Bill C-12 isn’t perfect, but at least now it has some teeth
National Observer ~ Ian Theaker, Climate Messengers Canada ~ June 23, 2021
Canada has met none of the many emissions targets declared by successive federal governments, yet the Liberals’ climate “transparency and accountability” Bill C-12 started with little of either. The bill’s journey to the version now awaiting third reading by the Commons and a Senate review resulted in a much-improved — if still imperfect — law that must be passed before this parliamentary session ends. If it doesn’t, we will have missed our chance to call future governments to account for real and rapid climate action.
I’m one of thousands of Leadnow volunteers across the country.
Recently, we formed a group called Climate Messengers Canada, united by our deep concern about climate threats to our children, our grandchildren and the world. We gathered to see if a few thoughtful, committed citizens could help inform and engage the broader public to fix the flawed — but essential! — Bill C-12 Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act. And we’ve found that ordinary people, empowered by Leadnow’s pragmatic tactics and the energy of its 670,000-plus members, can make a difference.
We’ve learned about federal politics and climate legislation. (Spoiler: Making sausages looks pretty by comparison.) The quest to improve C-12 revealed deep and widespread climate concern, some collegial collaboration — and much partisan grandstanding, too clever manoeuvring and procedural incompetence. Greta Thunberg captured it well: “For way too long, the politicians and the people in power have gotten away with not doing anything to fight the climate crisis, but we will make sure that they will not get away with it any longer. We have done our homework, and they have not.”
We also found that we are not alone. Many engaged Canadians stepped up to call for and suggest thoughtful, effective improvements to make C-12 truly fit for its purpose, providing real transparency and accountability. Thousands signed petitions, called and emailed their MPs to improve C-12; more than 60 individuals, non-profits and Indigenous groups submitted thoughtful briefs that identify and fix the original bill’s worst elements. Now C-12 includes several key amendments that do respond to citizens’ suggestions, such as:
- A 2026 emissions objective
- Stronger, more frequent progress reports
- An independent advisory body that combines Indigenous and climate science expertise
- A plan to meet our 2026 emissions objective and 2030 target within six months
It’s still not perfect, but the amended C-12 now has real teeth. It will be reviewed and improved in 2026, and it’s now an effective tool to hold governments accountable for real climate action — if it’s passed by both the House and the Senate before Parliament adjourns for the summer.
If not, Canadians could well face yet another government with gales of climate rhetoric, but little or no accountability.