A snap vote in Canada’s unelected, and primarily Tory Senate on Tuesday night saw the demise of the NDP’s Climate Change Accountability Act by a narrow margin of 43-32. The vote caught Liberals in the Upper House off guard, and the climate change legislation was no match for Stephen Harper’s conservative-stacked Senate. Without any debate in the Red Chamber, Conservative Senators called a vote on Bill C-311 introduced by Thunder Bay-Superior NDP Bruce Hyer. Canada’s hope for meaningful environmental legislation ahead of the UN Cancun climate talks later this month was killed by eleven votes.
The bill has spent the last year bouncing between the House of Commons and its environmental committee. It would have called for greenhouse gas emissions to be cut by 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. It also set a long-term goal to bring emissions down 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. That’s a lot more stringent than what the Harper government is calling for now—namely a 17 percent emissions cut from 2005 levels by 2020.
This marks the first time that unelected Conservative Senators have used their near-majority to kill a bill passed by elected politicians. The absence of over 15 Liberals from the Senate allowed the bill to fail narrowly in a vote.
According to NDP leader Jack Layton, “This was one of the most undemocratic acts that we have ever seen in the Parliament of Canada…To take power that doesn’t rightfully belong to them to kill a bill that has been adopted by a majority of the House of Commons representing a majority of Canadians is as wrong as it gets when it comes to democracy in this country”.
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