Democracy has fallen – Hyer
THUNDER BAY – POLITICS – Last week, I was reminded of just how far democracy has fallen under this Conservative government. On November 5, I attended the Environment Committee to make amendments to Bill C-40, which would establish the Rouge National Urban Park.
I presented 18 different amendments to the bill. While I was encouraged that the government had taken action on conservation, there were several changes that needed to be made to improve the bill. It required a lot of thought and work by many staff and volunteers, to strengthen protections for the park and the Rouge watershed by upholding the standard of “ecological integrity” to ensure that the ecology of the lands and waters of the park are protected, not degraded. Ecological integrity needs to be the first priority of park management.
We also wanted the government simply to respect the agreements and policies already in place for protection of the Rouge Park. In 2013, Parks Canada and the Ontario government signed an agreement that requires written policies to “meet or exceed provincial policies.” But Bill C-40 fails miserably at that. The government is ignoring its own agreement with Ontario, and violating the Rouge Park Management Plan, the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act, the Rouge North Management Plan, the Provincial Greenbelt Plan, the Little Rouge Corridor Management Plan, and Environment Canada’s own reports! In view of this failure, Ontario is threatening to withhold the land, as they feel this government won’t be adequately protecting it.
There are very clear problems with Bill C-40. We in the Green Party see Parliament as a place for constructive debate, compromise, and taking the best ideas, regardless of which party they come from, to create the best legislation. But the Conservatives prefer to play the politics of division.
I presented 18 solid amendments, based on evidence and broad consultation with experts and community groups. And one by one, all five Conservatives raised their hands in robotic unison. MP Stephen Woodworth did speak up just twice to explain why he was voting against an amendment. Paul Calandra opened his mouth only to take a sarcastic shot at the Liberals … and to tell his colleagues to raise their hands to vote against an amendment that they clearly had not even heard! Most of the Conservatives did not even look up during the debate, keeping their eyes glued on their Blackberrys as they stubbornly refused every bipartisan attempt to improve ecological protection in the park.
The Conservatives have done more damage to Canadian parliamentary democracy than perhaps any government before them. But despite low expectations, I was shocked at what went on in this committee. And it’s not just Environment Committee. Green Party Leader Elizabeth May was over at Public Safety committee at exactly the same time, presenting amendments to the government’s awful anti-safe injection site bill. Over 67 amendments were moved, and all were voted down mindlessly, despite the fact that the government knows well that their bill as is will never withstand a Charter challenge in the Supreme Court.
Sadly, the virus of mindless tribalism of Question Period has infected Conservatives MPs in committees as well.
Bruce Hyer MP
Thunder Bay Superior North