Elizabeth May responds to the Liberal government’s Speech from the Throne

2020-01-27 13:20 [p.446]

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to rise today for the first time this year and at the start of a new decade.
I would like to share my time with my colleague, the hon. member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith. I am very happy that all the members of the Green Party will have an opportunity to speak to the 2019 throne speech, as this is the last day of debate. I would like to thank the people who manage time within the Liberal Party, since my colleague, the member for Fredericton, will share her time with a Liberal member.
I want to start by saying, and this is not a formality, that we are on the unceded territory of the Algonquin people.
I want to acknowledge that we are here on traditional unceded Algonquin territory, and to them we say, meegwetch.
It is an honour to speak to the Speech from the Throne today. There is much in it that can carry one away with inspirational promises, with rhetoric with which we can only agree. For instance, I turn to this bit, which I particularly like: “From forest fires and floods, to ocean pollution and coastal erosion, Canadians are living the impact of climate change every day.”
The science is clear and it has been for decades. A clear majority of Canadians voted for ambitious climate action now. That stirs me to think I will vote for this, but I will not. I will not because the gap between the inspirational rhetoric coming from the Liberal administration and the reality of Liberal actions is so wide it induces vertigo. It is so deep that it is dizzying.
As an example of why I now feel this way, I turn to the 2015 Speech from the Throne, which I did vote for. I loved this promise and will remind people of it. Some of us who also served in the 42nd Parliament will remember the government’s promise to “not resort to devices like…omnibus bills to avoid scrutiny.”
I think we all recall that it was an omnibus budget bill in which the deferred prosecution agreement designed specifically for SNC-Lavalin was hidden. Now I read everything, as my colleagues know, so I actually saw the deferred prosecution agreement hidden in an omnibus budget bill. I wondered why it was not stand-alone criminal legislation to go through the Department of Justice, but I was persuaded by the notes and looking into it that nothing nefarious lay there. However, it was in an omnibus bill and I do regret that the deferred prosecution agreement amendment to the Criminal Code never went to the Department of Justice and to the committee studying justice bills, as it should have.
Another fun promise to remember from the 2015 Speech from the Throne was “the government will undertake to renew, nation-to-nation, the relationship between Canada and indigenous peoples, one based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership.”
It was with some shock that I saw within months the Liberal government’s approval of Site C, ignoring the court cases and concerns of indigenous peoples, as well as the environmental impacts.
Approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline ignored the fact that, even during the 2015 election campaign, the then leader of the Liberal Party, now Prime Minister, said that no project could be approved based on the inadequate and flawed process that had taken place while there were court cases, and strong and clear objection, from the Tsleil-Waututh, Musqueam, Squamish and WSANEC First Nations, whose territory I am honoured to live on. Muskrat Falls ignored the concerns of the Innu.
Quoting from the 2015 Speech from the Throne, many people will remember the following without being reminded, the promise “that 2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system.” One can see where concern arises. How much can we believe in the 2019 Speech from the Throne? I would like to believe it, but then we come to the reality of what is being pledged. We are seeing a commitment in this new Speech from the Throne.
In the throne speech the government said, and I quote, “The Government will set a target to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.”
In reality, our target is the same as the one chosen by the former Conservative government under Stephen Harper. The target has not changed by a single tonne.
Here we are with a government that says we can get to net-zero by 2050, and there are some questions. As many will know, we do not whip votes in the Green Party. I am so honoured to be joined by the member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith and the member for Fredericton. We cannot vote confidence in a government that does not have a climate target that allies with the science.
We know that the government has said that it is important to face the climate situation as a climate emergency. In fact, it was a Liberal motion passed by this House on June 17, 2019, in which the House agreed that we are in a climate emergency. The motion stated:
…the House declare that Canada is in a national climate emergency which requires…that Canada commit to meeting its national emissions target under the Paris Agreement and to making deeper reductions in line with…pursuing efforts to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
However, here we are with a Speech from the Throne that never once uses the term “climate emergency”.
We are in a climate emergency, but there is not a single mention of “climate emergency” in the throne speech.
The Speech from the Throne says that we have to address climate change. While the government says that we must achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, only a few paragraphs later we are also told that the government must take strong action to fight climate change and also work just as hard to get Canadian resources to new markets.
In other words, with the same vigour which the government wants to address the climate emergency, it will also use public funds in the neighbourhood of $10 billion to $13 billion to drive forward the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which is a direct threat to climate action, as it also contemplates approving the Teck Frontier mine project. It also is ignoring its obligations under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the climate emergency by subsidizing and supporting the LNG projects where the gas pipeline is. At this very moment, the RCMP are in Wet’suwet’en Territory prepared to enforce an injunction that should never be enforced because it violates hereditary rights and traditional rights of Wet’suwet’en people.
Here is the reality, and it is a tough one. I have worked on this issue since 1986. I have seen government after government, well-meaning Liberals, well-meaning provincial New Democrats, well-meaning Progressive Conservatives, make climate commitments and then find it is too hard. Something political needs to be fixed before we can do the right thing to ensure our kids have a livable world.
Here is the tough choice, and it is not one that we can find wiggle room or some medium space to do a bit of this and a bit of that, with a pipeline here and an oil sands mine there, and still live up to climate commitments. The stark choice is this. Before the next election, we assembled in this Parliament must have Canada’s targets align with the advice of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. That means we must at least double our targets until 2030.
We must now as humanity, as the world assembled through the multilateral process, change our economies in a transformational sense that gets rid of fossil fuels to ensure that our children, that human civilization can survive in a hospitable biosphere or we defend the fossil fuel industry. We cannot do both. We have to choose. I choose climate action and the Speech from the Throne and the government had better deliver.