In the Chamber -- Grant Mitchell's Blog

Bill C-311

Posted 11/18/2010 by Grant Mitchell


Here is a letter that I have been sending out to those who have contacted me about C-311.


I am very grateful for the number of Canadians who care deeply about climate change and who work hard to keep pressing the issue with the government.

Sadly, Bill C-311 was killed on Tuesday by the Conservative Senators and one independent.  All Liberal Senators voted to pass the bill.

The defeat of the bill by Conservative Senators, against the will of elected Members of Parliament, is yet another setback to any kind of progress on climate change and further confirmation of the Conservatives' determination to do nothing on climate change.  The bill, developed by MP Bruce Hyer, simply called for the government to establish sequential five-year plans on climate change action leading up to 2050 and required scrutiny of the plans and results by the Environment Commissioner and the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy.

The Conservative Senators' defeat of this bill is unprecedented. Rarely has the Senate defeated a bill that has been passed by the majority of elected members of the House of Commons. On the very rare occasions when this has occurred, it has been done only at third reading after the bill had been fully debated at second reading and studied extensively at the committee stage, where Canadians were given the opportunity to be heard.

In this case, 193 days after Bill C-311 was presented to the Senate, not a single Conservative Senator had spoken to the bill.  Moreover, the Conservative Senators killed the bill at second reading without allowing it to go to committee. There, the bill would have been studied in detail, allowing Canadians a chance to understand better how the bill would affect their lives.  If the Conservatives remained committed to defeating the bill, they could have done so at the next stage, third reading.

The Conservatives have used procedural issues, like the timing of the vote, in an attempt to create controversy. They do this as a strategy to distract from the real issues. In this case, the real issue is why they would defeat this important step in fighting climate change – arguably, the most important challenge facing Canadians today and for generations to come.

It is important to remember that whatever the timing of the vote, whether this week or next year, the government and its Conservative Senators were going to kill this bill. It is also very important to note that Conservative Senators have the numbers to control the Senate and their grip will only be strengthened in the weeks and months to come, as more Liberal Senators reach retirement age.

The bottom line is that the Conservatives voted to kill Bill C-311, an important climate change initiative.  They did so without ever debating it and without even sending it to committee to hear what Canadians had to say about it. And, they did this just weeks before Canada attends international climate negotiations in Cancun, Mexico, with only a part-time Environment Minister who cannot present anything even resembling a plan.

We should also ask the question as to why this had to be a private member’s bill in the first place.  It should be the government that provides leadership in Canada and the world to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

I hope that I have been able to clarify questions you may have about Bill C-311.   I share your frustration that this bill died, and especially in this undemocratic way.  I appreciate you supporting the bill and working to have your voice heard.

Thank you,

Senator Grant Mitchell

Senate Sponsor of Bill C-311




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