The Artful Deception of Climate Consultation

I’m pleased to welcome Monica Woodley, an ordinary citizen (like millions of us), who has been inspired by her grandchildren to become a climate warrior. I spoke with Monica on the phone recently. We agreed that our current government under the leadership of Justin Trudeau has made a mockery of the democratic practice of consultation, reducing it to a level of artful deception — an illusion, a work of fiction.

Artful Deception of Climate Consultation

The Artful Deception of Climate Consultation, boomer warrior

Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada, first climate consultation meeting hosted by Minister Catherine McKenna, April 28, 2016, Ottawa.

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time. I was inspired and encouraged by the level of engagement I saw at my town hall. The ideas I heard last night showed clearly that Canadians want to be part of the solution. I encourage Canadians from coast to coast to coast to hold town halls in their communities and provide the feedback they hear to the government over the spring and summer. (Source: Catherine McKenna about her climate consultation meeting).

Like me, many Canadians support bolder action to address the threats of climate change. I want our federal and provincial governments to listen thoughtfully and respectfully to my concerns about climate change and take action to reduce its risks. As a grandmother, I understand that my grandchildren’s futures depend on it.

Ordinary Citizens versus Industry Lobbyists

But ordinary citizens struggle to be heard over industry lobbyists defending fossil fuel subsidies and calling for new pipelines. Our voices must be part of the government’s decision-making on a national climate plan. That is why I and many other Canadians were pleased to hear last Spring that the government would hold a country-wide public engagement on climate change.

My story goes back to May 24, 2016. That day, I excitedly joined two colleagues to attend a York Region town hall on climate change with our Member of Parliament, Majid Jowhari. I had learned about the event online and wrote to my MP. As we entered the large hall, I was surprised to see the number of people already seated at a dozen large tables. There were more than 200 of us, plus five presiding MPs and their staff.

There was a sense of urgency and excitement. We knew we were talking about one of the most important challenges our communities face. Many youths were in attendance, and one man at my table brought his nine-year-old daughter.

Participants at each table were given a question to discuss and to report back to the room. People showed up understanding the problem and wanted to get to work.

Reduce Carbon Emissions

During our discussion, I heard comments like “Why are we doing this?”and “They already know the problems and the possible solutions to meet our climate targets and goals.” Someone added, “Why don’t they just do it! I am getting tired of the talking.” Someone countered, “Come on guys, this is our chance to be heard and to push the new government to serious action.”

Our table focused on ideas to reduce emissions, such as stopping new pipelines and leaving some fossil fuels in the ground. We talked about promoting renewable energy and retraining oil workers to work in cleaner industries. There were suggestions about public education, transportation, and support for First Nations communities. Others offered creative fiscal and economic solutions for growing our economy while reducing emissions, with support for putting a price on carbon and providing rebates for electric vehicles.

People at other tables discussed the impacts of climate change on our communities. They shared personal stories and concerns about the impact of extreme weather on health. I worry about how shorter winters and more intense heat waves will affect cultural and recreational activities my family enjoys. Some young people wondered about bringing children into a world so negatively affected by climate issues.

Conflicting Messages From Government

Yet when the town hall concluded, I still left feeling very hopeful. I was eager to receive feedback about our work that day and assumed we would see a strong national climate plan. But so far I have received no information about what took place and found nothing official online about our town hall. This is bizarre considering the town hall was held by five local MPs and the lead organizer was Deb Schulte, MP for King-Vaughan. In addition to Schulte and my MP, Jowhari, there were three other MPs present from our region — Leona Alleslev, Kyle Peterson, and Francesco Sorbara.

Given the Liberal party’s insistence on transparency and meaningful consultation with Canadians, it is surprising to find no notes from this meeting were submitted to the central online portal, nor were they distributed to participants.

I understand the magnitude of the challenge we face in combating climate change. Since the town hall, the federal government announced carbon pricing plans and decided to phase out coal power faster. These decisions are encouraging to me. On the other hand, we’ve seen major new fossil fuel projects approved and public subsidies to polluting industries continue.

Needless to say, this sends a conflicting message to me and the others who believe this government is serious about taking climate action. I firmly believe, as did many others at our town hall, that government subsidies to the oil industry must end and that no new pipelines should be approved.

Is Anybody Really Listening?

trudeau-pipeline-20161129

Source: Announcement of Kinder Morgan and Enbridge Line 3. (Sean Kilpatrick, CP)

Was anybody in government really listening? What was the purpose of these town halls?

Because government didn’t let us know what was done with our contributions, I was glad to see a new report by Leadnow and The Climate Reality Project Canada that summarized what took place at town halls across the country. I was surprised and disappointed to learn that even the researchers who compiled these findings could not find notes or minutes from the large consultation I attended with several MPs. It makes me wonder where my ideas went. Was this an exercise in futility, or will our input actually be considered by government?

I remain hopeful that my thoughts will be reflected in a national climate plan that many Canadians – especially us grandparents – anxiously await.

This article was first published in the National Observer.

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30c4fa3c3b540077cb00b787e616e620-huge-monica-janet-green-teamMonica Woodley is a grandmother of two boys. They inspire her work with young people on a plan to educate and empower Canadian youth to take action on climate issues. She joined the Climate Reality Project in 2015 when she was trained by Al Gore as a Climate Reality leader.

4 Responses to The Artful Deception of Climate Consultation

  1. It is really sad that people put so much effort into those town hall meetings announced by government, only to have their hopes dashed, as their input of ideas falls on seemingly deaf ears. We may find that while Catherine McKenna might feel strongly in favour of cleaning up Canada’s act in reducing polluting CO2 emissions, she has reluctantly followed the party line that Oil expansion is necessary for Canada’s economy. Sad case of doublespeak from Trudeau’s Liberal Government, and one that tends to create anger amongst voters.

    Let’s face it, no matter what country we are from, our governments are just putting up a fake wall of commitment to reducing CO2 emmisions. The cracks are already showing, and the picture behind the facade is not pretty. And what real power does the common person have to evoke stronger commitment? After all, once a government is voted into power, we are all just pawns until election time rolls around again.

    Justin Trudeau is playing a game of ‘Let’s feed them the bad stuff first, and when election time looms, we’ll give them a bit of what they (electorate) really want!’ And he is not alone…every government in the world does this…election promises fade into the background as civil service, corporate power and even the military, operate the puppetry strings on whatever well-meaning politician is elected to power. Trudeau should be renamed Pinocchio because his long nose is now sprouting leaves!

  2. Actually the most disconcerting development is Trump’s election. He is surrounding himself with oil men starting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The progress on fighting global emissions will be minimal under the Republicans and Trump.

    China and India might pull back also with the US showing signs of cancelling the Paris Agreement or at the very best giving it token lip service.

    I fear the worst for humanity.

    • Yes, a scary scenario rapidly unfolding in the US!

      As I have said before Rolly, government will not be the organisations to pull us back….innovative companies and the will of the people will be our only course of action.

      I have invested a small amount of money in a new startup company….it has been going for about 5years now and share prices have been in the negative as development costs have risen, but this tiny company is going to be very instrumental in new solar innovation. It is going to roll out retrofit solar applications for walls and roofs at a production rate and similar costs to newspaper printing. We (humanity) is on the verge of a new age of technology that is as exciting as the combustion engine once was. Governments have traditionally not been involved in the cutting edge stuff.

      We will have our cleaner, more sustainable, world despite lack of action of governments, organisations, and military. They are simply paddling at the edge of a coming flood of new solutions that will leave them rolling about in the surf!

      • Colette – there are times when I feel as you do about the promise of new technology. And we don’t even know what we don’t know about future technology. Fossil fuels will be replaced by other sources of energy in spite of anything Trump will do during his years in office. Even he cannot stop the market/economic forces that are gathering in support of a transition to clean energy.

        In my next post, I do however point out the Climate Alarm Bells of 2016 which must not be ignored. Should be published in a day or so.

        I like your phrase “coming flood of new solutions”. Don’t be surprised when you see again in some future post of mine.

        And tell me more about the tiny company (as you call it) poised to roll out new solar innovations. Sounds promising.

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