Not outraged (February 28, 2021)

Good Sunday Morning!

And ushering in March tomorrow – marking a full year of pandemic.

My husband remarked the other morning as our dog Xo came bounding along, all chipper and ready for another really fun doggy day, “The best description of dogs I have ever heard,” said John, “is the ‘Designated Optimist.’”

And - boy oh boy - do we ever need a way to bottle optimism and have it handy!!

This week brought news of:

News that is consistent with this media report: Trudeau government backpedals on investigating human rights complaints against mining companies | Globalnews.ca

What I find distressing about the onslaught of bad news is how often our reaction is to be disappointed, but not outraged.

The reaction to Horgan’s Site C announcement was exactly that - no one was surprised, so it was hard to motivate the appropriate level of rage. 

I actually thought I was going to win on my point of privilege, but Paul Manly said that he honestly didn’t think we had a chance. It just seems inevitable that bigger parties will keep chipping away at the few rights we have.  For Speaker Rota to say that the prime minister might not answer our questions on Wednesdays, even though he is answering all questions on that one day, is a pretty dubious dodge (I have to be careful in writing this. There are no appeals from a Speaker’s ruling and respect for the institution is part of the system I respect as a parliamentarian.) But it was outrageous to point to the Harper invention of “inviting” us to committees for clause by clause review of bills as a sign of our ability to exercise our rights.  That trick, maintained by the Liberals, deprived us of the rights I used to have, for example that allowed me to bring in hundreds of amendments at Report Stage to fight the horrible 2012 omnibus bill that wrecked nearly every environmental law in Canada.  What I had a right to do in 2012, I can no longer do.

A low point for me this week was the announcement of the membership for the advisory panel for the as-yet-to-be reviewed Net Zero Climate Accountability Act, C-12.  On social media – Twitter and Instagram – groups that I thought were sufficiently grounded in science so as not to be fooled, like 350.org Canada and Coast Protectors, crowed that we had a “Big Win.” 

What win? you ask… Well, Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson announced his advisory panel. I am arguing hard, as are a number of environmental law organizations, like West Coast Environmental Law, that the advice must come from climate experts, particularly climate scientists. The panel announced by Wilkinson is a multi-stakeholder group, as expected.

Greens have been arguing forcefully that it is not a climate accountability act when the first “milestone year” is 2030; that aiming for “net zero” by 2050 could put the nail in the coffin of holding to 1.5 degrees if the bill does not ensure steep and deep cuts this decade (meaning we need a first milestone year in 2025 with required reductions of at least 20% lower than 2005 levels)….so what’s the “win?”

His announced panel does not include any representative from Big Oil.  There is probably no better example of the diminished expectations of climate activists that this could count as a win of any kind.

This announcement reduces the chance of amending the act to ensure the panel is science-based. It is a disrespectful pre-empting of the committee review of the Act. It is an outrage to appoint a panel before the act has even had Second Reading. The panel has only one climate scientist, several proponents for nuclear, one for coal, very solid people from organized labour and the environmental movement, but for the love of God – “Big Win?”   

So, to close with some actual good news.  For the first time in Canadian history, a river has been designated to have rights! It was a set of clever resolutions from the Innu Council of Ekuanitshit and the Minganie Regional County Municipality (RCM) that granted legal personhood to the Magpie River.  Congratulations to the Muteshekau-shipu Alliance and thanks to the International Observatory on the Rights of Nature (IORN) that developed the legal documents!

For the first time, a river is granted official rights and legal personhood in Canada (newswire.ca)

And a shout out to Paul Manly for getting the need to protect old growth, referencing in particular Fairy Creek, into the Canadian Parliament.  His Motion 71 can be read here: https://www.ourcommons.ca/Members/en/paul-manly(89485)/motions/11129017

Thanks and stay safe! And give your best Designated Optimist a thank you treat!

Elizabeth

P.S.

This is the YouTube of my 10 minute climate debate from Monday. Apologies to those with keen ears. I initially misspoke and said “COP15 in Paris.” I meant the COP of 2015 in Paris, but the rest of the debate is clearly about COP21 in Paris in 2015. And it is clear that Wilkinson just violated a commitment made there – totally ignoring the pledge to increase our target in 2020.

Elizabeth May: We are almost out of time to avoid more than 1.5 degrees global average temperature increase


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