It seems like there are a lot of "Buses" in the news these days.
First off, here at home, the new bus terminal is being opened on Sunday. I'm not an urban planner, so it's hard for me to comment on the location, but it's nice to see a commitment to transit. And they're using LED lights at the terminal, which is forward thinking too.
Then there's the omnibus budget implementation bill, bill C-38. This is not to be confused with the omnibus crime bill.
So what is an omnibus bill? It's a bill that covers a lot of different, and often unrelated bills. Omnibus is from the latin, and means "For everything".
The omnibus budget bill does help implement the budget, but it also changed over 60 different laws. From the Parks Canada Act, to the Canada Marine Act, to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. What do these acts have to do with implementing the budget?
Really. Which is why the NDP wants to have the bill split out into smaller, more manageable parts. The bill as it stands comes in at 425 pages. Elizabeth May is pretty sure she's one of the only MPs to have read the entire thing, because it's so convoluted.
Large bills like this can be problematic for many reasons. One is political. Say I introduce a bill that had two parts- one that decreased environmental oversight, and the other that offered a tax break to low income families. You might be against the bill because you want stronger enviromental oversight. But if you vote against it, I can say you voted against a tax break for low income families.
Another reason is practical. Seriously- try to read this bill. It's very convoluted. As one MP once said: "In the interests of democracy, I ask how can members, represent their constituents on these various areas when they are forced to vote on a block of such legislation?"
That was Stephen Harper. Again, if only politicians would listen to themselves, we'd be better off.
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Posted by Dave Estill on May 16, 2012 | Permalink
The budget omnibus bill was best described by Terry Glavin the other day as a “statutory juggernaut that introduces, amends or repeals nearly 70 federal laws.” (Ottawa Citizen, May 5, 2012 “Something’s fishy with Bill C-38”).
What Canadians are beginning to realize is that the budget omnibus bill, or Bill C-38, is an outrage. There is much in the budget that was never hinted at, but there are also claims of what is in the bill that simply are not there.
Aspects never even hinted at in the budget itself include removing over-sight from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and changing entitlement to Employment Insurance (this is still vague but appears to allow refusing EI to anyone if there is any job available, even not in their field).
Nearly half of the budget implementation bill is directed at re-writing Canada’s foundational environmental laws. The budget never mentioned that the Fisheries Act was to be re-written, gutting habitat protection and restricting federal action in many instances to commercial, recreational and Aboriginal fisheries. Rumours abounded due to a leaked memo to retired Fisheries scientist Otto Langer, but there was nothing in the budget about it at all. But C-38 devotes a lot of space to the overhaul of protection of fish habitat. If a human isn’t catching a fish, there is no protection for its habitat. There was nothing in the budget about changes to the Species at Risk Act, putting the National Energy Board (NEB) in charge of permitting destruction of endangered species and their habitat found on the proposed route of a pipeline; nor for the supplanting of the NEB as arbiter of pipelines under the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA). The NWPA is amended such that pipelines are no longer considered an obstruction to navigation – even if they are.
Although it was abundantly clear that a large focus was to be “streamlining” the environmental assessment process, the advanced hype focused on time limits for hearings. It was nowhere mentioned that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act was to be repealed. C-38 wipes out the law and introduces an entirely new approach to environmental assessment.
With so many new laws and repeal of old laws and complex text, the Conservative ministers speaking in the House in support of C-38 frequently claim the Act will include measures that are simply not there at all, or mis-state how the new laws will operate.
I have heard members and Cabinet ministers claim the Act adds to environmental protection through increased tanker safety – but that is not in Bill C-38. I have also heard members and ministers claim that the substitution of a federal environmental review is only allowed if the province has an “equivalent process” or as Parliamentary Secretary Michelle Rempel would have it, only if the provincial review is, “As good or better,” Whenever opposition members ask about the appalling nature of the omnibus bill, the Conservative talking points include a gratuitous insult, “Perhaps if the Member opposite would actually read the bill...”
I would find it refreshing if any of the Conservatives speaking for the bill had read it. I went over to one Conservative MP to inquire where he found the equivalency provisions and he pointed to the bill’s summary -- not a legislatively operative section. True, the summary section claims the processes must be equivalent, but the bill itself falls short of that or any other objective criteria. The provisions allowing for a provincial government to sign an agreement to substitute the federal environmental review with a provincial review are a strange combination of discretionary and mandatory language.
Discretionary: “If the Minister is of the opinion that a process for assessing the environmental effects of designated projects that is followed by the government of a province...that has the powers, duties or functions in relation to an assessment of the environmental effects of a designated process would be an appropriate substitute (mandatory) the Minister must, on request of the province approve the substitution.” (Section 32, on page 51 of C-38.)
What would make the minister think it was “appropriate”? “Appropriate” is not defined. Maybe Environment Canada is short of cash? Maybe the province is looking for a major development and wants it rubber-stamped quickly? There is nothing to rule out an exercise of discretion without any ability to justify it as “equivalent.” Once the Minister has reached that conclusion and a province requests a substitution, there is a mandatory duty to pass over the federal role to the province.
I am unsure if I have found everything alarming in C-38. I cannot, for example, figure out why one section of the Fisheries Act is placed more than a hundred pages removed from the rest of the Fisheries Act changes, and I also cannot figure out what the stranded “Fish Allocation for financing purposes” (page 289, section 411 of Fisheries Act) amendments are supposed to do. It looks like a scheme for selling fish or equipment for financing government activities. But that is pretty bizarre.
I am sure that putting all this in a fast-track budget bill, with time allocation on debate and heading to the Finance Committee, is a direct assault on the principles of Parliamentary Democracy.
Posted by Mary Cross on May 09, 2012 | Permalink
As I am sure you know, Elizabeth May, Green Party MP, has tabled the first Private Members bill as a Green MP, Bill C-417 which is an "Act to amend the Fish Inspection Act and the Consumer Packaging and Labeling Act" and will require the proper labeling of shark fin products, as well as warn of mercury and the hazards of consuming this product.
Shark finning, a cruel and wasteful slaughter of marine wildlife, is the most significant cause of losses in shark populations worldwide, killing 70 million sharks annually, just for their fins. As the Chinese economy continues to grow, more people can afford to buy shark fin soup, a demand that has sent the price of fins skyrocketing, resulting in an increase in shark finning activity. This has placed a stress on shark populations all over the world.
The practice is to drag the sharks on to the boats, slice off the fins, and toss the valueless carcasses back into the sea, where without their fins they sink to the seabed and drown. Many countries including the US have outlawed the practice. However, illegal fleets continue to drive shark stocks towards extinction. This is exacerbated by the fact that sharks grow very slowly and have very few offspring, many of which die in their first year. As well, illegal shark finning fleets continue the barbaric harvesting of fins. Without sharks, the incidence of disease among fish species will increase, leading to explosions in some species and crashes in others with devastating results for the entire marine system.
Monitoring the shark fishing industry is important, but it is also important that consumers are educated about this wasteful and cruel practice. While Canada has a few municipalities in Southern Ontario (where the practice of selling shark fins is particularly evident) that have banned shark finning or are in the process of having bans being phased in, many other municipalities suggest that this issue is a federal matter.
The goal of Bill C-417 is to end shark finning, and will allow consumers to make informed decisions about what they buy and what industries they support.
I hope you will support Elizabeth and vote in favour of this bill.Please call or write Guelph MP Frank Valeriote Frank.firstname.lastname@example.org 519-837-8276prac
Posted by Mary Cross on April 21, 2012 | Permalink
Twelve months ago, The Daily Climate, a website that produces and tracks media stories about climate change, declared that 2010 was “the year climate coverage ‘fell off the map.’” The downward spiral continued in 2011, a more recent analysis by the site found.
The number of articles, blog posts, editorials, and op-eds “declined roughly 20 percent from 2010’s levels and nearly 42 percent from 2009’s peak” according to a review of The Daily Climate’s global English-language media archive. According to a post about the findings by the site’s editor, Douglas Fischer:
The declining coverage came amid bouts of extreme weather across the globe - historic wildfires in Arizona, drought in Texas, famine in the Horn of Africa - and flashes of political frenzy. Australia’s approval of a carbon tax, the U.S. presidential election, a Congressional inquiry into the failed solar startup Solyndra all generated significant coverage within the mainstream press, but it was not enough to stem the larger trend.
Coverage dropped almost across the board among the top climate news producers.
Posted by Mary Cross on January 19, 2012 | Permalink
Media Release | 17-Jan-2012
OTTAWA - The Green Party of Canada is welcoming the shift in Liberal policy to legalize and regulate marijuana. “It is nice to see another party come in line with Green Party policy. We have said for years that we should be regulating and taxing marijuana and freeing up our police resources to fight real crime,” said Green Leader Elizabeth May, MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands...
"I totally agree with Interim Leader Bob Rae that the war on drugs has been a complete bust," said May. “The traditional approach to preventing drug use has not only been a spectacular failure in itself, but has resulted in building a massive crime industry and has had catastrophic negative impacts on numerous young people, especially within poverty-stricken areas both within Canada and abroad.”
In 2008, according to the Treasury Board, Canada spent $61.3 million targeting illicit drugs, with a majority of that money going to law enforcement. Most of that was for the “war” against cannabis (marijuana). Marijuana prohibition is also costly in other ways, including criminalizing youth and fostering organized crime. Cannabis prohibition, which has gone on for decades, has utterly failed and has not led to reduced drug use in Canada.
The Green Party recommends the following actions:
Posted by Mary Cross on January 17, 2012 | Permalink
I like to get my news from a few different sources, but one of my favourites is from the BBC. The last few days have had Canada in the headlines, and not in a very friendly light. "Canada under fire over Kyoto protocol exit" reads one headline. As well we should be. I was very disappointed when I heard the news we would be leaving.
So, what exactly is Kyoto, and why did Canada decide to leave?
The first part of the question is pretty easy. It's a binding protocol that is going into it's second stage, the goal of which is to reduce global carbon emissions. The basic idea is that you look at your carbon output in 1990, and aim to reduce carbon output, on average, by 5.2% from those levels. It's got compliance and recording mechanisms built into it, and also includes a fund to help developing countries adapt to climate change.
So, why did we leave?
Perhaps it's because we're one of the worlds biggest carbon dioxide emitters. And we have the single biggest industrial emitter of carbon on the planet in the Tar Sands in Alberta. Our addiction to dirty oil would mean we've got to make a lot of big cuts in other places to hit our targets.
Peter Kent, the minister of the environment, has said that it would cost $1,600 per person in Canada (or a whopping 13.6 billion dollars) to comply. I can't seem to figure out where he's getting this number from, or in what time frame we'd need to make those payments.
Either way, we're the only country to remove ourselves from Kyoto, and as such, we're sending a clear message to the world: We don't care about climate change, we care about getting all the oil we can from the tar sands.
And that's a shame. We should be at the front of this, innovating, and showing the world it can be done. Instead, we'll watch from the sidelines.
If only Peter Kent would listen to his own words from 1984, perhaps we'd be in a better situation. For now, take a minute to write your MP, sign a petition, or put it out there on facebook and twitter. The Green Party supports Kyoto fully, and I support it too.
Posted by Dave Estill on December 14, 2011 | Permalink
13 December 2011 - 9:31am
OTTAWA - The Green Party of Canada is appalled by the Harper government’s decision to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol. “It is extremely shocking that Canada has chosen to withdraw just days after the conclusion of the Durban negotiations,” said Green Leader Elizabeth May, who was in Durban for COP17. “It is simply outrageous disinformation that there is a $14 billion cost to staying in Kyoto. Staying in the Kyoto Protocol will not cost us a cent. What will cost billions is if we do nothing to address climate change.”
“Canada should be continuing in Kyoto and negotiating the targets that would be palatable for this government. By withdrawing, we become a pariah on the world stage,” said May.
The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, in its report “Paying the Price: The Economic Impacts of Climate Change for Canada”, estimates that the cost of Canada’s failure to act on climate change will range from $5 billion per year by 2020 to as high as $91 billion per year by 2050. Impacts on forests and coastal areas will be particularly felt in terms of hits to the Canadian economy. An increase in flooding, wildfires, heat waves, and poor air quality has already resulted in increased death and destruction of property. Canada's insurance sector is seeing costs from storms and wildfire escalating rapidly.
“Refusing to be a part of the global effort to mitigate and adapt to a changing climate will put Canada behind economically as other countries make investments in efficiencies and renewable energy. Canada has an opportunity to capitalize on a green economy and instead we are clinging to fossil fuels,” said May. “Withdrawing from Kyoto is an appalling decision. It will only hurt us—economically and environmentally.”
Posted by Mary Cross on December 13, 2011 | Permalink
Green Party of Canada Update on Omnibus Crime Bill and Guelph protest.
Coast to coast, Canadians have protested the flawed Omnibus Crime Bill.
Critics, including the Canadian Bar Association, say it makes no sense—crime rates are dropping and decades of research proves that more people in jail doesn’t equal safer streets. Just the opposite, in fact.
Despite debate on the bill being limited twice, the Green Party has put forward a robust response. Leader Elizabeth May has tabled 50 amendments that address the Bill’s worst aspects. As the bill moves to Report Stage before the full House, it is the Green amendments that most effectively tackle this draconian law. They include:
May points out, “…this legislation unjustly targets Canada’s most vulnerable communities, including First Nations and people suffering from mental illnesses. It strips away judicial discretion and removes our traditional emphasis on rehabilitation. The bill will cost the Canadian economy countless billions of taxpayers’ dollars for an approach that even Texas admits doesn’t work.”
One Green MP is standing up and making a difference!
Posted by Mary Cross on November 30, 2011 | Permalink
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