Life vs money (March 22, 2020)

Good Sunday Morning!

It has been one weird week. I have been self-isolating at home in Sidney. I am half-way through my two week period of self-imposed quarantine. Given the number of MPs who were in contact with people with COVID19, not to mention the numbers of people I run into on airplanes and in airports, it seemed the responsible thing to do.

What has made it a particularly weird week is that working from home, I am part of the roll-out of unprecedented government programmes. And I have had frequent meetings by phone with ministers and parliamentary secretaries who are developing these programmes and are open to Green advice. At the same time, I am consumed with constituent issues – especially for Canadians stranded overseas. I have been trying to get people on planes from Bali, Peru, Ecuador, India, Mexico and Kiev. Six constituents are on board the MS Marina- the massive cruise ship that could not get to port. I am now part-time MP- part-time travel agent.

It is weird to never leave home, but spend the day with competing priorities and non-stop stress. Between phone, zoom meetings and emails and dueling blackberries, I am feeling useful. Making sure every Canadian has a financial backstop, making sure more funding goes to the homeless shelters and that individual constituents get the help they need (among other things) creates a very heavy workload, but one that is ultimately very satisfying. And, of course, I am pushing as hard as I can that any “bail out” to oil and gas is only for workers engaged in environmental remediation – the clean-up of the oil sands and orphaned oil wells.

It occurred to me mid-week that the reason I (and other Green MPs) have so much access to key ministers is that, with everyone working from home, the gatekeepers are no longer able to control access; that and that the various ministers and parliamentary secretaries find us constructive in a time of crisis.

When parliament resumes on Tuesday for a series of measures to be approved by unanimous consent, the House will be almost empty. Quorum is twenty-five MPs – out of 338. The negotiations to ensure the wording of the motion to push through legislation in one day – that would normally take months – is happening between party leadership right now. While Greens are not directly part of the negotiation, unanimous consent means exactly that. It must be unanimous, so Greens are in the mix. We certainly do not want to be obstructionist. But to move a massive shift in legislative language toward getting money rolled out to Canadians in hours instead of months, we do need to check the fine print.

I am so very glad we are a caucus of three (of course, I would prefer a caucus of 30!). We function as a team. Jenica Atwin, Green MP for Fredericton, will be our voice in those critical sessions. She is so capable. That she is able to drive to Ottawa from Fredericton, avoiding airports keeping to solid public health advice, is just a God-send.

It does strike me that some important global transformations may be at hand.

For the first time in my life, a whole lot of governments are essentially saying “The economy be damned. We have to save lives!” So, for the first time, life is more important than money.

Take this forward and imagine governments taking the same approach to the climate emergency. Once the COVID19 crisis has abated, and please God that we see that day within a few months, can we not hold fast to ensure we realign our economy such that we move sharply to a zero-carbon economy?

Turned on its head, imagine if governments had approached COVID19 the way they have handled the climate crisis. We would still be standing around, as the virus spread, while learned pundits opine, “I really do not see any evidence that Canadians are ready for constant hand-washing. People congregate in large gatherings – concerts and parties. There is no way a government can change behaviour and get millions to work from home overnight.”

But listening to science and taking appropriate advice, governments have asked more of their citizens, and- with rare exceptions – citizens are prepared to agree. “Life is more important than money.”

Things will get much worse before they get better. That is the nature of viral spread. It is not the number of cases we should watch with concern, but the rate of change, and how quickly the rate of change increases.

Thanks to all the front line health care workers and all those who keep working when many of us self-isolate and work from home.

Stay safe. Keep your distance. Take care of each other. (and please check out the P.S.)

Much love,


P.S. The Green Party federal council elections are entirely virtual, so they are proceeding without any delay. If you are not sure your GPC membership is up to date, please check and if you are not yet a member, please go on line and join now. Federal Council runs the party; the leader is just one vote out of 19 on council. The future of the party will be determined more by who is on council than who is leader. So, please, be sure your membership is up to date well before April 1st when voting will open!

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