Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada and Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands, held a press conference on Tuesday, September 18th, to discuss the impacts budget 2012 is having on local communities.
She reviewed the Harper Government’s decisions and announcements since the end of last parliamentary session, looked ahead to the Harper Government’s Fall agenda, Canada’s increased sell out to China and the impacts of Bill C-38 on Species at Risk and Parks Canada.
ELIZABETH MAY (Green Party Leader): Bonjour. Good morning. First of all, I should explain in case anyone doesn’t recognize the blue striped scarf that today is National Prostate Cancer Awareness Day.
So I’ve never been known for fashion statements, so I just want to make sure that everyone knows that that is why you’ll see many members of Parliament wearing a blue scarf or a blue tie today.
Thank you for joining me this morning. I wanted to pull together some of the experiences being out on the ground in my riding and across the country this summer in terms of the effect being felt on the ground from changes brought in through Bill C-38 and to Budget 2012 on local communities, and local problems being created through the reckless cuts that occurred in the spring.
And I want to look ahead at what I see on the fall parliamentary calendar that all Canadians should be concerned about.
First thing I want to share with you, we know that Parks Canada received well above the average of other departments, severe cuts. The overall cuts in the 2012 budget came to five per cent of spending. There were several entities that got 10 per cent cuts. Those were CBC, CIDA, our overseas development agency, and Parks Canada.
Now some people may feel and maybe Stephen Harper feels that Parks Canada is an easy place to make cuts because you don’t have to do anything to protect ecological integrity in our parks.
Clearly Mr. Harper believes that Parks should have more visitors, more tourists, and that those visitor experiences could be privatized, such as with the Jasper Iceway and now the Banff Hot Springs being allowed to have private, for profit operations on them.
But our national parks are more than the tourist visitor experience. They also involved public safety. And that’s where the cuts hit the ground in a way that I think most Canadians would find quite alarming.
The cuts are so severe that in some parks at least to my definite personal knowledge, forest fires and rescues are beyond the reach of Parks Canada personnel.
They’ve lost so much capacity that they can’t put out forest fires in a national park and they have to rely on local, in some cases, volunteer fire fighting services.
To give a specific example on the Gulf Islands National Park within my riding, there were two forest fires this summer, Tumble Island and on Saturna Island, where Parks Canada staff couldn’t get there.
Parks Canada staff had to watch as the local forest fire fighting group, Saturna Island’s fire service which has one paid staff person, the fire chief, and everybody else is volunteer, dealing with a very difficult fire that was halfway up a cliff rock face, and it required repelling down the rock face, volunteer fire fighters did this and then the provincial forest fire service shot up with helicopters with water buckets to help put out that fire.
Now if you look at a map of Saturna Island, you’ll see it’s virtually half national park, and interspersed all around the edges of the park are homes. So this is a significant public safety issue when a public… when a national park decides it can no longer manage rescues or putting out fires.
And that’s been the case in more than one national park across the country this summer.
As well, in C-38, we changed the law so that now forest, or rather national park wardens are required under C-38 to operate as law enforcement officers for any law that’s being violated. They’re now required to carry fire arms, and they are required to be available to pursue any other criminal act within a national park.
It’s not clear that they would have the benefit that the RCMP officers do, that you should never send a lone officer into a remote area, that they should always be two. That doesn’t appear to be the case for national park service staff who would be required to go in to deal with any criminal wrongdoing.
So on top of a 10-per-cent cut, they’ve had to take on new duties. And to be responsible for those new duties, there are now fewer officers. Just by way of example, in the National Parks, if you take a rough number of park wardens that existed for one of the major national parks in the Rockies, you would have had in the past about 30 park wardens.
Now there are about six. Now it’s true that unlike the 30 park wardens who were there before, the six who are there now will have fire arms with them to be able to pursue criminal activity but six park wardens can’t do the job that 30 used to do. And the budget cuts in the resource conservation issues are so severe they’ve actually reduced the number of national incident management teams already and on the ground, we are experiencing an inability of Parks Canada to respond to rescue or fire situations.
That’s one area of cuts.
Another is to maintain the protection of endangered species. Again an example from my own riding, as part of the national recovery strategy for northern and southern resident killer whales or orcas, and this is a copy of the DFO report that explains what the Species at Risk Act requires of them for the protection, conservation and restoration of orca populations.
Part of the requisite job is to make sure that whale watching operations, which are a big economic boon to many parts of coastal Canada, we have a lot of whale watchers and it’s great. You know, it’s a fabulous ecotourism experience. But you have to follow the law. You have to stay a requisite distance away from the whale populations or the enjoyment of whales in the wild turns into harassment of whales and impedes their ability to recover.
So there’s been a straight watch operation run by CETUS’ research and conservation foundation that makes sure with federal government funding through the Species at Risk Act, through Environment Canada, to this operation in Southern Vancouver Island and other locations on Vancouver Island, to monitor what the whale watch groups are doing. Their funding was just completely cut.
Which leads me to what I expect to see in the fall. We’ve heard that there will be changes to the Species at Risk Act. It worries me that a service being performed consistent with the federal government’s statutory obligations under the Species at Risk Act to protect resident orca whale populations is being cut to me is a foreshadowing of changes coming in the Species at Risk Act.
We’ve heard from Minister of the Environment Peter Kent that they plan to make changes. Originally those changes were rumoured to be included in the upcoming Omnibus Budget Bill. We now hear that they will be taken separately and the reason for that, through the various sources that I’ve heard, is that even the provinces don’t want to take on the responsibilities the feds want to shovel off on them as quickly as possible.
The reality is that cutting the funding to a small operation, minimal amount of money, to keep an operation going where skilled people, knowledgeable conservationists out on the water to protect whale populations, that’s been completely eliminated.
The other thing we see coming, which I think deserves more attention than it’s getting, certainly more than it’s getting in the House of Commons, is looking forward again towards what’s going to happen this fall. I’m very concerned about the Omnibus Budget Bill. I of course will read it carefully.
But we also know that by November 12th, the government of Canada must decide on the bid by Nexen, I mean, the bid by SNOOC to purchase Nexen. SNOOC being the Chinese National Offshore Oil Company.
We are still hearing even the official opposition, the NDP only goes on about net benefit. When is someone going to talk about national security? We’re talking not about a commercial venture. We’re not talking about a private-sector operation coming from China. We’re talking about a state-owned operation of communist China. The same state that owns SINOPEC, the same state that owns PetroChina. Communist China owns SNOOC. And I thought this quote, which I found in the Wall Street Journal from late last month, this rather instructive, this is from the August 29th Wall Street Journal, and the headline says it all. For China boss, deep water rigs are a “strategic weapon”.
The full quote from SNOOC Limited Chairman Wang Yee Lin is this. Quote: “Large scale deep water rigs are our mobile national territory and a strategic weapon.” Unquote.
Purchasing large amounts of oil sands territories and operations, as strategic weapons, in the words of the company’s own chair, certainly requires that Canadians look at it as a national security question. We’re hampered in that by Stephen Harper’s refusal to include an objective definition of national security when the Investment Canada Act was amended in 2009. Nevertheless, we must ask these questions.
And we specifically must ask, and I will ask in the House, when we’ll see the specific text of the agreement Stephen Harper has signed with China for investor protection because it was bad enough when U.S. based corporations were able to sue municipal, provincial or federal governments in Canada for what they claim was a loss of profits due to decision-making or regulations in Canada at the municipal, provincial or federal level.
But if as it appears China’s companies, which are an extension of the state of China, will be allowed to sue Canada for democratically elected government decisions to protect our health or environment in Canada, if we are then susceptible to having to pay damages to Communist China, I think Canadians will have a lot of questions to ask. This agreement has already been signed by Stephen Harper when he was in Russia.
We need to see the text and we need to debate whether he’s giving Canada a way to Communist China without even allowing us to debate it in the House of Commons.
Merci beaucoup. Je regrette beaucoup que je ne fais pas beaucoup des commentaires en français mais je suis disponible pour les questions dans les deux langues. Merci.
QUESTION: What are you worried about downloading to the provinces in Species at Risk?
ELIZABETH MAY: The provinces don’t have the same capacity and there are different federal and provincial jurisdictional areas. Historically in Canada provinces have different levels of capacity to do for instance environmental assessments. So what we saw in C-38, if you were to look at a common theme, Mr. Harper wants to call the common theme streamlining. In reality the common theme is abandonment of environmental responsibilities by the federal government.
So the Fisheries Act changes not only remove protection of fishery habitat in a wide part, in a broad swath across Canada, the other part of the change of the Fisheries Act were to say if any province asks to take this on, we’ll say okay. Same thing on the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act: if a province says we can do this environmental review, we are to say federally okay, even if they don’t establish that they have anything like equivalent regulations. This I think will be what we’ll see in the Species at Risk Act. If a province says you know, we’ll take it on.
So the question then is what has happened to the federal areas of responsibility constitutionally? And as a matter of capacity, downloading to the provinces a whole lot of really significant environmentally critical protection measures without giving the provinces any new resources with which to protect those environmental resources is a prescription for Species at Risk going extinct, for areas of fisheries habitat being eliminated, for various coho and Chinook runs to go dead. We need to have a federal role in these areas.
It’s further dangerous because of the… made more dangerous by the elimination of so much environmental science to guide those policy decisions at both federal and provincial levels.
QUESTION: Give an example of a species that is at risk that if you download the whole thing to the provinces, you may see the end of that species?
ELIZABETH MAY: Pretty much anything, but give a specific example, in the case of well, very critical example for British Columbians, we have a number of salmon on the endangered species list. We now have a combination of things. We’ve, in the decision to, in C-38, remove protection of fish habitat, under the Fisheries Act, the subsequent decision from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans was to lay off all of the habitat enforcement officers within DFO operating in British Columbia.
So we’re no longer going to have protection of critical habitat for certain salmon runs of coho and Chinook. Now if on top of that Species at Risk Act downloads as well, the question is will British Columbia step up and protect all the species, replace all those jobs? The answer is no. We certainly haven’t seen any new B.C. staff attached to protection of salmon resources. And salmon are clearly a federal responsibility.
So it’s… if you look at other Species at Risk, Woodland Caribou, for instance, we have a lot of pressure on Woodland Caribou habitat in Northern Alberta coming from expansion of the oil sands. I certainly commend Premier Allison Redford for making a decision to set aside some areas of Northern Alberta in the Athabasca region, so there’s some conservation zones.
But without a coordinated effort under the Species at Risk Act, downloading to the provinces is, and particularly in Northern Alberta, the amount of land now protected or on its way to being protected at the provincial level isn’t sufficient to keep the species extent and indeed, it may be extirpated from areas of Alberta, certain sub-species of Woodland Caribou are more trouble than others. So if you don’t have a federal approach under the Species at Risk Act, then you’re going to see species disappearing.
QUESTION: Au printemps vous avez fait une lutte contre C-38 que vous avez perdue. Je me demande aujourd’hui quand vous regardez les choses sur lesquelles ils ne voudront pas revenir, c’est déjà fait, c’est fini. C’est quoi les nouveaux risques? C’est quoi les nouveaux dangers que vous dites qui s’en viennent cet automne?
ELIZABETH MAY: Oui, parce qu’à ce moment, évidemment personne a lu le projet de Loi omnibus 2 de l’automne. Pour moi-même on doit liser cette… on doit lire le projet de Loi omnibus pour l’automne avant de faire une décision oui ou non. Mais j’ai beaucoup d’inquiétudes parce que ce n’est pas le bon processus dont pour… ce n’est pas démocratique évidemment d’avoir plus que 400 pages des changements fondamentaux des lois pour Canada dans C-38 et s’il y a une autre loi et je (inaudible) que c’est peut-être 800 pages. Alors qu’est-ce qu’on peut faire avec 800 pages comme un seul projet de loi?
J’ai beaucoup d’inquiétudes et je pense qu’encore, on doit faire une lutte fondamentale pour arrêter cet effort. Mais je veux, on doit lire le projet de loi. Ce n’est pas à ce moment devant le Parlement.
QUESTION: D’un point de vue environnemental, quel mal est-ce qu’ils peuvent encore faire qu’ils n’auraient pas déjà fait?
ELIZABETH MAY: Oui, oui. Il y a beaucoup de mal maintenant parce que nous avons les changements des équipes dont les parcs nationaux, par exemple, et ce n’est pas à ce moment possible de faire une réponse contre les feux dans les parcs nationaux, dans beaucoup de parcs. Pas absolument chaque parc national mais j’ai le rapport pour beaucoup de parcs nationaux et particulièrement dans ma circonscription, le parc de Iles de Gulf, c’est pas possible cet été de faire, d’avoir une équipe contre les feux par… de parc national et il était … il reste avec les petits groupes bénévoles locaux pour faire une lutte contre les feux dont le parc national de Saturna, par exemple. Et aussi il manque l’équipe scientifique pour montrer les changements pour protéger l’intégrité écologique dans les parcs nationaux puis il y a aussi les nouvelles responsabilités pour les gens dans les parcs par les parcs « wardens », maintenant ont les autres nouvelles responsabilités à cause de C-38 que l’on doit répondre pour toutes les autres lois criminelles dans les parcs, on doit faire les réponses comme les polices mais ce n’est pas la responsabilité « core » des parcs nationaux.
C’est beaucoup de choses qu’ils ont fait maintenant déjà.
QUESTION: You didn’t understand my question. My question was, okay, so we know all the damage they’ve done with C-38.
ELIZABETH MAY: Oui.
QUESTION: What more damage can they do? That’s my question.
ELIZABETH MAY: Pardon. Il y a beaucoup de choses où on peut faire, et c’est pour ça que j’ai beaucoup d’inquiétude. Pour par exemple pour la loi pour protéger les espèces en train d’extinction, M. Kent a déjà parlé qu’il a les changements et dont les choses qu’il y a des rumeurs au sujet de la Loi pour protéger les espèces, la Loi SARA, et tous les rumeurs sont mal pour réduire les responsabilités des gouvernements au niveau fédéral, pour réduire les protections des espèces menacées, pour donner aux provinces toutes les responsabilités pour protéger les espèces en train d’extinction.
Et il y a aussi les autres choses que je pense sera dans l’omnibus projet de loi 2. C’est pour réduire les protections pour les eaux au Canada, dont la loi de la protection des eaux de navigation. Je ne sais pas les mots en français mais Navigable Waters Protection Act.
Je suis certaine que dans le projet de Loi omnibus de l’OTAN, il sera les changements mauvais pour ce projet de loi pour éliminer le rôle du gouvernement fédéral pour beaucoup des eaux et des rivières et des fleuves du Canada.
So we’re seeing a lot, the threat is there, very clearly in a second omnibus budget bill to do more damage to the environment, particularly through the Navigable Waters Protection Act, being changed to reduce the federal role and it lines up with the Enbridge pipeline as a threat as well, to eliminate the federal role in unnamed waterways that are in remote locations that under the law we had in 1867 until 2009, would clearly have been navigable waters.
This government has made a number of changes, three different times, twice so far they’ve made significant changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act and my information is they’re not done yet.
QUESTION: You were saying when is someone going to start talking about national security and Communist China, what specifically are you worried that the Chinese could do by taking over Nexen?
ELIZABETH MAY: Well, I think the fact that the Chairman of the Corporation in question, CNOOC, speaking to his employees and Communist Party superiors, explained that ambitions abroad are a strategic weapon should make someone ask some questions about national security.
So, in its very specific context, coupled with the foreign investment protection review agreements which appear to have been signed, well, foreign investment protection and promotion agreement was signed on just last Sunday September 9th in Russia at the meeting of which Mr. Harper and President Hu Jintao were attending in Russia, they’ve now inked an agreement that Parliament hasn’t yet seen.
If it is as reported, the same as other foreign investment protection agreements that Canada has signed, if it is modelled on Chapter of NAFTA, we then have a situation in which a company completely owned by China and for that matter whenever we sign one of these agreements certainly all of the companies owned in the U.S. can already do this, but the companies owned in the U.S. are private-sector entities. We now would have a situation where the Chinese Communist government would have the ability to veto health, safety, environmental regulations of all kinds, if they made the case that this affected their level of anticipated profit, so investor-state provision agreement work.
And so while it’s being presented to the Canadian public, that we’re now protecting investor rights for Canadian companies that want to invest in China, and it’s a very good question whether there’s any reciprocity on the part of China to let Canadians invest there but meanwhile the real impact is going to be that on Canadian… I mean, if Fort McMurray decides to pass a bylaw that improves local air quality, China could sue for damages.
Sue the government of Canada for any local decision-making by Fort McMurray town… city council. Or the province of Alberta. Or the province of British Columbia. Or the federal government of Canada.
So as a national… so that affects perhaps more the net benefit question. But in terms of…
QUESTION: In what agreement would that be allowed?
ELIZABETH MAY: That’s under the…
QUESTION: Fort McMurray, I mean, like what is the…
ELIZABETH MAY: Foreign investment protection and promotion agreement signed on September 9th. We still haven’t seen the text, but all the analysis of it that has appeared elsewhere I have, for instance yes, there’s a note to their clients prepared by Heenan Blakely, Heenan Blaikie, rather, Canada concludes FIPA with China April 2012, with the best information that they have, this agreement will be modelled on the… what they call the NAFTA-based Canadian model FIPA brings the concept of expropriation one step further in that it also protects investors against less extreme or obvious actions which are, quote, tantamount to expropriation, unquote.
This is what has led to for instance Canada repealing the law we put in place that banned the toxic gasoline additive that was manganese based. It also led to a case Canada lost against a PCB destruction company called S.D. Myers in Ohio. It sued Canada when we didn’t allow the export of PCB contaminated waste to the U.S. We lost that case against S.D. Myers. In each of these instances, tens of millions of dollars ended up going to U.S. based corporations and in the case of the ethyl case, that rich ethyl corporation out of Richmond, Virginia, which is the one that made the toxic gasoline additive, we repealed a law.
Now this is quite egregious when it’s private sector U.S. compos getting Canadian laws repealed. But take it to the next level. According to everything I can see, and as a member of Parliament, I haven’t seen the agreement Stephen Harper signed with China. No one has. I think that’s alarming, especially since we’re about to see a decision for a very large Canadian energy giant, Nexen, to be purchased by SNOOC for $15 billion which as even Jack Mintz pointed out, state-owned enterprises have more cash. They are not… really it’s not what you call a fair level playing field with other private sector investors. They’re awash with cash and Communist China is able to put down $15 billion as a bid for Nexen which they then described themselves as a strategic weapon.
What kind of effect does this have on national security? Well, I think it’s a question we should be discussing. If it’s a national security question that we’re able to say what about the suppression of Tibetan monks? And the… well, not just suppression. What about the killing of Tibetan monks? What about suppression of Chinese Catholics who operate in their houses illegally to have worship? What about what happens to Falun Gong practitioners in China? What about what happens to Chinese dissidents? What begins to happen to Canada’s role in the world when Chinese state-owned enterprises own at this point, I’ve seen estimates up to $35 billion worth of investments, in Canada’s oil sands?
What happens if we decide, for strategic reasons, that we want to keep the oil domestically? That could be a national security concern.
Does anyone think we’re going to be able to say no to China? Our last chance to say no to China comes in two decisions: Saying no to CNOOC on the Nexen bid and saying no to the great pipeline of China across Northern British Columbia and the Enbridge PetroChina offer. That, those two things, we sort of … we sort of have the horse is out of the barn, but we’ve got to find some way to close the gate before this is just so far gone that Canada becomes a resource colony of China and there’s nothing any of us can do about it and say why didn’t anyone mention it at the time?
QUESTION: (Inaudible) favourite back and forth between the NDP and the Conservatives over a carbon tax. Do you plan to … or cap and trade.
ELIZABETH MAY: Yes.
QUESTION: And do you plan to weigh in on that? And what do you think about the (inaudible)?
ELIZABETH MAY: I’d love to weigh in on that. Thank you. You’re the first person who … It’s obvious that it’s, well, it’s appalling to me to watch responsible people run away from a good idea as quickly as they want to scamper away. I think the leader of the official opposition, I think Mr. Mulcair should be ashamed for the role the NDP has had in the past and currently in demonizing a carbon tax.
Someone needs to step up and say wait a minute: British Columbia has a carbon tax and it’s working. It’s reduced emissions. It’s reduced dependency. It’s working at the pump. It’s not… you know, British Columbians are largely supportive of it. After bringing it in, Gordon Campbell got re-elected. The tax that brought him down wasn’t the carbon tax. It was the HST.
We’re looking at economies around the world where it’s working. And in fact, the economies in Europe right now that are the strongest, like Germany and Sweden and Denmark and Norway, the economies that are bailing out the rest are economies that had carbon taxes, reduced emissions while they also had economic growth.
I think… so I wish that we worked… it’s sort of like the… reminds me of Brer rabbit and the tar baby. Somebody’s got to step up and say wait a minute, that’s a good decision. Don’t keep running away from it.
And of course it’s completely dishonest for the Conservatives to claim that they never supported a cap and trade regime. Jim Prentice introduced one when he was Environment Minister. The Conservatives wanted cap and trade.
Cap and trade is, after all, something that was designed by George Bush and the free-market Republicans as a way of putting a price on carbon without using a carbon tax. Cap and trade is something that has… that comes from a free market thinking. But the reality of putting a price on carbon is that every knowledgeable expert, well, everyone in the world recognizes, who’s looking at the climate crisis, that the first step is to put a price on carbon.
You can do it two ways. You can do it through cap and trade or you can do it through a carbon tax. Both have the effect of making fossil fuel based energy sources cost more. And the purpose of that is to drive more development in renewables.
We have to get rid of the subsidies to fossil fuels. That’s, you know, point A. Get rid of subsidies, and put a price on carbon. If you look at the International Energy Agency reports, they’re pleading with every government around the world to put a price on carbon. We’re one of the only countries that hasn’t done it, along with the U.S.
So if we don’t, we’re going to find our exports and our energy products getting a tariff on top of whatever else it costs to buy our products because other countries are going to want to internalize the carbon costs that we haven’t.
So if we don’t take steps to put a price on carbon, we’re both ignoring the climate crisis and putting our exports at risk. And the fact that Mr. Mulcair and Mr. Van Loan are running in circles attacking each other and Mr. Harper over who promoted a carbon tax and who didn’t, it’s really clear. The Green Party of Canada is the only party right now brave enough to stand up and say, you know, it works. Hello? It can be designed in such a way that the average Canadian has less tax burden than they had before because it’s all about shifting the taxes away from income and profit and putting it on pollution so that both individual corporations and individual consumers can make choices that reduce the amount they pay in carbon taxes, by shifting away from carbon to more green energy choices.
And frankly right now the Greens are supporting what’s called a tax and dividend, which means that every Canadian would actually get a dividend from carbon pricing and it would be an absolute wash in terms of the average Canadian household, would not cost people more.
But if we don’t have a discussion about how to make it work, if they’re so busy pointing fingers and running away from action on climate change, you know, in the summer, within weeks of when we have an all-time low level of ice covering the Canadian Arctic, the best we get from the so-called leadership of the Conservatives and the NDP is to run away from a good idea, I find it absolutely shocking.
QUESTION: (inaudible) asking if you’re planning to, on the Omnibus Bill, if you don’t like the content would you do what you did last time?
ELIZABETH MAY: Of course. It’s my responsibility as both leader of the Green Party and as an individual member of parliament to represent my constituents. And my constituents, I just finished a round of town hall meetings in every part of my riding and I have complete support. It’s un… at least in terms of people showing up, it’s hard to say complete support of everyone in a riding.
But their number-one issue in my community is to stop the Enbridge project, protect our coastline from super tankers, and I had enormous amounts of local support and gratitude for the fight we put up on C-38.
If I don’t like the contents of the next Omnibus Budget bill, they haven’t seen anything yet. They think 330 amendments was a lot. Well, we will take whatever steps are necessary to put up the kind of fight that Canadians expect to protect things like navigable waters, other environment laws. You know, if I like it, obviously we won’t put forward any kind of fight at all. We have to read it and see.
QUESTION: Thought 330 amendments were a lot. You can up that?
ELIZABETH MAY: Well, if basic … our amendments were directly related to the length of the bill and the passages that needed fixing. So a 425-page bill led to 330 amendments. They’ve actually got an 800-page bill, and it has egregious sections that we need to fix. That, of course, will mean more amendments.
It depends. We have to read it, obviously. But if it’s … if it’s as bad as I think it may be, yes, of course, we’ll bring forward everything we’re allowed to do under the rules of parliamentary procedure. That’s my obligation as a member of Parliament.
Thank you so much. Merci beaucoup.
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