A good friend a colleague circulated a compelling letter about why we need to stand up against the Conservatives’ omnibus budget bill. This budget will have severe consequences on city finances and urban life, as well as having social and environmental impacts at a variety of scales. The budget is consistent with a neoliberal strategy of deregulation and the downloading of services and government functions to lower levels.
Friends and Colleagues,
I wrote to you all last November to ask that each and every one of you cast a ballot in the BC Municipal Election. At the time I noted that I hoped that whatever memories (however fleeting) we might have happened to share, would be enough to buy me the thirty seconds I needed for you to hear me out. I must admit that I didn’t expect to be writing again so soon, and I apologize for that, but the risks facing Canadian democracy, environmental protection, and worker’s rights are dire and I once again beg just one minute of your time.
I suspect that many of you are aware of Bill C-38, also called colloquially the Budget Implementation Act, the Omnibus Budget, or, courtesy of Elizabeth May, the Environmental Destruction Act. This “Budget” Bill will modify or repeal over 70 laws including: the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, Fisheries Act, Navigable Waters Protection Act, Species at Risk Act, Nuclear Safety Control Act, and many more. The budget will also severely decrease Parks Canada employees, end the National Roundtable on the Environment and Economy, privatize the world-class Freshwater Research Institute, and streamline the environmental review process by legislating a two year limit and limiting the citizens allowed to participate, all things that will apply retroactively to the Northern Gateway Review, and in the future to the Kinder Morgan Pipeline. All of this is happening while at the same time the government has found 8 million dollars to audit charities that are seen as “too political.”
Lest you think this bill is only targeting the environment keep in mind the changes to Old Age Security, and Employment Insurance(which may require you to take any job, for as much as 30% less pay or lose the EI “privilege”). The government also seeks to repeal the Fair Wages Act, eliminate the office responsible for oversight of CSIS, and fundamentally weaken Canadian Sovereignty by allowing US police forces to operate in Canada.
Fortunately, if there is a silver lining in all of this, it is that this bill has been able to transcend political parties. Whether you are an NDP, Liberal, Bloc, Green, or even Conservative supporter, no one can be happy with the way that our parliamentary democracy is being trampled over. Bills are being forced through committee, time limits have been placed on debates, and just yesterday Elizabeth May rose in the House of Commons to point out that this omnibus bill does not even qualify as a true omnibus. I think that a participant at a recent Leadnow rally said it best, “Steven Harper has a majority, he is not king.”
The good news is that many Canadians are reacting strongly against this legislation. Last week four former Fisheries Ministers (both Liberal and Conservative) wrote an open letter denouncing the changes to the Fisheries Act, while the Federation of Canadian Municipalities recently adopted a motion to oppose changes to the Fisheries Act and Environmental Assessment Act. Just last Saturday thousands of Canadians rallied outside 70 Conservative MP’s offices to encourage them to stand against C-38, while yesterday over 400 organizations darkened their websites in protest of the bill.
After that rather long-winded introduction, I will stop and simply ask that each of you become involved in whatever way you feel comfortable, for whatever reasons speak most strongly to you. I feel very passionately that this is another make or break moment for Canadian democracy and the environment and would not feel comfortable if I did not at least try to speak out to all of those people whom I know.
1. There are any number of petitions to sign:
2. You can also write a letter to your local mp
3. Or join a local rally:
Leadnow is organizing an event on June 12th
Continue to tweet #blackoutspeakout
There are probably many more events
4. I also encourage you to share how you feel with five friends or family members, and encourage them to do the same.