The Third Prorogation and why it’s not the offence of earlier prorogations
In some ways, I wish I could pile on with other politicians in attacking Stephen Harper’s latest prorogation. It is like a piñata waiting to be smashed – yummy candies bursting inside. The problem is that I am really committed to trying to explain things fairly and not fan flames best doused.
Proroguing the House is normal parliamentary procedure when used in appropriate moments. That is why the Conservatives could retort to angry parliamentarians at the time of the prorogations in 2008 and 2009 that Liberal prime ministers had also prorogued the House, so what’s the big deal? So they had. Proroguing is the normal practice to end one session of the House and re-start with a Speech from the Throne and a new agenda. That is how other prime ministers have used it.
Stephen Harper’s earlier use of proroguing offended at a fundamental level the nature of parliamentary democracy. Professor emeritus of political science from University of Toronto, Peter Russell, has argued that earlier prorogations were unconstitutional. That is because our Constitution places the executive as subservient to the Parliament as a whole. In fact, the Constitution neither mentions the prime minister nor the Prime Ministers Office. For the prime minister to shut down Parliament to avoid a vote he knew he would lose is about as serious a display of contempt for democracy as one can imagine.
Salt Spring Islander and national treasure, Ron Wright, wrote these words to the Globe and Mail regarding the outrage of the 2008 prorogation:
“Eight years ago, Canadians watched in disbelief as the U.S. failed to carry out a recount in the election that installed George W. Bush. We had reason to be proud of the advantages of our parliamentary system. Now Canada has made an even more serious constitutional blunder, and it is our turn to hang our heads in shame.
Modern parliamentary democracy rests on a single great principle: The government must have the consent of the governed. This consent is delegated by the people to their MPs. The government must then be able to carry the ‘confidence’ of the House of Commons. Majority governments rarely lose that confidence; minority governments often do. When the government cannot carry the House, it falls.
Suspending Parliament to dodge a vote the government fears it will lose is so deeply undemocratic, it should never have been mooted by politicians, the media or the Governor General. The English Civil War was fought on this very issue – after King Charles I shut down Parliament when h found its restrictions uncongenial. The King lost his head.
We no longer behead people in Canada, but Stephen Harper’s coup d’état cannot be allowed to stand, not least because of the precedent. Any future government can now slip the leash of democracy in the same way. This is how constitutions fail.” (December 8, 2008, Globe and Mail)
At the time of the 2009 decision to prorogue – announced on New Years’ Eve – searching through the annals of all other constitutional monarchies, operating under the Westminster Parliamentary system, I could find only three cases of prorogation to avoid political difficulties and/or embarrassments. All three were in Canada.
The first was Sir John A Macdonald’s shame, shutting down the House to avoid the Pacific Scandal. When the House reconvened, he called an election which he lost. The other two were both Stephen Harper. I found one case in Sri Lanka where a prime minister had attempted prorogation in similar circumstances, but the Governor General refused.
Now we have four illegitimate uses of prorogation in Canada – Sir John A (once), Stephen Harper (twice) and former Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty (once).
The difference between a legitimate use and an illegitimate use is whether or not the motivation for shutting down Parliament is to avoid political difficulty, coupled with whether the agenda of the government of the day is mid-stream or nearly out of steam.
In this case, Harper’s legislative agenda has been virtually wiped clean. We sat until midnight (Monday to Thursday) for the last month of the spring session. Some nights we did not adjourn until 1:30 AM. Harper and his House leader, Peter Van Loan, were plowing through any bill that was important to their agenda, and a lot of minor ones too. Every bill had a limitation of time for debate, so they were being rubber stamped in ways that made it hard to keep track all that had been passed.
True, Harper could have prorogued in July. He could have mentioned plans to prorogue when he announced his Cabinet shuffle. Mentioning it in the course of his annual “let’s open up the Arctic to industrial expansion” tour was not the most appropriate. Nevertheless, I am not grabbing the stick for this piñata. To howl with protest over this one is to allow a blurring of offences. Shutting down the House to avoid a confidence vote he knew he would lose is at a level of abuse so extreme that it must be remembered for what it was. Just as blurring Senate spending scandals may allow the prime minister to avoid the most pressing questions surrounding the personal cheque for $90,000 from his chief of staff to Mike Duffy. Some scandals are all smoke and mirrors. Let’s focus on the ones roasting democracy over an open hearth.
…Elizabeth May: Leader, Green Party and a Wise Woman
The idea of a shell game is simple enough. Three small shells or cups glide around a surface, hiding one small object. Wikipedia notes that this game is an elaborate, if simple, confidence trick, designed to perpetrate a fraud.
Stephen Harper’s latest moves in the Enbridge project debate have been a lot like that shell game. He has whizzed the cups around the table. In the blur of moves, some may believe he has changed his position.
Analyzing the moves in sequence helps focus on the most likely of explanations. This latest “wait for the science” gambit is all about defusing the pipeline issue before and during the spring BC provincial election.
Things have been shaken up on this issue by two key events. The first, July 10, 2012, was the release of the findings of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Accident Report on the Kalamazoo, Michigan Enbridge spill. The second was Premier Christy Clark’s announcement, a toughening stand unveiled from July 16-21, that she could not be counted on to support the project, unless Alberta and the federal government agreed to concessions. And in this blur of news, Stephen Harper seemed to have a change of heart, claiming that he had always said the decision would rest on the findings of the Joint Review Panel.
Of course, if Stephen Harper was thinking about the evidence, the logical time to have spoken up about pipeline safety was immediately following the July 10 condemnation of Enbridge by US officials. Is there any evidence that the US NTSB 150 page report lambasting Enbridge for incompetence and negligence had any impact on the PM?
The PMO message machine did ensure a strong statement was made in response to the accident report. On July 19, Environment Minister Peter Kent leapt to the defence of Enbridge. In a Globe and Mail story headlined “Ottawa maintains support for Enbridge and Northern Gateway,” Peter Kent said, “Pipelines are still, by far, the safest way to transport petrochemicals in any form.” According to the news report, Peter Kent also said he had not read the U.S. NTSB report. His defence of Enbridge?
“It is an older pipeline; it is a different set of geographic and technological realities from some of the new major projects being proposed,” he said.
Pity poor Peter Kent; told by the Boss to peddle an impossible sales pitch. Is the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline to remain perpetually new? A never-get-old pipeline? Just the next week, July 27, Enbridge had a new leak in relatively new, 1998 vintage, pipeline in Wisconsin.
In the time between Peter Kent’s defence of Enbridge’s 2010 Michigan spill and the new one in Wisconsin, Christy Clark made her first public criticism of Enbridge.
On August 1, on CKNW and the Bill Good Show, Heritage Minister James Moore became the first member of the Harper cabinet to criticize Enbridge. Moore chose to criticize Enbridge while praising Kinder-Morgan’s pipeline expansion plans.
Chronologically, the next development was within days. Clearly, prior to Moore’s August 1 radio comments, the wheels were in motion for the letter from Peter Kent and the head of the NEB to the Joint Review Panel. The letter, dispatched on Friday August 3, told the JRP that their report would be due on December 31, 2013. Frankly, to that point, all indications pointed to forcing the completion of the review far sooner than December 2013.
On Tuesday, August 7, (the first business day following the Kent deadline letter), Stephen Harper met with Christy Clark and then recast the issue, claiming he was going to allow science to decide whether the pipeline would be approved:
“And as I’ve said repeatedly, the government does not pick and choose particular projects. The government obviously wants to see British Columbia’s export trade continue to grow and diversify; that’s important. But projects have to be evaluated on their own merits.” (emphasis added)
The reality is that the Prime Minister had never said anything remotely like this before. With specific reference to Enbridge, he has “repeatedly” used the term “national interest” to describe the importance of the project. Speaking in China in February, Harper made his clearest commitments to ensuring the Northern Gateway project is built. In a Reuters story, “Canada PM vows to ensure key oil pipeline is built,” Harper said, “our government is committed to ensuring that Canada has the infrastructure necessary to move our energy resources to those diversified markets.”
Is he really backing away from unequivocal support?
Rather than a change in his position, the new con game is about trying to reduce the opposition to the pipeline during the BC election. That’s why the deadline is now December 2013. My bet is that trying to reduce the “with us or against us” rhetoric was the main topic of conversation when Clark and Harper met. The more people believe it is only a hypothetical threat, the more the BC election may not require BC political leaders to harden their opposition to federal railroading of a risky super tanker and pipeline scheme.
In this con game, my money is still on the reality that Stephen Harper is more determined to export bitumen to China than to any other policy objective.
Maude Barlow, chair of the Council of Canadians, says seven Conservative MPs whose 2011 election wins are being challenged in Federal Court by a group backed by her organization want to see a $250,000 deposit on costs in case the challengers lose. (Juan Karita/Associated Press)
A lawyer for seven Conservative MPs whose 2011 election wins are being challenged in Federal Court wants to see a $250,000 deposit on costs in case the challengers lose.
Nine Canadians in seven ridings have mounted the court challenge, backed by the Council of Canadians, a regular foe of the Conservative government.
In an email sent to supporters, Council of Canadians chair Maude Barlow says lawyers for the seven Conservative MPs have asked the challengers to put up $250,000 to cover the MPs' costs in case the challengers lose.
The Council of Canadians is backing nine voters who say there is evidence of voter suppression in the last federal election and that the election result should be overturned in ridings where the result was close. They say a pattern of misleading calls, both live and automated robocalls, shows a co-ordinated effort to keep Canadians away from the polls on May 2, 2011.
The applicants are challenging the election results in these ridings:
Don Valley East in Ontario, won by Conservative MP Joe Daniel by 870 votes.
Nipissing-Timiskaming in Ontario, won by Conservative MP Jay Aspin by 18 votes.
Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar in Saskatchewan, won by Conservative Kelly Block by 538 votes.
Vancouver Island North in B.C., won by Conservative John Duncan by 1,827 votes.
Winnipeg South Centre in Manitoba, won by Conservative MP Joyce Bateman by 722 votes.
Elmwood-Transcona in Manitoba, won by Conservative MP Lawrence Toet by 300 votes.
Yukon won by Conservative MP Ryan Leef by 132 votes.
The news comes out of a case conference Wednesday during which the parties also discussed a request by the applicants for Elections Canada to release more information about its investigation into the calls. The election agency refused to provide the information and asked the court to decide whether it should be handed over.
"While these relentless obstructions by the Conservative Party continue to drive up legal costs, they will not dampen our resolve to defend democracy and restore voters' rights," Barlow said in the email.
The motion will be heard in Federal Court on Sept. 18, Barlow said. The court is also expected to decide that day whether Elections Canada should provide the additional information requested by Steven Shrybman, the lawyer for the applicants.
Defence costs 'significant'
A court document filed by one of the respondents and provided to CBC News by the Council of Canadians notes that the applicants put up $1,000 per application, but the court has the discretion to increase the security.
The respondents "must defend against the application and the costs of doing so will be significant," says the document, filed on behalf of Conservative MP Lawrence Toet.
The Council of Canadians has confirmed it is paying for the court challenge and in fact sought out volunteers for the court case, Toet says in the document, noting the organization has used the case as a fund-raising opportunity.
"These fundraising efforts have been successful with the Council reporting that they had raised $129,000 by mid-July, 2012. While trumpeting their successful fundraising, the Council have also been vocal about the fact that $129,000 is not nearly enough to support seven election challenges. The Council has indicated that fees and expenses for the court challenges were expected to reach $240,000 by the end of June," the document says.
A motion filed by Conservative MP Jay Aspin says the applicant in his case should have to put up $40,000 before the case is decided.
The applicants have already won a small victory in court when it ruled the case could go ahead despite a motion to dismiss filed by the Conservative MPs. The Conservatives said the case was filed too late, didn't back up the claims of the applicants and had no chance of success. The applicants responded that they brought the case as soon as they became aware of the possibility of a co-ordinated approach to the misleading phone calls.
This isn't the first court case as a result of the 2011 election. Voters in Etobicoke Centre are waiting for the Supreme Court to decide whether they should go back to the polls after an Ontario Superior Court justice found in favour of former Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj, who challenged Conservative MP Ted Opitz's win because some polling stations were missing the paper work they needed to prove those who voted were qualified to do so.
The appalling 420 page so-called omnibus budget implementation bill, C-38, will likely clear the Senate before you read this. All 700+ of the Opposition amendments were defeated after a marathon 23.5 hours on non-stop voting from June 13-14, including all 300+ of my substantive amendments.
The debate at Third Reading continued to reveal that Conservative Members of Parliament had no grasp of the act, so as a last attempt to shake them into integrity, I challenged all Conservatives to a small quiz to test their knowledge of the act — open-book, 15 minutes long, and multiple choice. I offered a tree planting ceremony with them in their riding to anyone who passed.
Sadly, none of them showed up. The law of averages suggests that at least one MP would give it a shot. The failure of even one Conservative MP to show up persuades me that they were ordered by the Prime Minister’s Office to stay away. One Independent MP, former NDP MP, Bruce Hyer took the test and got 100%. (He was quite relieved.)
Stephen Harper’s legislative strategy can be described as “might makes right.” It was a foregone conclusion that if the Prime Minister maintained maximum pressure on his MPs and rejected any possible compromise, the bill would be passed. Introduced for First Reading on April 26, moving like a freight train through hearings before the Finance Committee and its sub-committees, it went to Report Stage without so much as a semi-colon removed. And then unchanged through Report Stage. It goes against every aspect of Parliamentary democracy that even helpful amendments must be crushed. The process is no longer about public policy or good legislation. It is all a war. Stephen Harper clearly believes that allowing MPs to improve legislation is a sign of weakness.
While Mr. Harper won this battle, it was a pyrrhic victory. All major national media, even Canada’s most conservative paper, the National Post, has condemned the omnibus approach as illegitimate:
…the contempt that the Tories have shown for the democratic process is unacceptable, and inexplicable. Such a hardball tactic might have been justifiable when the Conservatives held only a minority, but now, it seems simply like a bad habit the Conservatives are in need of shaking.
Canada is at a crossroads...every day that each of us delays taking a stand for what is personally important to us we lose the rights that we have taken for granted most of our lives. Democracy is up for grabs in our country and don't fool yourself that it cannot happen. Each day we hear of new laws that take away rights, new budgets that take away important programs, resourses that are being sold off to other countries and tales of deceits and manipulations abound. Proof too!
What is one to do??? Wake up and decide what you stand for...what do you want for your family, present and future.Do your due diligence, the research, find the answers and take an action . NOW.
There will always be those to speak fear..the economy, the job market, the global...etc.This is not time to be indifferent...this is a time for courage, creativity and being counted.
Do you have it in you to step outside the "nice,polite" label/box and be heard, counted and stand for what you hold dear? You can still be nice, polite...and still be clear, firm and determined to hold to the democratic Canada that stands for equality, health care for all, freedoms that few of the world's countries enjoy and thrive in a country that has resources to fully support its own people.
When I heard that ForestEthics, a group targeted in a Prime Minister’s Office memorandum as an “adversary” of the PMO agenda, had decided to split its activities so as to make advocacy a separate arm, I thought “how brave.” The fact that PMO senior staff had pressured the group’s main funder, Tides Canada, to stop supporting the conservation work of ForestEthics, (verified by the memo obtained through Access to Information), would, in itself, have been a shocking scandal even a decade ago. Now, it barely caused a murmur in a nation seemingly losing our sense of outrage in the face of suppression of dissent – like the proverbial warming frog in a toxic political stew.
It is increasingly clear that the chilling effect of the bully-boy tactic of threatening all non-government groups and all charities with as yet unspecified “new sanctions” (promised at p, 205 of the 2012 budget) is working to silence critics. Where I would expect a phalanx of Executive Directors of the country’s major national conservation and environmental groups blasting back with one voice at the unravelling of decades of environmental protections, there has been a fairly small roar from only the bravest. This is not intended as any criticism of my former colleagues. When you don’t know what the new rules will be, when you have an obligation to your organization to stay in the black and when money is scarce and threats abundant, it is hard to know how to respond.
Then there is ForestEthics. Valerie Langer – she of the Kennedy Lake blockade, putting herself in a precarious position chained to a log suspended out over open space, then rallying thousands to the burnt over clear-cuts of Clayoquot Sound over the summer of 1993 to halt the logging of the ancient coastal temperate rainforest, and she, my dear friend of many years – stood up bravely. Valerie has been working with ForestEthics for years. Far from the civil disobedience of the early 1990s, she and Forest Ethics had pioneered in market based campaigns, tackling catalogue giant Victoria’s Secret and developing a local economy through toy building with Heiltsuk First Nation.
ForestEthics had found ways to find consensus with the forest industry at the board room tables. ForestEthicsis too effective for the Harper regime. Clayton Ruby has agreed to head up ForestEthics Advocacy – a new organization that will not seek any charitable dollars for its work. Ruby declared “what we need now is more advocacy for the environment, not less advocacy for the environment. We need more speech, not less speech.”
The announcement was barely made before the spin doctors of the Prime Minister’s Office issued the following “Info Alert”:
From: Alerte-Info-Alert [mailto:
Sent: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 07:03 PM
To: Alerte-Info-Alert <
Canadian law has long restricted the generous tax advantages associated with charitable status to organizations that focus their energies on charitable activities – not politics. Unfortunately, some organizations have been using taxpayers’ generosity for their own political purposes.
In Economic Action Plan 2012, our Government announced that charities would be required to be more transparent and more accountable to Canadians when it comes to their activities.
But this was all too much for at least one radical organization who today announced the creation of a stand-alone group devoted entirely to political advocacy.
ForestEthics may be the first radical group to admit that their activities, for which they have collected tremendous financial advantages at the expense of Canadian taxpayers, were not charitable at all.
After all, legitimate organizations carrying out legitimate charitable activities would have no reason to do anything differently. From: Alerte-Info-Alert [mailto:
Right you are. Only those with something to fear would be willing to stop being afraid. Only people with something to hide will object to the warrant-less access to their email address and phone numbers and ISP information. Right, only someone who is doing wrong will object to mandatory minimum sentences or pre-emptive arrest.
And when a conservation group, unsure how to speak in this Brave New World where the 10% legal advocacy by charities leads to endless harassment with threats of loss of charitable status, decides to voluntarily relinquish its charitable status, it will stand condemned by the PMO.
This is my country. The actions of this PMO belong in some other county. Maybe one described by George Orwell where an “Info Alert” could be a tool of propaganda and smear. This PMO spends more on “information officers” than any previous PMO. Talk about abuse of taxpayers’ dollars; this bunch spends $10 million/year in shadowy political operatives and “Info Alerts.” This PMO does not belong in Canada.
Why oil supertankers have no place on B.C. coastline
Ideally, Canadians would have an opportunity to discuss what energy decisions are most in our national interest: to export bitumen crude as fast as possible? To refine the crude in Canada creating tens of thousands of jobs here? To continue to allow Eastern Canada to be dependent on Nigeria, Angola, and Venezuela for oil supplies, or to improve the pipeline infrastructure heading east from Alberta to serve the rest of Canada?
We are not going to have that opportunity. With the 2012 budget, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have made it clear (as if it were not abundantly clear already) that discussion about Canada’s energy policy will be viewed by them as tantamount to a direct attack on the national interest. To point out that ignoring the climate crisis actually hurts our economy with costs by 2020 of over $5-billion per year (conservatively), as the National Round Table on Environment and Economy (NRTEE) did, is sufficient cause for execution. Given the small cost of the NRTEE, its origins in the Mulroney era, and its mandate to bring industry leaders together with labour, environmental groups and others to find multi-stakeholder consensus, the decision to kill it was a shock. Environment Minister Peter Kent’s defence of the decision (obviously not his decision) that we no longer need such an advisory body because we have the internet is a joke.
For an environmental group to organize to protect the environment of British Columbia is to become targeted for “sanctions” under the Canada Revenue Agency, with $8-million set aside for going after environmental groups. As The Globe and Mail pointed out “witch hunts do not come cheap.”
The CRA has been conducting a steady campaign of harassment against environmental charities for years. Audits have been frequent for years, with the desired chilling effect on public criticisms of government policy. Does Mr. Harper really need to direct $8-million more to equip CRA for even greater levels of harassment?
The decisions have all been made. The problem is that in asserting that oil supertankers can safely traverse British Columbia’s northern coastal waters, the Prime Minister is ignoring quite substantial evidence.
Transport Canada shocked experts through a facile conclusion delivered to the Joint Review Panel hearings on the Enbridge supertanker scheme. No doubt at the direction of their political masters, Transport Canada told the panel it saw no “regulatory difficulties” with the proposal. The document tabled to the review process in defence of this pre-ordained conclusion is a shoddy piece of work. There is no reference to the 1972 moratorium on oil tankers, respected by every federal and British Columbia government since then. The conclusion the route is safe is based on the width and depth of channels and whether supertankers can actually fit through them. The only discussion of weather and wave and storms is to suggest that (over time) a system of weather warnings will be set up to warn tankers to stay in port if it’s stormy. How the tankers are to handle the extreme conditions known to come out of nowhere in the area is simply not discussed.
In that it has ignored Environment Canada’s Marine Weather Hazards Manual which states that the Hecate Strait (through which the supertankers must pass) is “the fourth most dangerous body of water in the world.”
Author John Vaillant in his classic, The Golden Spruce, described the Hecate Strait as “a malevolent weather factory: on a regular basis its unique combination of wind, tide, shoals, and shallows produces a kind of destructive synergy that has few parallels elsewhere in nature.” He goes on to describe how “blind rollers”enormous waves that come out of nowherecan expose the sea floor of Hecate Strait. The submission to the review process never even mentions the Hecate Strait.
Department of Fisheries and Oceans review of the threat to humpback whales in 2005 named the proposed tanker traffic to Kitimat as a threat to whale recovery. Humpback whales are listed as a species at risk in the threatened category. Scientists actually think the fin whales may be even more at risk of tanker collisions. The Transport Canada document suggests they will have whale spotters to warn a captain to avoid a whale. Really? Whale spotters can see whales in fog? At night? In a gale? No wonder that even in the report to the review panel contains concerns from DFO and recommends that Enbridge continue to work on this problem.
Lastly, Transport Canada’s conclusions are based on a long list of safety features, including using two tug boats to assist in supertanker navigation, which are voluntary. Enbridge will not own or control the tankers, but asserts its approach to tanker approval will ensure safety of the tankers it does not control.
Some people may buy this bland reassurance. It is a lot easier if you only care about selling bitumen crude to China, and a lot harder if you care about the existing tens of thousands of B.C. jobs dependent on a healthy coastal ecosystem. In fact, if you care about keeping B.C.’s coast oil-free, it is impossible.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May represents Saanich-Gulf Islands, B.C.
No government has a mandate to destroy our natural world!
We are now fighting a rear-guard action against losing all the laws we have.
For the last forty years or so, any paper on environmental policy could be forward-looking. The steady, if lamentably slow, process of developing environmental law and policy has been advancing since 1970 and the creation of Environment Canada.
Canada was slower than the United States. Under the Nixon presidency, the US passed the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and laws governing environmental assessments.
It took Canada several decades more to develop less robust laws, with the heavy lifting done in the Mulroney era with the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, the creation of the National Round Table on Environment and Economy, and the launching of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
The CEAA ultimately came into effect once Jean Chritien had become prime minister, and it was Chritien who brought in the Environmental Commissioner, within the office of the Auditor General, as well as the Species at Risk Act.
I would love to write an article setting out where the country needs to go to advance better environmental law and policy. However, we are now fighting a rear-guard action against losing all the laws we have. Not only is the CEAA process under assault, but so too are the habitat protection provisions in the Fisheries Act.
The attacks on the environmental assessment process have been unrelenting. First, the Harper government weakened it in the 2010 omnibus budget bill. By attaching wholesale changes to environmental law to the budget bill, it was forced through, without benefit of hearings or public outrage.
Sadly, opposition parties at the time were more afraid of an inconvenient election than they were dedicated to preserving environmental law. The 2010 omnibus budget bill savaged the CEAA by taking energy projects out of its jurisdiction and weakening comprehensive study. The next move to hogtie environmental review was to cut CEAA’s budget by 40 per cent.
Recently, the House environment committee issued a pre-ordained set of recommendations to further destroy environmental review.
Under the CEAA, every five years there is a mandatory review of the Act. In 2000, the review took over a year; hearings were held across the country; the process ran from January 2000 to March 2001.
This time, the committee pulled the plug after hearing witnesses for nine days. That’s right—the previous government studied the law for 15 months, and the Conservatives didn’t give it 15 days.
Many witnesses, who had been informed they would be heard, were turned away. I thought at the time that the Prime Minister’s Office must have told the Conservatives who control the committee to deliver ASAP a report to gut the process. And they did.
I fear that the sweeping changes—removing the CEAA’s jurisdiction from any province with “equivalent” environmental assessments, removing the requirement to consider alternatives, ordering fixed timelines for reviews, giving the minister increased powers, “streamlining” First Nations consultations—all point toward more nails in the CEAA’s coffin.
A few days after the recommendations to emasculate the CEAA process, Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield confirmed in the House that the Fisheries Act is also targeted for massive erosion.
The Fisheries Act, with its origins in the earliest days of Canada, is the strongest environmental law we have in Canada; now the minister appears set to remove the sections of the Act that prohibit the destruction of fish habitat.
We are also hearing that the protection of fish, a constitutional area of federal responsibility, is to be weakened. Only fish of “economic, cultural, or ecological value” will be protected. No one knows what that means.
We do know that none of this is coming from the scientists at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. It is not coming from the minister either. Just like the Environment committee report, this appalling change has PMO fingerprints all over it.
It is clear that Stephen Harper has one burning desire; one unalterable vision. It is of six million barrels of oil a day coming out of the oil sands. He wants it dug out, pumped out, or steamed out, and turned into a form of bitumen crude capable of flowing in a pipeline to get it to refineries, preferably outside of Canada.
The prime minister has promised a foreign power, none less than the government of China, that its state-owned oil enterprises with profits that flow to the state and its military, will have its pipeline built through northern British Columbia. He has promised that oil supertankers will chart the most treacherous waters on the planet, ignoring a tanker ban that has been in place since 1972.
All this has he promised. And what stands in his way? Fish habitat and the laws that protect it, as well as hundreds of streams and lakes between the oil sands and Kitimat, BC.
As well, he is apparently untroubled by the opposition of dozens of First Nations, nor by the fiduciary duty he holds to protect First Nations constitutionally-enshrined aboriginal rights. Nor does it enter his calculus that 80 per cent of British Columbians oppose opening the coast to tanker traffic.
After 35 years of working on environmental assessments, I am watching the current government weaken the process to less than what we had in 1970. No government has a mandate to undo environmental law. No government has a mandate to destroy our natural world.
Elizabeth May is the leader of the Green Party of Canada and the Member of Parliament for Saanich—Gulf Islands.
We offer these commentaries as information and thinking points for your edification and action should you so desire. All truth must be seen and heard so that each of us can take responsibility and change what is needed.
Did you know?
· 75% of the time a woman is murdered with a gun, she is killed with a long gun NOT a hand gun.
· When it comes to domestic violence, a long gun is regarded as "the weapon of choice".
· In 1994, the same year the gun registry was introduced, a total of 91 women across Canada were killed by guns as a result of spousal abuse. Whereas in 2008, after the gun registry was in place, a total of 9 women were killed as a result of spousal abuse.
· Police access the gun registry roughly 16000 times every day and have often referred to the registry as a valued public safety tool.
On Thursday March 8th 2012, Bill C-19: An Act to End the Long Gun Registry, was referred to the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs where it will be studied and debated.
The Long Gun Registry was established in 1995, in the wake of the 1989 École Polytechnique Massacre, where a lone gunman who was armed with a long gun, murdered 14 women. This registry, which is formally known as the Firearms Act, regulates the possession, transport and storage of firearms.
Unfortunately, Bill C-19 sets out to abolish the long gun registry. The same Parliamentarians who fought hard to pass Bill C-10, the Safe Streets and Communities Act, are now determined to abolish a tool that has proven to be a safety mechanism that has protected all Canadians, particularly women and children.
This is an important issue, one that I have worked on for over two decades. I plan on fighting in defense of the long gun registry just as I fought against Omnibus Crime Bill. However, I would benefit greatly from your support. I urge you to generate awareness about Bill C-19 in your communities and reach out to the Parliamentarians just as you did with Bill C-10. Your opinions and your concerns matter and I urge you to continue to make your voices heard.
Mobina ( For response please see Hon. Mobina S.B.
There are 2 articles for your consideration this month. We encourage you to read each and make your own decision. One of the important tenants of being a Wise Woman and a Co-Creative, responsible person is "Speaking Truth to Power" This may? be such a time for you.
This is as big as it gets. Elections Canada has just traced misleading phone calls made during the 2011 federal election to a company that worked for the Conservative Party across the country. We’re sending you this urgent action alert because we need to speak out now to demand answers and real consequences before this story is buried.
The “robocalls” appear to be designed to stop non-Conservative voters from casting ballots in 18 to 27 key ridings by falsely telling voters that the location of their polling stations had changed, causing them to go to the wrong location on election day.
This news casts doubt on the legitimacy of Prime Minister Harper’s majority Government. The Conservatives only narrowly won their majority by 6,201 votes in 14 ridings.
Let’s shine a bright light on these shadowy practices by telling the leaders of all political parties that we demand a full and independent public inquiry to expose the facts about the robocall scandal and ensure that the penalty for this election fraud matches the consequences of the crime - including possible by-elections in the affected ridings.
Send a message to all the party leaders and your MP demanding a full public inquiry and real consequences for election fraud:
The Conservatives have known this story was coming, and we believe their communications strategy is to blame a 20-something staffer in Guelph and then hope the Elections Canada investigation drags on, out of sight, for years.
But the scapegoat story doesn’t make sense for a host of reasons. Here’s one: it costs a lot of money to robocall 27 ridings, who paid for it? A public inquiry, backed by Elections Canada and the RCMP, can follow the money to find the people and organizations responsible.
The stakes are huge. If the public inquiry finds widespread electoral fraud, we could contest the results and demand by-elections in the affected ridings. According to the Canada Elections Act:
524. (1) Any elector who was eligible to vote in an electoral district, and any candidate in an electoral district, may, by application to a competent court, contest the election in that electoral district on the grounds that (a) under section 65 the elected candidate was not eligible to be a candidate; or (b) there were irregularities, fraud or corrupt or illegal practices that affected the result of the election.
We have seen more and more examples of election fraud in recent years. Now, we need answers and real consequences that lay the foundation for new laws to protect the integrity of Canadian elections.
Thank you for your email expressing concerns about the recent Elections Canada report. This report, describing the use of illegal “robo-calls” during last federal election, has traced these calls back to a company that worked for the Conservative Party.
This extremely worrisome development is an attack upon our cherished democratic institutions and demands an immediate response. There must be a complete investigation to determine those who are responsible. Individuals or organizations who have conducted such egregious actions need to face jail time. Additionally, financial rebates for those specific elections must be cancelled and returned to Elections Canada. (Political parties who obtain a certain percentage of the vote in a riding can receive up to 60% of their expenses refunded via Elections Canada, and 50% nationally. Combined, this amounts to tens of millions of dollars for the Conservative Party.) Only through such strong measures will we create a meaningful deterrent to these actions.
The Conservative government has made continuous efforts to target MPs and opposition parties with unscrupulous tactics as a strategy to gain more voter support. Like you, I believe this is a disturbing trend that is driving Canadians away from the political process, and have condemned this in the House of Commons on November 22nd:
For more information on my experience and thoughts on this issue, I urge you to read my book Losing Confidence: Power, Politics, and the Crisis in Canadian Democracy. In this book, I focus on the changes occurring in Canadian democracy such as the use of attack ads and muzzling of scientists.
Thank you for taking the time to write to me. You are exercising your democratic rights, and I am thankful that you’re doing so. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any other questions or concerns, and I would encourage you to consult my MP website and peruse Vision Green, available online at http://elizabethmaymp.ca/vision-green.
All revolution must come from within. Each of us, whether we live in Canada, the Middle East, the United States, Russia, China,etc...each of us comes to this “place” quietly, with resolve and intention.
We may have arrived there after much contemplation, discussion with others, a concern that has grown as certain issues have evolved, a helpless feeling and a deep knowingness of un-fairness, imbalance and witnessing injustice and indifference.
When we arrive there...this place that “revolution” seems the only answer, and maybe action...what then?? I think that in North America this might be a shock to finally arrive to this conclusion...it begs the question. ..then what?? How do I make a change in this??...How do I take a stand?...Who will it impact? Positively or negatively?
Recently the event of “Occupy” has been a new phenomenon in our culture. It was long overdue and one wonders just how long the “power brokers’ and governments were watching and waiting to see just how far they could push the masses into the various corners.
The inequalities and imbalance has been obvious and prevalent for decades; yet no revolution. Why now???
Is the “energy “ in the air as we witness the voices and slain bodies of the brave in the Middle East?
Is it that OUR government is dragging us backwards… to be a society that is one of meanness, distain, corruption, indifference and dis-honesty ...all the while we can only stand by...hope for Spring, renewal and new leadership?
Again…as peacekeepers, as we once were known, it is difficult to shift from dialogue and discussion to action, talking a stand and raising your voice. Choose your topic...explain (not defend) your point of view and be alert to where you can share and make a difference.
It all starts with each one of us…and you will be surprised and thrilled just how many people feel the same way and this is where revolution starts!
I, for one hope “Occupy” will grow, spread, flourish and infect every woman, man and child with a sense of empowerment, trust, fairness and equality for all !!!
So why am I surprised? Again in my community the people voted in a new mayor with great ideas suggesting a willingness to make some long-needed changes and then the “people” tied his hands by keeping the old council. Why is it that we are so afraid of change?? (I’m sure mine was not the only community).
Remember “ the one thing you can count on in life is taxes and death”…well really the ”one thing” is change!
Life is always changing…always moving us forward…always creating, always “bettering” us, always “growing” us.
We just have to relax, let go and trust that all change...even with the growing pains and some discomfort, change is a very good thing. After all...we know that so much is not working on our planet, our governments, our communities…why are we holding on so tight to what is not working??
For the first time in eons we have had hundreds of thousands of people around the world protesting, letting their voices and demands be known...and in some places, at great danger to themselves.
I for one salute them…it takes such courage (core-rage) to get up, go out and speak up. For some “enough is enough”. When will it be so for us here in Canada? ..when we see a government that is selling us out at every turn, that is moving us backwards, funding more, larger prisons; more weapons of mass destruction , dragging us to a place of more fear, isolation and loss.
While this is a comment on US politics I felt it was worthy as commentary on "women vs women" issues..how women who have learned/espoused the male model will choose to be less " feminine " in their approach to power, other women, families, health and world issues. Truly forgetting and giving away their own female strengths!
Gloria Steinem: Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann ‘Are There to Oppose the Women’s Movement’
Gloria Steinem, a leader of the women's liberation movement of the seventies, was feted at a luncheon on Wednesday in celebration of the HBO documentary about her life, Gloria: In Her Own Words. We were curious what the feminist icon thinks about women like Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, who are not housewives, yet support traditional values and oppose abortion. "They’re there to oppose the women's movement. That's their job," Steinem said, accusing the two politicians of "selling out" the women's movement. "That’s just the way it is; it's inevitable. Think about Phyllis Schlafly; there have always been women like this."
Later, during a speech, Steinem elaborated. "I can testify, the very same things people were telling me 30 or 40 years ago — it's against nature, you can’t do this, my wife is not interested — all these [people] are now saying, well, feminism used to be necessary, but it's not anymore. That is the new form of obstruction. And, of course, it’s accompanied by the other natural thing that happens if you have a big social justice movement: You make jobs for people who sell it out. So we have Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, who are on my list of 'the women only a man could love.'"
"But it’s important to remember that though they are in the news, they are not in the majority," Steinem continued. "And though they get elected, there's a huge race and gender differential on who votes for them. And if you were to add the governor of Texas, Rick Perry, they are the people our founders came to this country to escape," she told the lunch crowd. "They’re the same people, right? They're trying to say God looks like me and not like you, and to use that politically to make a religious base. And so it is really a kind of rerun."
Steinem hit on many other issues, like wage inequality, while speaking to guests including Tina Brown, Katie Couric, Ann Curry, Gayle King, Leslie Stahl, Christine Baranski, and Kim Cattrall. "It's not that we, female human beings, are better people, or smarter," she said. "We're not better or smarter, but we have not been raised with our masculinity to prove. This is a huge advantage."
So I have to say that I was disappointed in the results of the last election. Now while I do agree that we all have free choice ..I really wonder if this is a representation of the “majority” of Canadians....or just the “majority” that voted???
AND did you as a “wise woman” exercise that right to vote as you choose? While we are all Canadians...did some of “us” neglect that choice?
Seems So !!!
Was this about apathy, (possibly).. indifference,( I hope not)... confusion (not so much).
So What ??
I truly believe that we live in one of the most advanced democracies on the planet. Not only from the “quality of life” annual list, but also from our multi-cultural stands, our national health programs, our banking system and many more uniquely Canadian attributes and values.
Is it that we have become complacent...taking so much for granted that we forget that it can be taken away, altered forever by the stroke of a pen???
As Canadians we have often been referred to as the “nice” people; easy to get along with, open, friendly, supportive...however does that also mean we are doormats, easy to override, take advantage of, invisible???
Ask yourself...What do I truly stand for?? How far am I willing to go?
What is the “issue/idea” that I will fight/speak up for?
What are the values that I cherish and that I want to represent Canada ?
Is this the Canada I envision?
Be clear...What are you willing to lose...??
-Our National Health Program,
-Your right to choose,
-Your voice as a woman on all the issues that are important
-Representation, with women in all areas of decision and government,
-Our Canadian Natural Resources...our water, clean air, oil, trees, jobs,
ALL of this and more is up for negotiation with this government.
It is not too late....be alert to the various local and community measures and electionsinyour city/province. Stand up...Be heard...Gather together...Speak your truth... Create Change and Harmony for All
SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER....BE A CONSCIENCE...BE COURAGEOUS...BE LOVE
Be the change you wish to see in the World...M. Gandhi
The Nobel Peace Prize for 2011 is to be divided in three equal parts between Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is Africa’s first democratically elected female president. Leymah Gbowee mobilized and organized women across ethnic and religious dividing lines to bring an end to the long war in Liberia, and to ensure women’s participation in elections. Both before and during the “Arab spring”, Tawakkul Karman has played a leading part in the struggle for women’s rights and for democracy and peace in Yemen.
Deep Loss for Mother Earth: Wangari Maathai has Fallen. This was the subject line on the email from Donna Goodman (Earth Child Institute). In it, she wrote: “Over our meal that day she looked me in the eye and shared with me her story of imprisonment and keeping the fight for the trees and the women alive, her words were so important and vibrant when she told me that "people like us must never give up."
Donna’s words reminded of a panel on which Wangari was a participant. It was like listening to a circle of friends/veterans of past UN women’s conferences, together for the first time since she had won the Nobel Peace award. When they congratulated her, she said that it was “for all of us”. They told how they marched arm in arm in the streets in Mexico City at the first WCW, and subsequent events at the others, reminiscing about gains made since. Later in an informal group, a woman who had been Bella Abzug’s driver for years — told the story of how when Wangari was thrown into jail, she called Bella — they had become friends at the UN women’s conferences. I saw how the women’s conferences brought women together, forming bonds of friendship and activism, sisterhood - -heart connections. It is at the level of love of what matters and love of each other, that women together can change the world, often through helping each other out at a crucial moment. Patricia Smith Melton’s (PeaceXPeace) heartfelt response: “oh, such a moment of poignancy, and gratefulness, and sadness.... "people like us must never give up!"
Update on 5WCW Advocacy Current status: We’ve had meetings with ambassadors re: sponsorship of a General Assembly for a 5WCW resolution, which followed the groundwork of making the connections. Waiting for positive news. One of the core circle of advocates, Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury, (former UN Under Secretary General and former president of the Security Council, former ambassador from Bangladesh), was appointed Senior Special Advisor to the President of the UN General Assembly. He is a long-time advocate for women. During his presidency of the Security Council in 2000, he took the initiative to make the conceptual and political breakthrough that made it possible for the Security Council to adopt Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security. His new appointment is good news! Meanwhile, theSan Francisco Department on the Status of Women brought 5WCW to the attention of delegates to the Asian-Pacific Economic Women’s Summit as they lobbied to be the Host City in 2015.
There is good news to share: The 5WCW petition passed 11,000 signatures. The launch of UN Women with Michelle Bachelet. San Francisco Resolution to host 5WCW Like a Tree: How Trees, Women, and Tree People Can Save the Planet
The launch took place in the soaring General Assembly hall on February 22. Getting in and where we could sit was a lottery. It felt like a synchronicity when I found I was seated in the front row, middle aisle, wearing the blue 5WCW button in the midst of others who also wore them. When Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary-General introduced Michele Bachelet, it was obvious that this was an accomplishment. There was some teasing later onstage about him being “the man behind the woman,” “the man behind UN Woman.” The program which had celebrities—Ted Turner, Geena Davis, Nicole Kidman (on video), ended with musicians and singers and the song, “I am a UN Woman.”.
Micelle Bachelet, M.D., the former president of Chile, is a pediatrician, single mother, an activist who was imprisoned by Pinochet, Chile’s deposed dictator. She has agreed to serve as Under Secretary-General and head of UN Women in a two year contract, which keeps open the option to return to Chile to run for a second term as President. Whether it is a hopeful rumor or potential reality, the word is that she might become the first woman Secretary-General of the United Nations. (on my wish-list!) She has an ease, warmth, rapport with her audiences, and has had to multi-task. After my phone conversation with her, I’d add spontaneity and the ability to convey an auditory twinkle in her eye. I had her attention as I pitched the synergy that would be generated by UN Women with her at the helm, and what a UN CSW could do. She has said in the public that she would support and implement 5WCW which needs to be authorized by the UN through a resolution passed by ECOSOC and /or the General Assembly. If anyone who receives this can influence any of the 192 member states to sponsor and support 5WCW (through one to two degrees of separation), consider taking this as your assignment!
San Francisco began vying to become the host city of UN 5WCW through the initiative taken by Emily Murase, after she returned from participating in the UN CSW parallel events. After impressive wherases, the resolution (3/23/11) states: “the San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women supports most enthusiastically the hosting of the United Nations 5th World Conference on Women 2015 in San Francisco and urges our Congressional Delegation and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to work with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice so that she may secure the necessary support among UN Member States to bring the landmark conference to San Francisco.” Lobbying now commences through very savvy women with Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi.
My roles as 5WCW activist and author comes together in Like a Tree: How Trees, Women, and Tree People Can Save the Planet. It brings together what is deeply spiritual to me and literally down to earth for trees. It’s about what trees are and what they do for us, the effects of deforestation and related thoughts about “tree people,” the Tao, the Great Mystery, circles with a spiritual center, synchronicity, Findhorn, Jung, Greenpeace, Hildegard, Artemis, and National Parks. This book had its beginnings when a huge beautiful tree in front of my house was cut down while I was at the United Nations. Not enough trees, too many people is a destructive equation. This contrasts to the benefits of the “Girl Effect,” planting trees, reproductive rights and the empowerment and equality for women. A UN 5WCW would accelerate the possibility of reaching a tipping point. To order: