Morag Carter: Senate vote to kill climate change act disrespects Canadians

Last night (November 16), in a near-unprecedented move, the Canadian Senate held a surprise vote and defeated Bill C-311, the Climate Change Accountability Act. The snap vote to kill the bill in the Senate happened without notice and without debate—even though it was put before the Senate more than half a year ago. Had notice been given of the vote, more senators would have been present and the bill may have passed.

And so, just as Canada prepares to join world leaders at the UN climate-change negotiations in Mexico, a group of unelected senators have decided, without any debate, that the future of Canada’s youth is not worth the bother. It’s a shame these elderly senators may not be around to face the most severe consequences of their actions.

The bill is now dead.

Just as tens of thousands of Canadians wrote to their MPs and government to ensure the bill’s passage through the elected House of Commons, Canadians must now let their politicians know that enough is enough. Yesterday’s decision by Conservative senators to avoid debate and call a snap vote shows disrespect for our democracy and for Canadians, who time and again have told our elected representatives that we want the federal government to act on the most serious threat facing our country and the world.

Bill C-311 passed through the House of Commons with a strong bipartisan majority, thanks in part to the incredible support of Canadians from across the country. It was originally introduced by federal NDP Leader Jack Layton as a private member’s bill in the last Parliament and was set to go to the Senate when the election was called in 2008. After the election, the bill was re-introduced by Bruce Hyer, NDP MP for Thunder Bay-Superior North. The bill was debated in the House of Commons, where Conservative government members tried to obstruct it. It was then amended and sent it back to the House for a final vote. It passed in the House and was sent to the Senate for the last stage in its passage through Parliament before receiving royal assent and becoming Canadian law.

Over the five years that this piece of modest legislation has been going through the parliamentary process, the science behind global warming has become far more certain. The bill would have committed Canada to an 80-percent reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050, and a 25-percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020. We now know that these reductions are the very least that we should be achieving if we are to avoid the devastating consequences that go along with uncontrolled climate change.

These unelected senators killed the Climate Change Accountability Act just as the United Nations climate change conference is set to open in Cancun, Mexico, on November 29. Once more, it appears our government plans to show up to talk to the world with nothing but empty rhetoric, unfulfilled promises, and the hopes of Canadians firmly cast aside. It’s time to let the government know that this is unacceptable and that Canadians will not be silenced. We can all make a difference. And we will. Please call or write the prime minister and your government representatives to let them know that we expect them to live up to their promise and responsibility to be accountable to all Canadians.

Morag Carter is director of the climate change and clean energy program at the David Suzuki Foundation.




Nov 17, 2010 at 2:01pm

This government has got to go. They are undemocratic and endangering the well-being of present and future generations with their reckless actions on this file. I know they don't like to make evidence-based decisions but why are they ignoring the military which has concluded that:

"Climate change has the potential to be a global threat of unparalleled magnitude and requires early, aggressive action in order to overcome its eects. Not all the solutions and opportunities are as yet apparent and further research into the implications and extent of climate
change is required. However, there is sucient science-based knowledge to warrant acting now. Although mitigation and adaptation will not eliminate adverse effects, they will vastly reduce the risks."

David Nutzuki

Nov 17, 2010 at 2:15pm

The Climate Change Crisis is the end of life as we know it, and if you remaining climate change believers would just come out and admit it, I might forgive you sheeple for issuing CO2 death threats to my kids for a quarter of a century. Scientists polluted the planet in the first place with chemical pesticides, nuclear waste, germ warfare, strip mining technology, deep sea drilling technology and now climate change. As real environmentalists you should all be absolutely furious at this insane state of enviornMENTALism that allowed carbon trading to trump 3rd world fresh water relief, starvation rescue and 3rd world education for just over 24 years of climate control instead of POPULATION CONTROL. This Climate Change Mistake is somebody’s Iraq War of needless WMD fears and a page right out of the necons’s playbook. So count me out.
Responsible Environmentalism Denies Climate Change and if you still think the voters will vote YES for taxes to lower the seas and make the weather colder, YOU are the new denier. SUPPORT IS GONE.
Let’s move on because when you drop the CO2 factor out of the equation, nothing changes. We still engage environmentalism but without the spear of terror poking my kids in the back. I’m ashamed for supporting this embarrassing political science for so long and let history note I got off the ledge of Armageddon.


Nov 17, 2010 at 3:08pm

Sorry Morag, the Senate made the right decision in killing this bill. DSF stands to gain a huge financial windfall for perpertuating the myth of AGW.


Nov 17, 2010 at 3:58pm

Thank GOD for the Conservative Party of Canada! Stephen Harper is THE BEST PM EVER!


Nov 17, 2010 at 6:53pm

Has everybody gone crazy? How could this happen? And why would anybody in their right mind still choose such denial... Beyond discoeuraging...


Nov 19, 2010 at 12:59pm

If you care about democracy and the future of climate change legislation, please send a message to the government @