House of Commons Hansard #107 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was finance.

Topics

Prebudget Consultations
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Madam Speaker, with regard to the older workers issue, the solution does not come from me but rather from older workers themselves, and it was unanimously approved by the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development as one of the 17 recommendations.

That recommendation called upon the government to put in place a program similar to the previous program for older worker adjustment, or POWA, which died on March 31, 1995, under the current Liberal government. We will really need that type of program over the next few months because of the massive layoffs currently underway.

Just yesterday I was talking to the member for Trois-Rivières who was telling me about a situation experienced in his riding. In Sherbrooke, I met workers from the Beloit company who went through the same thing two years ago.

These workers became social assistance recipients. Members should hear the testimonies we heard on the subject. It is just terrible. We have often experienced similar situations in my riding. We are talking about people who worked in sawmills, for example, who became experts in their field, who started working there with a grade 7 or grade 8 education and who worked 25 to 30 years for the same company. These people will not become computer technicians overnight.

These people are almost 60 years old. They earned a good living, paid employment insurance premiums during their whole career and are suddenly faced with nothing after receiving EI benefits for 20, 30 or 40 weeks.

More should be done. Considering that the surplus in the EI fund will soon reach $40 billion and considering that this year again a $6 billion surplus will be accumulated, it would be fair to allocate a reasonable amount to this issue so as to recognize the contribution that these workers, who are leaving the job market, have made to our society.

As for the question on renewable energy, I find it very relevant. In my region, the vast eastern region of Quebec, the lower St. Lawrence and the Gaspé Peninsula, there is enormous potential. I have been told that in Quebec this is probably the region with the greatest potential.

It would be interesting because in our society we must evaluate short term needs, but also medium and long term needs. What we will do in the future with our planet, our society, is being determined now. If our children can live in a better environment and enjoy a better quality of life, it will be because of concrete measures such as those.

I think that if the federal government decided to include something like that in the upcoming budget, it could achieve positive results at a very low cost. I hope that an initiative, such as the one proposed by the hon. member for Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, can be included in the budget. This would be another contribution on our part, in addition to the $5 billion action plan proposed by the Bloc Quebecois.

Prebudget Consultations
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine
Québec

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Cooperation

Madam Speaker, I am quite pleased to take part in the debate on prebudget consultations.

I had a chance over the summer to consult with many members of my constituency, which is Notre-Dame-de-Grâce--Lachine. I also had a chance to speak with quite a few of them following the events of September 11. I would like to highlight one important point.

The overwhelming priorities of the majority of people in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine prior to September 11 have changed significantly since then. Prior to September 11, they were looking forward to the government investing significant sums into stimulating the economy, such as the broadband rollout to ensure that all communities across Canada had access to high speed wireless. This would help improve access to higher education. It would help the economy and stimulate economic development in the small communities in the remote and rural areas. It would also help those small communities to deal with the issue of retaining their young people and attracting new populations and businesses into them.

Health was also high on the priorities. I believe my colleague on this side of the House talked earlier about a survey not too long ago, but definitely before September 11, that showed something like 66% of Canadians thought that health was the primary objective.

Since September 11, the prism through which residents in the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce--Lachine riding look has changed significantly in terms of the budget and government priorities.

That tragedy has brought home the notion that to protect democracy and our fundamental rights and freedoms we need good security. For that, we need to provide our law enforcement with the tools and the resources necessary to ensure that high level of security and to ensure that democracy within Canada is protected. Also, to ensure that democracy is reinforced worldwide, the majority of my constituents support Canada's involvement with its allies in the latest military struggle to combat terrorism. Therefore, they also recognize the need for investments for our military.

These have become priorities for most Canadians, and definitely for Canadians and non-Canadians residing in my riding. I have a very multi-ethnic and diverse riding. It receives new Canadians and newly arrived immigrants every year.

However, one priority, which has always been a priority in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce--Lachine, is Canada's role in international development and co-operation. Now it has become even higher on the radar screen.

As an example, while the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce--Lachine Liberal riding association is partisan, it has had one of the most active social policy committees across Canada. Many of its resolutions have dealt with issues of international co-operation and development, Canada's need and role in combating poverty, not only in Canada but across the world and ensuring access to primary education within the world.

I will be sharing my time, Madam Speaker, with my colleague from Toronto--Danforth.

Since I have been there and also during the years of my predecessor, Warren Allmand, a priority of my riding has been Canada's role in international development was important and Canada's investments in that area was also important.

As I said, since September 11 the prism through which residents of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce--Lachine look at issues of budget priorities has changed. Along with the priorities that I announced and with which they agree, they also wish to see the government place an emphasis and priority on international development.

They were very pleased with the throne speech of this year where the government clearly committed to increasing its investments in official development assistance and seeing that those investments went to reducing international poverty and to strengthening democracy, justice and social stability throughout the world.

We have heard many people comment on the root causes of terrorism. As we all know, those terrorists who actually committed that heinous crime on September 11 came from the middle class. However support for the type of vile ideas that they have been vehicling is found in those countries that are the poorest, where children do not have access to basic health services or basic education.

People in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce--Lachine recognize that and feel that Canada, which is noted across the world for the great work that it has done in the past and is doing today in official development assistance in international development, needs to maintain its commitment on that front.

I will not take much more time because I want to ensure that my colleague has the opportunity to speak. Therefore I will end by saying thaNotre-Dame-de-Grâce--Lachinet the overwhelming majority of constituents in support the government's actions and is confident that the government will bring down a budget which addresses the priorities in security and law enforcement and addresses our need to support our military involvement in the fight against terrorism. As well, they are confident that the government will look at the other issues that are pressing and that need to be addressed in the medium and long term.

Prebudget Consultations
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have a short question for the member which has to do with parliamentary supremacy when it comes to matters of the budget.

Is the member, as a Liberal backbencher, content to allow this input and perhaps some in caucus and then to vote according to the party mantra? Whatever is done right now and in the next month in the back rooms of the finance department will become law and there is absolutely no mechanism in parliament to even make a small amendment to the budget when it is brought down. Is the member content with that?

Prebudget Consultations
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Madam Speaker, the budget is the incarnation of the government's commitment to the Canadian public. It comprises those commitments on which the party was elected to government. That is my answer.

Prebudget Consultations
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Dennis Mills Toronto—Danforth, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Cooperation, for allowing me five minutes to deal with this issue. I wanted to be on the record because after the budget is tabled, if we have not put our thoughts to the minister and to the finance department, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

I personally believe that this budget will be the most important budget that the Minister of Finance has ever tabled. I believe it will be a career-making or a career-breaking budget. In the last eight years we have had huge bonuses in the economy as a government and as a House of Commons. The GST take alone, in the last eight years, has been almost $200 billion which has gone into the system.

I want to be on the record on three specific points to the Minister of Finance and to the finance department.

First, I am afraid to death of the way we are treating small businesses at this precise moment. I have heard in the last two weeks from small businesses that the banks are starting to lose the sensitivity they built up over the last number of years. I appeal to the Minister of Finance to make sure the banks become very sensitive to small businesses over the next few months as we go through this bad patch. Mr. Greenspan in the United States made that point a few days ago to the banks of America.

The second point I want to raise has to do with the issue of consumer confidence. As a government we have very little influence. Our leverage in making an impact on this economy and on confidence is marginal now because we have retreated so much from the economic activity of this country. Our leverage is very small in this grand economy. We will have to do something bold to really have an impact, to really have some leverage and to recapture some of the consumer confidence that was there just eight months ago. It was fragile before September 11 and it is obviously much more fragile now.

My recommendation is that we look seriously at giving Canada a six month GST holiday. I would prefer it for a year but I would settle for half the loaf. That would really give a blast of confidence and put some juice into our economic system. It is something we need to do because playing around the edges will not rebuild the confidence that is sorely needed.

I am absolutely frustrated that we do not have more time to deal with budget preparation. This should be a debate with unlimited hours. We should throw the clock away. The notion that this debate has to end in such a short time is tragic, especially when it is the most important economic moment probably in 50 years of our country's history.

I humbly and firmly appeal to the Minister of Finance and to the officials in finance to be bold and make sure we think of those people who are part of that human deficit right now because that is really why we are Liberals. The human deficit is much more important than the fiscal deficit.

Prebudget Consultations
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, I remind the member that he was elected in 1993 on a platform of killing the GST. Now he is proud of the money the government is getting from it and he is proposing a six month holiday. I would suggest to him that a six month holiday on that tax would in fact give a temporary impulse to the economy and then would kill it totally when the tax kicked back in. Everybody would have spent their money in that time and then they would shut it down completely. It is like putting a tourniquet around your neck when you have a nosebleed.

Prebudget Consultations
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Dennis Mills Toronto—Danforth, ON

Madam Speaker, I respect the member's point of view. I respect the point of view of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance.

If the hon. member has a better idea for stimulating consumer confidence I will be there, but so far I have not heard anything on how we can stimulate consumer confidence. I have listened to the debate all day. If the hon. member can come up with a better idea I will be there to support him.

Prebudget Consultations
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Madam Speaker, I will take advantage of the presence of two persons who are very interested in the question of banks to ask them whether we should not pass in this House a bill on community reinvestment by banks, like the one the U.S. has had since 1977.

Prebudget Consultations
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Dennis Mills Toronto—Danforth, ON

Madam Speaker, it is no secret to the House or to the country that I totally support that idea. If there is a weakness in the country, it has been our inability to really mobilize banks and their attitude toward small and medium sized businesses and those businessmen and women. We will need to do it in this next budget.

Prebudget Consultations
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

It being 5.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Climate Change
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Bob Mills Red Deer, AB

moved:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should renew discussions on climate change through the development of a new transparent, accountable consultation process, based on sound science and economic study, that results in realistic goals for carbon emissions reduction.

Madam Speaker, it is certainly my pleasure to speak today about this most important subject. I think this will be one of the subjects, next to terrorism, that in the next few months will be on many people's minds.

In times of peace and prosperity it is very easy to talk about things, to agree to treaties and to promise things without really knowing what they mean or what they might do to the Canadian public. It would be easy to find the money to cover up some of these loose promises, but now we are in a different situation. In times of crisis like these, talk is expensive. Words are expensive. Every word carries great weight. In times of crisis we must renew those commitments made when we were in a free and easy mode. Those commitments made with great optimism but without regard for consequences were excusable then but are inexcusable now.

This brings me to the subject for today. I think that within the next year Canadians will be facing perhaps the most expensive government commitment since World War II. I am not talking about new security measures, which will undoubtedly be costly. I am not talking about the ongoing war against terrorism, which will also be costly. I am talking about Canada's commitment, signed in 1997, to the Kyoto protocol. As we speak meetings are going on in Marrakesh with the intention of ratifying it. The minister will be joining those meetings next week.

In light of that I have put forward my motion today to, I hope, begin discussion in the House about this most important subject. I strongly believe that the Kyoto protocol is not the right answer for climate change. I agree there is climate change but I do not think the Kyoto protocol is the answer.

I would like to address the specific flaws of the accord and present my vision of an action plan that would much more effectively address the problems of climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. The Kyoto protocol would do little to help the environment, yet at the same time it would bring great pain to the Canadian economy. Very simply, I believe that the Kyoto protocol is unworkable, and if this house is built on sand and a storm comes, this house will fall down.

Kyoto is a bad agreement. It is an agreement built on sand. The storms of reality have come since September 11 and the Kyoto house will undoubtedly fall. The best we can do is tear it down before we Canadians get hurt. While filled with good intentions, the protocol would do little to prevent global warming. The actual accomplishments of Kyoto, if its carbon emission reductions were to be met, would be almost nothing.

One of the lead scientists involved in the International Panel on Climate Change has estimated that if all countries that signed the protocol, including the U.S., lived up to their commitments, projected climate change would be reduced by only less than one-fifth of a degree celsius by the year 2100. In other words, projected climate change would be delayed by only six years by 2100, yet developed nations are willing to spend trillions of dollars for just six years. For all those trillions of dollars spent worldwide to implement the protocol, it would achieve almost no reduction in projected temperature increases.

If ratified, the protocol would legally bind Canada to reduce its emissions to 6% below 1990 levels. This is certainly no easy task especially considering that in 1999 Canada was 15% above 1990 levels and 22% above Kyoto commitments. How can we expect to reduce emissions below 1990 levels when we have pushed ourselves so far above them?

Let me remind everyone that in 1997 the Liberal government entered into the Kyoto talks without a plan. In fact, we were the only G-8 country without a public position before Kyoto. The Reform Party at the time pushed for accountability. What was the Liberal plan? How much would it cost? Nothing was forthcoming from the government. There was only constant evasion of the question, with big words but no plan. Let me also remind the House that now in 2001 the Liberal government, threatening to ratify Kyoto, still has very little idea of a concrete plan or its cost. It entered into the Kyoto protocol full of great intentions but with empty words and no notion of the costs of implementation.

The Prime Minister has yet to open his eyes to the drastic effects of ratifying Kyoto. So far the Liberals have plans to meet only one-third of the Kyoto commitment. The most interesting developments and repeated assertions by the Prime Minister and his colleagues are that they support development of Alberta's tar sands and other production for export to the U.S. That is going in exactly the reverse direction of meeting the Kyoto commitment, yet they still claim they can meet their targets.

The United States has now rejected the Kyoto protocol. The country that emits close to 25% of the world's emissions is not bound by the protocol. It has decided there are better ways to fight climate change and in co-operation with industry is looking for more effective solutions. It is looking for solutions and it is getting there. Canada is not.

Our biggest trading partner is exempt from a hugely expensive burden that will affect every person in Canada. Not only would this mean that the much higher energy prices in Canada compared to the U.S. would drive many businesses away from Canada to other countries, and what our dollar is doing now is nothing compared to what it will do if we ratify Kyoto, it would also mean that pollution is not eliminated, only transferred to another country.

As well, not only is the pollution in many cases transferred to a different part of the world but companies will not be pressured into developing and implementing cleaner technologies that can have benefits for air quality.

The government's own projections of the cost of implementing the Kyoto protocol lie between 1.5% of Canada's real GDP per year to an unbelievable 10% of real GDP per year. The Liberals have promised no carbon tax and no new energy program for controlling the wealth of energy rich provinces, but carbon emissions trading schemes being considered in order to reach Kyoto targets are only another name for a carbon tax or a new national energy program and they may be more expensive.

We must remember that economic recessions are defined by 1% to 2% reductions in GDP. We must also note that our economy has been slowing for many months. The September 11 attacks have slowed this growth even further. Adding one recession to the recession that would be brought about by Kyoto would mean economic depression.

Even though the government continues to boast about its spending of $2 billion on climate change, it forgets to tell about the total cost to Canadians, which is billions and billions of dollars in lost revenue in this country. This means that jobs, technological advancements and our very security will be threatened. It also means money for our environmental programs is seriously compromised. Air quality monitoring, particulate reduction, water treatment, endangered species protection and stewardship programs are badly hurt by such ineffective spending, but these programs have the very tangible results that Canadians want and deserve.

Another fundamental flaw of Kyoto is the way it does not include developing countries. While developed countries had in the past been the biggest greenhouse gas emitters and are responsible for most greenhouse gas emissions, according to the U.S. department of state the net emissions from developing countries now exceed those of developed countries. I have been to Beijing, Mexico City, Rio and Santiago and have literally chewed the air. That is what is happening in those developing countries. I know that these emission problems are our responsibility, but we need to help those developing countries, not simply do things to Canadian industry. How do we help these nations leapfrog the terrible industrial pollution levels that they will face in the coming decade? They must be included in renewed discussions.

That leads me to my vision of renewed climate change discussions and more realistic domestic action. The government's empty words, loose promises and commitments must give way to meaningful words and effective action. We are in a time of crisis and our words carry much power.

We have long been bound by the Kyoto protocol, but it now must die. The protocol has created much awareness of the climate change issue. It has created much that is good but also much that is not good. It is holding us back from new commitments and new action to address climate change. It is Canada's climate change albatross and it has to be taken from around our neck. It is time to move on this issue.

First, I believe that we must break the pressures that Kyoto will create. We must put an extra push on renewed research into the great gaps of climate change science. The Liberal government has invested much in the Kyoto protocol and it will not admit the weakness of climate change science. Much science is not objective here. Much of the time this science is government supported to prove the Liberal government's position. This must change.

It might allow for more recent developments such as prominent U.S. NASA scientist James Hansen's recent research about how reducing certain carbon air particulates may be a much more effective way of combating climate change than the constraints of Kyoto. Such an approach makes sense. Reduce particulates that have tremendous health impacts while reducing climate change. This would be a double benefit rather than Kyoto's double drawback.

A 12 year old girl wrote me horrified by what she thought climate change was going to do. She thought there was going to be a 20 degrees Celsius increase in temperature, massive flooding, violent weather and so on. She was terrified for herself and her family. I sent information to this young girl telling her that things were not that bad, that scare tactics were being used. Let us get back to the real science.

Second, so much potential good is lost when money is wasted. Tangible and necessary environmental programs such as water treatment, air quality monitoring and stewardship programs are compromised when money is wasted. The huge amount of money wasted on Kyoto is much better spent on increased support for research and development and cleaner energy technologies.

An hour ago I visited an ethanol plant here in this city. That is one of the technologies we must promote. By focusing on technology, our economy avoids being depressed while better support for research and development helps to guarantee faster leaps and bounds in clean technologies which we can then pass on or sell to developing countries.

In the present climate of uncertainty and heightened security, it also makes sense to support the development of a diversified supply of energy sources including natural gas, ethanol, fossil fuels, wind and hydro, hydrogen fuel cells, and so on. Five years in energy technologies make a world of difference. A five year old power plant is dirty compared to one built today. With increased support this will occur even faster. A strong economy is critical for these technological leaps and bounds to happen.

Third, while targets in international discussions are possible, they cannot take place without significant experience with domestic localized action. The provinces must agree to any commitments made in these international discussions. More local tangible actions are meaningful and must be where the bigger ideas of international targets find their inspiration and their roots. Commitments must be meaningful rather than being pie in the sky. This means having realistic goals worked out with those who are largely responsible for meeting those targets: the provinces and industry.

Fourth, the United States, Mexico and our other trading partners under continental programs must be in agreement before we sign any protocol. Unlike the European Union, we are just at the beginning of developing new co-operation. We cannot be put at an unfair disadvantage to our key trading partners. Again, this means pollution is only redistributed and we are hit with severe economic problems.

Fifth, we must include developing nations in climate change discussions. This does not mean setting targets for them; it means helping them to leapfrog.

Sixth, we must continue to focus on programs that encourage energy and resource efficiency. Where possible, ways and means that encourage Canadians to be more efficient in their use of these resources must be supported and discussed.

Climate Change
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Kitchener Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Karen Redman Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Madam Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the hon. member for Red Deer for his motion to discuss the goals for carbon emission reduction.

The seventh Conference of the Parties, also known as CoP, currently is being held in Marrakesh. The purpose of the session is to finalize the text of the Bonn agreement which was reached at CoP six this past July. As the Prime Minister has said, the Bonn agreement opens the way for Canada's ratification of the Kyoto protocol next year, following full consultations with provinces, territories, stakeholders and other Canadians.

The public input on the ratification decision and the approaches that the Government of Canada could use to meet our targets and commitments will be the focus of these consultations. Work is currently under way to design this process. I want to be clear that the process will build on a large number of consultations that have been and will continue to be conducted by the federal government since the original Kyoto agreement which was signed in 1997.

For example in 1998, federal and provincial energy and environment ministers established the national climate change process. This initiative created 16 issue tables involving 450 experts from industry, academia, nongovernmental organizations and the government. A number of climate change initiatives in the federal government's action plan 2000 on climate change have drawn extensively from the results of this work already undertaken.

In addition, joint meetings of federal, provincial and territorial energy and environment ministers are held regularly to discuss various approaches to meeting our Kyoto target. Through our public education and outreach activities, the federal government has been reaching out to Canadians, both through door to door and national campaigns, working to ensure that Canadians have the information they need to participate fully in climate change discussions.

The government feels strongly that a rich discussion involving government, industry, interest groups and Canadians is critically important. Let me say unequivocally that the government's goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions are realistic. We are committed under the Kyoto protocol to reducing our emissions to 6% below 1990 levels by the period between 2008 and 2012. That amounts to a 200 megaton reduction per year by 2010.

Similarly our plans for meeting that goal are realistic. The Government of Canada has invested $1.1 billion in climate change initiatives through budget 2000 and action plan 2000. Together with the sinks component of the Bonn agreement these could deliver about one-half of the 200 megaton reduction that we need to reduce emissions to meet our said target.

We currently are developing additional initiatives to take us the rest of the way to our Kyoto target. The consultations that the government will be undertaking will focus on different policy approaches for achieving this goal. These consultations have been and will continue to be based solidly on sound science. Indeed the science of climate change has advanced considerably in recent years. We now understand better how climate systems function and we have a greater confidence in our models for making projections.

Last January the world's best climate scientists, including many from Canada, worked together through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and released the third assessment report on climate change. I would like to quote directly from that report. In it, the IPCC said “there is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activity”.

Because of that human activity we can expect average global temperatures to rise anywhere from one and a half to six degrees Celsius by the end of this century. In Canada we could see even greater temperature increases in some regions. I want to be very clear that we understand the huge impact that this seemingly small change could have in average temperature.

Let me remind hon. members that during the last ice age average temperatures were only five degrees cooler than they are today. A simple five degree increase in average temperature was enough to melt the vast ice sheets that covered this continent.

Science tells us there will be dramatic consequences to the increases in temperature that we are facing. There could be more severe weather events such as thunderstorms, heavy rain, hail and tornadoes. These could take a heavy toll on human lives and property. Longer and more intense heat waves could make air pollution even worse in urban areas. We could see more droughts like the one that spread virtually from coast to coast this past summer which would affect agriculture and increase the risk of forest fires. Dryer conditions may also affect the quantity and quality of our drinking water.

In summary, sound science is the basis for sound policy. Canadian scientists have an international reputation for excellence in climate science and in modelling future climate through general circulation models. In budget 2000 the Government of Canada created the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences to improve our understanding of climate processes and improve our ability to predict future climate. This will help Canadians in various sectors in all regions of the country adapt to the changing climate.

However, sound science is just one part of the picture. Sound economic analysis is also critical. Economic study underpins all of our efforts to achieve Kyoto and its targets in the most cost effective manner possible. Through the national climate change process the government has been working with the provinces and the territories to undertake extensive analytical work on a number of fronts. We are examining, among others, the economic implications of different policy options for meeting our goals, trade and competitiveness implications, and the role of major economic instruments such as domestic emissions trading.

Sound science tells us we need to act. Sound economic analysis tells us our goals for reducing emissions are indeed realistic and that we can seize opportunities by acting.

The Government of Canada will be consulting with Canadians over the next several months based on this science and this analysis to gain their input on the best policy options for meeting our Kyoto target. There is one thing we can be sure of and that is that we are committed to meeting our Kyoto target. We believe that Canadians will support us in that goal.

Message from the Senate
Private Members' Business

November 1st, 2001 / 5:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed certain bills, to which the concurrence of this House is desired.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Climate Change
Private Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to take part in the debate on climate change and, in particular, the motion moved by my colleague from Red Deer.

Admittedly the motion will initiate real debate on climate change on the eve of a major conference on climate change to be held in Marrakesh, following an agreement signed by the parties at the conference No. 6 in Bonn last July.

Before dealing more specifically with the issue and my colleague's motion, I would like to indicate Quebec's firm support for the important Kyoto protocol.

Not only is it important and is Quebec committed to meeting the goals set in the protocol, but on April 10 the national assembly unanimously passed a resolution stating, and I quote:

That the National Assembly ask the federal government to restate its commitment to meeting the greenhouse gas reduction goals set by the Kyoto protocol on climate change, and urge the federal government to take an active part in the current efforts aimed at asking for negotiations so that as many states as possible ratify the protocol.

To Quebec then it is clear that Canada must commit not only to a greenhouse gas reduction but also to prompt ratification of the Kyoto protocol. I must say that it is somewhat disappointing on the eve of this important conference at Marrakesh that the protocol has not been ratified here in Canada.

We will recaIl that in Bonn last July a number of agreements were concluded between the parties. The Bonn agreement might be summarized as one in which the members of the conference identified methods for assessing efforts toward attaining the objectives.

As well, it was determined among the parties what sanctions would be imposed on conference member countries should they decide not to respect the commitments made on the international level.

It is also important to bear in mind that unfortunately the United States decided to withdraw from the negotiating table for reasons of its own. I think that its absence must be regretted and it can only be hoped that it will return within a few days, perhaps with a new proposal. At the very least, it strikes us as essential for the Americans to get back to the table.

In this agreement, the countries decided to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2%, based on the 1990 level.

This is also an important agreement with respect to carbon sinks. We must recall that there were a number of debates at the international level on the effectiveness of these carbon sinks in reducing greenhouse gases. It was then agreed that countries could factor carbon sinks into their respective goals.

We think this is a step in the right direction but this mechanism within the Kyoto protocol must not be used—and this is obviously the risk—to prevent a real reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. We must instead use the Canadian forestry and planting capacity to absorb carbon gas.

In this regard, we hope that next week in Marrakesh the countries will reduce the contribution and the efforts that may be attributable to the contribution of carbon sinks within the goals.

We fundamentally believe that the contribution of carbon sinks within the goals should be limited to about 10% because we are concerned that Canada could use this mechanism provided for in the Kyoto protocol not to move toward a real reduction of greenhouse gases.

On April 4, 2001, the Prime Minister stated, with respect to carbon sinks, and I quote:

The sink is extremely important for Canada. Because we have a lot of land we could create a situation where a lot of CO2 could be absorbed if we had a good system of trees or plants in Canada.

My point is that I am not against including carbon sinks but I think we need to limit the percentage assigned to them in the objective set in Kyoto.

Another aspect included in the Bonn agreement is the commitment of countries to avoid using nuclear power. Having been at the other conferences between parties, particularly conferences 4 and 5, we know there was considerable debate. Is nuclear power a clean development tool or not? Yes, it may be clean in terms of climate change, but there are also environmental risks involved.

An important agreement came out of Bonn to the effect that the parties would refrain from using nuclear projects in development. In Marrakesh we must be ready and on the lookout. Discussions will focus on the legal wording of the Bonn agreement, which will be clarified next week.

We will have to make sure that refrain from really means ban. Experts have debated the matter and there will have to be legal recognition that refrain from, in the Bonn agreement, will be considered, in Marrakesh and in the COP7 agreement, to be a total ban on the use of nuclear power.

In broad terms, these aspects, including the mechanisms of interchangeable credits, were discussed. We hope that, in Marrakesh, the legal texts will reflect the agreement reached in Bonn. I must say it is an important agreement.

I prefer an agreement such as the Bonn one, which is not perfect but at least we have an agreement. Now we must ensure that one of the major producers of greenhouse gases over Canada, the United States, can come back to the discussion table and submit a proposal in keeping with the international commitment and consensus.

The other aspect that the motion submitted by my colleague from Red Deer deals with is responsibility. My colleague would like to see a new formula based on responsibility, and I totally agree with that. I think the provinces must be made accountable for the commitments made at the international level, in Kyoto or in Bonn. Of course we would like to see Quebec represented at this conference but we believe that the provinces must be held accountable. This is why Quebec has submitted an action plan.

We have subscribed to the Canadian action plan on climate change but we have gone even further. We have adopted an action plan.

I would like to say a few words on the scientific studies. The report by the intergovernmental panel on climate change stated clearly that there would be major impacts on the climate, but also on the reduction of the ice pack and snow cover. Scientific evidence has been collected on that subject by the United Nations international group of experts.

In conclusion, let us hope that next week the legal documents will be consistent with the historic Bonn agreement. We hope the Americans will come back to the negotiating table. We also hope we will not be renegotiating the Bonn agreement just to please the Americans. The future of our planet is too important. We must try to reach an agreement next week.