthritis and neurological problems.
The risk of exposure to Lyme disease is highest in parts of southern and south-eastern Quebec, southern and eastern Ontario, south-eastern Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and much of southern British Columbia.
Elizabeth May will take part in Victoria’s World Lyme Disease Day Rally Saturday at 1:30 p.m. local time.
“Scientists are warning that a warming climate will expand the geographic range of Lyme disease-carrying ticks further into Canada, so it is imperative that we are proactive,” said May.
Communications Coordinator, Green Party of Canada
May 11th is the First-Ever World Lyme Disease Day
The essence of Westminster Parliamentary democracy is that all MPs, including the Prime Minister, are equal, all are elected to represent their constituents, and that, even though a Prime Minister with a majority government can gather up all the levers of power, the Parliament is ultimately supreme. All of this relates to Canada’s other distinguishing feature—that we are a constitutional monarchy. None of this applies to the US system of government, in which checks and balances prevail and the Executive is directly elected.
Parliamentary democracy in Canada has been on the ropes for awhile. The Prime Minister does not act as ‘first among equals’, but increasingly like a Roman Emperor. The Prime Minister and his cabinet do not respect principles of the supremacy of Parliament, but act in arrogant and unaccountable ways—denying Parliament key information, even information as essential to good government as basic background to fiscal decisions.
Fundamental to these dangerous trends is the rise in control of MPs by political parties. The political party overlay on Westminster parliamentary democracy is a relatively new and growing phenomenon. Not until the late 1960s did the name of the candidates’ political party appear on the ballot. Simultaneous with that development, the Elections Act was amended to require the leader’s signature to verify that a candidate was properly from the party claimed. A seemingly innocuous change has led to the ability of leaders of political parties to use the threat, that nomination papers will not be signed, to keep their MPs in line.
And the role of leaders of parties has started to ape the US system to such an extent that federal (and provincial) election campaigns are run as though the ballot choice was the election of a Prime Minister (or Premier). We do not elect Prime Ministers in Canada, but this confusion is undermining the essence of representative democracy.
Compounding these trends, which to greater or lesser degree pre-date Stephen Harper’s administration, we now have the political arm of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) reaching into previously off-limit areas. The PMO operatives are bullying the civil service into corrupting the policy making process with blatant spin and doctoring of evidence.
When Kevin Page, Canada’s first Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO), spoke on April 4 at a Green Party sponsored lecture at UVic (well worth watching in its entirety on Youtube: http://www.andrewjweaver.ca/video_an_evening_with_kevin_page), he noted that ‘every Parliamentary institution is under assault.’ His two take-away messages: that the control of the public purse must return to the House, and that decisions must be based on evidence.The Court Ruling
For a while, knowledgeable commentators have taken to pondering if Canadian democracy has a pulse. Then on April 22 and 23, two unrelated events took place, quickening the pulse of Canadian democracy.
The first was the ruling of the Federal Court of Canada on the lawsuit launched by the PBO. Kevin Page refused to accept the refusal of the Clerk of Privy Council, shamefully telling the PBO that none of what he wanted was available; accepting commands from the PMO and denying that the impacts of the falling of the axe must be transparent to MPs and to Canadians.
And so Kevin Page went to court. The court ruled that the PBO was within its mandate to request information about the impact of the cuts in the 2012 budget. The Federal Court confirmed the supremacy of Parliament, the right of each MP to have access to information: about where the budget cuts landed and what effect they have on government programmes. In fact, the court ruled this information should be available to any back-bencher.
Thanks to Kevin Page, the right of any MP, and the PBO itself, to access documentation about government finances has been confirmed. The court went on to find that Page had not fully demanded the information after the clerk said he couldn’t have the information. So, on that technicality, it might appear Page lost. But the right to access that information has led the acting PBO to demand the information.The SO31 ‘Game’ – Not
The very next day, the Speaker ruled on a recent complaint by Mark Warawa, Conservative MP from Langley, BC. To understand his complaint, you need to know that for 15 minutes every day in the House of Commons, there is something called Members statements (under Standing Order 31, so sometimes called “SO31s”). An SO31 allows a member 60 seconds to make an uninterrupted statement. They are usually about events in the riding, or eulogies for recently departed local heroes. Lately, the Conservatives have mis-used the opportunity for prepared attacks on the NDP claiming they want a $21 billion carbon tax.
Each party whip coordinates which MPs are going to make their SO31s. Apparently, the Conservative whip also vets (and censors) the statements. One day, Mark Warawa was told his statement was unacceptable and his chance to speak was withdrawn. He did something unprecedented in the life of Mr. Harper’s reign. He complained to the Speaker.
Over a few weeks, many MPs supported the complaint, making the case that MPs have the right of free speech. Of course, I spoke in support of Warawa’s complaint, but so did about 7 other Conservative MPs.
The Chief Government Whip argued that the Speaker was a mere ‘referee’ and that the party leader and his operatives were like the coach with the right to decide which players to play.
On April 23, Speaker Scheer’s ruling supported the right of free speech. He completely rejected the sports metaphor and confirmed that only the Speaker has the right to recognize MPs. The convention of the party whips in giving the Speaker a list of MPs to call on was only adopted to assist a previous speaker who had difficulty remembering names (or so goes the story).
The Speaker’s ruling confirmed the absolute right of Members of Parliament to free speech. And it is the duty of the Speaker to maximize that right of free speech. The Speaker, similar to the PBO court ruling, went on to find that Mark Warawa had not tried to speak, by catching the speaker’s eye and trying to get the floor. As such, the Speaker found his rights had not been infringed.
Nevertheless, two rulings, back to back have confirmed the absolute right of free speech and of the right of all MPs to have fiscal information essential to the role of the Parliament as a whole to govern.
We have a pulse!Canadian democracy – pulse found!
OTTAWA – The Green Party of Canada urges Harper’s Conservatives to follow the European Commission’s lead and ban the neonicotinoid pesticides (Imidacloprid, Clothianidin and Thiamethoxam) blamed for destroying bee populations.
The use of three pesticides, which attack the bees’ nervous system, will be restricted on December 1st 2013 in response to the European Food Safety Authority's scientific report, which identified "high acute risks" for bees.
“I believe the precautionary principle should guide our action here. Canada can stand up to the chemical industry. It’s a matter of political will,” said Green Leader Elizabeth May, Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands.
“Neonicotinoids are another example of the negative long-term consequences of pesticides. Any advantage to individual crops is wiped out by the massive destruction of crop pollinators across the country and the resulting drop in productivity of many of our food crops,” said Kate Storey, Green Party’s Agriculture Critic.
“It would be economically smarter to ban neonicotinoids and put research into organic ways of working with nature,” added Storey.
Bees’ contribution to European agriculture is evaluated at $29 billion annually.
Communications Coordinator, Green Party of Canada
Canada Should Stand Up to the Chemical Industry and Protect Bees
OTTAWA – Green Party Leader Elizabeth May sent a letter Friday to Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson asking her to “undertake an examination, and issue a public ruling, with regard to Prime Minister Harper’s recent decisions and by-election call for the riding of Labrador.”
May is concerned that Mr. Harper’s actions have furthered “Peter Penashue’s private career interest in being re-elected in a way that violates the Conflict of Interest Act.”
“I have written to Ms. Dawson because there are too many questions surrounding the calling of the by-election. Why, for example, did Mr. Harper allow Mr. Penashue to make a $1.35 million spending announcement in his riding just four days before Mr. Penashue resigned his seat? Did Mr. Harper know Mr. Penashue would soon run again as a candidate?” asked Green Leader Elizabeth May, Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands.
May also wants to know if, by calling the by-election before prosecutors had decided whether to charge Mr. Penashue or others involved in his 2011 election campaign for violations of the Canada Elections Act, Mr. Harper was “essentially furthering Mr. Penashue’s private interests by not allowing voters in the riding to know whether independent investigators at Elections Canada and prosecutors have concluded that there is enough clear evidence of violations to prosecute.”
The federal Conflict of Interest Act prohibits public office holders like the Prime Minister from exercising “an official power, duty or function that provides an opportunity to further his or her private interests or those of his or her relatives or friends or to improperly further another person’s private interests” (Sections 4 and 6).
Communications Coordinator, Green Party of Canada
Greens Ask Ethics Commissioner to Investigate Harper’s Conflict of Interest in Labrador By-election
OTTAWA – Green Leader Elizabeth May held a press conference today on her new Private Member’s Bill called An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (local endorsement of candidate).
“On this day, two years ago, I was elected as Saanich-Gulf Islands’ Member of Parliament. In two years, I have seen the noxious effect of party discipline on our democracy,” said May.
The Bill amends the Canada Elections Act to require that, where a political party has an electoral district association in a riding, a prospective candidate for the riding must have their nomination papers signed by the chief executive officer and by one board member of the electoral district association in order to stand as that party’s candidate.
Currently, the Canada Elections Act requires the leader of a political party or their designated representative to sign the nomination papers for a prospective candidate.
“The law now gives party leaders the power to refuse to allow a sitting MP to be a candidate for that party in a future election. It has become an undemocratic tool for discipline and control over MPs,” said May.
“We recently witnessed the attempts of brave members of the Conservative caucus to assert their speaking rights. It is time to loosen party discipline and curb the ‘team mentality’ of which Gordon O’Connor was so proud,” said the Green Leader.
“With this in mind, I have put forward a legislative solution to end the current climate of fear in caucuses and ensure that MPs are not subject to the harsh sanction of being thrown out of caucus and denied the chance to stand for their constituency due to a leader's ire,” concluded May.
Communications Coordinator, Green Party of Canada
Elizabeth May Tables Bill Targeting Excessive Party Discipline
OTTAWA – The Green Party is proud to join today’s international May Day celebrations, especially at a time when workers’ rights and security are clearly under attack by the Harper Conservatives.
Also known as International Workers' Day, May 1, a national holiday in more than 80 countries, recognizes the achievements of the global labour movement. Sadly, under the guise of “austerity,” many of these gains have been threatened.
“May Day 2013 – and beyond – is a time for Canadians to ‘push back’ against the various moves by the Conservatives to weaken everything from union rights to pay equity, public pensions to EI,” said Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, MP Saanich-Gulf Islands.
Also, the expansion of temporary foreign worker programs has been dragging down workplace rights and protections, along with wages. The program changes announced in the budget implementation bill will mean nothing if, as in the past, enforcement is weak.
The Conservatives have sabotaged employees’ right to strike by bringing in back-to-work legislation against Air Canada, Canada Post, and Canadian Pacific Railway workers, and have refused to support workers victimized by mainly transnational corporations exporting jobs to lower-waged countries.
Bill C-377, now in the Senate, will allow the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to police how trade unions spend money over $5000. Even Conservative Senator Hugh Segal has called this "bad legislation, bad public policy and a diminution of both the order and the freedom that should exist in any democratic, pluralist and mixed-market society."
As well, Canada’s minimum age laws are woefully inadequate. In some provinces, these laws have actually been weakened, dropping the minimum age to 12 years.
“The Green Party reminds Canadians of the Supreme Court of Canada ruling that placed collective bargaining under the protection of the Charter, and stated clearly that labour rights are human rights,” said Green Party Labour and Employment Critic Brian Timlick. “We fully support those rights and are working to create a society where they are genuinely respected and put into practice.”
“We support the impressive efforts of groups like Common Causes and the Québec Coalition against Employment Insurance Reform which have launched rallies against recent EI and other cuts,” said May.
Greens: Conservatives Working Against Workers
OTTAWA – The Harper Conservatives have quietly posted new regulations in the Canada Gazette concerning the disposal of “dredged waste or other matter at sea (disposal at sea).” This includes the “spoils” from dredging as part of offshore oil and gas projects.
"The new regulations will reduce scrutiny over dumping of hazardous material at sea,” said Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, MP Saanich-Gulf Islands. “It is not clear whether the renewed permits for dumping will be accompanied by greater monitoring."
The regulation changes stem from amendments to Canadian Environment Protection Act (CEPA) in the June, 2012, Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act. Previously, permits issued by the Minister of Environment for projects involving disposal at sea were valid for one year and not renewable.
The recent amendments will require Environment Canada to make decisions within 90 days of the application, will allow permits to be renewed, subject to new criteria, no more than four times for “low-risk, routine” projects. They also reduce the amount of time that a person has to submit a notice of objection in regard to a permit from 30 to 7 days, starting from the date of publication of the permit.
“This new renewing process with little or no verification and a much shorter time for objections could be very damaging,” said May.
In Canada, an average of three to four million tonnes of material are disposed of annually at sea, mainly to ensure that shipping channels and harbours are kept clear for navigation and commerce. Substances considered for disposal include dredged material; fish waste and other organic matter; ships, aircraft, platforms, and other structures, and inert, inorganic geological matter.
New Disposal at Sea Regulations Potentially “Damaging”: May
Goodness knows, I wish the NDP had put forward a motion I could have voted for. We need a good debate on climate and we need a strong call for government action. But, I couldn’t vote for that motion.
Here’s the text of the motion:
That this House:
- agree with many Canadians and the International Energy Agency that there is grave concern with the impacts of a 2 degree rise in global average temperatures;
- condemn the lack of effective action by successive federal governments since 1998 to address emissions and meet our Kyoto commitments; and
- call on the government to immediately table its federal climate change adaptation plan.
There are three clauses and I have trouble with each one of them. Before parsing the motion to explain the difficulties with all three clauses, let me point out the overwhelming problem: the motion does not call on Stephen Harper’s administration to do anything about the threat of rising greenhouse gases.
The action part of the motion calls for the government to “immediately” (that sounds good!) “table its federal climate change adaptation plan.” (whoops, where did the action go?)
An “adaptation plan” is all about how to adapt to climate change. I have long called, as has the Green Party, for a climate adaptation plan. But I would never call for an adaptation plan with no parallel effort to reduce the climate change impacts to which we will have to adapt. To do so is to announce we are throwing in the towel. We are abandoning efforts to reduce carbon pollution and will only do what we can to hold back rising seas, adjust to dropping water levels in the Great Lakes and Georgian Bay, plant drought resistant crops, brace ourselves for increased forest fires, loss of Arctic ice, permafrost melt, etc.
It is mind-boggling that the NDP motion failed to call for action. Did they forget that part? Were they worried a call for real action to fight global warming would create space for a public policy discussion about carbon pricing and a carbon tax? Or did they think “adaptation plan” meant some kind of GHG reduction plan? If so, they are out of touch with the key concepts of climate policy in place since the 1992 U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Back to the top. The first clause is so sloppily worded it minimizes, rather than underscores, why 2 degrees global average temperature increase really matters. Why start the sentence with something as weak as “agree with many Canadians and the International Energy Agency?” Why not mention “consensus of the world’s climate scientists, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the International Energy Agency, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the commitment to avoid a global average temperature increase of 2 degrees C that Canada made in the Copenhagen Accord.”
Weak drafting is one thing, but the next part is much worse: “there is grave concern with the impacts of a 2 degrees rise in global average temperatures.” There is grave concern? With the impacts?? That’s it? How about an accurate statement, like this:
“Scientists have concluded that for human civilization to have reasonable odds of avoiding collapse due to the catastrophic impacts of runaway global warming, concentrations of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere must be held below those levels associated with a 2 degrees rise in global average temperature increase, as compared to pre-Industrialized levels. In fact, in order to preserve Arctic ice, we should strive to keep global average temperature increases below a 1.5 degree rise.”
The way the NDP motion is worded it seems to assume we are going to have a 2 degree rise, and that there are grave concerns with impacts. It fails to connect 2 degrees with the triggering of runaway global warming, which is a much bigger problem than the immediate impacts of 2 degrees on its own.
Then there’s the second clause. This is a transparent attempt to wedge the Liberals on the issue. That’s politics and I guess I should be used to it by now. But when an issue is as important as whether our children have a liveable world, I am sick and tired of this petty garbage. The Liberals have a lousy record on climate. Chretien ratified Kyoto, full marks for that, but he did not put forward a plan. As Executive Director of Sierra Club of Canada, I spent years demanding action and criticizing the failure of the Liberals to act. Then Paul Martin did act and his environment minister, Stephane Dion, put forward a credible plan in 2005. And in 2006, Harper killed that plan. That one phrase would not have caused me to vote against the motion, if there had been a call for real action to reduce GHG. But predictably and tragically it reveals the real goal of the NDP opposition day motion: to make the Liberals look bad by writing a motion in a way the NDP knew the Liberals would vote against.
Why does that matter? Well, it’s like this. If you care about climate, you draft a motion in order to create the maximum possible opportunity for it to pass. You don’t play stupid games.
The NDP did the same thing last week with the Canada-China Investment Treaty motion. It rejected Liberal attempts to amend the motion such that the Liberals could vote with the NDP. At least then, the motion was clear and I had no problem voting with the NDP, but I was furious that an issue as important as blocking ratification of the FIPA with China was sabotaged for the shortest term possible partisan gain. (And I was furious that the Liberals voted with the Conservatives… I was in a very “plague on both your Houses” mood.)
The climate crisis is a threat to our very survival. It sickens me to see petty partisanship trump climate. For God’s sake, put forward motions that have a chance of passing and then twist arms in the Conservative caucus to get a motion that matters.
So that about covers why I couldn’t vote with the NDP. I would have loved to have seen a unified group of MPs from all the Opposition Parties rise on principle and (hoping against hope) some of the Conservatives who understand the need for climate action might have voted with us to give the Parliamentary call for reductions in GHG a chance of passing. But since tonight’s motion forgot to call for climate action, maybe we could take a run at a properly worded motion another day.Why I voted against the NDP climate motion
OTTAWA – Statement by Green Leader Elizabeth May, Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands Elizabeth May on Bill C-15, the Strengthening Military Justice in Defence of Canada Act, which will pass through Report Stage in the House of Commons today:
“Although I voted for C-15 at Second Reading, and continue to support many of the core provisions of this Bill, including those to strengthen the tenure of our military judges, and those to provide our military judges with greater judicial discretion, I had hoped that the serious concerns raised by the Provost Marshall and others would be taken into consideration in Committee.
“Important safeguards were put in place to prevent political interference in Military Police investigations following the tragic incident in Somalia. But by allowing the Vice-Chief of Defence Staff to issue instructions regarding a specific ongoing investigation, Bill C-15 will create ample opportunity for such interference to again take place.
“Given that these concerns remained unaddressed, I tabled Report Stage amendments to C-15 which sought to defend the independence of our Military Police from political interference. While sadly I expected the Harper Conservatives to reject any amendment that protected an accountability body from political interference, I am disappointed that neither the Liberals or the NDP saw it fit to have a vote on something so critical to the proper functioning of our Canadian Forces.”
Communications Coordinator, Green Party of Canada
Statement by Elizabeth May on C-15
OTTAWA – Minister of Natural Resources, the Hon. Joe Oliver cited climate scientist Dr. Andrew Weaver in Question Period on April 23rd, 2013, claiming that Weaver's research supports Oliver's call for oil sands expansion. Later the same week he slammed US leading scientist Dr. James Hansen claiming that Dr. Hansen has been "crying wolf" about climate science.
Today, Dr. Andrew Weaver offered to personally brief Minister Oliver at his earliest opportunity. "Although I am very busy at the moment as the candidate for the Green Party of BC in Oak Bay-Gordon Head, it is important to explain my research to Mr. Oliver so he will not misrepresent it in the House of Commons. Given the opportunity I could also explain to him why attacking one of the world's leading scientists will not persuade anyone that his administration is serious about responding to the climate crisis. Dr. Hansen takes it so seriously, that he has been willing to get arrested. I take it so seriously that I am willing to be elected."
Citing a discussion paper by Dr. Andrew Weaver, leading Canadian climate scientist and Deputy Leader of the Green Party of British Columbia, Minister Oliver tried, unsuccessfully, to showcase his scientific prowess, emphasizing the destructive potential of coal in order to deflect criticism from his most recent trip to Washington to try to sell bitumen and pipelines to the US.
“Policy based on science and evidence is exactly what is needed, and found lacking, from this Conservative government, so I don’t mind that the Minister has referenced me in debate”, said Dr. Weaver. “But it is most unfortunate that Mr. Oliver has obviously not taken the time to read the paper he referenced, nor apparently made any effort to understand climate science generally.”
The discussion paper, called “The Alberta oil sands and climate”, and published in the journal Nature Climate Change, provides a hypothetical analysis of the relative impact on global climate change that would arise from burning all of the worlds reserves of different kinds of fossil fuels.
“What Mr. Oliver has critically failed to grasp here is that although some scenarios are indeed much worse than others, these are all nightmare scenarios that we must not allow to happen”, said Weaver. “To prevent 2 degrees of warming, which is the stated goal of this government, we know that most of the world’s proven oil, coal, and gas reserves must be left in the ground. Once elected to the BC Legislature I would be happy to take a few minutes out of my schedule to explain this to Mr. Oliver.
"Sitting in the House of Commons, I was flabbergasted to hear Joe Oliver try to minimize oil sands emissions by misunderstanding Dr. Weaver's work. I certainly hope Joe Oliver will accept Dr. Weaver's offer for a briefing." said Elizabeth May, MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands and Leader of the Green Party of Canada.
Communications Coordinator, Green Party of Canada
Joe Oliver attempts to use science, gets schooled by Greens’ Andrew Weaver
Earlier this week, our Minister for Natural Resources, the Hon. Joe Oliver, went to Washington on what the Canadian media mistakenly insists on calling a “charm offensive.” It really cannot be described as having anything to do with “charm” when the minister, fresh from having told La Presse that scientists are less worried about global warming; that 2 degrees is not a big deal, decided to insult one of the USA’s most respected scientists, James Hansen.
Dr. Hansen is not just someone who used to work at NASA. He was NASA’s top climate scientist. Thursday, I found this tribute to James Hansen that will give Canadians who do not know much about Dr. Hansen (and I guess that means Mr. Oliver, at least) a sense of his stature south of the border and globally. This tribute was written by another Joe — Joe Romm (1).
I don’t think I can improve upon it, and I ask you to read it. Joe Oliver said James Hansen should be “ashamed” for urging the President to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. He said Dr. Hansen has been “crying wolf.” Whatever your views on any particular pipeline, I ask you to read this. And then ask yourself how long we will tolerate having our highest ranking Canadian officials embarrass internationally by attacking the most courageous of scientists? It is we who are ashamed — of our government.
A Man For All Seasons: James Hansen Wins The Ridenhour Courage Prize
James Hansen was awarded the Ridenhour Courage Prize today. The Prize is “presented to an individual in recognition of his or her courageous and life-long defense of the public interest and passionate commitment to social justice.”
I was given the great privilege of introducing Hansen. This is what I prepared:
James Hansen is being honored today in part because he told Congress: “The global warming now is large enough that we can ascribe with a high degree of confidence a cause-and-effect relationship to the greenhouse effect.”
The courageous part isn’t what he said, it’s when he said it — 25 years ago, during the sweltering summer of 1988. It was the first high-profile public statement by a US government scientist alerting the country to this grave threat.
Jim embodies the Ridenhour Courage Prize. When he was still NASA’s top climate scientist, he blew the whistle on government efforts to silence him — and others — on climate change.
Jim is a modern day Paul Revere … if Paul Revere’s midnight ride had taken place in 1750 and the message was, “The British are coming, The British are coming — in 25 years.”
Yes, climate change is a challenging story to tell. And Jim has actually been telling it publicly since 1981, when he published his first warning that led to a major New York Times story, headlined, “Study Finds Warming Trend That Could Raise Sea Levels.”
And yet carbon pollution has kept rising. We live in a spineless world, where being scientifically right for over 30 years gives you no more credit with the national media than being a professional disinformer funded by the fossil fuel industry.
How spineless is this world? If a doctor used the best science to diagnose a smoker as having early-stage emphysema and the doctor did NOT urge the patient to start quitting cigarettes, he’d be charged with malpractice.
But if a climatologist uses the best science to diagnose an entire planet as having early-stage climate change, and he urges the world to start quitting fossil fuels, well, then he is labeled an alarmist or an extremist by industry-backed groups.
The truth is we all should be alarmed by the great moral crisis of our time. By destroying a livable climate we are stealing the future from our children and grandchildren and countless future generations.
To save this spineless world from itself, supplying the truth isn’t enough. You need to supply the spine, too. You need to be courageous. And so Jim has been forced by the times — and by his moral convictions — to become an activist.
There is a saying that applies to Jim, “One man with courage is a majority.”
How many scientists have spawned an entire movement?
Five years ago Jim explained that “If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted,” we need to return carbon dioxide levels back to 350 parts per million. That led to Bill McKibben founding the group 350.org.
Then Jim said burning the tar sands would be “game over for the climate” — and that led to the fight against the Keystone XL pipeline — and the biggest protests and civil disobedience the climate movement had ever seen.
And because Jim has the courage of his convictions he has had the courage to be convicted himself — he’s been arrested 5 times during peaceful protests.
Fifty years ago this month, another great moral crusader was arrested for protesting — and he wrote a letter from his jail cell in Birmingham explaining why. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” wrote Martin Luther King Jr. on April 16, 1963. “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”
Now more than ever, we are “tied in a single garment of destiny,” cloaked as a species in a protective climate that we are in the process of unraveling. And so the need for activism, the need for courage, the need to speak out, is as great as ever.
As King put it, “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”
It is my singular honor to give you a man who will not have to repent, a man for all seasons, literally — the winner of the 2013 Ridenhour Courage Prize, Dr. James Hansen.
(1)From Wikipedia: Joseph J. Romm (born June 27, 1960) is an American author, blogger, physicist and climate expert who concentrates on methods of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and global warming and increasing energy security through energy efficiency, green energy technologies and green transportation technologies. In December 2008, Romm was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In March 2009, Rolling Stone magazine named Romm to its list of “100 People Who Are Changing America”. In September 2009, Time magazine named him one of its “Heroes of the Environment (2009)”, calling him “The Web’s most influential climate-change blogger”.
Romm is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, where he writes and maintains their climate blog, Climate Progress. In 2008, Time magazine named Romm’s blog one of the “Top 15 Green Websites”. In 2009, Thomas L. Friedman, in his column in The New York Times, called Climate Progress “the indispensable blog”, and in 2010, Time included it in a list of the 25 “Best Blogs of 2010″. Romm also writes regularly for several energy and news websites.
In the 1990s, Romm served as Acting Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy. Romm has published several books on global warming and energy technology. Technology Review wrote that his December 2006 book, Hell and High Water, “provides an accurate summary of what is known about global warming and climate change, a sensible agenda for technology and policy, and a primer on how political disinformation has undermined climate science.” Romm’s 2010 book, Straight Up, released in April 2010, is a selection of his blog postings since 2007.Canadian Officials Should Be Ashamed For Attacking Scientists
As the pro-bitumen export crowd notices the gathering storm clouds over their Northern Gateway and Kinder-Morgan options, and, further south, sees long shadows falling over the Keystone XL pipeline to refineries on the shores of the Texas Gulf coast, support is mobilizing for pipelines running east.
Debate has been about how best to export raw, virtually unprocessed bitumen — as much as possible and as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, the eastern half of Canada depends on imports of foreign oil from Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Kazakhstan, Venezuela, and Norway. As Gordon Laxer of the Parkland Institute tried to point out to a Parliamentary committee (before the Conservative chair ordered him to stop talking and stormed out of the room), Canada has no energy security.
I feel some responsibility for this shift in debate, as I was the first political leader to point out that there was something wrong with the picture.
Unlike the US, we have no Strategic Petroleum Reserves. If there was a blockade of foreign oil or an economic embargo, those in Eastern Canada would have to wait for tankers to bring them bitumen for processing through the Panama Canal and up the eastern seaboard. As bizarre as that sounds, it was the solution offered by a Suncor executive when asked in committee about the vulnerability of eastern Canada to embargos.Oppositional Canada
The irony is that the dividing line of foreign oil to the east and Alberta oil for the west was the result of deliberate government policy—aimed at helping the Alberta oil and gas sector. Back in 1961, the National Oil Policy decreed that eastern Canadians (east of the Ottawa River) would only receive imported oil while those in the West had to purchase Alberta product. By deliberate policy, Eastern Canadians became dependent on foreign oil, while Alberta oil was consumed by those in western provinces and exported to the US. Now it is time to think like a country.The Solution: Shipping East?
However, the current proposal also makes no sense. Former New Brunswick Premier Frank McKenna has proposed shipping unprocessed bitumen to St John, New Brunswick, to put it in tankers to export it from there. Others are proposing refining it in New Brunswick.
The first decision point is Enbridge’s application to reverse its Number 9 pipeline. This pipeline was built in the 1970s and had originally flowed west to east. It was reversed in the 1990s as the markets favoured cheaper foreign oil.
Now, Enbridge is applying to reverse it once again, running a different product, dilbit, from west to east. The request to the National Energy Board is being considered in two stand-alone applications; Line 9A (Sarnia to North Westover) and Line 9B to Montreal.
From there the bitumen would likely go south through New England. When I was in Washington DC, I heard from quite a few Congressmen and Senators that they do not want those pipelines over their territory.Bitumen
The nature of bitumen and diluents in pipelines is a critical issue in why the Green Party oppose pipelines of unprocessed product to either coastline. So, before talking about the direction of pipelines, we need to talk about the product.
Even after the extensive and intensive process of extracting the viscous material known as bitumen from the soil in which it is found (generally about 10% by volume), it is still not processed to even the level of crude oil. Crude oil can flow. Bitumen cannot. It has the consistency of peanut butter, so needs to be mixed with something else to flow. That something else is called ‘diluent’—a mix of undisclosed chemicals. The most commonly used diluent is a natural gas condensate, similar to Naptha. The public does not know the make-up of any particular diluent. Some have more benzene than others—benzene is a well-documented carcinogen.
The resulting so-called dilbit product is about 30% diluents and 70% bitumen. We do know a lot more about dilbit than we used to. And we did a lot of that learning through the 2010 Enbridge dilbit spill in the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. We know it both floats and sinks; that it is far harder and far more expensive to clean-up than unprocessed conventional crude. The Kalamazoo spill is still not cleaned up.
Meanwhile a debate rages about whether dilbit is more likely to cause pipeline failure. Cornell University found that between 2007 and 2010 pipelines carrying dilbit had a spill-rate three times higher than pipelines carrying conventional crude. Oil sands products have a higher sulfur and a higher acidic content than conventional crude and those properties could explain its increased corrosive nature.
This finding led to the Department of Natural Resources to commissioning a study by a group called Alberta Innovates Technology Futures (ATIF). That study compared dilbit and conventional crudes and concluded the types of corrosive compounds between the two products were comparable. So we have labwork versus the real life rate of spills in US pipelines. At the moment, despite what Harper’s Cabinet ministers claim, the science on the corrosive nature of dilbit is not settled.
Meanwhile, if local residents along the Number 9 pipeline wish to speak before the NEB hearings, or even submit a letter, they are required to fill out a 10-page form, and are also encouraged to submit references and a resume! This is an NEB effort to meet the new requirements imposed by the horrific overhaul of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act that took place last year in the Omnibus Budget Bill (C-38).
Unlike the previous CEAA, which was premised on a fundamental commitment to rights of public participation, the Harperized CEAA restricts access to only those ‘directly affected’. The NEB has made this restriction even worse by demanding that any citizens who want to make comments, fill out the forms and apply within a two-week period—which will close before this article will be in print.Refineries In Alberta
So, what should be done? The best environmental, economic and climate outcome would be to slow down the boom-and-bust cycle of constant expansion in the oil sands. What the late Peter Lougheed used to describe as the ‘traffic jam’ of feverish expansion in the oilsands prevents the construction of ancillary infrastructure, like upgraders and refineries.
The hyper-inflationary bubble that sits on northern Alberta is what makes it cheaper for Big Oil to build a $7 billion pipeline to Texas, rather than build facilities in Alberta. Any reasonable carbon plan would set a level of managed growth for oil sands production—say 2 million barrels of oil a day (more than the current 1.7 million barrels, but less than Harper’s goal of 6 million barrels of oil a day). That level of production could cool down the capital and labour markets enough to build upgraders and refineries near the resource. Then, we could be talking about shipping—by pipeline, truck or train—a finished product whose properties are better understood. Shipping a product with a far lower risk of environmental impact in the event of spills.
If we are thinking like a country, we should get Alberta oil to Eastern Canada, but we should not ship bitumen + diluents.Pipelines to the east?
OTTAWA – The Green Party of Canada warmly congratulates Premier Kathleen Wynne for her leadership in saving the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) together with the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD).
“While this level of rescue for world-renowned science should never have been necessary, Greens thank Premier Wynne and IISD for stepping up,” said Green Leader Elizabeth May, Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands.
Ms. May served on the board of the IISD for nine years prior to entering politics.
“IISD, a think tank, is not necessarily the right organization to take on this mandate. However, keeping the ELA open and functioning, and in a public and transparent context, was paramount,” said May.
“The refusal of the Harper Conservatives to re-think their anti-environmental agenda remains disturbing,” said May.
Communications Coordinator, Green Party of Canada
ELA: Greens Congratulates Wynne for her Leadership