Green MP Elizabeth May questions federal climate change plan

By Stephen Hui
May 26, 2011

Elizabeth May, Green Party leader

Canada’s only Green MP claims she will “leave no stone unturned” holding Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s majority government to account on climate change, but she admitted that Canadians are probably looking at “four more lost years”.

“The [emissions reduction] target we have is 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020,” Elizabeth May (Saanich–Gulf Islands) told the Georgia Straight by phone. “They [Conservatives] have absolutely no plan to get there, and that target itself is too reckless and too high. Even if we met that target, we’d be the only industrialized country with emissions above 1990 levels by the year 2020.”

May admitted that only “massive defections” from within the Harper ranks will get legislation coming from the opposition through the House.

“And if we won votes in the House, like we did in the last session with the Climate Change Accountability Act, we now know the Conservative majority in the Senate will be used to squash climate-change action,” May added of Bill C-311. “So the steps that one will take for holding him to account involve public education, statements in the House, points of order, and procedural rules where they can be applied.”

Speaking by phone shortly after being sworn in on May 24, NDP MP Fin Donnelly (New Westminster–Coquitlam–Port Moody) refused to be downbeat.

“I mean, Canada has dealt with the CFCs and the ozone problem in the past,” Donnelly told the Straight. “We’ve dealt with acid rain in the past. Now we need to tackle climate change.”

Donnelly echoed May on C-311, noting that it passed through the House of Commons during the last session, having gone through three readings. The Conservatives then used their Senate majority and a snap vote to kill the bill last November. Bill C-311 had a long-term commitment of reducing greenhouse-gas levels 80 percent below the 1990 level by 2050, with a medium-term target of 25 percent below the 1990 level by the year 2020.

“It’s shocking that this had legitimately gone through the House, it was a legitimate bill, and with a majority of parliamentarians voting in favour of it, it got through all readings,” said Donnelly, who added that C-311 can still be reborn if Conservatives are willing.

Neither Environment Minister Peter Kent nor Vancouver Quadra Liberal MP Joyce Murray responded to messages by Straight deadline.

May said she plans to meet with Kent, along with other opposition MPs, and “any converts and concerned Conservative Members of Parliament—and I know there are some”.

“It’s the most critical issue we face, and 80 percent of Canadians know that, but they weren’t given the opportunity to understand in the context of an election where parties stood on the climate, because it never surfaced during the election campaign,” May added. “It would have done had I been in the debates.”

May said she may end up having more impact working with global Greens across borders at world events like the upcoming climate-change negotiations in Durban, South Africa, starting on November 28. Internationally, Canada’s credibility is sullied, May claimed.

“I asked Sir Nicholas Stern [in Cancún in December 2010], who was the former senior economist to the World Bank, about Prime Minister Harper’s statement that if Canada lived up to the Climate Change Accountability Act, it would cost millions of jobs,” May recalled of those COP 16 (United Nations Climate Change Conference) talks. “And his response, which was devastating, started by saying: ‘If Canada stays dirty…’ He went on to say that we would lose jobs, lose investment, and face trade sanctions from other countries. That struck me. That’s how we’re seen in the world. We’re seen as a dirty country.”

May also claimed that Canadians are running out of excuses and are now more the subject of anger than they are of mere puzzlement.

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