The story that the Roman Emperor Caligula wanted to appoint his horse to the Senate is apocryphal, but it is a sad fact that Canada’s own quasi-Emperor has appointed 36 unelected horses (or posterior portions thereof) to the Canadian Senate in just the past four years. And on Tuesday the Prime Minister’s stable of equine extremities stampeded into action to kill a bill that he couldn’t kill in the House of Commons because it had been passed by a majority of that body’s democratically elected members.
The Climate Change Accountability Act (Bill C-311) was denied second reading in the Senate in a snap vote by the Conservatives, who earlier had refused to permit even a single word of debate on the bill in the Senate.
Bill C-311 would have forced the Canadian government to take action on global climate change, calling for “greenhouse gases to be cut 25 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020” and for a long-term target “to bring emissions 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050”. This, of course, made it utterly unacceptable to the Prime Minister (Gloria Galloway, “Tory senators kill climate bill passed by house,” Globe and Mail, 17 November 2010; Susan Delacourt, “Climate bill, Commons crushed in one blow,” Toronto Star, 17 November 2010; “Killed climate change bill flawed: Harper,” CBC News, 17 November 2010).
A recent Environics poll commissioned by the Council of Canadians and other organizations found that 87% of Canadians believe we “need to have an economy that is in harmony with nature, which recognizes and respects the planet”, and that over 70% agree that “The money spent on wars and the military would all be better spent on efforts that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the impacts of climate change.”
But why should the opinions of mere citizens matter to the Prime Minister when he has enough appointed minions to enable him to ignore the views of the public? With the defeat of Bill C-311 he is free to go back to emulating another infamous Roman Emperor, Caligula’s nephew Nero, and fiddle as the planet burns.
Oxfam International photo