What a weird week it has been. My first week back in Parliament, working on zoom from home, has been intense. It was also exhausting.
I tabled my Private Members Bill on Environmental Racism, presented my reply to the Speech from the Throne https://elizabethmaymp.ca/elizabeth-may-responds-to-the-2021-speech-from-the-throne/), got in my first question of 2022 in Question Period (about the doubling of production from an iron ore mine in Nunavut, threatening Narwhal habitat) and got shot down by Conservatives when I asked to join the other parties in paying tribute to Alexa McDonough. I became her friend in 1980. We were not mere acquaintances; we were friends. I was so upset to be denied the opportunity to join in the tributes, that I did a video of what I would have said. (https://elizabethmaymp.ca/tribute-to-the-late-alexa-mcdonough/)
So far in this 44th Parliament, whenever Mike or I have asked for unanimous consent to speak in matters of tributes and comments, routinely granted Greens since 2011, Conservatives have said “no.” I wonder if anything will change due to the other big political event that rocked political insiders – that Conservative caucus turfed its leader.
I had really wanted to be in Parliament in person, but given the Omicron situation and being a tad shy of when I am allowed to be on long flights after the surgery in December, I decided to do my work in Parliament virtually. As I mentioned last Sunday, I was so very grateful I had not gone to Parliament in person. But I will head to Ottawa this week and face the occupying demonstration of angry people.
Many Green supporters have contacted me, alarmed by the Abacus poll that claimed the majority of Green supporters (57%) sympathized with the “Freedom” convoy. This would be quite shocking- if true.
Here’s the background: Abacus polled around 1400 Canadians. No surprise, if they got their polling science right, which they did, they would only find about 2% of 1400 people who voted Green. Numerically that would be 28 people. In fact, they got 30 people out of their national sample size of 1400 who said they had voted Green. So, the poll tells us that 57% of 30 people who say they voted Green told Abacus they have “a lot in common” with protesters in Ottawa.
I think the media coverage would have been way more accurate if it had said, “a teeny tiny sampling of Green supporters has confirmed that 17 people, who say they voted Green from all across Canada, feel they have a lot in common with the occupation of Ottawa.” We would not have so many people wondering if our party had lost its senses.
Greens support evidence-based decision making. We support the health advice that vaccinations are a key part of ending the pandemic. So too is maintaining social distancing, wearing masks and decisions made – by various provincial governments – confusingly and sometimes contradictorily – setting in place health rules. We deplore the use of hateful symbols, incessant horn-honking, diesel-fume emitting disrespectful take-over of Ottawa, as was made clear by leader Amita Kuttner:
“We will always defend the right of citizens to assemble in peaceful protest, but what we have seen over the past four days is indefensible…The catalogue of outrages is long, well-documented and, frankly, appalling: flying swastikas and confederate battle flags; desecrating memorials to our veterans and to national hero Terry Fox; stealing food from the homeless; and threatening local residents and businesses.
“Whatever legitimacy this ‘protest’ may have had has been squandered by these images being beamed out of Ottawa.
“As the pandemic drags on, we recognize that many people are struggling while many more are tired and frustrated. But that does not justify this display of hate and anger in Ottawa. This is a time for Canadians to work together to minimize further sickness and death and to ensure that the lessons of COVID are learned and acted upon.
“We call on the protesters to end the takeover of our national capital and we urge all Canadians to follow the advice of public health officials and get vaccinated.”
I fear our society- in Canada and around the world- is at real risk. If we allow growing fragmentation, we lose a key ingredient required to ending the pandemic and to avoiding climate catastrophe. We must preserve social cohesion. Canadians have, much more so than is the case in the USA, maintained a love of neighbour. Looking out for each other and having a feeling we are (more or less) on the same side is an essential aspect of social cohesion. But clearly, in the same way people reacted adversely to being described by Hillary Clinton as a “basket of deplorables,” Canadians holding what they believe are sensible concerns about public health advice, tired and worn down by two years of pandemic, do not like being thrown in with the White Supremacists and haters of the world.
This excellent piece from The Breach is worthy of serious consideration.
Emma Jackson writes, “What we’re currently witnessing is a troubling sign that COVID-19 could become a generational-defining moment of politicization for the Right— radicalizing tens of thousands who are disaffected by the system and directing them straight into the welcoming arms of the far-right.”
I see it in the demonization of all those who are unvaccinated as a tool of political opportunism. That was the sound at the starting gun of the summer election. Hearing Justin Trudeau’s opening volley on August 15th, I immediately felt alarm that he was politicizing public health decisions. It has gotten much, much worse since then. The French language interview where Trudeau seemed to suggest (although with editing I am not sure if he actually said it) that anti-vaxxers were also racists and misogynists made things worse.
It occurs to me that part of the problem is that political flags are staked in wrong assumptions. It is assumed that thoughtful people cannot embrace all of the following views:
Vaccination is an essential response to the pandemic;
Increasing your Vitamin D is a smart way to improve your health in fighting COVID;
No one should trust Big Pharma, the global group of pharmaceutical giants are capable of criminal negligence in the interest of ever-expanding profits;
To agree that vaccination should be available globally to meet goals of vaccine equity is not to support Big Pharma;
In fact, Big Pharma is blocking access to vaccines through use of the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) under the World Trade Organization. Canada needs to side with India and South Africa to implement the waiver on TRIPS so developing countries can manufacture their own vaccines, outside of patent protection.
Everyone is tired of pandemic rules. People are cranky and mental health issues are real;
Workers in public health deserve non-stop thanks and praise and better pay and whatever they want.
I think all of the above are true.
I believe we need to leave a public space of compassion for people who for legitimate reasons cannot get a vaccination. We need to be compassionate even with those who yell at me that I am ignoring science. Some people who are yelling at me (well using CAPS on emails) are still people I love.
So, next week in Ottawa, I will do my best. I have a question to Trudeau on Wednesday (my first Wednesday question in two and a half years). Tomorrow will mark two years since there has been any financial update on the ballooning costs of the climate killing pipeline TIMX. I think I will ask about that.
For now, be well. If you are a Green in BC, look at the P.S. for how you can join BC rep Bob MacKie’s open chat about how we are doing in rebuilding, with me and leader Amita Kuttner. No matter where you live, please take up our latest activist campaign to get a ban on the shipment of thermal coal out of Canada. And lastly, God Bless the Queen. Tomorrow is her Platinum Jubilee – 70 years as our Queen. Maybe I quit too soon? 🙂
CAMPAIGN against export of thermal coal:
You can register here for Bob MacKie’s Green Party BC member meeting! (it is not full).
Saanich-Gulf Islands Greens