Accountable to whom?

Killing of Bill C-311 demonstrates Senate’s illegitimacy

Matthew Welch

Nov. 16, 2010 should be marked among politically minded Canadians as a day in which democracy took a huge blow. This was the day that Bill C-311 was killed in the Senate.

Bill C-311, known as the Climate Change Accountability Act, was an NDP private members bill that was passed by the House of Commons earlier this year with the support of the Liberals, Bloc Quebecois and NDP.

It sailed through parliamentary committees without any changes and delighted many environmentalists when it cleared the hurdle of passing a third reading in the House of Commons.

Linda Duncan, the NDP member from Edmonton-Strathcona who, as NDP environment critic, played a large role in spearheading the bill, was congratulated by her colleagues from the three opposition parties.

The Conservatives were bitter and wanted to strike revenge, given that environmentalists had won the will of the elected portion of Parliament.

And the Conservatives got their revenge. On Nov. 16, by a vote margin of 43-32, Bill C-311 was killed in the Senate – an unelected house filled with political hacks that are loyal to their parties and currently dominated by Conservatives. Bill C-311 was killed without debate or discussion.

While bills have been killed in the Senate without a hearing before, it has only happened six times in Canadian history, and it has been over 70 years since it last happened.

This was the first comprehensive climate change legislation Canada has seen in years, and if there were any major issues with it, they would have found them in a parliamentary committee. The bill was brought back from committee with no major issues raised.

So obviously, letting the bill die in the Senate was a good ploy by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to create more division among the Canadian people.

Harper is back to his political bag of tricks again by trying to make it seem as though the will of Canadian people is vested in his minority government, rather than in parliament as a whole. It is illegitimate that a bill passed by a majority in the House was killed without debate in Parliament’s upper chamber.

Nov. 16 will go down as a dark day for Canadian democracy. Frankly, seeing such a display has been disgusting and insulting to the ideals of democracy. It shows that even though we elect MPs, an unelected Senate chamber can easily act against the will of Canadians.

Democracy continues to be assaulted and trampled over by this Conservative government.

Add this incident to the list of prorogations, back-tracking on refusing to appoint Senators, slapping confidence votes onto non-confidence bills in order to manipulate the opposition and spreading lies about the legitimacy of a government coalition.

The Senate is known for being the chamber for sober-second thought.

This chamber, and indeed this government, is a little too drunk with power.

Andrew Podolecki is a politics student at the University of Winnipeg.

Published in Volume 65, Number 14 of The Uniter (December 2, 2010)

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