Good Sunday Morning!
We have gotten through the first Parliamentary sitting week since late June. It felt quite perfect that we have wrapped up all my community meetings for nine locations in Saanich Gulf Islands planned for January, with the last one being Friday night on Mayne Island. We had to reschedule Mayne from the original January 17 date due to the deep snow. Doing the same kind of meeting over and over again, repeating it one last time on February 2nd “felt” like Groundhog Day! That classic Bill Murray movie was on my mind. Thanks again to all of you who attended!
I wish I could say that harmony, decency, and a collaborative spirit reigned for the beginning of 2024, but alas! We are immediately back to partisan sniping and heckling. We did start out with some very strong words of shared values in Sunday’s State Funeral for Ed Broadbent. It was a quite moving and fitting tribute to an honourable man. I thought its was classy of Trudeau to make the decision to hold a state funeral, as such events are rare. And even classier of him to choose to sit quietly with another former PM, the Right Honourable Joe Clark, not taking an opportunity to speak. JP and I thought the best speaker was Wab Kinew, new Premier and first Indigenous premier of Manitoba. He called for us to be guided by our better angels.
On Monday, by unanimous consent, the House observed a moment of silence and then each party was allowed to speak about Broadbent’s contribution to Canada. Dominic Leblanc spoke for the Liberals, and shared anecdotes about the close relationship his mother had with Ed and his late wife. The Conservatives offered a really generous speech from MP Colin Carrie who now represents Ed Broadbent’s first Constituency of Oshawa, sharing how Ed Broadbent gave him advice and how Carrie’s respect for Broadbent grew. Jagmeet Singh spoke at both the funeral and the Parliamentary tributes, offering the same words both times.
In my community meetings, I stick to a very non-partisan tone, which means that for the last month or so I have shared how the House gets bogged down and how certain bills never move an inch due to delays and obstruction. And I never speak of the source of those delays. But the unraveling of the backstory on the gutting of the legislation for a Just Transition, Bill C-50 “The Sustainable Jobs Act” pushes me to shine a light on the truth of increasing parliamentary dysfunction.
The Canadian Conservative Party has adopted the same tactic that US Republicans used to thwart Barack Obama. Remember how when Obama became President, he actually believed that he could embrace bipartisanship and achieve more by working with sensible Republicans. The response from Republicans was to oppose him at every turn, on every issue. Republicans became monkey wrenchers, wrecking any chance of cooperation between White House and Congress. Pierre Poilievre’s brand of leadership is doing the same thing in Parliament.
Bills that one would normally assume would pass without controversy are now delayed, filibustered, thwarted and confronted with new ways of wasting everybody’s time. I would have thought the Canada-Ukraine Trade deal would pass without furor, or C-49 to increase off-shore wind energy off Newfoundland and Labrador’s coast, but no – both are being opposed by Conservative MPs. As we approached Christmas, the Conservatives put forth pointless amendments by the hundreds to force several rounds of all night voting.
What receives hardly any media notice is the hijacking of time before committees, where bills go to be studied and improved.
Bill C-50 to support the transition away from fossil fuels and support workers in the process was not good legislation when first tabled. First the Liberals were spooked by Alberta politicians describing the language “Just Transition” as “divisive.”
Despite “Just Transition” being embedded in the text of the 2015 Paris Agreement, suddenly with both UCP’s Danielle Smith and NDP Rachel Notley denouncing the term, Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson agreed. Despite the pledge to enact “Just Transition” legislation in the Liberal 2021 platform it was suddenly deep-sixed and replaced with “Sustainable Jobs.” At First Reading, C-50 promised that by December 31, 2025, the government would produce its first Sustainable Jobs plan.
As C-50 made its way through Parliament it was denounced as every turn by Conservative MPs. The monkey wrenching really began after Second Reading when C-50 went to the Natural Resources Committee for study. That happened on October 23, yet no work in committee could take place until December 6. Conservative members of the Committee managed through a series of motions, points of order, objections, and procedural wrangling to prevent the testimony of any witnesses, whether for or against the bill. My team worked with labour and environmental groups to produce our own amendments. Mike Morrice attended the committee whenever he could to get the floor and argue for a true just transition to make a difference.
As Greens we submitted two amendments from me (to have the Council created under the act advise on implementing the recommendations of the excellent work commissioned and then ignored by the Liberals, the Task Force on Just Transition for Canadian Coal Power Workers and Communities, and to have the Minister include action on the same within their plan), and one amendment from Mike (to make the first Action Plan due at the end of 2024, rather than 2025).
The Conservative MPs managed to filibuster in committee through 11 meetings (22 hours) until December 4, when Parliament accepted the Liberal motion to limit debate in committee and review of amendments to force through the committee stage. Conservative MPs tabled 19,000 amendments; it is rumoured they were concocted by ChatGPT.
To get through the amendments, the closure motion of December 4 limited the clause-by-clause review to 2 hours – forcing committee members to vote on the remaining amendments without any debate, and in some instances without knowing what amendment was being voted on at all. December 6, the committee voted from 6:30 pm until 2:30 am. Green Party amendments were likewise voted down without debate or anyone knowing what they were voting on.
Through this disastrous mess, the committee, with both Liberal and NDP MPs voting for the amendment, adopted one of the conservative changes to change the implementation date from December 31, 2025 to December 31, 2040.
Initially as Greens we were outraged and issued the following press release: “NDP, Liberals Betray Young Canadians, Delay Green Jobs Until 2040.”
From the release: “As climate leaders and advocates from around the world gathered in Dubai to take stock of the progress in the fight against climate change, the NDP and Liberal party bowed down to Conservative interests and accepted to delay the implementation of the Sustainable Jobs Act by 15 years.”
Back from Dubai, I was shocked by what had happened. I said that the MPs had some explaining to do. And that was when we started digging. What a nightmare! Having denounced the Liberal and NDP MPs for voting in the Conservative motion, I am ready to apologise to them.
Voting on amendments to C-50 happened on December 6th, which despite the bill having been referred to committee six weeks earlier (October 23rd), was the only day of consideration in committee. Of course, on December 6, most of the climate-focused MPs were at COP28 and not allowed to zoom into Parliament.
Under the terms of the programming motion passed December 4th, clause-by-clause debate was limited to 2 hours before the rest of the clauses and amendments were voted on without debate. Despite debate being limited to 2 hours, it took them from 6:30 pm until after 2:30 am to get through the votes – with the CPC having submitted 19,600.
Here is the only media story I could find on the mess, from the National Observer.
“During a chaotic, eight-hour-long natural resources committee meeting, the sustainable jobs act was amended and sent back to the House of Commons for debate.
“Wednesday night’s meeting was marked by shouting and tense exchanges between Conservative MPs and those from other parties as the mandated end to the Conservative filibuster drew near.
“The deafening chorus of “Points of order, chair!” and “Follow the rules, chair!” drowned out the proceedings as Conservative MPs objected to committee chair George Chahal pressing on with the vote ordered last week by an unusual government motion. Near the beginning of Wednesday’s meeting, Liberal MP Yvonne Jones (appearing via Zoom) and NDP MP Charlie Angus accidentally cast their votes the wrong way because they couldn’t hear what they were voting on over the cacophony of objections.”
When the bill eventually gets back to the House at Report Stage, the government will table amendments to fix the mess and restore the original timetable.
Of course, one would imagine that the bread and butter of Conservative rhetoric, “the huge waste of taxpayers dollars,” might cause some dismay in the ranks. This kind of nonsense is really expensive as well as an abuse of parliament. But such is life in Ottawa subjected to the Republican playbook.
We have an important vote coming up this week. It is on a motion originally put forward by Mike Morrice, for a Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform.
The whole story of how Mike’s motion ended up through cooperation being M-86 put forward by NDP MP Lisa Marie Barron, is covered in the great website of Fair Vote Canada.
We will vote on Wednesday, February 7. If you have a Liberal or Conservative MP, please contact them to vote “yes!” We have a chance for the motion to carry!
Meanwhile, I am still doing all I can to stop the TMX pipeline. Here is my late-night debate on Thursday, February 1. I would not have thought it possible for the Liberal defences of TMX to worsen, but watch and see if you agree this reply is a new low point.
I wish everyone a week of light and laughter. In these times of grief and the horrors of the brutal deaths of innocents, we must try to find some joy in every day. This is not selfish. This is survival. Be well, make donations to UNWRA, pray for peace.
Thanks, and much love,
Saanich-Gulf Islands Greens