Politics isn’t always ugly

A few weeks ago, I was asked to say a few words at an Earth Hour event in a public park in our riding. I said, “Yes please, and thank you!” of course.

I took with me a petition in support of my private member’s bill, the Climate Change Accountability Act. My thought … anybody showing up on this night, in March, in the dark must – well, is likely – to be concerned about climate change and is likely – well, may – sign a petition to be presented in the House.

My Bill (C-619), sets out mandatory greenhouse gas reduction targets to 2050. The purpose is to lower greenhouse gas emissions to the level (80 percent below 1990 levels) required to avoid two degrees of global warming by 2050. If we fail to meet these targets, we lose our ability to stabilize and manage change to our planet thereafter, says the science.

So, I checked in with the event organizer, confirmed my place on the agenda, turned and offered my petition to the first person I encountered. I was interrupted by the organizer as the citizen filled out the petition. We want this to be a “neutral” event, was the message. Well, fair warning, I replied, my comments can’t be, won’t be “neutral” on this issue.

I lost my speaking spot.

I know there’s a time and place for politics. Sometimes we as politicians are just there to celebrate or support others. But, always, our job is to answer the political question: “So, what should we do?”

It’s not an easy question to answer. It’s a complicated world we live in. But the answers we come up with, and the process of arriving at those answers, is not always ugly either.

Sometimes, at least, the answers to the political question bring us hope. Sometimes relief. Sometimes the answer is redeeming.

The same is true of the discussions that get you there. The local process, the East End Sustainability Network that shaped the development of my urban white paper, was always fruitful, month after month, over the course of two years.

At my recent International Women’s Day event, Amy Desjarlais, an Anishinabek woman, imagined our missing and murdered indigenous sisters asking from the other side: “What are you going to do? How are you going to honour our lives and deaths?” It’s the political question. The discussion was intimate and profoundly sad and loving – and political. The inquiry that we, the NDP, have promised is hopeful. The answer that will come from that may be redemptive.

So, at Earth Hour I had a message that I looked forward to delivering. It’s not neutral because it is a partial answer, at least, to the political question, “What do we do about climate change?” But it is not ugly either. It has to do with my Climate Change Accountability Act. But it also has to do with our cities.

The pathway to a low-carbon existence goes through our cities. It must. Our cities are responsible for at least three-quarters of our fossil fuel end-use. We can’t get to the necessary emission targets without our cities looking and functioning very differently than they do today. It means rethinking how we live in, what we live in and how we move around our cities. It means cities friendly to pedestrians and cyclists. It means rapid transit and energy-efficient buildings. It means trees and green. It means that vision set out in my urban white paper and more – things that we have yet to invent, yet to conceive of.

And it means jobs. A global commitment to getting to 80 percent below 1990 levels requires a $44 trillion investment in clean energy. So far in Canada we have captured just one per cent of the existing global clean energy industry. But we are well positioned to more fully participate in this industry and begin the transformation to fairer, sustainable cities with a prosperity more equally shared.

In other words, the answer to the political question is not ugly. It is hopeful. It is promising. We deal with global warming by building the cities that we want to live in. That’s good news. And it’s politics.


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3 comments

What a thoughtful response from Matt Kellway. It is incredibly sad that politics has become a dirty word for so many and that organizers of community events suppress any mention of it. The need for political action on so many fronts is vital to having a sustainable community and this should be encouraged not sidelined. It seems that Earth Hour in particular makes a mockery of the need for action on climate change.

This is an election year and the other major parties have selected candidates.

The Beach Metro is supposed to be non-partisan.

Mr. Kellway admits that his messages are not “neutral” and clearly he is promoting himself and his accomplishments , which begs the question “Why aren’t we hearing anything in the Beach Metro from candidates for other parties?”

We don’t allow any candidate or potential candidate for a given election to write for the paper within six months of that election. The next federal election is set for Oct. 19, and this column was published in our April 7 issue.

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