Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Elizabeth May's Stand

During the debate and filli-voting in the House of Commons on the Omnibudget or Bill C38 one MP stood head and shoulders above her peers. Elizabeth May (GPC – Saanich – Gulf Islands, BC), the sole MP and leader of the Green Party did more as an individual to slow Bill C38’s passage than anyone else. On her own she submitted hundreds of amendments, comparable to the entire Liberal and New Democratic Parties.

The most stunning accomplishment was the over twenty-two hours straight of voting Ms. May participated in, only missing a single voteout of hundreds. At the conclusion of the voting marathon the opposition side of the House gave her a standing ovation. Much deserved.

Bill C38 was a tragically perfect stand for Ms. May. If I associate the Green Party with anything it’s the environment (obviously), democracy and transparency. Bill C38 stood in stark opposition to these principles. The Omnibudget dramatically cut environmental protections and regulations. Omnibus legislation was pushed through, curtailing debate and violating the MPs’ ability to do their jobs. Many of the changes have placed power in the hands of cabinet ministers, and the financing of elements is still unclear.

I should be clear; my respect for Elizabeth May is not partisan. I’m not a Green voter, and have never cast a ballot for them. They have been my second choice in elections, but I’ve ultimately settled on other parties.

Ms. May’s performance to a great degree has underminedthe position David Wilks (CPC – Kootenay-Columbia, BC) expressed a few weeks before. As a singular Member of Parliament she did more to shape that debate than the entire Bloc Quebecois, or the swaths of Conservative backbenchers. In short, Ms. May conclusively demonstrated to the public that lone MPs can make a difference and be effective.

Now, to be fair, Ms. May sits as an Independent (her party is too small to have party privileges in the House) and therefore she has powers beyond that of a normal MP. Still, Bruce Hyer (IND – Thunder Bay-Superior North, ON) and Peter Goldring (IND – Edmonton East, AB) also sit as independents, along with all members of the BQ and did not nearly have the same level of impact.

Elizabeth May ultimately lost her fight on Bill C38. It passed the Senate with far less fanfare. None of her amendments passed. The bill was not broken up. However, at least in some way a moral victory was made and supporters of the Greens can be proud.

Can we imagine what our House of Commons might look like with 308 (or 338) MPs of the quality of Ms. May? With her level of knowledge of process, competency and principle? They needn’t share the same ideology to be good parliamentarians, there are good ones in all parties. Just as Bill C38showed us how toothless parliament can be Ms. May showed us an alternative.

I hope the voters of Saanich-Gulf Islands keep Ms. May as long as she will serve.

For a similar article on this matter check out this from the Ottawa Citizen.

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