Undaunted by the seemingly inevitable passage of a motion that they fear will drastically curtail their power to fully represent their constituents, a trio of independent-minded MPs have launched an eleventh-hour letter-writing campaign against the government's latest gambit to streamline the legislative process.
Earlier today, Procedure and House Affairs chair Joe Preston received a letter "respectfully requesting," in the collective name of Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and Independent MPs Bruce Hyer and Brent Rathgeber, that the committee reject the Conservative-backed proposal to force them to submit any proposed amendments during clause-by-clause review, rather than putting them forward from the floor of the House during report stage debate -- a previously little-known perk accorded to independents, who aren't permitted to sit on committees.
Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada, is not the prime minister. But if she were, she wants you to know that she would be delivering a very different speech from the throne than that which is expected Wednesday evening.
You can follow along with the real speech from the throne here, but in the mean time you can also read May’s version of the document below.
Honourable Senators, Members of the House of Commons, Ladies and gentlemen,
A Speech from the Throne – in our Westminster parliamentary democracy – should bear fidelity to all our traditions. Canada is a Constitutional monarchy. Canada is a Westminster Parliamentary democracy and that is why I, as Governor General, read a speech filling the role of stand-in monarch. The Speech from the Throne, prepared by those in majority in the House of Commons, despite its quaint rituals, represents the underscoring of the fundamental principles of legitimate governance, going back to 1215 and Magna Carta. Government is only legitimate by consent of the governed.
We meet in the Senate chambers, the Canadian version of the House of Lords and purview of monarchy, following the ritual lone walk by the Senate’s Usher of the Black Rod to visit the House of Commons. The slamming of the Commons door in the face of the visiting royal representative is more than a peculiar anachronism. It is the on-going recognition of the fundamental principle of the supremacy of Parliament – and, in particular, of the Commoners as supreme over the monarch. Our traditions, observed more often as bizarre rituals of dwindling consequence, are actually important.
They express the reality that our living, breathing democracy shares the air of those fields at Runnymede in 1215 when the king had to accept that even a king cannot ignore the people. Magna Carta came from that commitment – a king must consult the commoners. And that is why, lined up behind that small barrier at the doors of this chamber, stand the commoners – the legitimate representatives of the people of Canada – the House of Commons. I am mindful, as the prime minister has asked me to mention, that she is not seated here to my right, as previous prime ministers have been, but standing with the other Members of Parliament. This tradition is practiced in the UK. It is somewhat odd that it had slipped away in Canada. Members of Parliament, commoners all – equal in theory – represent the people of Canada.
When Elizabeth May won a seat for Saanich Gulf Islands in the 2011 election, she became the first Green Party member in North America to win a seat in federal government. Meanwhile, Stephen Harper won a majority government with a minority of votes amid widespread allegations of voting fraud. Since then, one of the few things our elected representatives have been able to agree upon was to name May "Parliamentarian of the Year" in 2012, as determined by a free vote of all MPs.
A lawyer and long-time activist, May has written seven nonfiction books including Losing Confidence: Power, Politics And The Crisis In Canadian Democracy and How to Save the World in Your Spare Time. On Thursday, Oct. 17 at 5 p.m., she will give a free public lecture at UBC's Cecil Green Park House as part of the Utopia/Dystopia: Creating the Worlds We Want lecture series organized by the Creative Writing Program http://creativewriting.ubc.ca/ and Green College. As youth political participation plummets and a troubling cynicism towards democracy mounts, May will discuss what can be done to reverse a slide into "elected dictatorships."
The Tyee recently corresponded with May. Here is what she had to say.
On what Canadians should know about Stephen Harper:
"Stephen Harper remains something of an enigma. He is a highly disciplined individual. He is essentially an introvert and a loner, but is capable of forcing himself to appear in ways to enhance a 'likeability' factor that eludes him. Stephen Harper comes from none of our traditional Canadian political roots. Neither comfortable in the Progressive Conservative tradition nor Manning's populist Reform roots, he is essentially a libertarian. As Don Martin once commented in the National Post, 'He is a control freak with a mean streak.'"
This court ruling overruled the Alberta government's attempt to silence its critics. Elizabeth May is like a lone voice in the wilderness calling for a return to democracy. Unfettered by large-party politics, she speaks for all Canadians on a critical issue, the erosion of democracy in this country.
This erosion is visible in federal, and more recently, provincial politics. It is time for all Canadians to make their voices heard on this critical subject before powerful politicians make harmful decisions that our children and grandchildren will inherit.
We are here to ensure our children inherit a better world, not an inferior one. It looks like they will inherit the latter unless their parents take action.
“You need to get Elizabeth May on your site. Elizabeth has been an activist, environmental lawyer, federal policy advisor, head of the Sierra Club Canada, our first elected Green MP, and was the 2012 Parliamentarian of the Year as selected by other MPs.”
Quite the endorsement. Not that the Green Party of Canada leader really needs it. She’s had an extraordinary life so far.
Read through Elizabeth’s Green Party bio or Wikipedia entry and you’ll learn that she was just a teenager when she led a successful campaign to prevent insecticide spraying on the forests of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. That finances kept her from finishing an undergraduate degree, but that she got through Dalhousie Law School anyway as a mature student (graduating in 1983 with a reference letter from then-Governor of Arkansas Bill Clinton).