Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has long been a proponent of an elected senate. In the Canadian system, senators are selected by the Prime Minister. Traditionally, the Senate has been referred to as the “chamber of sober second thought”, but it has the same powers as the House of Commons except that it can not introduce legislation related to the raising or spending of money. Although the approval of both the Senate and the House of Commons is necessary for legislation, historically the Senate rarely rejects bills passed by the directly elected Commons.
Now that Mr. Harper finds himself in the position of being able to appoint senators, although he’s the PM of a minority, not a majority, government, he has made over 30 senate appointments, changing the face of the upper chamber. The Conservatives now hold a plurality in the senate, and are poised to be one senator away from a majority when Harper replaces independent Senator Micheal Pitfield, who retired last week.
And that means Bill C311, The Climate Accountability Act, which was passed by the majority of Members of Parliament in the House of Commons in May, may be voted down by unelected senators who represent a minority government. It doesn’t sound very democratic, does it?
If you agree, please take the time to send senators a message about respecting the wishes of Canadians. A nanos research poll from early May shows that Canadians ranked global warming as the number one issue they wanted addressed at the G8/G20 meetings in Toronto in a few weeks. Yet we have a minority Prime Minister who says that the economy trumps “everything”, almost as if he doesn’t recognize that we, or more accurately our children, have to live on the planet once we’ve trashed it in the name of “the economy”. And his Senate House Leader, Senator Marjorie LeBreton, has said that the Conservative government isn’t supportive of this bill because they have already addressed concerns about climate change, which is more Conservative PR spin with no substance.
What is a Canadian who is concerned about the environment, and who would like to ensure their children’s future is secure and bright, to do? The most important thing that you can do right now is to contact Canadian senators, particularly Conservative senators, and let them know you that you want them to pass Bill C311. For contact info and sample letters, and more steps to take, go to my “Action Not Apathy” page for information and links.
Ontario Senator Pitfield resigns. CBC.ca