House of Commons Hansard #90 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was environment.

Topics

Canada's Clean Air Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I did read the notice of intent and I have it here. It is on page 14. I invite the member to read page 14, under the section “Transportation”. The government intends to harmonize its standards. It also plans on exploring opportunities for collaboration between Environment Canada and the U.S. EPA in order to facilitate, insofar as possible, the administration of motor vehicle regulations.

I will say it again, the government will be introducing regulations and harmonizing existing ones not based on the regulations of the state of California but rather based on those of the EPA, which has automobile manufacturing standards that are less stringent than those of the State of California. I invite the member to read page 4 of the notice of intent.

Canada's Clean Air Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, what we are debating here is very important, not only for Canadians, but for the entire planet.

As the David Suzuki Foundation and the Pembina Institute said, climate change is set to become one of the defining issues of the century. I believe that climate change must become the defining issue of this Parliament.

In fact, we found ourselves at an impasse on taking action on the environment. Our party proposed a strategy to break through that logjam. As a result, we are now debating the creation of a special and new approach to handling issues in Parliament where there are differences of opinion.

It is an exciting day for this Parliament. It is an opportunity to actually make the House of Commons work for Canadians as its top priority. It is an opportunity to produce results which were frankly not going to be forthcoming. It is an opportunity for us to put forward our best ideas as political parties, to take the knowledge of Canadians, to take the work they have done for years and to bring it forward to the House of Commons into a special place, a special committee, and to work together to craft a way forward on the most fundamental issue of our time. It is vitally important that the House of Commons succeed in this effort and succeed rapidly. It will require a certain new spirit.

This is not an attitude we are used to seeing here in the House of Commons. We have had all kinds of debates. We are different and we emphasize our differences, but what we must do now is find common ground so that we can reach common goals: a safe and healthy planet, sustainable development and reduction of our currently disastrous impact on the environment.

Let us think about the consequences of climate change today. We are literally changing the atmosphere of the planet. As a result of that, we are transforming the flow of energy on a planetary basis not only in the atmosphere but when it comes also to the seas and the oceans. Fundamental changes are happening because of the way in which we are walking on the planet or should I say: tromping on the planet.

It is time we recognized that. The deniers are still there. We still hear them suggesting that indeed there is no problem with greenhouse gas emissions, but I believe that we have achieved, at the level of world science and world public opinion, a level of understanding of this issue which is unprecedented probably for any environmental issue ever to face humankind, maybe for any issue at all, with the possible exception of the devastating consequences of nuclear war.

The difference here is that we have an opportunity to actually set things right, but we have to move very quickly. We are facing global warming and we are seeing the consequences nowhere more than in Canada's north. We are facing a concept one could call global storming: the increase in devastating, powerful storms around the world. Of course this was predicted. The naysayers said it was just the weather and we should get over it. The fact is that we are transforming the weather of this planet.

That is why this book called The Weather Makers was the first book, the first piece of writing, that I gave to the Prime Minister at our first meeting after the election. I asked him to read it for our children and our grandchildren, and because it sets out in a very powerful way the transformations that are under way. I would like to quote just one of the many examples Professor Flannery, the author of that book, cited. He said:

We must remember that if we act now, it lies within our power to save two species for every one that is currently doomed. If we carry on with business as usual, in all likelihood three out of every five species will not be with us at the dawn of the next century.

These are devastating predictions and they are not the predictions of an individual. They are predictions of the best minds on the planet. The question is: Are we going to listen to them and do something about it? The good news is that even faced with droughts and flooding that are already affecting working families and the record fires that are burning across our country, there is still time to change the course that we are following now, a course that is actually beginning to affect ordinary families today.

Think about those who are facing the loss of their jobs as a result of forest fires and the impact of new diseases and pests on the forests. Think of those in the far north whose very livelihood, whose way of life, whose fundamentals as a culture and as a society are being undermined by climate change. These are ordinary families. Think of those suffering pollution, having to rely on puffers evermore in our polluted cities. All of our citizens are beginning to experience the impact of climate change and that is why we need to take action and take it now. This Parliament needs to move quickly.

We find that our discussions of many issues are interminable. We have been talking about this for 13 years, yet hardly any significant, necessary measures have been taken.

We have of course seen broken promises. We have seen hot air. We have seen just about every kind of inaction imaginable. But now we have the opportunity in this work that we are going to do, hopefully to be approved today to follow up on our proposal to create a special place where the best ideas can be brought forward. That will allow us to set ourselves on a new course, not to create an energy superpower as the Prime Minister likes to speak of but a country that actually respects the nature of energy, the way we should use it, and how we need to be custodians and stewards of the planet. We should not be claiming to be a superpower capable of transforming our planet in a negative way. Let us be responsible.

We can do this in all sectors of our economy whether it be transport, buildings, industry, individuals, provinces and territories. We can all engage together in these steps, but it is going to require real leadership from the House of Commons. We are going to have to take much more dramatic steps than we have contemplated to date.

That is why we recommended the creation of this committee. That is why we are going to propose amendments to this committee which will be very strong. It will begin with immediate action. In the short term it will focus on medium and long term goals as well and it will give this Parliament the power to set the direction rather than leaving it to a government that on occasion, I must say, does not seem very committed to the urgency of this issue or to taking action which is why the clean act before us will not be adopted as it stands and will be fundamentally changed.

The NDP has proposed many changes, --including: legislating rather than regulating short--, medium--and long-term targets to bring about significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions; demanding that Canada comply with its 2008-2012 targets under the Kyoto protocol; requiring Canada to reduce emissions by 80% relative to 1990 levels by 2050, based on scientific research; and reaching intermediate targets at five-year intervals between 2015 and 2050.

We must legislate in the act, rather than in notices of intent which may never happen, a much earlier date for regulating the industrial sector. These regulations must be in place soon for the biggest polluters.

We must legislate in the act, rather than again through regulations that may never come to be, a hard cap on greenhouse gas emissions from the industrial sector of at least 45 megatonnes per year. We must legislate in the act a requirement for mandatory standards for the criteria air contaminants within one year of the new act's passage.

That is getting things done and it is putting power in the hands of the House of Commons rather than leaving it in the hands of a cabinet which so far does not seem to have grasped the significance of the issue.

We must use legislation to require vehicle fuel efficiency standards similar to those in leading North American jurisdictions, which will be published in 2008. We can do that and we must do that.

We know that other parties have voted against some of these proposals in the past. We invite them to reconsider. We will reconsider their proposals. We believe that a great deal must be changed in this act, but in view of the need for all of us to leave a legacy, to get moving now and to participate with the global community, this is what we must do.

We must make this piece of legislation the most powerful piece of legislation, for healthy air in order to combat climate change, that this country and perhaps the world have ever seen.

Canada's Clean Air Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I think the member will agree that this government inherited a massive environmental mess from the previous Liberal government. The new Liberal leader was a failed environment minister under whose government greenhouse gases skyrocketed by 35%. That is twice as much as occurred in the United States under George Bush during exactly the same period.

We inherited this massive increase in greenhouse gases from the newly elected leader of the Liberal Party. In fact, greenhouse gases hit their peak under his leadership. He is a failed environment minister and now we as a government have inherited the challenge of reversing the massive trend of increased greenhouse gases that we inherited from the previous Liberal government.

We are doing the best that we can with the clean air act. It is not going to be easy because of the mess that we inherited from the new Liberal leader. However, I want to thank the leader of the NDP for his ongoing commitment to reduce greenhouse gases and to work with the clean air act in order to achieve both a reduction in those gases and a reduction in smog. I thank the member and invite him to share more of his suggestions on how that can be done.

Canada's Clean Air Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is true that we have faced inaction for many years. In fact, when Canada signed on to the Kyoto protocol, something that was opposed, it is true, by the current government, it contained an element of hope that Canadians had for the future.

Sadly, as we saw from our very own Commissioner of the Environment here in Canada, the results did not match the intentions. In fact, in many ways Canadians were betrayed because the signature of Canadians was put on a global document saying we would take climate change seriously, and then that did not happen and our emissions went up even higher than those of George Bush.

Unfortunately, we are also faced with the sad fact that throughout that entire period, the current government's members tended to oppose taking any action at all on climate change, so it really is going to require a sea of change in this place, of all parties, to begin to get it right.

I remember the time we proposed a motion here to put controls on auto emissions and to really get something done, and it was opposed by both the former government and the current government. That is going to have to change. Targets that are serious and significant are going to have to be adopted. We cannot continue subsidizing the big oil and gas companies, which both the previous governments did, if we expect to get moving on the solution. That has got to change as well.

Canada's Clean Air Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

John Godfrey Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, in the spirit of the first question, I would like to ask the hon. member whether in fact he approved of the new government's decision to cut the EnerGuide program which was part of project green, to cancel the regime of regulation for the large final emitters which would have reduced Canada's greenhouse gases by 45 megatonnes and come into force in 2008, and to cancel further additions to the wind power production incentive. Does he think those particular actions of the new government were helpful?

Canada's Clean Air Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, the cancellation of very important environmental programs by the government certainly were not helpful. Of course, some of them were ones that for years the NDP called for. In fact, there was a budget from the previous government that did not do anything for public transit and the environment the way it should have and the NDP was able to force, in the context of the minority Parliament, an investment in public transit, which the previous government was then happy to announce here and there around the country. That is fine.

The point here is not be claiming credit. The point here is to actually see if we can as a Parliament, as four political parties here in the House, produce real results for the average citizen. Canadians are sick and tired of the hot air and the finger pointing. What they want to see are results.

I know that for all of us this is going to be something new. My party has been trying to accomplish that in both the last two Parliaments day in and day out and we intend to continue until we see some real results for Canadians. That is the NDP's goal.

Canada's Clean Air Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, there is a clause in Bill C-30 about equivalency.

Would the Leader of the New Democratic Party be prepared to amend that equivalency clause to integrate a territorial approach that would enable provinces such as Quebec to implement their own greenhouse gas emissions reduction plan?

Canada's Clean Air Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, we are prepared to consider all the amendments and all the proposals. We also encourage the territories and the provinces to develop their own approach. We hope to find a way to combine all our approaches so that Canada can be a good environmental citizen of the world.

Canada's Clean Air Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka
Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement Minister of Health and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address the House on Bill C-30, the clean air act. It is a major step in meeting Canada's new government's commitment to introducing an environmental agenda that is national in scope, achievable and will provide the foundation for improving the health of Canadians and the environment of Canadians for generations to come.

It is through this act that we can address a problem that has a profound impact on the health of Canadians and, as Minister of Health, that obviously is a prime objective for me.

The health of Canadians is affected by the quality of the air that we breathe. The clean air act also provides Canada with a realistic and, we believe, an affordable plan to deal with greenhouse gas emissions simultaneously. Our government's objective is to minimize or eliminate the risks to the health of Canadians posed by environmental contaminants in the air. It goes without saying that clean air is important and imperative to the health of all Canadians.

I represent the constituency of Parry Sound—Muskoka. I also consider myself a so-called green Conservative. My constituents are concerned about clean air and clean water but they are also concerned about the water levels in our constituency that are directly affected by environmental change.

People want to see action. They have heard lots of talk in this chamber and elsewhere at the federal level and a lot of talk by the previous Liberal government but they have seen no action. As the hon. member said a few moments ago, what we have seen from the previous government and the previous environment ministers has been an increase of 35% or more above the Kyoto targets in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. This is a sorry state of affairs, which is only exceeded in the embarrassment by the fact that the United States of America under George Bush was able to do better than us here in Canada under the previous government. The Auditor General has said that the previous Liberal government should be ashamed of its record and she condemned it for it. I believe we can and we must do better.

As a starting point, Bill C-30 rightly draws attention to the fact that we must challenge the old ways of doing things, ways that have produced no tangible benefits, and voluntary approaches that have produced more hot air than true commitment and results. We must follow up with action to address air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions simultaneously and directly.

Unfortunately, as I said, we have been lulled into a false sense of security, which was created by the former Liberal government when it agreed to unrealistic targets that were impossible to achieve. The clean air act is the first step toward a true regulatory agenda that can and should be supported by all members of Parliament in order to protect the health and environment for future generations and a legacy that can be built upon to create better progress and, of course, be supported by a sound economy.

While I would like to focus today on a number of key areas that highlight the importance of the bill, I would also like to say that it has been designed to meet objectives which I believe are shared by most members of the House. The first of these objectives concerns the protection of the health of Canadians.

The clean air act recognizes the fundamental relationship between environment and health and identifies the health of Canadians as a key driver behind the regulation of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

As we all know, the quality of the air Canadians breathe is vital to their health. The air quality bill will lead to solutions that will improve the health of Canadians, and it recognizes the importance of protecting the health of vulnerable populations.

Air pollution can affect us all, no matter who we are, where we live, or how healthy we are. The World Health Organization recently estimated that air pollution caused two million premature deaths every year around the world.

Using data from eight Canadian cities, Health Canada scientists estimate that of all the deaths in these cities every year at least 5,900 deaths could be linked to air pollution. Research also shows that poor air quality sends thousands of Canadians to hospital each and every year.

There has been an increase over the past few decades of certain diseases affecting Canadians. It is a well-known fact that the prevalence of asthma among children has increased over the years. According to the 1996-97 national population health survey, over 2.2 million Canadians have been diagnosed with asthma. Asthma, bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease afflict over 3.7 million Canadians.

Breathing problems are not the only thing we should be concerned about. Air pollution also affects the heart. Cardiovascular disease is responsible for 40% of all mortality in Canada.

These illnesses are exacerbated and, to some degree, are caused by air pollutants.

Most people think only in terms of outdoor pollution but I want to talk today about the air we breathe indoors, where we spend as much as 90% of our time.

One particular indoor air pollutant is radon, which occurs naturally in the ground in many areas of Canada, particularly northern Canada. This is an air pollutant for which this government is planning immediate action. Radon is the largest source of radioactive exposure to Canadians. New scientific evidence demonstrates an elevated risk of levels of radon found in many Canadian homes. Exposure to radon accounts for 1,900 lung cancer deaths every year in Canada and is second only to tobacco smoke as the primary cause of lung cancer.

The government is currently preparing to roll out a new indoor air quality guideline for radon as a basis for taking action to reduce expose and associated health impacts. The clean air act would provide important authorities which can be used to ensure that we have the tools to effectively manage and promote the actions required to reduce or eliminate this health risk.

Clearly, we have to take steps to reduce all the potential factors that increase the incidence of illness and death, especially in our children.

Canada's clean air act will give us the powers and the tools we need to deal with sources of indoor and outdoor air pollution.

Our proposed new clean air act, the centrepiece of the clean air regulatory agenda, would also amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and strengthen the Government of Canada's ability to take action to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gases, as I said, simultaneously, and provide explicit authority to regulate air pollutants and greenhouse gases without requiring that they be designated as toxic substances.

In the past there has been opposition to designating greenhouse gases as toxic, which impeded constructive discussions about their management. Canada's new government would no longer have to wait for an air pollutant to receive an official toxic declaration.

I believe all governments must act effectively and in unison with their respective jurisdictions but clearly there is a need for national leadership. We must put politics aside and finally move forward on real concrete solutions so we can manage air quality and service Canadians today and in the future.

Canada's Clean Air Act
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his presentation.

He talked about the issue of greenhouse gas emissions in the air. In view of the situation the member and Minister of Health mentioned, I would like to know this.

Does he recognize, as I do, that we should stop importing hydrocarbons and products containing PCBs for incineration here in Canada?

For the sake of Canadians' quality of life, we must not take our neighbours' products, bring them here and burn them, producing emissions here in Canada.

The Minister of the Environment said earlier that we need to clean up our own backyard. I wonder whether that means we have to solve our own problem or take our neighbours' problems and bring them here to create even bigger problems for ourselves.

Canada's Clean Air Act
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Mr. Speaker, in my opinion, of course it is important to have regulations regarding importing and exporting. These are primarily provincial and territorial matters. Perhaps the federal government could also come up with some solutions.

I would also like to say that it is important to have leadership. Canada could be a world leader in the fight against pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. This bill places Canada at the forefront, as a global leader on this issue.

This bill is about leadership and about moving ahead, beyond our previous agenda, to get to the right solutions.

Canada's Clean Air Act
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, in terms of the ability of Canada to respond to air pollution and CO2 emissions, it is important that we set a clear direction early on for efforts in both these regards.

When we look at the idea of a clean coal plant and we say that we will invest great sums of money in reducing the emissions from the coal plant but that we will not take the next step right away to put in a system to sequester the CO2emissions, this leads the industry in the wrong direction. We need a strong response right now that speaks to both the issues of air pollution and CO2 emissions. We cannot have our industries not understanding right away that they have to respond to both.

I would like the minister to comment on that. These issues are not that easy to separate and should not be separated in the solutions that we are proposing.

Canada's Clean Air Act
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Mr. Speaker, I tend to agree with the hon. member. I hope we are not moving against what he is saying. My understanding of the bill and of our government's policy is that we are moving simultaneously to deal with greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution issues at the same time. It will take a number of important new techniques, such as carbon sequestration and other techniques, to deal with the emissions part of the solution.

However, if the hon. member is suggesting that we should move ahead on both fronts simultaneously, I am in absolute agreement with him. It is absolutely important to do both.

As I said to the hon. member earlier, that is the kind of leadership that Canada can show, that we do not necessarily have to do just one thing, that we can as a nation walk and chew gun at the same time, that we can deal with both issues simultaneously and therefore deliver better results for the quality of health of Canadians.

Canada's Clean Air Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Omar Alghabra Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the proposed clean air act, which is supposed to be the Conservative government's centrepiece in tackling the climate change challenge that our country and our globe face. I am glad to have the opportunity to comment on this issue because Canadians in my riding and around the country realize the urgency and the need to increase our focus in addressing this matter.

While some of my colleagues in the Conservative Party still want to debate the reality of global warming and its impact on our future and the future of the next generations, Canadians recognize the seriousness of global warming and its consequences on our lifestyle, living standards and the health of our planet. Canadians are telling us and the government that we cannot ignore this issue. We cannot just wish that it is not happening. The government has the responsibility to act responsibly and expeditiously in cooperation with countries around the world to manage this disturbing trend of increased greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.

The bill, as it stands right now, is a disaster and is a miserable failure that has let Canadians down. It reflects a lack of seriousness on behalf of the Conservatives to acknowledge and act upon the real environmental concerns we all have.

The bill proposes unnecessary changes to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, just for the sake of creating a perception that action is being taken while real measures are absent. The existing act actually provides the government with the necessary authority to regulate pollutants and emissions. The new proposals add no substantive power that did not already exist. What is desperately needed is real movement and real caps.

These new proposals are consistent with the Conservatives' mode of governing: showcase gimmicks and underestimate the intelligence of Canadians that they will be unable to see through these transparent and cynical moves.

Unfortunately, the Prime Minister and his Conservative colleagues are allowing ideology to trump science and common sense. Instead of proposing a real actionable plan to address the environmental challenges we are facing, they are undermining most efforts that were implemented over the last few years. Instead of demonstrating true leadership and offering tangible measures, they are risking the health of our planet and its inhabitants through delay tactics and phony slogans.

They abandoned Kyoto, a well respected international treaty that is the product of 160 countries coming together and working together to confront this global problem. Environmental trends and changes do not recognize political borders. They affect everyone who inhabits this planet. It took a lot of energy and commitment to negotiate such a historic treaty and bring countries, with various challenges and political ideologies, together to agree on a set of goals. It was disheartening that one of the first actions the government undertook in its first 100 days in office was to undermine Canada's commitment to Kyoto and its goals.

I do not want to give the impression that addressing the environmental challenges we are facing is simple or easy. We all know that any plan will require true leadership and tough decisions. That is what Canadians expect of their government. All the minority Conservative government is doing is blaming others, coming up with excuses and trying to distract Canadians from the real issue. If Canadians wanted a government that deflected all responsibilities, blamed others and offered no real vision, they would have been better off with the NDP.

When it comes to the environment, why is the government following a cut and run strategy? When will the Prime Minister accept his responsibilities in outlining and implementing a real and substantive plan for the protection of our environment and the future of Canadians? We want measures that would have an impact on the short, medium and long term, not proposals that start real caps on emissions by 2050. Canadians expect action immediately.

We need to be thoughtful in any additional measures we implement, but by delaying real caps until 2050, I am worried we are sending the wrong signal. If future governments follow the precedent of delaying targets, it is very likely that in 2050 we will realize that we are still facing the same challenges and are not ready to meet these goals.

The disheartening thing is that the Conservatives are not only refusing to take quick action, but are dismantling dozens of programs and initiatives that were created by the previous government, which offered incentives and opportunities for real measures.

EnerGuide, for example, was a program that helped more than 70,000 households to be retrofitted, to be energy efficient and to reduce energy consumption. What did the Conservatives do? They cancelled that program.

Six million Canadians have participated in reducing their energy consumption through the one tonne challenge program. What did the Conservatives do? They cancelled that program. Greenhouse gas intensity was reduced by 13% below 1990 standards and has showed a declining trend since the mid 1990s.

I am proud to stand here today, after my party has elected a leader who has shown a real commitment to the environment and the future health of Canada and Canadians. I am confident, under his leadership, that the Liberals will continue to promote what Canadians want to see from their government, real action and a real plan.

We have a lot of work ahead of us in examining the bill. It is clear that it needs much work and a lot of improvement, but we are committed to working beyond partisanship with whoever is serious about putting together effective legislation that would offer tangible measures to reduce pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions in the short term and set goals for the near and long term future.

I pledge to the House, on behalf of myself and my colleagues in the Liberal Party, that we will be relentless in ensuring the government is held to account and responds to the needs of Canadians and the future of our planet. We cannot let Canadians down.

Canada's Clean Air Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, that was an amazing speech from my friend across the way. After yelling all weekend, he has lost voice, unless it is air pollution that is bothering it. I thank God we have a bill in front of us that will affect air pollution. I know there was a bit pollution in Montreal as I was there this weekend.

He mentioned at the end of his speech that his party would support the bill going to committee and would work beyond partisanship, but his whole speech was partisan up to that point. It is ironic that he would say at the end that we need to work as a group to make a difference in the environment. He also said he was proud.

First, is he proud of his government, which I grant he was not part of then but is now, when it was in power for 13 years and did absolutely nothing? Is he proud of the Liberals' Kyoto record, after signing on and doing absolutely squat for our country and the world.

Second, is he also proud that Canada is 35% above the Kyoto target. What did the Liberals do to make a difference, or did they plan to be 35% above the target?