On April 14, 2012 Kingston and the Islands Federal Liberal Association held a non-partisan public town hall on the issue of Climate Change. A standing-room crowd of at least 270 Kingstonians packed into the historic Memorial Room in City Hall. Their sheer number, energy and commitment definitively put a lie to the assertion that Canadians have lost interest in climate change. As was pointed in the discussion, the Harper Government’s muzzling of both environmental non-governmental organizations and government-funded scientists have left ad hoc citizen groups the last bastion of resistance to its anti-environment agenda.
Ted Hsu, John Smol and Stéphane Dion each gave a passionate 10-minute dissertation on different aspects of responding to the climate change crisis. The applause for Mr. Dion was especially prolonged, to the verge of becoming a standing ovation. By intent, most of the 90-minute meeting was reserved for comments and questions from audience participants. One of them was Dianne Dowling, co-founder of the Save Our Prison Farms coalition, who brought tears to many an eye when she described what her citizens’ activist group had done to be so successful, how she had no regrets because her group’s stance was right while the Harper Government was (and still is) wrong, and why climate change is a thousand times more important.
By far the most important outcome of the meeting was that the audience rose to the challenge of not allowing the energy in the room to dissipate. Steve Lapp, a well-known local environmentalist, surprised even himself by being moved to stand up and take initial leadership of birthing a new citizen activist group, tentatively called Kingston Climate Change. More than half of those at the meeting signed up on the spot to join that group, which is already preparing to deliver a presentation to Parliament on June 7. If you would like to get involved or at least be kept informed, please contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While we Liberals can justifiably take some pride in having initiated and hosted the event which sparked the creation of this group, it’s quite properly not our group. We learned from experience supporting the prison farm protest movement that non partisan citizen-led groups can often be more effective than overtly political ones such as our riding association. As part of our community outreach efforts, we’ll certainly offer any help we can to Kingston Climate Change, hopefully in friendly competition with our colleagues in the other progressive opposition parties. After all, it’s our collective future as Kingstonians, Canadians and global citizens that really matters. In that respect, there is no more important issue than global warming.
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently warned that all nations will be vulnerable to the expected increase in heat waves, more intense rains and floods, and a probable rise in the intensity of droughts. The report makes it clear that nations need to act now because increasingly extreme weather is already apparent.
When it comes to acting on these and a myriad other warnings, Canada has essentially dropped the ball. In 2005, then Environment Minister Stéphane Dion chaired a UN Climate Change Conference in Montreal which resulted in a substantive agreement on the actions to be taken. Since then, Canada’s record has been disastrous and our country has been condemned at subsequent UN conferences.