Browsing the archives for the Parliament tag.

Prorogued or Paid?

Canadian Politics, Legislative Gaps

Dalton McGuinty’s decision to use his minority position to prorogue (i.e. suspend) Ontario’s legislature is the latest in a series of disturbing tactics by Canadian politicians that threaten our democracy.

The act of proroguing a legislature supposed to be used to end one session of a parliament so that another can be started under a new legislative agenda.

  • The new session starts with a Speech to the Throne that outlines the legislation that a government plans to bring forward during that session.
  • The session normally ends when the government has met its stated legislative objectives and needs to table a new agenda.
  • Prorogation is used to provide the time required to prepare the new agenda.

Prorogation is not intended to be used to abrogate democracy.  Both McGuinty and Stephen Harper have used loopholes in the prorogation procedure to escape public enquiry that might lead to a vote of non-confidence in their minority governments.

Just because something is legal doesn’t make it right.

The date of the next session of parliament / legislature should be announced when the previous session is prorogued.  The amount of time between sessions should be reasonable (60 to 90 days) so that a new legislative agenda can be prepared.

Unfortunately the Ontario Legislative Assembly Act does not require the date for the new session to be announced at the time of prorogation, and allows the Assembly to be suspended for up to a year.

The Ontario government doesn’t pay teachers for not teaching during the summer, or doctors who don’t see patients, so why do we pay our elected representatives for not representing us?

It’s time we closed these gaps in our democracy by amending the Legislative Assembly Act:

  • Members of the Assembly should be paid only when the Assembly is in session or is prorogued for less than 90 days.
  • The Lieutenant Governor should be required to proclaim the date of the next session at the time of proroguing the current session of the legislature.
  • In the event that a minority government requests prorogation before completing all of their objectives as declared in their most recent Speech to the Throne, the Lieutenant Governor should be required to ask the other leaders in the Assembly if they can form a government which can carry out its objectives.  Only if no other leader can form a government should premature prorogation be granted to a minority leader.

If every legislature and parliament in Canada made similar amendments, the likes of McGuinty or Harper would think twice about using prorogation to escape the democratic process.

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GreenPeace Got It Wrong

Climate Change

GreenPeace Protest

GreenPeace’s recent protest of scaling the walls of Parliament Hill to protest green house gas (GHG) emissions from the tar sands was certainly well-intentioned.  GHG emissions in Canada have been steadily increasing ever since Canada signed the Kyoto Accord.  The following chart from Environment Canada makes it painfully clear that

  1. GHG emissions in Canada have been steadily climbing since 1983.
  2. GHG-Intensity is a false metric for tracking GHG emissions.
  3. There is a strong correlation between energy usage and GHG in Canada.
Canada GHG Emissions 1980-2007

Canada GHG Emissions 1980-2007

But are is Oil Sand mining the biggest source of the problem?  Not by a long shot.

The Real Culprits

Environment Canada compiles an inventory of GHG emissions every year.  Since this takes them a while to add up, the most recent data available is for 2007.  A quick scan through this data with a calculator reveals that the top 3 sources of GHG emissions come from:

  1. Transportation (cars, trucks, planes) at 200 Mega Tonnes
  2. Mining, Oil & Gas, extraction and processing at 158 Mega Tonnes
  3. Electricity & Heat generation at 126 MegaTonnes

(1) and (3) are not surprising considering that Canada is the largest country in the world with a sparse population living in one of the coldest regions on our planet.  GreenPeace would have us believe that (2) is because of the Oil Sands, but only 18% of these emissions actually come from Oil Sands extraction and processing. 

In fact, according to Environment Canada’s GHG Inventory. over twice this amount (41% of mining, oil & gas industry emissions) comes from “fugitive” emissions that are caused by gas escaping from traditional oil & gas extraction through flaring, venting, burn-offs, leakage, etc.  Better engineering and less carelessness by roughnecks out in the bush would go twice as far in protecting our environment than targetting the oil sands industry.

Our #1 problem, transportation, breaks down almost evenly between personal use (87 Mt) and trucking-related (81 Mt) with aviation, railways and marine use mopping up the remaining (32 Mt).  More aggressive standards on fuel-related emissions and greater incentives for using electric/hybrid, clean diesel, and alternative fuel vehicles would have made it easy for Canada to live up to its Kyoto promises.

However, digging into the contributors for Electricity production reveals that there are 2 companies that EACH produce more GHG than all of the oil sands producers put together!

Top Polluters In Canada

The environmental watchdog, Corporate Knights, is a well-respected and independent publication that publishes an annual list of the best and worst companies as measured by their environmental practices.  Their most recent Carbon 50 report, reveals that two corporations,

  • TransAlta and
  • Ontario Power Generation,

EACH emit as much GHG as the entire oil sands industry.

Although both these polluters have plans to clean up their act, these plans are being measured using an Intensity-Based metric of  Total Pollution / Total Electricity Produced.

Using this metric (which was originated by the Harper & Bush administrations to avoid accountability on climate change), it is OK to increase pollution as long as you also increase the amount of electricity generated.  This enables the polluter to make faint progress, maximize public relations, and avoid accoutability.

We need to reject the intensity-based lie by refusing to allow politicians and corporations to hide behind it.  Mr. Bush is now a historical figure and Mr. Harper recently flip-flopped and is no longer using it, but we also need to hold corporate Canada accountable too.


TransAlta (TA) is Canada’s largest investor owned electric power producer, producing 55% of its current 8.8 GW output from GHG-emitting, coal-fired power plants.  Despite their corporate rhetoric about investing in green replacement sources, according to their investor information, TA has more coal-fired new production (271 MW) under near-term construction than renewable wind or hydro production (153 MW). 

In fact, even after bringing a further 692 MW of renewable energy online by 2013, only 24% of TA’s electrical production will be from renewable energy sources.

One of the reasons for their wimpy plan is that TA has failed to include GHG reduction as a corporate key performance metric.  TA has adopted non-finanical key performance measures such as Availability and Safety but not GHG reduction.  Sadly, TA’s annual report measures future progress (page 58) using GHG Intensity metrics as if they are useful metrics.  As a result, their executives can pocket bonus compensation while continuing to pollute our air. 

Clearly TA’s leadership needs to hear from their green-minded investors that how they make money is just as important has how much money they make!!  Mr. Gordon Giffin is the Board member who Chairs the  Governance & Environment Committee of the Board.


Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is Canada’s largest government-owned electricity producer, producing 22% of its 21.7 GW from GHG-emitting gas and coal sources.  OPG has established a target of zero production from coal by 2014 but also uses an intensity-based metric to measure progress. 

This enables OPG to crow about a 2% reduction per GWhr while pumping out 28.4 Mt of GHG in 2007 – more than the entire oil sands industry.  Under OPG’s flimsy plan, their zero-coal target can be acheived by replacing coal-sourced power with gas-sourced power.  Since fewer GHG are produced by gas than coal, their intensity-based metric will show a reduction while total GHG pollution continues to increase.

OPG’s public relations also fail to come clean on the fact that OPG’s “renewable” power sources are actually dominated by nuclear power production which is neither green nor a renewable resource.  While nuclear is “clean” from a GHG perspective, only 26% of the 21 GW produced in Ontario in August 2009 was from renewable and green sources.

OPG gets its marching orders from Mr. Gerry Phillips, Ontario’s Minister of Energy.  I’m sure he’d like to hear from you.


Are Coalition Governments Undemocratic?

Canadian Politics

Harper’s Record
On Sept 9, 2004 while he was Leader of the Opposition, Harper wrote to the Governor General and requested that, should the minority Liberal government fall, before calling an election that the GG grant him and the Bloq the opportunity to form a Coalition Government!

September 9, 2004
Her Excellency the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson,
C.C., C.M.M., C.O.M., C.D.
Governor General
Rideau Hall
1 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A1
As leaders of the opposition parties, we are well aware that, given the 
Liberal minority government, you could be asked by the Prime Minister 
to dissolve the 38th Parliament at any time should the House of Commons 
fail to support some part of the government’s program.
We respectfully point out that the opposition parties, who together 
constitute a majority in the House, have been in close consultation. We 
believe that, should a request for dissolution arise this should give 
you cause, as constitutional practice has determined, to consult the 
opposition leaders and consider all of your options before exercising 
your constitutional authority.
Your attention to this matter is appreciated.
Hon. Stephen Harper, P.C., M.P.
Leader of the Opposition
Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada
Gilles Duceppe, M.P.
Leader of the Bloc Quebecois
Jack Layton, M.P.
Leader of the New Democratic Party

So why was a coalition government good enough for Harper then but suddently is an undemocratic thing to do now? … could it be that it is because he is a self-serving liar who would divide this country and cause a political crisis just so he can cling to power??

Harper’s Mandate
Nearly 2/3 of Canadians actually voted against Harper’s government in the last election.

In fact, 170,000 FEWER Conservatives voted for him.

Yet due to the lack of proportional representation in the House of Commons he managed to obtain 20 more seats – yet still has a minority of the seats.

So why should he be allowed to prorogue Parliament and govern like a King without opposition?

Harper’s Lies

Stephen Harper’s lies about the Coalition are getting more and more divisive.

He lied when he said “Here we have these three parties signing a document, and they wouldn’t even have a the Canadian flag behind them! They had to be photographed without it, because a member of the coalition doesn’t even believe in the country.”

 Canadian Flag Clearly Evident

He lied when he said that it includes the Separatists in the Coalition.  In fact, the Coalition is between the NDP and the Liberals with the support of the BQ and the Green Party.

He lied when he said that it is something that he would never work with the BQ.  In fact, he relied on the BQ to bail him out in 40 non-confidence votes during the last 2 years.

He lied when he used a different speech in English than in French on Dec 4 referring to “separatists” in the highly provocative English speech while cowardly using the term “souverainiste” in the French speech 5 minutes later.  Harper knows full well the difference in the two terms when used in French in Quebec. 

Separatist has a distinctly negative connotation that focuses on the division of Canada, while sovereigntist has a postitive connotation that focuses on promoting independence without necessarily damaging Canada.  As in Sovereignty-Association.

He lied when he claimed that his economic statement contained new initiatives to support the economy.  In fact all he did was summarize intiatives already announced in prior budgets.  There was nothing new other than an attack on pay equity for women.

Finally he lied when he said that our oldest democratic traditions dating back 141 years were based on electing a government.  In fact our parliamentary tradition was started by a coalition government in the 1860s and is based on electing members to the House of Commons who are responsible for forming a government based on a majority of members.  Our country has subsequently had several coalition governments both federally and provincially.

The real question is how can Harper claim that proroguing Parliament is a democratic act?


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