Forget senate reform, showing up to work is hard enough

18 November 2010 Politics

Bill C-311, with the punchy title “An Act to ensure Canada resumes its responsibilities in preventing dangerous climate change”, is the closest thing Canada had to meaningful climate change targets. I say had, past tense, because the bill is no more. It got voted down today in the senate, more than a year and a half after it was introduced — the first reading was in February 2009. Delaying tactics much?

I’m not going to talk about how this is a Conservative conspiracy orchestrated by the PMO (Elizabeth May and The Globe already did that). What interests me is the fact that this bill would have been passed on to committee if all the Liberal senators actually showed up to work that day.

This is what was written in the Globe article mentioned above:

The absence of more than 15 Liberals from the Senate allowed the bill to be defeated by a margin of 43 to 32.

Seriously? How can the second-highest decision-making body in our political system have such an embarrassing rate of truancy? If your job is to serve as a check and balance against the partisanship of the House of Commons, the least you can do is show up to work. This happens a lot with MPs in the House of Commons too. What’s the point of a representative democracy if your elected representative doesn’t even show up to vote?

What saddens me more than this, though, is the tired rhetoric that gets thrown back and forth in the senate (full transcript here):

Debates of the Senate, 16 November 2010

Senator Mitchell: Honourable senators, when I asked the leader (Senator LeBreton) a question some months ago about how much of the stimulus funding had gone to green projects, she rose with a triumphant flourish and listed projects that she said had received funding from the green tech fund that applied to green technology, greenhouse gas emissions reduction and so on.

As it turns out, we now see that only 3 per cent of that fund of $200 million has actually been allocated. Would the leader stand in the Senate today and apologize … or will she just remain part of that spin strategy out of the PMO that cannot distinguish between announcing something and actually doing it?

Senator Comeau: Do it with a triumphant flourish!

Senator Di Nino: At least we do it.

Senator Mitchell: You do not do it; you just announce it.

Senator LeBreton: The Honourable Senator Lapointe has accused me of being a good skater and a good tap dancer, but I have never been told that I have done it with a triumphant flourish.

Senator LeBreton: We are taking action to make Canada a clean energy superpower. We have committed to reducing our emissions by 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020.

Senator Mitchell: Could the leader (Senator LeBreton) indicate to me … exactly how much greenhouse gas reduction will be attributed to each one of those projects and how that will relate to the 2020 objective that was set so we can see whether the government has any chance on God’s earth of doing it?

Senator LeBreton: (Avoiding the question, Senator LeBreton rambles on about how Jim Prentice was a good Environment minister and she hates to see him go.)

Is it too much to ask that our elected (and unelected) decision-makers actually try and get stuff done, rather than getting in partisan catfights?

Side note: the Conservatives’ 2020 emissions target is just pathetic. Elizabeth May breaks it down in a blog post… 17% below 2005 levels is actually aiming to be above our 1990 levels in 2020!

Sam Nabi

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