BLOG: What does creating political will look like in practice?

CCLer’s meeting with MP Richard Cannings, South Okanagan - West Kootenay, (third from left) and MP Wayne Stetski, Kootenay Columbia, (third from right) in Ottawa

This spring in the House of Commons, while the Official Opposition was hammering on the carbon tax and all of its apparent faults, we were applauding our two area MPs – Richard Cannings and Wayne Stetski – who spoke passionately and articulately for climate action and carbon pricing.

On May 8 MP Richard Cannings spoke at great length in support of a carbon tax and returning those revenues to citizens. Here is brief excerpt:

“…every economist will tell us that the cheapest, most efficient way of bringing down our carbon emissions is through a carbon tax. There are ways of protecting low-income families that are exposed to it. In British Columbia, there is a rebate. In Alberta, there is a rebate. In fact, 40% to 50% of British Columbians and Albertans are better off under the carbon tax, because they get more money back than they have to spend….

We have to bring our emissions down significantly in the next 12 years…A properly designed carbon tax can get us well on the way to meeting those targets, and it would do so at the least cost to all Canadians.”

MP Cannings then went on to link the need for carbon pricing to the devastating floods and fires that have occurred in his riding.

We saw similar support from MP Wayne Stetski. On June 12, he spoke strongly in support of green jobs and against the $4.5 billion Federal buy out of the Kinder Morgan pipeline.

“It is … essential that Canada make the transition to a green economy as quickly as possible. Besides the fact that we are woefully behind in our international obligations to do our part to combat climate change, the environmental risks of completing this pipeline are tremendous.”

He finished

“… by quoting correspondence from my constituents in Kootenay—Columbia about the pipeline project. Lorna from Kaslo wrote: Canada has unmet climate commitments. The fossil fuel industry is clearly changing global climate.”

Lorna was one of many constituents who attended our local CCL chapter’s letter writing events. Hundreds of letters were written and every one was copied to our local MPs. Lorna wondered if her letters made a difference. Now she knows they do.

Would these politicians have spoken up like this without CCL? Maybe, but in our first meetings with our two MPs, we recall that they weren’t all that familiar with the role of carbon pricing in fighting climate change. They also didn’t seem too sure that their constituents would support strong words on climate action, and more specifically, on carbon pricing.

Every CCL chapter works hard to build a relationship with their MP. Which strategies actually make the biggest difference?

Key is meeting with them regularly in the riding and in Ottawa during our lobbying days so that we become familiar, friendly faces. Asking our MPs for advice, and how we can support them to take action on climate change, is also important – as is letting them know about the work CCL does. We let our MPs know through LTEs, petitions and letter writing that their constituents do care about this issue. We collaborate with local environmental groups who are also working effectively to build this political will.

It can feel daunting to keep requesting meetings with our MPs and to keep putting our case forward. The reward is having friends in Parliament who speak confidently about addressing climate change and the need for carbon pricing.

 – Blog by Judy O’Leary and Laura Sacks, co-leaders of the Nelson – West Kootenay (BC) Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby