David Suzuki: Senate’s “kill bill” move a blow to Canadians and democracy

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On November 16, Canadian senators killed Bill C-311, the Climate Change Accountability Act, with a surprise vote. The way the vote was carried out is an insult to Canadians and democracy. It’s also further evidence that Canada will go to the UN Climate Change negotiations in Cancun, Mexico, on November 29, with nothing to offer but empty words and an unwillingness to tackle what leading scientists say is the most serious crisis facing Canada and the world.

Even though the bill had been delivered to the Senate 193 days before, after being passed by the House of Commons, the vote was called without notice and without debate, when at least 15 Liberal senators and several independent senators were absent. This law, which would have put our country on track to be an environmental leader, was killed by only 11 votes (43 to 32).

Prime Minister Stephen Harper once promised he would never allow the unelected Senate to go against the will of the majority of Members of Parliament and the Canadian public. But with this vote in a Senate stacked by the prime minister, he has done exactly that.

The Act would have committed Canada to an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and a 25 percent reduction by 2020. Many international scientists agree that these reductions are the least required to prevent dangerous climate change.

But in a near-unprecedented move that flies in the face of democratic traditions and government accountability, Conservative senators killed this modest piece of legislation. At nearly 75 years old, I am sickened to see people my age making such a reckless decision that will affect the lives of today’s young people and generations to come when many of the senators won’t even be around to face the most serious consequences.

When his government was first elected in 2006, Prime Minister Harper told Canadians that “Restoring accountability will be one of the major priorities of our new government. Accountability is what ordinary Canadians, working Canadians, those people who pay their bills, pay their taxes, expect from their political leaders.”

It appears that was just empty rhetoric—especially when it comes to climate change. Our government has dismissed its obligation under the Kyoto Protocol, an international climate change agreement that Canada and 186 countries ratified. Our government has not implemented any substantial policies aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions and helping Canada join the emerging clean-energy economy, even though Canada is probably more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than any other industrialized country.

The government claims the cost of reducing emissions will be economically devastating yet continues to heavily subsidize and support the polluting fossil fuel industry, especially in the environmentally destructive tar sands. Canada has even earned itself the shameful reputation for obstructing progress at international negotiations on climate change.

Prime Minister Harper’s contention that the bill would have thrown “hundreds of thousands and possibly millions of people out of work” is simply false. In California, voters resisted attempts by out-of-state oil companies in the November 2 election to overturn the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act. Since the law was passed in 2006, California has attracted more investments in alternative energy start-up companies than anywhere in the world and has seen a boom in employment in the clean energy sector. Those investments tripled to US$2.9 billion over the past year alone, according to the Los Angeles Times.

According to Reuters news, “The world’s low carbon energy market is expected to treble in a decade, and analysts say major economies including Japan, the United States and China will be jostling for a slice of the market likely to be worth $2.2 trillion by 2020.”

And economists, including former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern, have concluded that failing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will have catastrophic economic consequences.

Canadians have seen far more leadership from municipal and provincial governments than from the federal government on environmental issues related to climate change. Ontario is phasing out coal power and has implemented incentives to attract clean-energy technologies. Vancouver is moving ahead with its ambitious green plans, and B.C. has implemented a carbon tax that increases over time.

As Canadians, we expect more of our leaders. At the very least, we expect them to remember that we still live in a democracy and that its rules must be respected.

Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org.

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Lee Norton

Nov 23, 2010 at 5:19pm

David Suzuki is telling the truth, is telling it like it is. We have to mitigate climate change or it will destroy us. The longer we wait, the more difficult and expensive it will be to stop climate change. At some point in the too near future, it will be too late and no amount of money or resources will help. Our civilization as well as our economy, a Harper favourite fall back excuse, will be gone. This is not my view, but the view of scientists who have dedicated their lives to understanding our climate, our world, and how it's changing. Harper and his followers refusal to believe in science as well as his lack of morals has made me ashamed of Canada. We desperately need a new leader.

9 7 Rating: +2

Kevin

Nov 23, 2010 at 5:59pm

Lets face it.

Democracy is dead in Canada.

We are a petro state.

Fast becoming a world leader in war mongering in petro exports.

The question is: is it too late to pull it out of the fire or do we let the Bildebergs choose our next Leader (yes thats you Gordo believe it or not) or do we get off our collective ass and take Country back?

14 5 Rating: +9

Jeff Graw

Nov 23, 2010 at 6:51pm

As much as I despise the senate for being an unelected, unaccountable body, I don't see how you can use the failed state of California as an example that we should aspire to and keep a straight face.

And then there's the obvious fallacy: California passing strict regulations and investing in the green industry will of course lead to more employment in the green industry. This is not proof that such actions help or hinder the overall economy though, and when a journalist slips this far from rational thought it betrays an ugly bias.

5 10 Rating: -5

glen p robbins

Nov 23, 2010 at 7:01pm

Parliament - cut the crapola - get in an get a compromise deal on this that we can all live with - all sides.

Harper, Layton, Ignatieff, Duceppe - no politics - meet and get a deal done.

4 5 Rating: -1

seth

Nov 23, 2010 at 7:16pm

More claptrap from Suzuki.

"so renewable energy creates more jobs than coal or nuclear. Its nice to actually have someone admit that renewable energy is wasteful. Yep, wasteful. First a concrete example - building a road with hand tools creates more jobs, a LOT more jobs than using earth moving equipment. So many more, that we literally could not afford to build a modern freeway, with hand tools - unless we used slave labor.

This is what is commonly called "The Fallacy of the Broken Window". It was first described by Frederic Bastiat in 1850 - http://bastiat.org/en/twisatwins.html. Very briefly, if a shopkeepers window is broken, it sure creates jobs - cleaning up the broken glass, the glazer replacing the window, the glass maker and so on.

But, if the window hadn't been broken, then the shopkeeper would have a window and new shoes. This is obviously a better outcome, but the cobbler's loss isn't seen, all the work wasted replacing a good window is seen. Thus the work that is seen is all that is considered when we ask the government to "create jobs", thru feed-in tariffs, renewable requirements, etc. We don't see the jobs lost thru raised costs and taxes|"
seth

6 8 Rating: -2

ds

Nov 23, 2010 at 7:17pm

Harper and Gordy are cut from the same peice of cloth. Both are just out for them selves and to hell with the people who pay their salaries. Yes we need to clean both houses.

4 12 Rating: -8

propaganda

Nov 23, 2010 at 8:20pm

Propaganda. A sense of what progressives are up against in North America:

<object width="300" height="250"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/6xlpcDnr7eM?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/6xlpcDnr7eM?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="300" height="250"></embed></object>

There is a lot of money being spent by multinationals in effort to monopolize and to maximize profits.

10 4 Rating: +6

M. Dobbin

Nov 23, 2010 at 8:51pm

There is a disturbing silence about the role of corporations in the world as if these private institutions are somehow immutable -- created by the heavens and something we have to live with, like the weather. We need to change our way of thinking because corporations are the Frankenstein monsters that will destroy the planet. No amount of so-called "good corporate citizenship" or investment in wind power or electric cars will change this fact -- the most important fact that the planet will deal with (or not) in the next century. Imagine what you will regarding what "we" have to do to save the planet. Unless we dismantle this perverse institution and take away its power, the world will descend into another dark age.

Beginning late in the last century, corporations established themselves in law as "natural persons," a brilliant maneuver that gave these huge, globe-straddling giants the same rights as individual citizens. They, of course, are anything but. Citizens live and die; corporations under current laws live forever. Citizens have wide-ranging responsibilities that are the other side of their entitlements. Corporations are by definition "limited liability" citizens whose CEOs and board members are effectively beyond the reach of the law for the crimes they regularly commit.

They didn't arrive on the planet like this. We made them what they are through legislation and court decisions and we can, if we choose, undo what we have done. It wouldn't be easy, but if we never imagine it, it will never happen.

13 6 Rating: +7

Akat

Nov 23, 2010 at 10:54pm

If David Suzuki didn't personally own at least four homes - gulf islands, Haida Guai, Vancouver, Spatsizi, Toronto.... I' d give him some credit for walking the talk. As it is, he is doing nothing but demonstrating the capitalist dream - consume as much as you can in this life and damn those who can't afford it. talk, talk, talk.

5 5 Rating: 0

David Nutzuki

Nov 24, 2010 at 2:28am

Nutzuki hates democracy and is a sore loser.
The Libbies engineered this on their own, via multiple examples of parliamentary incompetence:

- first, they could not count;
- second, they initiated the call for the vote in question through (apparent) misuse of common parliamentary procedure.

Now they want the Hansard record either expunged or changed to cover up their stupidity.

6 6 Rating: 0
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