Good Sunday Morning – May 12

Good Sunday morning!

Good Sunday Morning and Happy Mother’s Day!  To all who are mothers, and grandmothers, have a great day and put your feet up!  But let’s celebrate and show extra love to Mother Earth.

I loved that the Biodiversity Convention decision text from COP15 in Montreal, December 2022, invokes the protection of Mother Earth by name. As here in Target 16, that “all people … live well in harmony with Mother Earth.”

Mother Nature’s name is taken in vain quite a bit, and often in ways that make me see red. Here is a corker from Friday’s Global News “Hot weather in the forecast for Mother’s Day in Alberta.” The article goes on to set out record-breaking temperatures from that one day – Grande Prairie at 24.9 degrees C, Drumheller at 27.6 C, Fort McMurray nearly 27 C. There is no reference to climate change at all, but here is the opener: “Mother Nature will be providing Albertans with a gift of her own this Mother’s Day weekend, as a ridge of high pressure is set to bring unseasonably warm weather to much of the province.”

I wonder if they wrote about the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire as a “gift” from Mother Nature. The same province intent on increasing its greenhouse gas emissions by boosting the oil and gas sector has itself experienced devastating impacts of the climate crisis, from the 2013 devastating Calgary flooding of the Bow River to the Fort McMurray wildfire that destroyed over a million and a half acres of forest to a deep drought harming its agriculture and ecosystems, Alberta is in the grip of the climate emergency. Yet, the Alberta government seems allergic to facts. The truth is Alberta’s growth in emissions has canceled out decreases from other provinces, such as when Ontario closed all of its coal-fired power plants. And yet Alberta’s Premier Danielle Smith fights against renewable energy projects that would bring billions to the province.

Ironies abound. In Ottawa you could choke on them, as I nearly did on Tuesday at the annual celebration of Canadian writers – “Politics and the Pen.” John and I went to cheer on John Vaillant whose extraordinary book, Fire Weather, was on the short list of finalists for the Writers Trust Shaughnessy Cohen Prize, an honour with a $25,000 award. I may have been one of the only people in the room who knew the late Shaughnessy Cohen- a Liberal MP who died at her desk in Parliament due to a hemorrhagic stroke. She was only fifty years old and died just moments after giving her last speech. She was smart, savvy and very funny.

Green Party co-leader Elizabeth May and her husband John Kidder attend the Politcs and The Pen gala at the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa on May 7, 2024.

It is a schmooze fest of politicians, lobbyists, writers and journalists. Here’s some coverage to give you a sense of the event (and thanks to my friend Wendy for that gorgeous jacket I was wearing). And more here including some nice candid shots of John Kidder and John Vaillant, and me sitting with Kathleen Wynne, the Ontario Premier who closed down those coal fired power plants. Wynne co-MC’d with former Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. Gags and inside baseball jokes abounded. Jason Kenney asked Kathleen if she missed being Premier. She said, not really but it is hard to be replaced by an extreme right-wing populist. Jason said, “yeah, I know how you feel…” it brought the house down.

What I did not know until they ran a chummy insider video with World Wildlife Fund CEO, former MP Megan Leslie, fawning over Imperial Canada’s CEO Brad Corson, was that Imperial was a major sponsor of the event. I booed so loudly even my husband looked alarmed at my behaviour.  Last time I had seen Corson was at the Natural Resources Committee when he was grilled over Imperial’s failure to notify First Nations that its tailings ponds were failing and toxic contaminants were leaching into Cree territory.

Thank heavens Fire Weather won! And John Vaillant took the podium for a very powerful speech about the crucible that is our current existence. I hope we can find the video of that speech. His five minutes in front of the Natural Resources Committee remains the most powerful climate statement I have ever heard, “The oil industry is in essence a fire industry.”  Watch it here. And share it.

Meanwhile, I am digging in and trying to find ways to reform the latest affront to environmental assessment law. Here is a brief refresher on the issue. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) worked well from 1993-2012. Under CEAA, the basic approach was to assess what the federal government did or decided. Federal EA was required for anything on federal land, involving federal money, or federal permits under certain acts. Industry, Government, First Nations and environmentalists had a lot of experience with the way CEAA worked. Its constitutionality was upheld back in 1997 by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Hydro Quebec case. Every year approximately 5-6,000 projects were reviewed, a tiny fraction of that number went to full panel reviews. In 2012 Harper repealed CEAA and instituted a replacement “CEAA 2012”. Since then, fewer than 100 projects/year are assessed.

CEAA 2012 replaced criteria-based consistent application of EA with ministerial discretion to place a project on a “designated project list”.

While the Liberals had promised to reverse Harper’s changes, they retained them in 2019 with C-69 Impact Assessment Act (IAA).

On a reference case, in October 2023, SCC ruled the law was ultra vires Parliament.  “the balance of the scheme, that is the ‘designated projects’ portion is ultra vires….”

On May 2, 2024 the Finance Minister introduced an omnibus budget bill which, in part, is intended to repair the constitutional problem identified by the SCC. (C-69- just random it got the same bill # as C-69 in 2019).

There are so many flaws in these IAA amendments. They further reduce the rigour of EA, even more than Harper did in 2012, while retaining the designated projects list approach.

But I have not adequately attacked this quick and dirty process. As an omnibus budget bill it will never go to the Environment Committee nor the Justice Committee for review. These large and unhelpful changes to Canada’s environmental laws will only be reviewed by the Finance Committee with hearings to begin in 10 days on the whole 600+ page bill of which impact assessment changes are one part.

In cheerier news, my private members bill to address environmental racism and promote environmental justice, C-226, has now cleared the Senate Environment Committee, without amendment. Hooray! Report Stage debate in the Senate has begun. Fingers crossed for passing the last two steps – the votes at Report Stage and Third Reading.

Here is Mike Morrice’s great question on Transmountain from this week.

And my response to Guilbeault’s claims that Canada is on track to meet its targets..

Meanwhile this week I joined a session to launch the Global Greens Strengthening Democracy network. I am so inspired by the work of elected Green MPs around the world. Far too often even our own members nd supporters know little bout the extraordinary work of Greens such as Frank Habineza of Rwanda or co-leader and Māori Marama Davidson of New Zealand. Please have  look at our chat here.

So enjoy your Sunday! And please do plan on walking in the Victoria Day parade! May 20 in Victoria! RSVP in reply to this email.

Also, if you live near, mark your calendar for my big Salt Spring Island Birthday party. I turn 70 on June 9, but the party will be Sunday June 2! Details to come.

Much love and thanks. I have a very full heart on this wonderful mother’s day. Cate is in Sidney so I have the best of all treats, at home with John and Xo and Cate!!