Good Sunday Morning!
I start with some good news for a change. I have been supporting a wonderful group of folks in Nunavut objecting to a massive expansion of an iron ore mine, complete with a new harbour, more ships threatening Narwhals and a 110 km railroad. I have written about the Baffinland mine before in GSM – starting back in February 2021 when Inuit hunters had courageously blocked the airstrip. https://elizabethmaymp.ca/good-sunday-morning-february-21/
One of the lawyers with whom I was working then is now the MP for Nunavut. So I have an ally in Lori Idlout, a strong Inuk voice in parliament (NDP MP). I raised their struggle again this February in Question Period. On Monday, I had leveraged that February question into a 10-minute debate with the parliamentary secretary.
It was a pleasant surprise when on Friday the Nunavut Impact Review Board ruled that the proposed doubling of the mine should be rejected! The final decision is in the hands of the Minister for Northern Affairs, Dan Vandal, who must decide within 90 days.
From the tone of the letter I received from the company’s stakeholder relations officer, in which he attacked me and demanded a public apology for my speech in the House, I suspect that Baffinland will not accept the decision and restrict itself to its existing footprint. Take a moment to write Minister Vandal to make him aware southern Canadians care about the Arctic environment and Indigenous rights! firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail: Dan Vandal, House of Commons, Ottawa, ON, K1A 0A6 (No postage required!)
More good news came Thursday with the vote in Victoria City Council to endorse the proposed Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty! https://fossilfueltreaty.org
On April 28, I spoke to council to urge passage of the motion to call for the treaty. By this vote, Victoria becomes the 50th city around the world to support the treaty, joining Bonn, Los Angeles, Barcelona, Toronto, Vancouver, Paris and five other BC municipalities. https://fossilfueltreaty.org/victoria
I am very keen on the treaty and was one of the first Parliamentarians to sign on. We now have over 250 MPs from around the world endorsing it, including the leader of the Greens in Rwanda, Australia and many other prominent Greens as well as climate leaders from other parties. My dear friend and stunning UK Green MP, Caroline Lucas, was a founder of the campaign, along with Canadian eco-hero Tzeporah Berman. With only thirty months left in the IPCC window to ensure that emissions “peak between 2020 and at the latest before 2025” in order to hold on to any hope of 1.5 degrees or 2 degrees, I am hanging on to hope and trying to figure out how to better communicate the reality. (https://report.ipcc.ch/ar6wg3/pdf/IPCC_AR6_WGIII_SummaryForPolicymakers.pdf p 22, para c-1. )
We are standing on the edge of too late. But it is not yet too late.
In parliament this week, Deputy PM Chrystia Freeland and Environment and Climate Change minister Steven Guilbeault defended the additional $10 billion loan guarantee for the TMX (formerly Kinder Morgan pipeline) and justified the approval of off-shore drilling at Bay du Nord. The rationalizations tend to come down to a form of “moral madness,” as Antonio Guterres has put it.
Mike Morrice did a great job in the House attacking the new subsidy to TMX:
I keep trying to figure out the best way to clarify the issue. The media and other MPs seem to have missed the IPCC deadlines. The misuse of “net zero by 2050” has confused and distracted far too many people. Even environmental groups parrot it without mentioning that it will be irrelevant if we fail to peak before 2025 and drop rapidly from there.
Guilbeault actually boasted that while oil and gas production had gone up, Canada was making progress because “pollution has gone down.” Sure, pollution in Canada dropped due to COVID, but even if we succeed in continuing to reduce GHG at home, sending fossil fuels to other countries to be burned there is immoral. There is only one atmosphere and it is overloaded with warming gasses. Every additional ton of carbon, wherever it is emitted, is a threat to the survival of human civilization. We should not boast of it.
Then I remembered this playbook. Canada used it on asbestos. We banned asbestos from use in Canadian buildings while claiming it was safe for use in other countries. Defenders of asbestos even used the same argument that fossil fuel defenders use today. That somehow Canadian asbestos – chrysotile asbestos – was special and different and could not kill people, as Liberals and Conservatives alike claim the world would be better off burning “clean” Canadian fossil fuels.
The Green Party was the first party to call for the asbestos industry to be shut down. The NDP was internally conflicted due to union jobs in the Quebec mines. I worked with NDP MP Pat Martin trying to change his party’s position. He was with the Carpenters’ union before politics. Carpenters were against asbestos as it threatened their health whenever undertaking renovations. One by one we shifted views, until the NDP joined Greens in calling for an end to Canadian exports of asbestos. We never shifted the Liberals or the Conservatives – and never the Bloc Quebecois. In 2012, it was incoming PQ Premier Pauline Marois who finally decided to stop subsidizing asbestos. Without the government subsidies, the mines closed.
We need to call out the moral aspects of Canada’s claims. Fossil fuels are today’s asbestos. Whether slavery, asbestos, or OxyContin, the moral arguments can be powerful. The Sackler family of Purdue pharma should be in jail, but they sit on their billions, insulated from any lawsuits by their bankruptcy settlement. Still, they will live in infamy.
Canada’s reputation could be similarly ruined, but by the time our climate venality is thoroughly understood, it will be too late for our kids to have a secure world. People making money in worsening our chances of protecting a healthy biosphere must be called out now- while there is time to make the necessary changes. Politicians who pander to fossil fuels must be exposed as morally bankrupt.
We need to focus on fossil fuels – as we did on asbestos – on dangerous opioids, and yes, as Lord Wilberforce did on the slave trade. We have never made progress in any major societal shift by calling for incremental changes. Abolitionists did not call for less slavery. We have to speak truth. We need to commit to fossil fuel non-proliferation.
Thanks for reading. I hope you all have a great rest of your Sunday. I am heading back to Ottawa to try some of these ideas in real time in Parliament.
As ever, thanks so much for your support – and reminder – if you live in Ontario, please do all you can to elect more Green MPPs on June 2nd!
Love and more love,
My question on Ocean plastics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PuUMkEHZnGc
Saanich-Gulf Islands Greens