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PM allows unelected Senate to kill climate bill in unprecedented vote

November 17, 2010

(Ottawa) Stephen Harper has done what he promised to never do, allow the Senate to go against the will of the majority of Members of Parliament and the Canadian public. Last night, Stephen Harper’s Senators voted to defeat the Climate Change Accountability Act (Bill C-311) before the bill even had a chance to be debated.

“The Climate Change Accountability Act (Bill C-311) has been the only strong piece of climate change legislation before Parliament. It has been supported by a majority of MPs twice, and represents the will of the majority of Canadians who want our government to take strong action on climate change,” says Keith Stewart of Greenpeace Canada. “In using an undemocratic, nineteenth-century institution to avoid dealing with the twenty-first century’s most pressing environmental problem, the Harper government is being both hypocritical and irresponsible.”

The Climate Change Accountability Act passed through the House of Commons to the Senate in the spring of last year. Because Conservative Senators had chosen not to take the opportunity to debate the bill, the bill had not yet been referred to a committee for study. Instead of doing so, Conservative Senators called a surprise vote last night, and managed to kill the bill while many of its supporters were away from the Senate.

“It seems clear that the Conservative government doesn't want to be accountable to Canadians about setting and meeting climate targets,” said Clare Demerse from the Pembina Institute. “This bill would have required the government to publish regular reports explaining its climate policy to Canadians – and as things currently stand, every one of those reports would have created bad headlines for the government.

“This manipulation of the democratic process is irresponsible and goes against the campaign promises that Stephen Harper made on accountability, transparency and democratic fairness, not to mention Senate reform,” says Steven Guilbeault of Equiterre. “The Harper controlled senate has been delaying discussions of this bill for months, and now they have killed it without even the due process in terms of bringing the bill to committee and debating it. It is like a jury arriving at a verdict in a trial without hearing any witnesses or knowing what they need to know about the case.”

“In the face of the climate change crisis, and weeks before the United Nations climate talks begin in Cancun, this is a clear signal that this government is refusing to take global warming seriously,” says Graham Saul of Climate Action Network Canada. “Right now, Canada’s government is on track to arrive at the UN climate talks in Cancun with no plan to reach its target and having just killed the country’s best chance to do better, despite majority support from MPs and Canadians for stronger climate action.”

“Global warming impacts are already being felt by hundreds of millions of people around the world, including communities here in Canada,” says John Bennett of Sierra Club Canada. “This is a brazen move that sends the message that Stephen Harper’s government just doesn’t care.”

Climate Action Network Canada is calling on Canadians who care about this issue to contact Prime Minister Harper, or members of his Conservative caucus, to call for a democratic response to one of the most important issues of our time.

For further media inquires:

Hannah McKinnon

613.276.7791