A mixed week (March 29, 2020)
Good Sunday Morning!
And for one Sunday, I am trying to focus on things non-COVID19. (And apologies for this being longer than usual. I broke it up with headings, for speed reading!)
Green Party news:
A chance to participate in an activity consistent with public health rules: TODAY -the first webinar of the Green Party federal council election. All activities of this election are on line, so there was no need to delay anything. The run for leader and whether it needs to be postponed is another question. The Conservatives just postponed their race. I know interim leader Jo Ann Roberts and her team are watching the evolving COVID19 situation closely. The Green national convention is not until the first weekend in October. Meanwhile, the BC Greens have postponed their leadership convention, which was to be in late June, indefinitely.
The federal council election involves zero physical contact or gatherings. This council election is so important in this year of transition. It is the council, and not the leader, that runs the party. Out of 19 seats, due to a few resignations, 12 seats are up for election. The list of candidates is now available on the party website. Join the party before April 1 and you can vote.
Today at 3 PM ET, noon in BC, the Green Party will hold a zoom webinar to meet all the candidates. Full disclosure – my husband John Kidder is running for Vice President English. Go to www.greenparty.ca to sign up for the zoom meeting!
Lots of great Greens are running – the list of Greens in BC alone is long! There is also an election for Young Green seats. Check out: www.greensforcouncil.ca
There was some excellent non-COVID19 news that you may have missed.
- 1) The courts delivered wins to indigenous people and in favour of the planet – in the US and Canada. The Standing Rock Sioux won a huge victory. The court ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers must start over and conduct a full environmental review of the Dakota Access pipeline!
- 2) And, closer to home in Nova Scotia, a court victory for the Mi’kmaq water protecters, standing against a plan to store natural gas in salt caverns along the Shubenacadie River. The Sipekne’katik First Nation won with the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia agreeing that their rights were violated. Having visited the water protecters at their encampment on the river banks, and offered Green Party support years ago, I know how difficult the struggle has been for them. In his decision, Justice Frank Edwards wrote, “[Nova Scotia’s Minister of Environment] committed palpable and overriding error when she concluded that the level of consultation was appropriate.”
- 3) On March 26, Greens tried to draw public attention to the fact that work continues at Site C and TMX, despite COVID19. While the Wet’suwet’en have had to suspend consultations on the newly negotiated title agreement, Coastal GasLink is using the opportunity to pursue construction, doing permanent damage to the local environment and archeological sites.
- 4) Meanwhile, due to COVID19, the Supreme Court of Canada has postponed hearing of the appeal of all the carbon tax challenges from provincial governments, now to be heard in June.
What happened in Parliament this week:
On Sunday, MPs got a copy of the proposed Bill C-13; there were three versions before agreeing unanimously to let the bill pass. Green MP Jenica Atwin drove (while keeping social distance) with her husband and kids to Ottawa from Fredericton in one 10 hour marathon trip! Because she was present, Greens essentially had a veto.
Paul, Jenica and I had many virtual huddles with our core team. We would have blocked the first version. While described as a “package” of specific measures, it was actually a 20-part bill, allowing flexibility and new rules in 20 different existing laws. Some were tightly related to emergency measures – such as rule changes in EI and child benefits. Others were wide-open powers to change tax rules and unlimited spending powers. All of it was to remain in force until December 31, 2021!
My hunch was that this was Finance Canada bureaucrats run amok. I assume they were asked, “Draft one bill that changes existing laws to allow the measures we have announced and have space to do more if required.” And they never stopped to think, at what point does this look like converting Canada to a dictatorship where Parliament doesn’t need to sit til 2022? Honestly, it was that bad.
As Greens, a huge concern was allowing the Finance Minister the power to write cheques in unlimited amounts to any “entity” –which could be Oxfam or fossil fuels and big banks.
In negotiations, the entire taxing powers section was pulled, but the blank cheque section remains, although with spending powers constrained by more parliamentary oversight and limited until September 2020.
From discussions I have had with Cabinet members, I think they will stay focused on helping fossil fuel workers; on remediation of toxic oil sands and orphaned oil wells. But there are no guarantees. We just knew that saying “no” would deny desperate people – workers and small business – the help they need. The bill was much improved, so we consented.
There is a lot of legitimate concern about the risk of bail-out of fossil fuels.
I urge those concerned to write letters to the editor – in preference to writing the PM, ministers and MPs. Right now, everyone is focused on helping constituents while working from home. It is more strategic to send the message through newspapers, on-line and traditional, and social media platforms.
Hope all of you who receive this Sunday missive and all your friends and loved ones, and neighbours stay well. Stay safe. Stay home.
This weekly blog is published by Elizabeth’s EDA in Saanich-Gulf Islands. You can sign up for it here.