|Good Sunday Morning!
For the last time until September, Monday morning will find me in Parliament. We are likely to adjourn by next Friday. What a long haul it has been!
My bill C-226 to confront environmental racism and promote environmental justice will have its first major test at Second Reading vote on Wednesday. https://elizabethmaymp.ca/francais-bill-c-226-national-strategy-respecting-environmental-racism-and-environmental-justice-act/
A lot of this week dealt with C-11. Bill C-11, amendments to the Broadcasting Act, is very much the same bill that Paul Manly had to handle for our caucus last year – as C-10. A big part of the battle, then and now, was to explain what we liked and did not like about the bill while debunking claims that it was about censorship and loss of freedoms. It is not.
The On-line Streaming Act amends the existing Broadcasting Act. That act already guarantees protection for freedom of expression. C-11 is not about censorship at all.
It has two key goals. One is done well and the other is pretty sketchy. It does a good job of helping Canadian artists/creators – writers, actors, directors, all the people who work to develop “content.” (I think “content” is a pretty poor word to describe art. Like calling a forest a nice pile of two-by-fours.)
Canadian artists and creators want this bill so that the movies and TV series we view on Netflix, Crave, HBO or Disney are documentaries and entertainment made by Canadians.
Mike and I and our Shadow Cabinet advisors worry that in trying to control the content posted on YouTube, other more non-profit users could be impacted. Some Canadians make their living in creating clever stuff we all love to watch. They are not on giant “platforms” like Netflix or Crave. The question is does C-11 succeed, as the government claims, in keeping platforms in – and users out? Mike Morrice and I both had amendments to C-11. Mine mostly dealt with trying to protect community programming to ensure that exemptions for and promotion of community broadcasting were grounded in true community effort. We got one amendment accepted in that category.
Mike was trying for “platforms in; users out.” All his amendments were defeated. I am including a classic moment in which one of Canada’s most brilliant comedic talents who posts on YouTube ended up next to Mike on a recent flight: https://twitter.com/morricemike/status/1535437951269842945?t=WAE63nwH3CkxG73z95iYzQ&s=09
Stewart Reynolds, who goes by the stage name “Brittlestar,” is one of my favourites. I occasionally find a 60-second video from him on Twitter and it makes my day. What he told Mike was that the rules for people who are putting their creative work online under C-11 cannot work. He said the drafters of this bill do not understand how the process works.
Mike tried for a clear and unequivocal set of amendments to ensure that when the government says “platforms in; users out” that is how it will actually work.
So far, we have not voted on the final bill. We did vote for a Conservative motion to continue working into the summer to make sure we get this right. It was defeated. And we voted against a Liberal motion to shut down all debate without proper study or opportunity to defend amendments. It carried.
We face a real dilemma. We do not want to give any oxygen to the disinformation that C-11 is a blow against free speech. But we equally do not think this is the best bill it could be. I think I should vote “yes” to support our artists and – at least – get those rules right. But I am pretty sure the bill does not get the rules right around “users” versus “platforms.” The final vote is tomorrow.
In climate and pipeline news, I got new information about the ongoing federal financing of the TMX pipeline. It is beyond outrageous that our government remains committed to completing it. It is about halfway done, but the remaining construction is in the most dangerous and sensitive zones.
A few months ago, at the request of Dr. Tim Takaro, I placed a number of questions on the Order Paper about the financing of the pipeline. Questions on the Order Paper are an option that is superior to Question Period in that questions can be detailed and complex. Question Period allows a 35-second question – but with visibility.
Paper responses are invisible. I got my answers this week. The government claims the project is “significantly de-risked.” No idea what they think that means. Obviously not de-risked in any sense of actual risk. Not climate risk. Not dilbit spill risk. Not risk that future climate events along the TMX route will once again, as happened in November 2021, threaten the stability of the pipeline itself. The flooding was along the pipeline route, shutting down the existing Trans-Mountain pipeline. Infrastructure was destroyed by the atmospheric rivers in the very place they plan to continue construction.
Not even financial risk. The answers confirm that – after Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland promised in February there would be no further federal financial support for the pipeline – the government is providing an additional $10 billion loan guarantee. The reply says “it (the loan guarantee) does not reflect any new public spending.”
I asked brilliant BC economist Robyn Allan about this claim. In an email response, she told me, “Minister Freeland promised that the government will spend no additional public money on the Trans Mountain expansion project. This commitment does not square with reality. The government faces ongoing interest costs on $14.6 billion in debt incurred by Trans Mountain Pipeline Finance (TMP Finance) for Trans Mountain. This means that $700 million a year in interest will continue to be charged, but is not being paid because it is accounted for as ‘interest in kind’ and added to the loan balance. Interest in kind represents ongoing public financing.
“According to Canada Investment Development Corporation’s (CDEV) financial projections, by the end of this year the debt burden to Canadians will have risen from $14.7 billion to $15.4 billion and by the end of 2023 the burden will reach $16.1 billion.”
In another answer, the government claims that BMO and TD have reviewed the project and find it “financially sound and commercially viable.” But do not expect to be able to review these claims: “These analyses are subject to commercial confidentiality.”
But previous TD reviews of TMX were made public.
West Coast Environmental Law’s Eugene Kung, to whom we owe much, looked at these replies and emailed me:
“TD Securities did a fairness opinion around the 2018 purchase… Based on the 2018 analysis, a 10% increase in project cost and one-year delay results in a decline in project net present value of 33%. Based on TD Securities’ analysis, the expansion project ceased to be viable when project costs exceeded ~$11 billion. With a project cost of $21.4 billion and further delay, TD Securities’ 2018 analysis suggests a negative value for the project of $7 – $10 billion. So what changed between 2018 and 2022 to dramatically change TD analysis?”
In distilling the information into a 35-second question, this was the best I could do—
The reply from Minister of Tourism and Deputy Minister for Finance, Randy Boissonnault, is beyond shameful. He appears to have located former Conservative Minister Joe Oliver’s talking points from 2013. “Getting product to market… getting a good price for our oil by getting it to tidewater. Blah blah blah.”
And, just as the written answers on the Order Paper state, Boissonnault concludes we will be launching a “divestment process” based on consultations with Indigenous groups. Once they find some business interests with Indigenous involvement, the people of Canada will no longer own the climate-killing pipeline, but our efforts to stop it will be attacked as against Indigenous rights.
God bless tree-sitting doctor, Tim Takaro. He was just sentenced to a month-long term in jail for blockading TMX, trying to save us. https://www.straight.com/news/sfu-professor-emeritus-tim-takaro-sentenced-to-30-days-in-jail-for-violating-trans-mountain
Staying focused and grounded in the firm belief that we will stop the pipeline and we will get Baie du Nord cancelled and we will protect the climate gets harder. But at times of disequilibrium, such as in the poly crises we are now experiencing, disruption happens. We reach new and different equilibria – rapidly. Our work is to push the result that all crises resolve toward their best possible outcomes – moving toward peace, fairness, democracy and climate justice – and not their opposites.
John is learning a new tune, “The Cape” (new to him anyway, written by the late Guy Clark).
I think I will hang on to this line from the chorus as my new anthem “Life is just a leap of faith.”
Have a look at some links at the bottom of this letter. I had intended to share more about events this week, but this letter is long enough!
Talk next Sunday morning!
Love and thanks,
On climate and forests: https://elizabethmaymp.ca/my-letter-and-the-ministers-response-regarding-government-program-to-plant-two-billion-trees/
Demanding an inquiry into the killing of Palestinian women journalists: https://elizabethmaymp.ca/elizabeth-may-pays-tribute-to-the-two-female-palestinian-journalists-killed-by-israeli-military/
On food security and identifying our multiple crises and the links – climate, pandemic, war, water and food security: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9P3HMn2-SU
And an appeal for great Greens for federal council – to represent New Brunswick and British Columbia.
For those interested in applying, please send your expression of interest (by June 28) that addresses both the eligibility and diversity criteria outlined in the GPC Federal Council Elections and Appointment Rules and the Federal Council Job description to [email protected].
Elizabeth May is the Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands, B.C., and the Green Party of Canada Parliamentary Leader.
Saanich-Gulf Islands Greens