Green Party Leader Elizabeth May had a blunt summary of our country’s environmental outlook following an address at a local conference on Saturday, but she did follow that assessment with a positive.
“We’re going to hell in a hand basket,” said May, MP for Saanich/Gulf Islands. “I know that was all really depressing and I can only apologize for that, but I’m very encouraged to see so many people here.”
The conference was B.C. Nature’s fall general meeting, held at The Quality Resort Bayside in Parksville, co-hosted by Arrowsmith and Nanoose Bay Naturalists.
May made her address to about 140 people, bringing up topics like the Northern Gateway pipeline projected, loss of federal laws concerning the environment, and her latest point of contention with Stephen Harper’s government, the Canada-China Investment Treaty.
This accord came last Wednesday, May explained, when a conservative parliamentary secretary rose after question period in the House of Commons and “very quietly” stated he was tabling two accords, both involving China. After getting hold of the paperwork on the Investment Treaty, May spoke with the Speaker of the House.
“I will rise right after question period (yesterday, Oct.1) and ask that the House be allowed an emergency debate on the subject of the Canada-China investment agreement,” she told the crowd at the Bayside.
The accord states that Canada must encourage Chinese investment in Canada, she said, and “approve it as it comes along.” It also stipulates that if a pipeline was to be built in Canada, China must be given the same rights as Canadians and given equal access to those jobs, she said. And Canada would also be “vulnerable” to lawsuits from China if it felt its expectations of profits had not been met. This accord is set to take effect Oct. 25 and as of Saturday there were no plans to allow parliament to vote on it, debate it or send it to a committee.
“So I’d say Steven Harper has learned a lot from the people in Beijing,” May said sarcastically.
May calls Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline, involving a twin-pipeline system that would run from Alberta to B.C.’s coast, “the great pipeline of China.”
She said China has an overcapacity of oil refineries and now needs bitumen. The country is positioning itself to get the crude through their own operations in the Alberta oil sands, pump it through Chinese-owned pipelines to B.C’s coast, where Chinese supertankers will come and collect it, May said. And if this new accord goes through it will make it easier for all that to happen, she added.
More than one-third of the legislative changes made with the omnibus budget bill C-38 was environmental law policy, May said, including widespread loss of habitat protection. Changes to the environmental assessment act no longer protects mammals, forests or ecosystems, she said.
, just migratory birds, aquatic plants and fish. And the second budget omnibus bill promised this fall will “streamline” the Species At Risk Act, which will be more bad news, May predicts.
Not only does she read all the bills that come forth in Ottawa, she said, but she has spoken more than any other MP in the last year.
Her final message to the naturalists attending the meeting, was to keep informed about what’s going in Parliament and to write letters to editors locally and mainstream media outlets.
“Really the grassroots naturalist’s community is going to stand between species and extinction for at least awhile without much backup. So for that I salute you. Because you are truly courageous and in naturalist terms you are the resistance.”