For Our Grandchildren Ottawa Chapter

Update – Tuesday, May 16 at 7:00 we will meet – First United Church, 347 Richmond Road. Watch here  for updates. 

Thank you for coming here from Facebook. My hope is that you’re here because you know that climate change threatens your grandchildren, and you want to do something effective to protect them from it. That mission describes how all of us feel at For Our Grandchildren (4RG).

Welcome.

As I wrote in my Facebook message, 4RG is looking for ‘a few good grandparents’ who’ll help establish an Ottawa chapter. Why? Recent, game-changing reforms to the Senate—perhaps not fully appreciated by most—means an Ottawa chapter of 4RG would have an excellent staging area from which to lobby the government for climate change policies that would actually be effective. The Senate reforms have offered us an unprecedented opportunity to address the climate change issue. For our grandchildren’s sake, we must seize it. As I say, we need ‘a few good grandparents’ in Ottawa to help us do that.

I’m hoping that after you read these words about how important a 4RG Ottawa chapter can be in our efforts to protect our grandchildren from climate change’s worst effects, you’ll contact me so that I can arrange to discuss this further with you by phone, Skype, or email.

Crowd demonstrating in Ottawa in November, 2015 just before the Paris Climate talks.

There are, currently, 4RG chapters in Toronto and Peterborough where grandparents are working hard to convince local politicians – municipal, provincial, and federal – to implement effective policies to adapt to and mitigate climate change. As important as local campaigns are to deal with climate change, the issue is not one than can be successfully dealt with without a fully committed, active, and effective federal government playing a leadership role. You can see that an Ottawa chapter would be particularly well-positioned to deal with the federal government, something logistically difficult for us to do from Toronto or Peterborough.

While most jurisdictions in Canada are doing something about climate change none are yet doing enough. That’s not an opinion, that’s the science. If present policies continue without improvement, we will not keep under the 2° C warming threshold that scientists have warned us about. Given how old most of us grandparents are, we probably won’t personally feel the worst of the suffering wreaked by climate change, but our grandchildren surely will if people like us don’t do enough to protect them.

This failure to implement effective climate change adaptation and mitigation policies is particularly apparent at the federal level. The Liberal government under Prime Minster Trudeau has been promising and saying all the right things, at home and internationally, about dealing with climate change—yes, a welcome change in tone from the previous Conservative government. However, as welcome as the Prime Minister’s ‘sunny’ words may be, his government is neither developing nor implementing the kinds of policies we need—that our grandchildren need—to effectively deal with climate change. Trudeau’s policies are too timid and tepid to successfully deal with the issue, and his economic policies from energy to agriculture are exacerbating it. Despite what the Prime Minister says, he is not ‘balancing’ the economy and the environment.[1]

Speaking in Ottawa just ahead of David Suzuki in November, 2015.

Let me add that, personally, I am at a total loss as to why Trudeau seems to lack the political courage necessary to lead on the climate change issue. He has very young children of his own. Does he not grasp the enormity of what’s going to happen to them if climate change isn’t addressed effectively?

I think that for Trudeau and many of his MPs, doing what’s necessary to truly and effectively deal with climate change is a truth that’s too inconvenient politically for them. Nevertheless, for our grandchildren’s sake—and no matter how inconvenient—effective policies must be implemented. Either we make the necessary changes and reforms in responsible and constructive ways or increasing extreme weather events will do it for us in chaotic and destructive ways. The climate, as you know, is unmoved by Trudeau’s and the Liberals’ (or any politician’s) electoral ambitions.

What, then, are the Senate reforms that make an Ottawa chapter so necessary to protect our grandchildren? Late in 2016, Prime Minister Trudeau—as he promised and to his credit—finished filling the vacancies in the Senate with genuinely independent Senators. It seems to me, however, he was not fully appreciative of the consequences of a truly independent upper chamber.

Our new, independent Senators are beginning to flex their constitutional muscle. Remember, the Senate of Canada has all the legislative powers of the House of Commons except, “Section 53 of the Constitution Act, 1867 directs that money bills are to originate in the House of Commons”[2] and for any Bill to pass it needs Senate approval. That’s a democratic affront to many, but that’s the undeniable political reality we must recognize when we develop advocacy campaigns to deal with issues.

For 4RG, it’s wonderful news that the new Senate is, indeed, independent, is becoming more so, and is putting forward legislation too politically difficult for elected Members of Parliament to touch. For example, we’ve seen Senators move forward on issues like marine mammals in captivity (Bill S-203), genetic discrimination (Bill S-201), and junk food advertising targeted at our children (Bill S-228).

We think that our new, independent Senate can become an important political actor in the climate change issue, too, and put forward legislation and ‘sober second thought’ even if it is a political ‘third rail’ for the elected members of the House of Commons. It’s not just 4RG who realizes that the new Senate can play a more significant role in developing and amending future legislation, it’s a view shared by corporate lobbyists, “…who registered more meetings with senators and Senate staffers in 2016 than in any other year on record, a threefold increase from 2015 and well above typical margins under the majority Conservative government.”[3]

As you might have guessed, there are Senators who are as concerned about the climate change issue as you and I are. Many of them, I suspect, are grandparents, too, just like us. On 7 March, 2017, the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources issued a news release, Canadians must brace for the cost of fighting climate change, Senate committee says.[4]

A quote from the committee’s deputy chair , Senator Paul Massicotte, is significant,

“By now, everyone knows that Canada, like every country on the globe, must act to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide it produces. It’s going to mean a substantial adjustment in the way Canadians live, but we must weigh that against the cost of not doing anything — something which is now unthinkable.”

And it’s not just the Senate. The House of Commons recently gave us a lesson in Parliamentary democracy when they passed Bill S-201, An Act to prohibit and prevent genetic discrimination, against the wishes of the cabinet.

Reading Winnie the Pooh to my grandchildren.

At 4RG, we believe that ‘a few good grandparents’, people like you, can persuade ‘a few good Senators’ to become the bold legislators and leaders that the climate change issue needs to move from the Liberal government’s insufficient ‘business as usual’ policies to genuinely effective policies that will protect our grandchildren.

I hope you’ll consider helping us establish a For Our Grandchildren Ottawa Chapter. Needless to say, you don’t have to be an experienced government lobbyist or an expert on the climate change issue to make a difference. We can help you with all of that. None of us were any of those things when we first committed to trying to protect our grandchildren from the worst effects of climate change. We just knew that our grandchildren were in danger. We knew they needed our help and we wanted to protect them. I think that’s something most grandparents feel.

Please, use the contact form below to get in touch with me or just email me at guy@hanchet.ca or phone me at (705) 875-4488. In the meantime, of course, feel free to explore our web site and sign up for our newsletter.

Yours sincerely,
Guy Hanchet,
Vice Chair, 4RG Steering Committee

[1] Alex Ballingall, Environment Canada report says we are on pace to miss emissions targets, The Toronto Star, 27 March, 2017; http://tinyurl.com/lfouvou
[2] A Legislative and Historical Overview of the Senate of Canada, The Senate of Canada, revised May 2001; http://www.parl.gc.ca/About/Senate/LegisFocus/legislative-e.htm
[3] Marie-Danielle Smith, As Senators become more independent meetings with lobbyists hoping to take advantage triple in 2016, National Post, 5 March, 2017; http://tinyurl.com/nypvxr4
[4] Canadians must brace for the cost of fighting climate change, Senate committee says, Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources; 7 March, 2017; http://tinyurl.com/lqd3slv


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