Long Haulers (March 14, 2021)

Good Sunday Morning!

My whole last week was intense work in parliament – on zoom. So, I thought I would share some of the week’s highs and low points.

Monday was International Women’s Day and I had a chance to celebrate women in politics across party lines.  One very young NDP MP, our current Liberal Finance Minister and one retired Progressive Conservative.   You might not be able to find three women in politics as different from each other as are Mumilaaq Qaqqaq, Chrystia Freeland and Pat Carney.  All have faced additional obstacles because they are women. Former Senator Pat Carney, who is now one of my constituents, accomplished much in a very male dominated world.  It is clear to me that the progress of women everywhere must be celebrated by women everywhere. I had been tempted to focus on the Green Party and all of our “firsts” – first woman leader of a federal party (1988 Kathryn Cholette), only party to ever elect more women than men to a caucus (federal and Prince Edward Island!) and, of course, first party with a woman black leader- 2020 Annamie Paul).  But women need to support each other across party lines. Here it is in 70 seconds:     www.youtube.com/watch?v=0RUJlCFM14kWorld

And with my once a month chance to ask a question in Question Period, I was torn about what my largest priority should be.  I really couldn’t escape the reality that virtually all of Question Period had been dominated by questions about our Minister of Defence and what he has known – or not known – about the charges of serious sexual misconduct by former Chief of Defence Staff General Vance.  Is that the most important issue? No one had asked about the death of another indigenous man killed by RCMP during a "wellness check" and that gave me a chance to remind parliament about the death of Chantel Moore.

We had a big Green Party first on Wednesday as Paul Manly achieved unanimous consent on his motion in support of UK pensioners resident in Canada.  I have tried for unanimous consent and never achieved it! Paul did a lot of work lining up support across party lines. But still, I held my breath. All it would take was one MP saying “nay!” and the motion could not have passed.  There was a lot of cheering - me at home on my own! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9U9c5FmbaU0

My Wednesday morning started early (4:30AM) with an inspiring meeting of the Global Greens COP26 Working Group.  I had the worst time zone issue- Australian Greens were joining after midnight, and we had participants from Burundi, Kenya, Egypt, Lebanon, Colombia, Venezuela, the US, UK, Sweden, Germany, India and so many more! It was a far more focused discussion of the climate crisis than once parliament opened. On Wednesday afternoon, we had our first return to debate on the Climate Accountability Act, C-12.  It had not been on the Order Paper since December.  Choosing a Wednesday (with only half day sittings) means that we are still far short of the number of hours we need before the bill goes to a Second Reading vote.  After that, it will go to committee for study.  As of now, I have not had any opportunity to speak to the bill.  Nor have Paul or Jenica. My only way to participate is through debate in very brief questions.  Brevity led to being very blunt in this question. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLwt9A7GYuE

Thursday was the one year anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring COVID19 a pandemic, so governments around the world marked the day with sombre memorials.  In parliament, each leader spoke and I had my turn as parliamentary leader of the Green Party. I implored my colleagues to act as though we were operating in a proportional representation country – to act as though there were no political parties. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_AnV72VDPJM 

With only one question a month in Question Period, I have to look for other ways in debates to raise issues on behalf of constituents.  On Friday, we were debating changes to employment insurance to improve benefits in light of COVID.  I have been trying to find a way to raise the issue of the lingering illnesses of many who are no longer experiencing acute COVID symptoms but are not well – generally described as “long haulers.”  One of their concerns is that the EI rules require they be looking for work which they are too sick to do, so I seized on that connection to explain the issue and press the government for answers. And I mentioned the petition I am sponsoring for a constituent, herself a long hauler.  Unfortunately, and comically, the parliamentary secretary somehow misunderstood the question and thought I was asking about long-distance truckers!   On my zoom screen I watched as my colleagues began to laugh. They all knew what I was talking about.  The next MP to speak, pointed out that my question had been about the many Canadians who may no longer test positive for COVID, but are not recovered.  (Because that was Friday, I do not have video of it yet. Maybe I’ll share it next week.) Being a long-hauler is no joke, but that was a pretty unbelievable exchange.  Here’s the petition again. Please sign! https://petitions.ourcommons.ca/en/Petition/Details?Petition=e-3229

Meanwhile, in the real world beyond the zoom world of parliament, some good news.  Thanks to UBC’s Dr. Tara Martin who spotted the significance – ecological and cultural -- of a nearly 10 acre island near Sidney Island in the Haro Strait. SISȻENEM has been restored to indigenous ownership. The W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council made it possible. The Land Conservancy played a key role, as did the anonymous donor found by Dr. Martin.  Inspiring! https://news.ubc.ca/2021/02/26/sis%C8%BCenem-transfer-to-w%CC%B1sanec-first-nations/

Lastly, I am very happy to ask you to sign and share this petition. I have written in GSM about the Canadian oil company ReconAfrica with its plans to frack and disrupt one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, the Okavango Delta along the Namibia-Botswana border.  Please help us get this petition widely distributed. And Thanks to Vicky Husband for her work as the petition’s sponsor!

https://petitions.ourcommons.ca/en/Petition/Details?Petition=e-3256

Have a great week! Stay well and safe!

Love,

Elizabeth

PS

Please join me on March 18th for a 350.org Town Hall on Just Transition! https://350.org/canada/jt-townhall/

Policy magazine asked me to do a book review of Bill Gates’ new climate book so here you go, https://policymagazine.ca/can-billionaires-save-the-world-what-bill-gates-gets-wrong-and-right-about-climate-change/

But now I am reading Michael Mann’s new book, The New Climate War, which is far FAR better!


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