Saanich-Gulf Islands MP Elizabeth May met with about 70 constituents at Fulford Hall on Friday night, near the end of a string of riding-wide community meetings held this month.
May traditionally hosts such in-person meetings twice a year to report on what she has been doing in Ottawa and elsewhere, but COVID-19 threw several of those onto Zoom in recent years.
She stressed the meeting was a non-partisan affair.
“I’m here because I’m your Member of Parliament, and you are, collectively, my boss, or the 120,000 people — roughly speaking — of Saanich-Gulf Islands are my bosses.”
May spoke positively about progress made on a number of fronts, both on some federal legislation and, most remarkably, the United Nations Biodiversity Conference of the Parties (COP) meeting held in Montreal in December. The COP 15 event was originally supposed to take place in September of 2020 in Kunming, China, May explained, was then postponed, and eventually the Canadian government offered to be the physical host instead, though with China still taking the lead role.
Some COP 15 outcomes included agreement to protect 30 per cent of lands and waters on the planet by 2030 and to respect Indigenous peoples and local communities in the process.
As well, May said, “We’re committed to more measures to deal with ocean plastics, we’re committed to cut the use of pesticides everywhere around the world as much as possible, so that we can save insects and pollinators of all kinds. We are committed to doing all of these things in full partnership with Indigenous peoples all around the world; that Indigenous sovereignty be respected. And the final treaty is full of references to Mother Earth. Referencing Mother Earth is not really normal UN language, right?”
She said the forward movement at the Montreal meeting contrasted with the disappointing UN Climate Change Conference (COP 27) in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt last November.
“I was really surprised and happy that COP 15 succeeded when we really had no good reason to think it would. And I think because Canada hosted, we have more, say, moral suasion, more potential for embarrassing the federal government if they don’t act, because this is kind of our baby — we were at least the midwife — so I think we can push on all the pieces there.”
All countries agreed to COP 15 decisions except for the U.S. and Vatican City.
On the domestic front, despite a number of challenges to getting legislation passed in Ottawa, May said some positive steps were made in the past year. Those included bills to ban conversion therapy by amending the criminal code; to provide emergency rent relief due to COVID-19 impacts; and dental care for children in low-income families.
Still to come is legislation to improve the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, an amendment to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (Bill S-5), and Bill C-226, which would create a national strategy to address environmental racism and environmental justice. As well, Bill C-22, which aims to help reduce poverty among persons with disabilities in Canada, has received the support it needs to become law.
May said her Green party colleague Mike Morris, the MP for Kitchener Centre, “made [Bill C-22] one of his top priorities and worked really hard, quietly, nicely, twisting arms in all the parties. A Conservative MP from Ontario, Karen Vecchio, decided to really push her caucus to make it unanimous.”
She said a number of details about the bill still need to be worked out, “but we are pleased with the fact it’s moving forward.”
“I have to say as much as I will disagree with various political parties in Canada, as a group of MPs, we seem to be able to get things done every now and then, which is good.”
May included a reminder about the climate crisis for her audience.
“Of course, I’m always fighting against the Trans Mountain Pipeline. I’m always trying to get us to cancel expanding fossil fuels and to live up to our commitments to protect future generations from the worst of the climate crisis. We’re no longer obviously talking about future generations. The climate crisis is here. We see it every day on the news, whether we’re talking about heat domes in British Columbia or what we’re just seeing in the news from California. We know that we’re in a climate emergency and trying to get governments to respond and understand that it is an emergency is I’d have to say one of the top issues I work on in Parliament.”
Islanders at the meeting had questions for May and made comments on a wide range of issues. They included the freighters anchoring in the Gulf Islands, marine-related debris and pollution in Ganges Harbour, RCMP operations locally and nation-wide, logging on Salt Spring and the housing and health-care crises.
May has been Saanich-Gulf Islands MP since 2011. After resigning as the Green Party of Canada leader in 2019, she recently agreed to be co-leader with party member Jonathan Pedneault, a former journalist and human rights investigator.