In a surprise move yesterday evening, Canada’s unelected senate held a vote on the Climate Change Accountability Act, and killed it.
The bill would have forced Canada’s government to set long-term targets for emissions reductions in line with science: 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, and interim targets for 2015-2045, as well as report on progress to parliament on a regular basis. It was a simple framework requiring the government to come up with a plan – nothing more, nothing less.
The lack of willingness to take action on climate change at the federal level in Canada is nothing new. We’ve had years of stalling under Stephen Harper’s minority conservative government that goes far beyond simply failing to act, to intentionally derailing international efforts to make progress. Last year at the climate negotiations in Copenhagen, Canada was named “Fossil of the Year” for continual obstructionism and inaction.
The real surprise here is the outright and flagrant subversion of democracy.
The bill had the support of the majority of Canada’s elected Members of Parliament, and had already been approved by the House of Commons. Harper was unable to prevent the bill being approved when all three opposition parties banded together in support of it. Getting the bill passed by the House of Commons took a huge amount of work to build cross-party support, but was a great example of Canada’s democracy functioning as it should; a majority of MPs came together to push through legislation that the majority of Canadians wanted, even though the party in power (with the largest number of MPs, but a minority overall) was against it.
Despite promisses to the contrary, in late 2008 Harper, fearing his government would be defeated, stacked the senate with new appointments. Yesterday, his unelected appointees did what he could not accomplish through democratic means in the house of commons, and killed the climate bill, contrary to the will of parliament.
The NDP leader Jack Layton put it bluntly:
“This was one of the most undemocratic acts that we have ever seen in the Parliament of Canada … To take power that doesn’t rightfully belong to them to kill a bill that has been adopted by a majority of the House of Commons representing a majority of Canadians is as wrong as it gets when it comes to democracy in this country.”
And so off Canada will go to Mexico, where we have one more shot at a climate change deal, with no plan and no targets. If ever there was a need for democratic reform in Canada, it is now.
Originally published at itsgettinghotinhere.org