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Canadian Democracy in Disarray

2012/06/12

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There is mounting alarm and opposition across Canada, even among many conservatives, about the Harper government’s omnibus budget bill, Bill C-38. Yesterday Parlliamentary Speaker Andrew Scheer (a Conservative MP from Saskatchewan) denied Elizabeth May’s well argued Point of Order re: allowing Omnibus Budget Bill C-38 as a legitimate omnibus budget bill will bring our institutions into greater disrepute. I’m sure Mr. Scheer wasn’t at all swayed in his decision by his party’s leader, who is well known for not allowing any dissent within his ranks.

Some of the changes to the over 60 existing federal statutes included in this “budget” bill (a better name for it would be “Harper remaking Canada into his neocon image bill”) are:

  • The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act is repealed, and a weaker version is introduced, without a single day of hearings before the parliamentary environment committee.
  • The Species  At Risk Act is amended, as well as the Navigable Waters Protection Act. This removes protection of endangered species and their habitat when approving pipeline projects. (Hmmm – I wonder why the Harper government would be interested in this change?!)
  • The Fisheries Act is gutted by removing provisions for habitat protection.
  • Parks Canada Agency Act is trimmed and staff are cut. Reporting requirements will be reduced, including the annual report. 638 of the nearly 3,000 Parks Canada workers will be cut. Environmental monitoring and ecological restoration in the Gulf Islands National Park are being cut.
  • Canadian Oil and Gas Operations Act is made more industry-friendly. It will be changed to promote seismic testing, allowing increased off-shore drilling.
  • Nuclear Safety Control Act undermined. Environmental assessments will be moved to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, which is a licensing body not an assessing body, so there is built-in conflict.
  • Canada Seeds Act inspections are privatized. This is being revamped so the job of inspecting seed crops is transferred from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency inspectors to “authorized service providers” (the private sector). Monsanto, here we come!
  • Agriculture is affected. Under the Prairie Farm Rehabiliation Act, publicly-owned grasslands have acted as community pastures under federal management, leasing grazing rights to farmers so they could devote their good land to crops, not livestock. This will end. Also, the Centre for Plant Health in Sidney, B.C., an important site for quarantine and virus-testing on plants strategically located on Vancouver Island to protect B.C.’s primary agricultural regions, will be moved to the heart of B.C.’s fruit and wine country.
  • National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy is killed. NRTEE brought industry leaders, environmentalists, First Nations, labour, and policy makers together to provide nonpartisan research and advice on federal policies. Its demise will leave a policy vacuum in relation to Canada’s economic development (despite Minister Kent’s assertions in the House of Commons that such information is widely available on the internet!).
  • More attacks on environmental groups are funded. The charities section now precludes gifts which may result in political activity, and $8 million in new money is given to the Canadian Revenue Agency to harass charities. Yep, our tax dollars hard at work!
  • Water programs are cut. Environment Canada is cutting several water-related programs and other will be cut severely, including some aimed at promoting or monitoring water-use efficiency. The Municipal Water and Wastewater Survey, the only national study of water consumption habits, is being cut after being in place since 1983. Also cut is monitoring effluent: Environment Canada’s Environmental Effects Monitoring Program, a systematic method for measuring the quality of effluent discharge, including from mines and pulp mills, will be cut by 20 percent.
  • The Fair Wages Act is repealed.

Bill c-38 hits home in my region in a particular way by ending the funding of the Environmental Lakes Area. Since being established in 1968, the ELA (located near Dryden Ontario) has been a world-class research facility where the secrets of algae blooms, acid rain, mercury pollution, and the impacts of aquaculture have been unlocked. The Harper government is planning to shut the ELA down in Bill C-38.

It’s clear that Stephen Harper has a disdain for science in general, and environmental science, which tells us about the world we live in and human (particularly industry) impacts on it, in particular. Here a child weighs in on Bill C-38. See the links below the video to take action.

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Take Action:

SaveTheELA.org

Lead Now.ca: Stop The Sellout

6 Comments leave one →
  1. 2012/06/12 1:09 pm

    I am truly astonished that any government – let alone one in a sophisticated multi-party democracy(?) such as Canada – has the audacity to table a piece of legislation like this… and, in the process undo decades of hard-fought environmental protection; and I am very concerned that the well-educated population of such a country could be in danger of allowing to be enacted. If people want to know what the benefits of decent environmental legislation are they need only go and visit a country where such provisions do not yet exist (or are poorly enforced).
    http://lackofenvironment.wordpress.com/2011/12/02/who-needs-the-epa-anyway/

    Where the hell is the Opposition on this? At least the Democratic Party in the USA is making a pretence of standing up to the fossil fuel lobby…

    • 2012/06/12 9:28 pm

      That is the question that many Canadians have been asking over the last 5 years of the Harper govt – where is the Opposition? They’ve been in disarray, along with our democracy, but hopefully at least the official opposition party, the NDP, has turned the corner now they have a new leader, Thomas Mulcair.

      • 2012/06/13 4:14 am

        I hope you and your fellow Canadian readers will not think I was being disparaging of your efforts. I know very little of Canadian politics but I do hope that, combined with Mulcaire and Co, you may all now be able to prevent (what I may be the first to call?) “legislaticide”

      • 2012/06/13 8:10 am

        “Legislaticide” – that has a ring to it. I’m definitely tweeting that around this morning!
        And not to worry, Martin, feel free to disparage our parliament and parliamentarians. Canadians have not much to be proud of over the last several years, although as I said with Thomas Mulcair (and Elizabeth May, Nathan Cullen, and Kirsty Duncan, and some other stellar MPs), hopefully things will turn around. They can’t get much worse.

  2. 2012/06/12 5:58 pm

    “Leadnow.ca confirms more than 70 rallies will take place Wednesday, June 13th at 5:30pm local time, for the second national day of action today at Conservative MPs offices, and support locations across Canada.

    Rally participants are calling for 13 “Hero” Conservative MPs to stop the Budget Bill, split it apart and start over, by denying Prime Minister Harper the majority of votes he needs to pass it. At each event across the country, from British Columbia to New Brunswick, participants will hold signs calling for Conservative MPs to “Be a Hero, and Stop the Budget Bill.”

    This is the second national day of action to oppose the Budget Bill, Bill C-38, spearheaded by Leadnow.ca. On June 2nd Canadians organized dozens of rallies that drew over 3,000 participants from coast to coast. These events are uniting Canadians who are concerned that Bill C-38 contains a sweeping agenda that makes changes to over 70 laws and contains many surprises not campaigned on in the last election. Bill C-38 has drawn criticism from across the political spectrum, including from former Conservative cabinet ministers and members of Prime Minister Harper’s own caucus.”

    • 2012/06/12 9:26 pm

      Thanks for sharing that information, Deborah, and for everything you at Lead Now are doing to defend Canadian democracy.

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