Photo: Senate vote to kill Climate Act disrespects Canadians and democracy

We expect our government representatives to live up to their promise and responsibility to be accountable to all Canadians (Credit: zemistor via Flickr).

By Morag Carter

Update: Please call or write the Prime Minister and your Member of Parliament to let them know that we expect them to live up to their responsibility to be accountable to the will of Canadians and our democracy.

Last night, in a near-unprecedented move, the Canadian Senate held a surprise vote and defeated Bill C-311, the Climate Change Accountability Act. The snap vote to kill the Bill in the Senate happened without notice and without debate — even though it was put before the Senate more than half a year ago. Had notice been given of the vote, more senators would have been present and the bill may have passed.

And so, just as Canada prepares to join world leaders at the UN climate change negotiations in Mexico, a group of unelected senators have decided, without any debate, that the future of Canada's youth is not worth the bother. It's a shame these elderly senators may not be around to face the most severe consequences of their actions.

The Bill is now dead.

Just as tens of thousands of Canadians wrote to their MPs and government to ensure the Bill's passage through the elected House of Commons, Canadians must now let their politicians know that enough is enough. Yesterday's decision by Conservative senators to avoid debate and call a snap vote shows disrespect for our democracy and for Canadians, who time and again have told our elected representatives that we want the federal government to act on the most serious threat facing our country and the world.

Bill C-311 passed through the House of Commons with a strong majority (NDP, Liberal, and Bloc Québécois), thanks in part to the incredible support of Canadians from across the country. It was originally introduced by federal NDP Leader Jack Layton as a private member's bill in the last parliament and was set to go to the Senate when the election was called in 2008. After the election, the Bill was re-introduced by Bruce Hyer, NDP MP for Thunder Bay-Superior North. The Bill was debated in the House of Commons, where Conservative government members tried to obstruct it. It was then amended and sent back to the House for a final vote. It passed in the House and was sent to the Senate for the last stage in its passage through parliament before receiving Royal Assent and becoming Canadian law.

Over the five years that this piece of modest legislation has been going through the parliamentary process, the science behind global warming has become far more certain. The Bill would have committed Canada to an 80 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and a 25 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020. We now know that these reductions are the very least that we should be achieving if we are to avoid the devastating consequences that go along with uncontrolled climate change.

These unelected senators killed the Climate Change Accountability Act just as the United Nations climate change conference is set to open in Cancun, Mexico, on November 29. Once more, it appears our government plans to show up to talk to the world with nothing but empty rhetoric, unfulfilled promises, and the hopes of Canadians firmly cast aside. It's time to let the government know that this is unacceptable and that Canadians will not be silenced. We can all make a difference. And we will. Please call or write the Prime Minister and your government representatives to let them know that we expect them to live up to their promise and responsibility to be accountable to all Canadians.

November 19, 2010

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Jun 19, 2013
8:54 AM

This is what more than a million dollars per Senator each year buys us.

Sep 04, 2012
1:03 PM

How about protecting one drop of Canadas ocean habitat? How about real wilderness protection? How about a countrywide program to improve trails so more people can get out into nature and understand why it needs protection? How about a full stop to all old growth logging so we can save a few of the now doomed flora and fona what will soon be wiped from the earth forever?

None of this will ever happen. It's the system that is flawed not the people/subjects!

Apr 21, 2012
10:56 PM

it seems to me that the environment will be so bad before Harper leaves office that extreme climate change which we have experienced this past winter-I dare say what is coming this summer, the dire condition of our environment will be undeniable. Even conservatives have to breath the air drink the water and walk in the same sunshine as the rest of us. Moreover the ph of the land has changed we will not be able to grow anything is this kind of soil. That is where there isnt a drought or forest fire. We are already past the 350 ppm co2 that NASA scientist says we must not pass if we are going to have an environment that is stable enough to support life-so…I expect things will be getting pretty dicy up here in the Country formerly known as Canada. You dont take nothing with ya but your soul…all those worldly things let em go….let it go you feel lighter youll shine brighter…..let it go……

Nov 30, 2010
10:14 AM

Everyone cares so much about money. Why is it that they can’t care about their children’s futures. Or even their own! Everyone who doesn’t see what’s going on, I’m sure is blinded my earning money. What good is money when you don’t have life?! I am young, but I can see what needs to be done

Nov 27, 2010
7:17 AM

What would Bill C-311 have actually achieved? I mean in real, concrete terms? Let’s do some math… shall we?

Canada’s carbon emissions stood at 122.7 MtC (million tons of carbon) in 1990, and rose to 153.7 MtC in 2008. A 1.3% annual increase. (Not much different from our country’s population growth.)

Let’s assume that without the bill, Canada would have continued to grow it’s carbon emissions in line with the forecast for OECD nations in the IPCC’s worst case scenario… SRES A1FI. Emissions would grow to 177.7 MtC by 2020, 214.8 MtC by 2050, and a whopping M20.1 MtC by 2100. Canada’s cumulative carbon emissions from now to the end of the century would be 20.7 GtC (billion tons of carbon).

Assuming now that Bill C-311 had become law, and Canada did indeed achieve the emissions reduction targets… 25% below 1990 levels (or 92.1 MtC) by 2020, and 80% below 1990 levels (or 24.5 MtC) by 2050, with emissions remaining flat until the end of the century, then cumulative emissions from now to the century would total only 4.6 GtC. That’s a whopping difference of 16.1 GtC prevented from entering the earth’s atmosphere.

But what impact would that have on climate? As of 1990, atmospheric CO2 concentrations stood at 354 ppmv (parts per million by volume), and at the time it was estimated that a total of 750 GtC were resident in the atmosphere. Therefore it takes 2.1 GtC to increase CO2 concentrations by 1 ppmv.

So assuming that 100% of all the carbon emitted were to remain in the atmosphere until 2100 (a completely unrealistic assumption, since in reality, approximately half of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions are absorbed by the oceans or taken up in plant biomass), then Canada’s 16.1 GtC emissions reductions would result in an atmospheric CO2 concentration that was 7.6 ppmv lower than would have otherwise been the case at the end of the century.

What does 7.6 ppmv CO2 mean in terms of global temperature? Assuming that by the end of the century, global CO2 concentrations have risen to 550 ppmv (up from todays 389 ppmv), and assuming a climate sensitivity of 3.0 degrees C for a doubling of CO2 concentrations, then the total impact on global average temperature would be only 0.06 degrees C. This is an amount less that the measurement accuracy of even the best meteorological instruments.

So, is it really worth committing to 40 years of drastic carbon emissions reductions (which necessarily involves increasing the cost of hydrocarbon fuels in order to reduce fuel consumption, and force an industry-wide conversion to much more expensive alternative energy sources), all so that after nearly all of us are dead, our great grand-children can enjoy a world that is imperceptibly cooler?

All I can say is, if I were a senator, I know how I would have voted on Bill C-311.

Nov 24, 2010
5:27 PM

I’d be very interested to see what would happen if Jack Layton became Prime Minister. When I read stuff like this it really embarrasses me to be a Canadian

Nov 22, 2010
11:52 AM

I don’t support Cap and Trade. That’s pretty much selling snake oil.

Nov 22, 2010
10:14 AM

Fed up with Harpie and his short sighted, irresponsible, and seriously stupid minority elected cronies. It is high time we see the back of them once and for all. If they don’t care about the future of their children that is too bad. But, don’t mess with the legacy of my descendants. This government and its actions are despicable!!! For the first time in 35 years I am ashamed to be called Canadian!!!

Nov 19, 2010
8:04 PM

As a Canadian who is entering her forties. I would like to think that my country does not only think of the present but also considers the futur. I as a Canadian would like to know that we are doing something to keep polution to a minimum for us and for those of the futur. we share the air we share the water and we share the planet. So stop killing all the bears, leave the polutants out of the water, and stop poluting the air. Please and thank you.

Nov 19, 2010
11:35 AM

Office of the Prime Minister 80 Wellington Street Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

Fax: 613-941-6900


Nov 19, 2010
10:29 AM

It is time to oust this government. They are an embarrassment Internationally.

Nov 19, 2010
8:30 AM

SHAME. SHAME. SHAME. Taking an unannounced vote to kill this bill is unconscionable move. My faith in our elected members has been destroyed and now our unelected Senators have let us down. To whom can we turn for help? SHAME. SHAME. SHAME!!!

Nov 18, 2010
10:59 PM

It’s obvious what has to be done.

The boys club has to be have some accountability put in place, limits on their powers/time and placement of their positions or failing that the old dogs should be disbanded (AKA neutered!)

Nov 18, 2010
9:01 PM

I heard that the debate was over.

Nov 18, 2010
5:18 PM

Is there conflict of interest here (besides with the majority of Canadians?) I would like to know how many of those Senators have stocks in oil and other polluting companies. Everyone in politics, whether elected or appointed, should have to reveal their stocks, if a bill comes before them that will directly increase their earnings from that stock they must refrain from voting on it.

Nov 18, 2010
3:57 PM

This bill was designed for the primary purpose of embarassing the Government, so it did achieve its’ objective. Other than that it was an irresponsible, destructive piece of legislation that would have cost the Canadian economy huge losses.

Climate Change is bunk, no matter whether Suzuki thinks people who are skeptics should be imprisoned or not.

Nov 18, 2010
12:18 PM

I really just can’t believe this.

How can Canada permits itself to take world-wide impacting decisions without even bothering discussing it or coming with something better. Can’t the Canadian government really give us the leadership it deserves? One of care, compassion for others, one that makes us feel like the world is becoming a better place instead of taking the role of the oppressor?

I want to see integrity and real communication.

Avoidance is not the right answer.

I am appalled. What can be done now…?

Nov 18, 2010
9:26 AM

I hope something is organized to show our displeasure about this. Not only is the government completely ignoring what a large amount of people want for it’s old fashioned ideals, it’s also completely ignoring democracy, which is what this country was founded on. I’m ashamed of what this government is doing and even if I had ever debated voting for the Conservatives, you can count me out now. Bravo Stephen Harper, for turning Canada into a Dictatorship. I hope he’s ashamed of himself because he should be.

Nov 18, 2010
9:22 AM

look keep your word or pack your bags.

Nov 18, 2010
7:49 AM

God bless Stephen Harper. He’s the best PM we’ve had in a long, long time. I feel very safe, which is the most important thing. I now need to drive my hummer to my 150K job. As a matter of fact, I’m going to take the long way there.

Nov 18, 2010
7:30 AM

This is a truly stunning anti-democratic measure promolgated by the Harper Tories. It is my hope that this is the “last straw” and that more Canadians will now stand up to Harper and defend democracy.

Nov 18, 2010
7:28 AM

Is there some civil disobedience we can do to protest this kind of action. We need to stop letting this kind of thing be done by our ‘elected’ officials.

Nov 18, 2010
2:50 AM

Really Canadian Senate? HEEL. We—the Canadian public—did not vote you in. You are an enclave of retired and antiquated so-called figureheads only, and you have no business overruling the voting public. Get with the program.

Disgusted. Yet again.

Nov 17, 2010
10:09 PM

This is the last straw, everyone spread the word it’s time to storm the hill! If you’ve ever wanted to stand up for something NOW is the time! STORM THE HILL!!!!

Nov 17, 2010
10:04 PM

This is disgraceful. I cannot believe this, like a dictator. Money is everything for these people.

Nov 17, 2010
9:16 PM

The Senate defeat of Bill C-311 “The Climate Control Accountability Act” is a monstrous demonstration of contempt for the will of the people of Canada. I am nearing my 71st year and have waited for five years to see this Bill passed. With this defeat, we must start all over to ensure that we, as a nation, are taking responsibility to meet environmental protection targets.

At 71, I’m not sure I have another five years to wait for a new Bill C-11 to pass. The health of our grandchildren can’t wait and most certainly the planet cannot wait. I have never been a fan of Senate reform but after this shenanigan by a few doddering senators, I’m becoming converted.

For shame Senators.

Claire Hogenkamp

Nov 17, 2010
8:49 PM

To those of you who are familiar with the pathways: please share the routes to government ears, that we may make our voices heard as quickly and effectively as possible. Guidance, with addresses and phone numbers, will help ensure that the most people possible will agitate. Once the brush fire is started, it will spread. Thank you.

Nov 17, 2010
8:33 PM

It is just plain greed … we can’t get anything passed that is good for us. But, they keep getting things passed that keep us in-line — the nanny syndrome.

I’m tired of these two bit thugs pushing us around for the money. I say we fire the whole lot of them. They are running our country into the ground and outsourcing everything to third world countries. We will be the poor country soon in a contaminated and polluted environment with no where to go but down.

Nov 17, 2010
8:00 PM

Here here on the “Old Boys Club” comment..

Maybe it’s time the “Old Boys” be put out to pasture.

Nov 17, 2010
4:43 PM

Steve Harper is an embarrassment. Where can I find his telephone number?

Nov 17, 2010
3:56 PM

Our true north, strong and under the influence of “The Old Boys Club”

Nov 17, 2010
1:58 PM

This unfortunately seems to be a common pattern. Governments are apparently terrified of commiting to reducing green house emissions. Why do they not seeing it as an opportunity to use these reductions as a way of driving sustainable development and ultimately bolstering the economy?

Unfortunately I have to see this as another opportunity missed, allowing us to continue to turn a blind eye to the impact we are having. Yes many of the changes we are seeing may well be driven at least in part by natural cycles however this should not let us of the hook. When I was at school the excuse “but they or it was doing it” never held up, if I was still in the wrong, why should the rules change now that I am an adult?

Someone needs to lead the way and do the right thing. I thought Canada might have been that someone.

Nov 17, 2010
1:33 PM

Is someone organising an e-petition?

Nov 17, 2010
11:59 AM

Steven ~ once again you have shown yourself to be way out of your league in representing our country. You have embarrassed this parliment far too many times with your lies. Yup, outright lies. If you and the ‘representatives’ who pulled this little sneak are not ashamed of yourselves it goes to prove your lack of consideration and disregard of what we have been telling you since you came to power. We should be asking you to pack your bags.

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