“What just happened to our democracy?” – Bruce Hyer MP

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Bruce Hyer MPOTTAWA – On November 16, the Conservatives called a surprise Senate vote on the country’s only federal climate bill, and killed it. I worked on hard C-311 for almost two years; after much consideration and debate it was passed by the majority of elected Members of the House of Commons, and supported by the vast majority of Canadians.

The Bill required the Environment Minister to ensure that Canada reduces our absolute greenhouse gas emissions. It proposed greater accountability by requiring the Environment Minister to prepare 5-year target plans and biennial progress reports. It mandated the independent National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy to review and report on the feasibility of plans. It did not prescribe any particular means of accomplishing these goals, leaving that flexibility to the government of the day. After all, there is no magic bullet to tackling climate change; instead, we need all the tools at our disposal.

The Senate action was unprecedented in Canadian history. Stalled deliberately in the Senate for 193 days while Harper muzzled Senators, there was no debate or consideration of the bill before Harper’s unelected Senate killed it.

It is colossally hypocritical of Harper to use the appointed party hacks in the Senate to kill bills passed by the democratically-elected House. Remember how he spent most of his political career railing against similar tactics used by the Liberals… and that he would never even appoint unelected Senators? He has now appointed more Senators than any other Prime Minister in our history.

Harper is shaming Canada with his head-in-the-tar-sands approach. Canada heads to the UN climate change negotiations this week in Mexico without a single law or bill or plan that tackles greenhouse gas pollution. Harper is waiting for the US Congress to act … effectively letting the Tea Party write Canada’s climate change policies!

Harper isn’t even harmonizing with the U.S. The “Falling Behind” report states: “When it comes to investing in clean energy jobs, Canada doesn’t even come close to matching US efforts.”  The US is investing 8 times more per capita than our government is in energy efficiency, public transit and renewable power. It’s estimated we’re losing out on at least 66,000 jobs! Harper has also just shut down the popular ecoENERGY programs for renewable power and green home retrofits.

Canadian business has called for a plan for years. Shell Oil CEO Brian Straub recently called for firm targets. But the government isn’t serious: it’s changed its (weak) targets as often as it has changed Environment Ministers …almost every year. They have never set those targets in law or even tabled a plan to achieve them. This isn’t helping investor confidence!

Harper claimed, without evidence, that C-311 would be unaffordable and cost jobs. The former Chief Economist of the World Bank, Nicholas Stern has made it clear that to NOT to adopt the targets in C-311 will cost far more than will the costs of action. Economic modelling done on this bill in a Canadian context by renowned economists at MK Jaccard & Associates show that it’s not only affordable, but will result in job growth a steady increase in GDP. The Prime Minister is merely spreading fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

The science is now unequivocal: unchecked greenhouse gas emissions will lead to catastrophe. We face vanishing polar ice caps, drought, rising sea levels, damaged agriculture, species extinctions, virulent diseases, extreme weather events, and economic hardship… including deforestation and increased fires here in Northwestern Ontario.

Further, this sets a deeply disturbing precedent for our entire democratic system. When Members in the House of Commons, elected by the people of Canada, work diligently to pass good legislation they at least expect the Senate to study it carefully and give it due consideration. Unaccountable appointees killing legislation outright …without even hearing evidence! …puts our entire parliamentary system into question. Canadians are wondering: “What just happened to our democracy?”

Bruce Hyer, MP

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