Monday, June 04, 2012

When silence is still golden .....

Websites go dark in anti budget protest
Environmental groups lead online protest against Bill C-38

By Susana Mas
Sunday, June 3, 2012
The NDP website switched from colour to black and white in Monday, as part of an online protest against the Harper government's budget implementation bill. (CBC)

A coalition of Canada's top environmental groups says close to 18,000 Canadians and over 400 organizations have committed to blacking out their websites on Monday — a symbolic gesture in protest of what they see is the government's effort to "silence" environmental voices across the country.

In an interview with CBC News on Sunday, Gideon Forman, the executive director for the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment — one of a dozen environmental groups leading this online campaign — said "the Conservative government's attack on democracy and the environment is unprecedented."

The "Black Out, Speak Out" campaign calls on Canadians to raise their voices against proposed changes to environmental laws included in Bill C-38, the government's budget implementation bill. Environmental groups say the changes will weaken environmental laws.

Some of the individuals and organizations darkening their sites Monday included author Margaret Atwood, singers Bruce Cockburn and Sarah Harmer, the David Suzuki Foundation and the Sierra Club of Canada. Some completely pulled their websites for the day and replaced them with the campaign's message. Others, including those of the NDP, Liberal and Green parties, referenced the campaign prominently on their landing page and went with a black and white or greyed-out look for their regular site contents.
   The campaign website also includes darkened Facebook avatars and Twitter "twibbons" for profile pictures to encourage individual Canadians to support the campaign.
The Bloc Québécois website went to black on Monday, as part of the 'Black Out, Speak Out' campaign.
The Bloc Québécois website went to black on Monday, as part of the 'Black Out, Speak Out' campaign. (CBC)

"We are of the opinion that in order to protect the environment there has to be a very robust public debate in energy projects and other controversial projects with big environmental impact, and the Conservative
government is trying to kill that public participation and that's very worrisome," said Forman, whose group represents over 5,000 doctors and concerned citizens.

"It's worrisome for the environment, it's also terribly worrisome for our democracy."

While the websites go dark, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver and nine other cabinet ministers will fan out across the country to promote the government's plan for "Responsible Resource Development" — one of the various measures proposed in Bill C-38.
In an interview with CBC News on Sunday, Conservative MP James Rajotte — chair of the House finance committee tasked with examining the government's budget bill — said this is "the longest" time in memory that a committee has spent looking at a budget bill.

Rajotte said "it's a very public process" and noted the Conservatives agreed to send the part of the budget bill that deals with changes to the environment, natural resources and fisheries (Part 3 of Bill C-38) to a finance subcommittee for closer scrutiny.

Budget bill 'rammed through' subcommittee: NDP critic

But Meagan Leslie, NDP environment critic and deputy House leader, told CBC News that that section of the bill should have been sent to the environment committee. Given that Bill C-38 consists of over 400 pages, the time allotted for examining the bill overall is "hardly adequate," she said.

According to Leslie, the study of Part 3 of the budget bill was "rammed through" the subcommittee, where witnesses were "rushed" and "attacked" by Conservative members.

"It was disgraceful. This was absolutely not democracy."

Rajotte said that on Monday the finance committee will look at the subcommittee's report on Part 3 of the budget bill and then deal with all of Bill C-38 clause by clause.

The New Democrat said the proposed changes are "too much. It's too radical a change to our existing environmental legislation."

"I think it's fair to say that very likely the Opposition will have a dissenting report," Leslie said.

Speaking from a Liberal Party convention in Montreal on Sunday, interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae said his party will also join in the online campaign to protest what they see as the federal government's attempt to "shut down discussion and people's ability to advocate for better public policy."

"This government isn't just trying to attack the opposition, but they're attacking every institution that is there to protect the individual rights of Canadians and they're attacking charitable organizations which are trying to participate in the development of good policy for Canada," said Rae.

The Green Party and its leader Elizabeth May will also black out their websites in support of the online campaign, as will the Bloc Québécois.

"We are proud to stand in solidarity with Canada's environmental community," read a statement issued by May late on Sunday.

"There has been a recent chill due to smear campaigns. When environmental groups are demonized as 'radical' or 'against Canada,' we stand with them," the Green Party leader said. "If protecting nature, wilderness and our kids' future means our own government can attack us as 'radical,' then all Canadians must be radical."

According to Rajotte, "It comes down to whether political parties and members of Parliament support these changes or not. It's a valid political debate, but I suspect that in terms of resource development and sustainability these will be lively political issues for the length of this entire Parliament."


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home