|Good Sunday Morning!
As promised, I have been digging into the fascinating review of the events of January and February 2022 and the convoy protests. I know there are still a lot of raw feelings about the convoy, even close to home here in Saanich-Gulf Islands. Nevertheless, some of Mr. Justice Rouleau’s observations have broad application. The comments about the failures to communicate between various police agencies could have been taken from the inquiry into the Air India disaster, or from the events surrounding the 2014 shootings on Parliament Hill – for which there never was any inquiry or public review.
Rouleau’s comments on the refusal of the Ontario government to step up when it mattered, before the occupation of downtown Ottawa had stretched into weeks, were particularly pointed. This led to his much-quoted comments on the failures of federalism. He wrote:
“Preparing for and responding to situations of threat and urgency in a federal system requires governments at all levels, and those who lead them, to rise above politics and collaborate for the common good.
“In January and February 2022, this did not always happen.”
Was this crisis an exception to the rule or is federalism chronically failing?
When we look at health care, it is hard not to see the current crisis through the same lens. With federal health care transfers having increased four-fold since the year 2000, provincial health care spending has not increased by the same amount. Provinces have spent some of their health care dollars elsewhere. Canadians expect federal health care transfers to be spent on health care.
I have long felt that a major reason Canada has failed in reducing greenhouse gases is the unwillingness of all governments to collaborate. The European Union with its 28 separate and sovereign nation states (29 before Brexit), with 24 official languages, has been better able to act collectively to address the climate threat than has Canada. Within months of making its 1997 Kyoto commitment, the EU nations met and set out a shared plan. Some EU countries reduced more to allow others to manage with less of a carbon slashing effort. Canada’s one federal government, ten provinces and three territories were never able to come to a plan to share in cuts and meet our targets. Whereas Canada has increased its emissions to over 20 percent of 1990 levels, the EU is now, collectively, about 34 percent below 1990 levels.
One aspect of our dysfunctional federalism is the ongoing contamination by Canada of waters flowing to the US. Particularly, it is mines in British Columbia that are contaminating Indigenous lands and waters in the United States.
Since 1909, both nations committed to protect each others’ waters in the Boundary Waters Treaty. Way back then, we set up a dispute resolution system. But for decades, the US has been complaining about selenium contamination of the Elk River, Lake Koocanusa, and the Kootenai River. The Elk River starts in Canada and flows into the United States at Lake Koocanusa, an impoundment of the Kootenai River which flows through the States of Montana and Idaho, en route back to the Province of British Columbia. As B.C. expands gold, copper and coal mining, the amounts of selenium are increasing to dangerous levels.
In May of last year, the commissioners of the International Joint Commission, three from Canada and three from the US, wrote a shared letter to both President Biden and Prime Minister Trudeau formally asking for a joint reference to the IJC to mediate the dispute. What I understand from those close to the IJC is that the Canadian government is refusing the reference because the British Columbia government objects.
In December 2022, the Indigenous leadership of Alaska, Montana and Idaho traveled to Washington DC to demand action.
“BC is moving full-steam ahead with doubling their amount of mines,” said Jill Weitz of the Central Council of Tlingit & Haida Tribes of Alaska, “Tribes and downstream communities do not have a meaningful seat at the table as it relates to the management of these shared rivers and resources that everyone is dependent upon.”
Canada says no, because BC says no.
I cannot fathom why this is not a major scandal. The glorious NDP government of BC, dripping in its hypocritical solidarity with Indigenous peoples, is blocking an investigation of BC pollution of Indigenous lands and waters in the US . The Canadian government refuses to approve the investigation as long as BC objects. Talk about the failure of federalism.
I fully expect it to be a significant irritant when US President Joe Biden meets with Prime Minister Trudeau sometime this spring. Unless, of course, concerned Canadians can make enough noise to shame the government of David Eby.
Please do help me amplify this issue.
In the meantime, hope you are staying warm and safe in this freak cold snap. Thank you to the hundreds of Greens who showed up yesterday for the wonderful United for Old Growth March and Rally. Thousands marched. And what a treat that Neil Young popped by to show his support for old growth. I was so happy to see so many Greens! EDA leaders and members from Victoria, ESS, CML, NIPR, Nanaimo Ladysmith and Vancouver. So many old friends and a whole electric bus load from Salt Spring Island! Rainbow Eyes and Elder Bill Jones both spoke. Elected leaders like Adam Olsen, Sonia Furstenau and I were there in support but were not asked to speak. Many commented to me how pleased they were with Jonathan Pedneault’s interview on “the House (the interview starts at around 18:00). So few people will even suggest diplomacy and peace talks. And the article can be found here.
By next weekend, I will be in Manitoba on a Prairie tour with Jonathan Pedneault. Two by-elections will take place in Manitoba this spring or summer. Time to get organized!
Sending love and thanks!
And please join me on Monday for a talk on why nuclear is not a solution to the climate crisis.
Monday February 27th: Elizabeth May webinar: The Climate Crisis and Why Nuclear Power is Not the Solution. This webinar will be hosted by the Environment & Society Program and co-hosted by the Student Union and STU Sustainability at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick.
Time: 5pm Eastern, 2pm Pacific time. You can register here.