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Calling for Emergency Debate on BC’s response to Climate Change

Today in the Legislature I rose, pursuant to a seldom used provision in the Standing Orders, to call for an emergency debate on whether or not BC is acting with sufficient urgency and demonstrating the appropriate leadership on preparing for and mitigating the escalating impacts of climate change on our province. Below I provide the rationale for why I believed that holding such a debate was of urgent public importance. I further reproduce the media release that accompanied my speech, a backgrounder, and details concerning the Standing Order.

What is remarkable is that both the BC Liberal and BC NDP house leaders (Mike de Jong and Mike Farnworth) spoke against having such a debate. The Speaker eventually ruled against proceeding with the debate shortly before the house adjourned. It wasn’t a surprise that the Speaker ruled this way in light of the fact that both house leaders spoke against spending a mere one hour debating British Columbia’s climate policy. If fact she specifically cited their comments as being helpful in informing her as she wrote her decision.


My Justification


Madame Speaker, I rise pursuant to Standing Order 35. As advised in Standing Order 35, I gave the chair advance notice and I have provided a written statement of the matter proposed to the clerk.

By leave, I move that this House do now adjourn to discuss a matter of urgent public importance.

Namely, that in light of this year’s record temperatures, drought, lack of snow pack, and forest fires, and with a 90% probability that El Niño will persist into the winter exacerbating present conditions, whether we as legislators are acting with sufficient urgency and demonstrating the appropriate leadership on preparing for and mitigating the escalating impacts of climate change on our province.

To be clear, I am not calling for a debate on the impacts of climate change. Standing Order 35 excludes debating a matter of an ongoing nature, and there is no doubt that climate change will challenge every aspect of life in our province for decades to come.

However, as laid out in my motion, the matter of urgent public importance concerns whether we as legislators are acting with sufficient urgency and demonstrating the appropriate leadership on preparing for and mitigating the escalating impacts of climate change on our province.

I submit to you, Madame Speaker, and to the House that this session offers us no other adequate opportunity to have this debate, a debate that is urgent and in the public interest given the upcoming United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change discussions that will be taking place at the 21st Conference of Parties in Paris this December, a conference where our Premier will be speaking about B.C’s supposed climate leadership.

This debate is particularly urgent as the government plans to use carbon offsets through the protection of forests to help reach our legislated greenhouse gas reduction targets. Yet under UNFCCC rules, government cannot adopt this risky path unless it also includes emissions from forest fires in annual reporting.

As legislators, it is critical that we have the opportunity to have this debate prior to any representations being made on a global stage regarding BC’s planned response to climate change.

There will be no other opportunity to have this debate during the session. And with uncertainty as to whether we will have another legislative sitting in advance of this conference, it is critically important that this chamber turn its attention to our role as legislators in addressing climate change, providing the people of British Columbia an opportunity to hear where its government stands on whether it is acting appropriately and urgently in the face of the extreme weather-related events happening around us.

There are few debates that are more urgent or are of greater public importance.


Response from BC Liberal House Leader – Mike de Jong


Thanks to the member. I’m relatively certain of two things. One is we have certainly experienced some extreme conditions in the province these past number of weeks that have contributed to some challenging circumstances. We heard about that earlier from the minister. Nor do I doubt the member’s interest and commitment to addressing some of the underlying issues that may or may not be contributing to that.

Having said that, we are also bound and obliged to conduct proceedings in this chamber pursuant to the standing orders. The member has risen pursuant to Standing Order 35. It is very much the urgency of debate that the Chair in past rulings focussing on these matters addressed. Though I can appreciate that the member would prefer the dedicated time that Standing Order 35 would provide for addressing this matter, there are other opportunities during the time that the House is sitting to raise these matters and have them considered by members.

In my respectful submission to the House and to the member, the motion…. I listened carefully to the motion. I haven’t seen it yet, but I listened as the member read it into the record. I would suggest the motion falls short of the historic threshold for adopting and moving to a Standing Order 35 debate, but as always, I will anxiously await the Chair’s ruling on the matter.


Response from BC NDP House Leader – Mike Farnworth


I, too, have listened to the hon. member’s motion. There is much in the motion that I believe has merit.

I would also, I think, point out that at this particular time, given what the member has said about the Premier going to this conference in December, that a fall session, which we are all expecting, would be an appropriate time, with advance notice, for all members to be able to participate in such a discussion around an important issue such as this. I think it would be something that members of the House would want to do.

So I would suggest at this particular time that the Speaker might want to think about an appropriate time in a fall session for this very important debate to take place, before a Premier heads off to a major international conference. But of course, hon. Speaker, we will abide by your ruling.


Press Release


Media Release- July 13th 2015
Andrew Weaver Calls for Emergency Debate on BC’s response to Climate Change
For Immediate Release

Victoria B.C. – Today, Andrew Weaver, MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head and Deputy Leader of the B.C. Green Party, called for an emergency debate on how British Columbia is responding to climate change, arguing that the debate is “a matter of urgent public importance”.

“We are experiencing forest fires, fishing bans, water restrictions and air quality advisories all occurring at alarming rates. In the backdrop of everything that is going on right now, there are few issues more urgent or of greater public importance than the actions we need to take immediately to tackle climate change,” said Andrew Weaver.

To be debated, matters of urgent public importance must be approved by the Speaker and granted leave by the House.

Both the BC NDP and the BC Liberals spoke against having an emergency debate on climate change. The Legislature is waiting for the speaker to rule on whether the motion will be heard.

While 2015 may go down as an extreme year, these conditions will become more and more common and more and more extreme for the province as global warming worsens.

“It is sadly ironic that as our forests burn, snowpack melts, and frequency of severe summer droughts increase, the government is forcing through its generational sellout embodied in the 25-year LNG agreement with Petronas,” said Andrew Weaver. “The impacts and costs of climate change have never been clearer for British Columbians. It’s time we consider what kind of future we want.”

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Mat Wright
Press Secretary – Andrew Weaver, MLA
Cell: 250 216 3382
Email: Mat.Wright@leg.bc.ca


Backgrounder – Summer 2015 Extreme Weather Events


While climate scientists are careful to point out that individual weather events cannot be directly connected to global warming, changes in the frequency and intensity of such events can be detected and attributable to human-caused global warming.

Wildfires

• Between April 1st and July 12th, 2015 there have been 1,069 wildfires in British Columbia, with 221 fires currently active across the province.
• Over $108 million has been spent so far this year fighting forest fires.

Water

• Two areas of Vancouver Island, Parksville and The Regional District of Nanaimo, have introduced Level 4 water bans, the highest water restriction possible.
• Metro Vancouver’s reservoirs are being depleted at a far faster than normal rate in “an unprecedented dry year”.
• On June 15, Province-wide snowpack levels were only at five per cent of normal conditions for that time of the year. Other basins, including the Lower Fraser, Okanagan, South Coast and Vancouver Island saw their snowpack surveyed at zero percent of normal levels.

Fish

•Salmon thrive in water temperatures between 13 and 18 degrees Celsius, once water temperatures hit 19 degrees the fish begin to show physiological signs of stress and they slow their upstream migration. At 20 degrees, there are disease outbreaks and fish start to die.
•The Fraser River is currently around 19 degrees.
Rivers are so low and warm this summer that the province has suspended sport fishing in streams and rivers for southern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.

Air Quality

• Health authorities say that Metro Vancouver’s air quality dipped close to levels found in major Chinese cities, such as Beijing, because of the forest fire smoke.

July 6th, 2015:
Beijing:                  144 μg/m3
Burnaby North:   112 μg/m3

Temperature

• The weekend of June 27th, 2015 saw 64 temperature records broken across British Columbia.


Standing Order 35


Below are the details of Standing Order 35 which was last used in 2008.

Adjournment on Matter of Urgent
Public Importance

Adjournment for special purposes.

35. (1) Leave to make a motion for the adjournment of the House, when made for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, must be asked after the ordinary daily routine of business (Standing Order 25) has been concluded and before Orders of the Day are entered on.

Making statement.

(2) A Member wishing to move, “That this House do now adjourn” under this Standing Order, shall rise and state the matter briefly.

Written statement to Speaker.

(3) After the Member has stated the matter, he or she shall hand a written statement of the matter proposed to be discussed to the Speaker.

Decision.

(4) If the Speaker decides that the statement is in order and is of urgent public importance, he or she shall read the statement aloud and ask whether the Member has leave to move the motion. If objection is taken, the question of leave shall be decided on division without debate.

Speaker may defer decision.

(5) The Speaker may defer the decision upon whether or not the statement is in order and of urgent public importance. The proceedings of the House may be interrupted later for the purpose of announcing the decision.

Debate may be deferred.

(6) If leave has been obtained, the motion may stand over until 4.30 p.m. on that day, or the Speaker may direct that the motion be set down for consideration on the following sitting day at an hour specified by him or her.

[ (7) not in use as per Consequential Amendment – Motion passed February 10, 2004 ]

Motion on Friday.

(7) If leave has been obtained on any Friday, the motion shall stand over until 4.30 p.m. the next sitting day, unless the Speaker shall direct that the motion be set down for consideration later the same Friday.

Time limits.

(8) The debate on the motion shall not exceed one hour, apportioned as follows:

Mover: 15 minutes
Other Members: 10 minutes each

Debate concluded.

(9) Upon expiration of the time limited for debate, the motion lapses and the House shall proceed to Orders of the Day or the next order of business, unless the House otherwise orders.

Restrictions.

(10) The right to move the adjournment of the House under this Standing Order is subject to the following restrictions:

(a) not more than one such motion may be made at the same sitting;

(b) not more than one matter shall be discussed on the same motion;

(c) the motion must not revive discussion on a matter which has been discussed in the same Session;

(d) the motion must not anticipate a matter which has been previously appointed for consideration by the House, or with respect to which a notice of motion has been previously given and not withdrawn;

(e) the motion must not raise a question of privilege;

(f) the discussion under the motion must not raise any question which, according to the Standing Orders of the House, can only be debated on a motion under notice.


Interview on CKNW


2 Comments

  1. Jocelyne Young-
    July 15, 2015 at 4:37 pm

    Not surprised by the response of the two leaders, as they choose to ignore this urgency on climate change. I command Mr. Weaver for his efforts. It is commandable.

  2. July 14, 2015 at 3:09 pm

    I agree with Mr. Weaver about the urgency of this matter, given the weather impacts we have had to cope with these past months. In fact, the time for asking this question, “Is the province doing enough to address the climate crisis?” is past due and ever the more urgent.
    Since both parties fully support LNG exports, it is shocking, but hardly surprising, that the BC Libs and BC NDP would sidestep their duties. Both suggested a debate could happen later, but neither made the effort to make a solid commitment.
    Everyone knows that the BC Libs and Harper are in lock step, and the Trudeau gang support LNG exports with a tweak or two on the regs, but how about the NDP? Is there a conflict between provincial policies on LNG and federal promises for climate action? We know the Fed NDP support expansion of the oil sands and several pipelines, but they have remained silent about Woodfibre LNG, tanker safety standards, and tax breaks for foreign billionaires.
    On the cusp of a massive sell out to foreign investors, which could double emissions from this sector, the question is timely and most urgent.
    The Green Party will stand up for you and our climate. What do you think?