The new session: Setting priorities

This article was originally published in the Hill Times.

The new session: Setting priorities

January 28, 2023

From late January to late June, Parliamentarians will debate, legislate and ideally do good work on a wide range of issues. All of them are important. The health care crisis needs a strong federal government to protect single payer universal health care and Canada Health Act.  We need action on transportation. For southern Vancouver Island, key concerns about freighters ripping up the ocean floor may be addressed in C-33.

Mike Morrice (MP Kitchener Centre) and I will pressure the government to deliver on a number of nearly stale-dated promises. The disability benefit (C-22), the promised right to a healthy environment (S-5), an environmental justice strategy (my PMB C-226), action on housing (Mike Morrice’s motion 71) and Just Transition legislation have long been Liberal commitments.

With the pre-budget submission deadline looming, competing priorities are crowding in.

Cutting through all that, I recall C.D. Howe’s response in the midst of the Second World War.  When asked how the government could pay for the growing debt from war time spending, he replied “If we lose the war, nothing will matter…”

That is how Greens set priorities. The climate emergency is – among all those urgent and important priorities – the only one where it can be said “If we fail, nothing will matter.”

On January 18, 2023, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres delivered his latest distillation of threats. He called it a “perfect storm” of galloping crises – war, pandemic, climate break down.  Like Greens, he identified the climate emergency as the threat to our survival. “The commitment to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees is going up in smoke. Without further action, we are headed to a 2.8 degree increase.”

We must face the threat of civilization in freefall, impacting our own children in their lifetimes.

Speaking at Davis, Guterres went on with devastating clarity: “The science has been clear for decades. I am not talking only about UN scientists. I am talking about fossil fuel scientists.

“We learned last week that certain fossil fuel producers were fully aware in the 1970s that their core product was baking our planet.

“…Big Oil peddled the big lie. And like the tobacco industry, those responsible must be held to account. Today, fossil fuel producers and their enablers are still racing to expand production, knowing full well that their business model is inconsistent with human survival.”

If your news source is the National Post, you would believe that the Trudeau Liberals are doing all they can to avert the threat.  In its January 21 “NP View: Trudeau’s ‘just transition’ just a big government plan to mop up his own mess,” the Liberals stood accused of having “religious-like fanaticism of global warming zealotry.”

In fact, the Liberal government maintains steadfast support for the very things that threaten our survival. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been remarkably clear that we can only hold to the Paris commitment of staying as far below 2 degrees C global average temperature increase, and preferably below 1.5 degrees, if we cancel any and all additional fossil fuel infrastructure or increased fossil fuel production. The International Energy Agency, and even the International Monetary Fund, agree. But the Trudeau Liberals not only approved the Kinder Morgan pipeline, they bought it. (While everyone is hanging on Bill Morneau’s lastest word, recall he masterminded that fiasco.) The Prime Minister said pipeline profits would fund the shift to clean energy. But the project is a financial loser and the price tag is climbing, heading north of $21 billion.  In April 2022, Trudeau worsened this record, approving foreign oil companies drilling offshore Newfoundland and Labrador for billions of barrels more oil. To really boost the provincial economy, we should be investing in a robust national electricity grid  allowing Newfoundland and Labrador to export electricity and sustainably make billions in profits from Churchill and Muskrat Falls.  Further, the Liberals’ climate plan calls for 21% increased fossil fuel production putting Canada on the wrong side of our children’s future.

In this session, Greens will be putting it to the Prime Minister: If climate denying media and scientifically illiterate politicians pillory you anyway, solely for your rhetoric, is it not time to walk the talk?

Elizabeth May, O.C., is Leader of the Green Party of Canada and MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands.