And what a week that was.
Monday started with the release of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. This was the Synthesis report to summarize the last three working group reports issued from summer 2021 – spring 2022 of the Sixth Assessment. In other words, there was no new information, but the sobering reports over the last 18 months were put in more accessible format for policy makers. The news is, as expected, grim and urgent. The IPCC still holds out the hope that we can hold to 1.5 degrees C. Failure should not be an option. https://www.ipcc.ch/2023/03/20/press-release-ar6-synthesis-report/
On Wednesday, in Question Period, I asked Justin Trudeau quite directly if he was now prepared to act with the necessary courage and urgency to meet the IPCC recommendations – ban fracking, reverse the Bay du Nord decision and cancel the TMX pipeline. Once again, the response was blather — that the Minister for Environment and Climate Change would be looking at it. With the budget coming up Tuesday of this week, March 28, I am deeply shocked that the $30 billion price tag on TMX does not seem to be registering as a good reason to cancel it. We cannot let up the pressure to act decisively while there is still time.
My private members bill to promote environmental justice got through the last hour of debate in parliament on Thursday, so C-226 has one more vote coming up this Wednesday and then off to the Senate.
Friday’s events were set in motion seven days before, on St. Patrick’s Day. After my two days of lectures at St. Francis Xavier University, I stopped by Antigonish’s new chocolate store, Peace by Chocolate. When I lived in the area, the wonderful Syrian refugee family, the Hadhads, had not yet settled in Nova Scotia. The family of Damascus chocolatiers has had their story told many times on the evening news and even in a film showing on Netflix. They famously started making chocolates in their new homeland in a small shack outside the main town. The block where they now have a proper shop on the main street is next to what was my 2008 campaign office when I ran against Peter MacKay in Central Nova. I have been wanting to get to Peace by Chocolate for years, but what with Covid and all, I had not been in Antigonish for ages.
As I was shopping for Easter chocolates, I noticed a great photo of Justin Trudeau with Nancy Pelosi, her hand grasping a bar emblazoned “PEACE.” I told the young women in the shop that I would be seeing Joe Biden soon and was buying a few bars for him. Those salesclerks obviously did not take me seriously, because when I gave the chocolate to Joe Biden, the owner had no idea what I had been planning.
No doubt, you all know that the week in Ottawa was very much dominated by the visit of U.S. President Joe Biden. If you were watching the news, you will have seen that I had some fun with a very simple gesture. As leader of the Green Party, I knew I was to be one of those meeting the US President when he arrived in West Block and signed the official book of visiting leaders. We had just been through the same drill for Ursula von der Leyen, EU Commission President.
When I met President Biden, I thanked him for cancelling the Keystone pipeline and especially for putting John Kerry in such a key security advisor position. Biden shook my hand more warmly, leaned in and said “He’s a good man.” I said, “I think he may be a saint.” And then I pulled out and handed to him the Peace by Chocolate bar, bright yellow wrapper with the word PEACE to make its own statement – about refugees, about love, about compassion.
I could never have imagined that my chocolate bar would rather steal the whole damn show. When Biden finished signing the book, I thought Justin Trudeau had the chocolate bar so I teased, “Mr. President, don’t let our prime minister keep your chocolate. He does that.” (or some such foolery.) Biden stopped in his tracks. “Where is my chocolate bar?” Trudeau did not have it, both men returned to the ceremonial table for book signing and one of the Senate clerks retrieved it from where he had put it after Trudeau handed it off to him.
At which point Peace by Chocolate became the star of the show. Justin started explaining to Biden that this chocolate was the work of a Syrian refugee family, now a major employer in the area. Cameras were snapping and the news reached the US as well. Peace by Chocolate!
I had heard that Tareq Hadhad, founder and CEO of Peace by Chocolate, might be coming to the Biden events, but we had never met. I looked all over for him, but no luck. That night, exhausted, as the state dinner wound down, I was heading for the coat check. Immigration Minister Sean Fraser, now MP for Central Nova and a good friend, stopped me and asked, “Did Tareq find you?” We turned on our heels and headed back. Sean stuck with me as we ploughed back into the crowd. Past Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy with whom I had been chatting earlier, past Chrystia Freeland who apologized that she had never had time for our promised budget meeting, and seeking Tareq. We spotted each other and pretty much simultaneously exclaimed to each other, “My hero!” before a really good hug.
By the time I got to my apartment to watch the news, there was Tareq from earlier in the day telling the media about how he got word from his super-excited team that I had given Joe Biden Peace by Chocolate. He was especially thrilled that the president went back to find out where his chocolate had disappeared. It was CBC The National’s nightly “Moment.” It was Global TV’s great clip of the night. It was everywhere.
The substance of the bi-lateral meetings was less exciting. The full text is here:
As I have related in GSM, the refusal by Canada to allow a reference to the International Joint Commission on BC mining pollution contaminating Indigenous lands and waters on both sides of the border remains unresolved, with this papering over:
“Canada and the United States also intend to reach an agreement in principle by this summer to reduce and mitigate the impacts of water pollution in the Elk-Kootenay watershed, in partnership with Tribal Nations and Indigenous Peoples, and in order to protect the people and species that depend on this vital river system.”
There is much in the statement on climate, decarbonizing the electricity grid, (I hope that might indicate possible progress in the budget, one of the GPC main demands in our pre-budget submission), better monitoring and controls on methane, the expected commitments to shared defence of Ukraine, dodging the poor notion of military engagement in Haiti. And then this very unwelcome commitment to nuclear:
“On civil nuclear engagement, Canada will join the Foundational Infrastructure for Responsible Use of Small Modular Reactor Technology (FIRST) program, providing funding and in-kind support. Canada and the United States will also coordinate efforts to develop secure and reliable North American nuclear fuel supply chains and build broader partnerships with longstanding allies and partners, both of which will help to ensure access to low enriched uranium, including High-Assay Low Enriched Uranium.”
And there is a reference to election interference. So my last thought to share from this week is that we witnessed a new nasty low. The character assassination of a fellow MP – accused by anonymous spooks in CSIS. Since when does a healthy democracy allow its spy agency to leak to the media and pretend to be “whistle blowers?”
Han Dong is not a good friend. I know him. But this hits hard. The rush to judgment. Where are the decent people to stand up and say “this is wrong?”
That’s for next week.
Love and peace- by chocolate,