02 December 2011

Elizabeth May, Tuvalu and honest representation

I was intrigued by Green Party Leader Elizabeth May's attempt to join the Tuvalu delegation at the Durban Climate Change Conference. As she explained, "If my government, the Government of Canada, does not need my help, I offer it to another government, one that works for my children because the Government of Canada does not work for my children, my grandchildren." Unfortunately, May missed the deadline so will be attending the conference as a mere observer.

Not only is May's attempt to collaborate with a nation that is disappearing under the waves praiseworthy, but it illustrates a problem with the way Canadian views are represented in the global arena. As May points out, "When Canada goes to an international negotiation, it doesn't go as the Harper government, it goes as Canada." Well, it certainly should, but unfortunately it doesn't. It represents only the Conservative Party. A great many Canadians, obviously including Elizabeth May, are not represented at the Durban Conference and are reduced to gnashing their teeth in frustration as Environment Minister Peter Kent "plays hardball." Many of us are, in this instance, better represented by the government of Tuvalu.

This applies to many, perhaps most issues. A government elected by 40 per cent of the voters purports to represent all Canadians on the world stage. This representation may be politically legitimate but it is morally fraudulent. The morally sound approach—the democratic approach—would be for a Canadian delegation to include representatives from all parties in the House of Commons, allowing them to debate and vote their consciences as they see fit. That, unfortunately, is hardly likely, certainly not with the current government.

Including all parties would not only represent Canadians more democratically, it would represent them more logically. After all, divisions in the world are less accurately described by nationality than they are by philosophy. Environmentally responsible Canadians have more in common with environmentally responsible Tuvaluans than they do with Canadian climate change deniers, or Tuvaluan climate change deniers for that matter ... if there are any.

All Elizabeth May attempted to do was ensure that Canada was honestly and morally represented. I salute her effort. If the government persists in denying large numbers of Canadians representation at international conferences, I hope the other opposition parties will follow her example.

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