In her article, Marianne Ariganello wonders if politicians really get the consequences of a weak climate action plan. “Parents do,” she says. Marianne is a scientist, parent and organizer with For Our Kids, a national network of parents and grandparents advocating for climate action for the sake of their children. She co-leads a For our Kids advocacy group in Ottawa.
Most Politicians Don’t Get the Climate Crisis. Parents Do!
As parents, we hoped strengthening Bill C-12 would be the best way to secure a safe climate future for our kids – Were we wrong?
When Bill C-12 was introduced in November 2020, I, like many parents turned climate advocates, was buoyed by the fact that it seemed that our elected officials were FINALLY acting on climate change. The Bill wasn’t the greatest Climate Accountability Plan (CAP) but given the IPCC nine-year countdown for strong climate action, it seemed that a parent’s best hope for a livable planet for our kids was to strengthen the bill rather than start over.
For Our Kids Ottawa-Gatineau (an organization I helped facilitate) joined more than 10 other parent-led climate advocacy For Our Kids (FOK) groups across Canada and began to strategize: what did we need to do to make this Bill into a CAP that WOULD be strong enough to prevent climate chaos and its consequences for our kids? We met online, studied analyses by environmental groups, and came up with key points of change, all this while working around kids’ nap times, home schooling, meals and bedtimes. Our motivation was to truly make this a law that would protect our children from the most devastating effects of climate change.
Educating elected officials
Then, we let our elected officials know. We reached out to our MPs (Members of Parliament) and to every member of the standing committee that would review the Bill. We met with them, sometimes more than once. It was surprising and a bit scary to realize that some MPs who would be responsible for one of the most important climate bills had so little understanding of the gravity of the climate crisis. So, as parents, we also became educators.
Red flags everywhere
Some red flags popped up along the way. Before the Bill made it to second reading, the government named members to the CAP advisory body – a body which is supposed to be independent and comprise experts who know the science of climate change — prompting Elizabeth May to call the action a “disrespectful pre-empting of the committee review of the Act”.
As Bill C-12 proceeded through the House, parents became increasingly uncertain. Elizabeth May voted against the Bill at second reading: did that mean it would be a better strategy to defeat the Bill and start over again? But knowing that climate scientists have globally called for at least 45% reduction in emissions by 2030, would it be reckless to wait for an election and hope a new government would draft a stronger bill? Was there even a chance of drafting and passing a stronger Bill?
Things have become even more concerning during the standing committee review. Only 34 witnesses were invited to give testimony to the committee (the selection is made by individual committee members); for a total of 9 hours of testimony and questioning over 3 meetings. By comparison, a lesser Bill C-10, an Act to amend the Broadcasting Act, has already had 20 meetings and heard from 110 witnesses.
“3 extended meetings!” Science says that Climate Change is an existential threat. But that’s not quite as important as the 2019 Impact Assessment Act (14 ENVI Committee meetings, 146 briefs, 117 witnesses) or the current C-10 (20 meetings, 46 briefs, 110 witnesses and counting)?
— Peter D Royle (@PeterDRoyle) May 24, 2021
The vast majority of Bill C-12 briefs submitted by experts and members of the public (87%) weren’t made available to committee members until after the committee chair’s deadline for proposed amendments. Clearly the committee members couldn’t have taken them into account before proposing amendments to the Bill. They also were hearing testimony from witnesses up to 24 hours before the deadline for amendments. Why the rush? “I think it really makes a mockery of inviting the public to send comments when amendments are due before the comments are received,” commented Elizabeth May.
Voices left out
Equally important are the voices left out of the discussion because they were not invited or not able to provide testimony: climate scientists who could speak about the need for urgency, Indigenous communities and knowledge keepers, and youth, the generation that will inherit the consequences of this government’s choices.
And finally, there is the elementary school recess-like behaviour from committee members. “We don’t want to play ball with Lizzie” is effectively what Liberals and NDP members did by voting down any amendments that were not proposed by themselves.
Poor choices lead to dire consequences
And so, parents across Canada are left wondering and worried: were we wrong to think that our government was mature enough to listen to its elders and the experts and improve a weak bill to protect the future for our kids?
As parents, we often speak about natural consequences to poor choices and inappropriate behaviour and I think it is time for parents to remind our elected officials that there is a very obvious political consequence that can happen in the next federal election.
The problem: the natural consequences to weak climate legislation in the meantime are devastating. We can’t wait. We need leaders who WILL heed expert advice, take the time needed to listen and to strengthen Bill C-12 so that it can become a law that will protect our planet and our children.
Please use our template letter to contact the standing committee AND your MP. The standing committee is still meeting – so don’t delay. (The letter includes all the emails you need).
Need a bit more inspiration? Listen to Dr Kelly Martin’s moving testimony on the health impacts of climate change and why we are in a race that we must win for our kids.
Marianne’s letter was first published in For Our Kids.
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