As you read this, I have been in Parliament since 7 am (ET) debating the declaration promulgated by Cabinet on Monday, February 14 under the Emergencies Act. By unanimous consent, we had scheduled five long days in debate – an extraordinary run of 17 hour days from Thursday until midnight, Friday from 7 am until midnight with the same hours for Saturday and Sunday and then Monday, 7 am until we vote at 8 pm Monday night.
That schedule was changed in the wee hours of Friday morning. The police informed parliament that it would be unsafe to sit that day as the operation to remove the trucks and protesters would be taking place. Imminently.
Before I dive into the turmoil of the convoy and the use of the Emergencies Act, let’s start with some really excellent news.
Trans Mountain pipeline expansion could be dead. I will wait before popping the champagne corks. I fear somehow TMX will be allowed to continue.
Just last week, my first question in Question Period in 2022 was to the Prime Minister. Here is the Hansard account of our exchange:
February 9, 2022
This week marks two years since we had any financial update from the Trans Mountain corporation, one that we lamentably own after incredibly foolishly buying the climate-killing Trans Mountain pipeline. It now appears to be five times above its original cost estimate.
Will the Prime Minister agree that we need a full, transparent review of the alleged costs and benefits before a single additional penny is wasted on this project?
Mr. Speaker, Canadians know that we need to make sure we are decarbonizing our economy and reaching net zero by 2050, but in the coming years we are going to continue to rely on oil and gas as we move forward in our economy. That is why making sure we get the best possible price for our oil resources so we can invest in the transformation of our economy is important. That is why the Trans Mountain pipeline, which allows us to get product to countries other than the United States, is important for our economy. However, it is also a way to make sure we are investing in the transformation toward a greener economy.
And here is the video: https://www.youtube.
What a dreadful answer! Wasting billions on the TMX is “investing in the transformation toward a greener economy!”
And yet, nine days later – February 18, 2022, two remarkable developments occurred.
First, Trans Mountain Corporation – after the lack of a financial update for two years as raised in my question – issued a new financial update.
Trans Mountain Corporation (TMC) confirmed what we had suspected. From an original cost estimate of $4.5 billion in 2013, and after growing to over $12 billion at the time our government made the insane decision to buy the pipeline, the new cost estimate for building the expansion has increased to $21.4 billion. Despite media reporting costs have doubled, the costs have actually increased more than four-fold!
But now for more amazing news. Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland announced that in light of this new financial reporting, “I want to assure Canadians there will be no additional public funding for TMC.” She also explained that the government is seeking advice from BMO Capital Markets and TD Securities about the project. She said TMX would need to find other sources of financing.
So this news is worth a celebration!
But I remain watchful. TMX is not dead – yet. Ever since the Trudeau administration made the enormous blunder of buying the Kinder Morgan pipeline and committing to build the new pipeline, the government has held out the possibility of moving the project to Indigenous ownership. This is a Crown Corporation. I cannot imagine any other Crown corporation seeking private sector funding. Another few shoes are yet to fall.
I have always felt in my bones that the TMX pipeline would never be built. I am so desperately hoping that we are nearing the end of TMX.
Looking back at all the work, the long and painful NEB hearing process, in which I intervened in a process right out of Lewis Carroll, the law suits, often successful, the marches and rallies, the arrests, including mine, the much braver tree-sitters who blocked construction in Burnaby for month after month, and the stalwart leadership of the BC Council of Indian Chiefs, the Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh, Squamish, Tsartlip, Tsawout and more First Nations for so many years, could we finally have achieved our goal?!
This press release from West Coast Environmental Law provides an excellent summary. Its staff lawyer Eugene Kung is one of the legal heroes of this long campaign:
And of all things, my 2018 arrest at the gates of Kinder Morgan in Burnaby was raised to attack me in debate on the Emergencies Act on Thursday. In his speech, totally predictably, Andrew Scheer called Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs “protesters,” complaining that Trudeau had not used the Emergencies Act on those elders. When I rose to set the record straight; that hereditary elders are not “protesters.” They have rights in traditional governance as confirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada. Scheer turned on me as though I should be ashamed of being arrested. Here are the videos of our back and forth: https://
It has been a week of historic developments. On Monday, a day in which we were debating the provision of nearly $2 billion of COVID tests to be shared with the provinces, near the end of the day, the government tabled the declaration of the Emergencies Act in response to the cross country so-called “Freedom Convoy” protests and occupation of Ottawa. (by the way, while we debated responses to COVID, I gave this speech based on Tyee articles by Andrew Nikiforuk:
We had sessions until midnight on Monday and Tuesday (I got the slot for the last speech both nights) to dispense with other COVID bills and clear time for the required parliamentary review of the declaration of a Public Order Emergency.
The Emergencies Act was developed in the late 1980s, coupled with repealing the infamous War Measures Act. Unlike the War Measures Act, the Emergencies Act does not suspend civil liberties. It preserves Charter Rights. It ensures that the Prime Minister and Cabinet are not allowed to call the shots without parliamentary over-sight. That is why we are having this intense debate. The law requires that within seven sitting days of Cabinet issuing its declaration, Parliament must debate the issue and vote on it. There must be an on-going parliamentary committee to over-see how the act is being used. The Public Order Emergency declaration can only be put in place for 30 days – although it can be extended – again with Parliament agreeing. And, for further parliamentary control, if at any time 20 MPs send a letter to the Speaker to ask for the declaration to be ended, the debate and vote occurs in parliament again.
People ask me about whether it could set a precedent. Could it make it easier to assault and attack forest protectors, land back actions, climate protests, and those engaged in non-violent civil disobedience for other important causes?
The bizarre thing is, as I read the act, the attacks on land protectors, Indigenous people and others would be more difficult with the Emergencies Act than without it.
We certainly know that the routine arrests and brutality at Fairy Creek and in Wet’suwet’en Territory, and in so many places, are disgraceful and violate the Charter. But the enormous police action in Ottawa to remove the 18-wheelers and the well dug-in vehicles, buildings, stages and tents of the convoy and hundreds of protesters was conducted professionally, with discipline and resolve. And gently. The media was permitted to be right in the midst of the policing – no exclusion zones. No serious injuries. No deaths.
I am so relieved.
The key section in my mind is one key test of “threat to the security of Canada” which includes this definition (the one of four that most applies here) – “foreign influenced activities.. that are detrimental to the interests of Canada and are clandestine or deceptive..” This is what I think makes this an emergency.
The foreign influence is not just the millions of dollars from non-Canadians to support the convoy. It is not just encouragement from Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and other prominent U.S. Republicans. The foreign influence that has contributed to the desperately worrying rise in disinformation. The rise in belief in things that are simply not true can be tracked to foreign propaganda outlets, particularly those from Russia. We are infiltrated. This is a threat to our democracy.
All that said, I have still not decided how I will vote tomorrow. I have some clear concerns, which I set out in the speech I gave on Thursday night. Link here:
Summing up, I have fewer concerns with using the Public Order Emergency provisions than with the regulations that accompany them. Those regulations are overly broad, applying right across Canada, and with few details on issues of how bank accounts could be accessed by government. If those are not tightened up, I do not know how I can vote yes.
I do apologize that this ran so long for your leisurely Sunday.
Please send me prayers and good vibes for wisdom. On this divisive issue, please give me the benefit of the doubt. And forgive me if I do not get back to you right away. Starting Tuesday, I will be sleeping every chance I get!
Take care and stay safe,
I have been meaning to share these important study and a related article. Happy reading!
Saanich-Gulf Islands Greens