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

Motion No. 12
Ways and Means
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Canada's Clean Air Act
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

When the debate was interrupted, the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley had three minutes left in the time left for questions and comments consequent on his remarks. I therefore call for questions and comments. The hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas.

Canada's Clean Air Act
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley for his comments. I also want to thank him for working so closely with the leader of the NDP to come up with the solution to the logjam that we found in this Parliament on issues related to the environment.

We all know the importance of Bill C-30. This was the attempt by the government to get these important issues on the agenda of this Parliament, but we also know that this bill was going nowhere, that it was ill-fated, and that the opposition parties could not support the legislation, but we could not miss that opportunity in the House.

The House needs to take some action on the environment and meeting our Kyoto obligations. I am glad that the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley and the leader of the NDP put their heads together to come up with this process where, before second reading, the legislation can be referred to a committee, and there all parties in the House can bring their ideas to the table. We can then build a piece of legislation that truly reflects the urgency of this issue.

We cannot afford to see this matter delayed and the House has to take action. I am very pleased and proud of the action that was taken here in this corner of the House to ensure that in a non-partisan way, this agenda can go forward.

I wonder if the member might just comment further on that process whereby all the ideas that pertain to this important legislation can now be debated because of the referral to committee before second reading.

Canada's Clean Air Act
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3:25 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the luxury of time is one thing that we simply do not have anymore after so many years of failed plans, misspent money, and pollution continuing to rise year after year. The competitiveness of the Canadian economy was also suffering as a result because energy was not being used in the most efficient means, certainly not in respect to our competitors. Lo and behold, even the United States under George Bush was able to make more reductions when it came to greenhouse gas emissions than Canada was able to make as an actual signatory to Kyoto.

One might despair looking at the Bloc and the Liberal Party that presented very little in the way of moving this logjam forward. One might despair as upward of 80% of the funding for what few programs were running under the previous regime were cut by the Conservative government. Canadians could be forgiven for thinking that all was lost for this particular Parliament. We moved to find the space within the debate that allowed the most progressive ideas to come forward.

Right now major environmental groups operating in all of the provinces are coming forward with their best ideas. They have come to an agreement on what types of principles need to be imbedded in this bill to change its bad structure, the structure of delay, and the structure of allowing cabinet to continue to delay decisions that Canadians are waiting for.

These groups are willing to work with the opposition parties and parliamentarians to make something happen. They are willing to work with us to make what seemed impossible only a few short weeks ago possible. The Canadian government will finally have to act with leadership and responsibility. It will finally have to make the tough decisions. It will finally have to make the decisions that were lauded and claimed by previous regimes but never came to fruition.

As the Environment Commissioner said, the government was often gone before the confetti hit the ground. That is one of her more memorable quotes, but there were many talking about the $6 billion announced but only $1.3 billion actually spent, talking about programs with no monitoring, no efficacy, and no ability to look at whether money was going in the right place or not.

We have stepped into that void, that vacuum, and created something positive. It will now be possible, if the other parties are willing to put partisan interests aside, to make something finally happen for all Canadians and our climate.

Canada's Clean Air Act
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3:25 p.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the government is taking steps toward addressing the very real issues of air quality and climate change, issues that are of concern to Canadians in every region of this vast country.

Harmful air emissions continue to affect our environment, our health, as well as our quality of life and economic productivity. Through Canada's clean air act, the Government of Canada is committed to taking action today that will provide the legislative basis for national requirements that will set mandatory targets for emissions that harm Canadians and their environment. The government has a real plan that will not only enable us to set regulations but to monitor the progress of industry and to report to Canadians on the gains that Canada is making on reducing emissions.

One of the leading sources of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in Canada is transportation. Efforts in this sector will play a significant role in the Canadian air quality regulatory program.

The movement of people and goods has serious consequences on our environment and contributes to air and water pollution, in particular. This impact on the environment translates into real socio-economic costs and affects the health and quality of life of Canadians.

Some of the worst emissions caused by transportation are carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds, many of which contribute to smog. Transportation produces 81% of all carbon monoxide emissions in this country and 60% of all nitrogen oxide emissions.

The increase of emissions in this sector is largely due to our growing population and economy, but is also a result of higher living standards. Population growth and the movements of Canadians are exacerbating transportation activities, especially on our highways and with respect to air traffic. For example, between 1990 and 2003, the movements of Canadians by motor transport increased by 24% and the number of Canadians who own a vehicle increased 8% faster than the population.

Similarly, increased trade and habits related to freight transportation activities, including the constant dominance of just-in-time delivery models, result in strong increases of activity. Globally, we expect the movement of goods to increase by 60% between 1990 and 2020, with the greatest increase expected to be in the air transport and trucking industries.

From 1995 to 2003, freight moved by trucking, in terms of tonne-kilometres, increased by 63%. Total greenhouse gas emissions for the transportation sector increased by 25%, between 1990 and 2003. These emissions now account for about 26% of total greenhouse gas emissions in Canada. So, this is the biggest source of emissions. About two thirds of greenhouse gases related to transports are emitted in urban centres.

This government is firmly committed to taking concrete means and measures to improve the health of its citizens and of their environment. This means we must immediately take concrete action.

The government is serious about improving our air quality and is deeply committed to achieving concrete results. Our approach is national in scope and will help Canadians both in urban and rural settings in breathing cleaner air and as a result living healthier lives.

The clean air regulatory agenda will enable the federal government to implement measures to reduce both the emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases from the transportation sector. The Government of Canada intends to have a consistent approach across all sectors that are major emitters and the government will be using a regulatory approach in all of them. While voluntary agreements provide a certain level of predictability, regulations will provide greater accountability and codify targets.

With respect to the auto sector, emissions from cars and trucks account for 75% of Canada's transportation greenhouse gas emissions. Passenger travel accounts for about half of that. The government intends to regulate the fuel consumption of road motor vehicles after the expiry of the memorandum of understanding between the auto industry and the Government of Canada.

I along with the Minister of Natural Resources will develop regulations that will build on a voluntary commitment the auto industry made collectively in 2005 that calls for a reduction of 5.3 megatonnes of greenhouse gases by 2010 through ongoing improvements in fuel consumption performance. These regulations will be developed and implemented under the Motor Vehicle Fuel Consumption Standards Act as amended by the proposed Canada's clean air act to take effect for the 2011 model year.

In 2005 the former government signed a voluntary agreement with the auto industry to reduce greenhouse gases by 5.3 megatonnes by 2010, a standard approximately equivalent to a 25% decrease in fuel consumption. The voluntary agreement provides for interim greenhouse gas emission reduction goals of 2.4 megatonnes in 2007, 3 megatonnes in 2008 and of course 3.9 megatonnes in 2009.

Government and industry representatives have worked closely to develop this agreement and to ensure that the industry is on track to achieving real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by target date 2010. The regulatory approach that will apply for the 2011 model year will provide a greater degree of certainty, predictability and accountability.

Our goal is to establish a regulatory regime with targets that promote concrete environmental improvements that are also consistent with the need for industry to remain competitive in the North American economy. The government will continue to work in cooperation and collaboration with the auto sector stakeholders, including industry, provincial authorities and non-governmental organizations, to ensure significant gains in motor vehicle fuel efficiency while also reducing greenhouse gases.

With respect to the rail sector, my colleague, the Minister of the Environment and I support the current voluntary agreement negotiated with the Railway Association of Canada.

As for the shipping industry, the government supports the development of new international standards by the International Maritime Organization, to control emissions produced by ships. The government will ensure that these standards are applied at the national level under this legislation, and it will also support a process under which North American coasts will be designated as zones where ships must reduce their sulphur emissions.

As for the air transport industry, the government supports the development of international standards and the practices recommended through ICAO, the International Civil Aviation Organization, regarding emissions produced by that industry.

In conclusion, the government is fulfilling its commitments of improving air quality and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The transportation sector plays a key role in our strategy.

I know that if we cooperate with the other levels of government, the industry and all Canadians, we will not only improve our environment, but also the health of all Canadians, today and for the generations to come.

Therefore, we invite all the members of this House to pay close attention to the work that will be done by that committee.

Canada's Clean Air Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, under the Kyoto agreement the former Liberal government had made great progress. It had met with 705 of the large final emitters and the auto sector and set targets. These were manageable targets. In fact, third party assessment clearly stated that Canada would have met its Kyoto commitment by 2015.

When I look at the clean air act proposed by the new Conservative government, I see nothing new. The new legislation gives no powers to the government. In fact, the government is trying to hoodwink Canadians by removing GHGs and air pollutants from the list of toxics. When it does that the government has absolutely no power to regulate.

Also, it has changed the baseline. It is using the baseline of 2003 instead of 1990. I do not think the government should mislead Canadians.

Canada's Clean Air Act
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3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would remind my hon. colleague that the people who are hoodwinking, which I think was her expression, the members of Parliament here are the members of the opposition Liberal Party.

I want to point out that they can take all the credit they want for having signed the memorandum of understanding with the industry, but they did not sign it with the individual manufacturers. That is the big difference. Since they did not sign it with the individual manufacturers, nobody is accountable.

The new Kyoto regime that we are proposing today is that we will make the automobile manufacturers accountable for the targets that are going to be set by the House through this legislation. In that way we will ensure that those targets will be met. There will be none of the fussiness nor the fuzziness. We will do what we have to do.

Canada's Clean Air Act
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3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. Minister of Transport is talking about trucking; that is indeed something within his purview. But he failed to state any objectives or to tell us by how much greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced with the new motors or whatever else he may propose.

He says they will look after transport, they will look trucking. But there is nothing specific in the legislation in terms of objectives or intent. Reference is made to voluntary or optional agreements with the automotive industry. Will these agreements work, knowing that voluntary agreements never worked anywhere else?

I am wondering if that is not just wishful thinking. When we talk about ships, as the minister just did, there are not only sulphur emissions to consider, but also greenhouse gas emissions. But he said nothing about those.

Canada's Clean Air Act
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3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that my colleague will not depart from his prepared speech. Had he listened, he would have realized that the government will be not be using voluntary means, but rather regulatory ones. The member must know the difference between what is voluntary and what is regulatory. Regulatory simply means that you have to meet the target that we have set. If you look at the existing target, that is a realistic, achievable target that will allow things to get done, unlike what the previous government proposed, which was voluntary.

In this respect, I would like to remind my hon. colleague from the Bloc Québécois that if there is a caucus that is trailing behind the sovereignist movement, it is his own. At the last Parti Québécois convention in Quebec City, they supported a framework for legislation respecting clean air and breathable quality air.

In Canada, there are 5,900 deaths directly due to smog and air pollution each year. We want to deal with that, and we will.

When shall the Bloc Québécois show willingness, like its big brother in Quebec City did, to support similar legislation?

Canada's Clean Air Act
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3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-30, the clean air act, but I wonder why such a bill has been proposed by the government since the previous Liberal government had the most aggressive plan of the G-8. As the former parliamentary secretary to the minister of the environment, I challenge anyone in this House to name one country that had a more aggressive plan than Canada.

In April 2005, the previous government unveiled project green. It is somewhat disingenuous for the Conservatives to suggest that somehow we did nothing for 13 years. It is an absolute farce. Had they read and had they in fact continued on the road with what this government had started, we would be much further ahead today than this hot air plan that we are getting from the government.

The first myth we hear from the Conservatives is that we were going to buy hot air credits from Russia. That is nonsense. All the credits were Kyoto compliant. The second myth is that we do not support this because we are not putting any money into this. Last year we had the greenest budget in Canadian history of $10 billion.

The government is proposing to take action but it has done nothing for the last 10 months. When it unveiled this clean air act, it was recycling some of the things that we had proposed had it not been for the federal election. We do not need to do some of these things because the legislation is already there. I will talk about CEPA in a moment.

In September 2005, the previous Liberal government proposed adding six greenhouse gases, GHGs, to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act of 1999. They included carbon dioxide, methane, fluoro carbons and sulphur, but unfortunately an election came. These GHGs were included in the Kyoto protocol. Our government was committed to ensuring that we reached our targets.

Now some people said that those targets were not possible. They are not possible if we do not do anything. We had an aggressive plan. The former minister of the environment, now the leader of the official opposition, went to Montreal to COP 11. I had the privilege of chairing a session of parliamentarians from around the world at the G-8+5. We were able to get an historic agreement. We were able to get countries onside with regard to the post-Kyoto period.

Regrettably, the official opposition at the time, the Conservative Party, said that it did not believe in Kyoto. It was because some of those members, I believe, belong to the flat earth society. They do not believe the earth is round. If they do not believe in the science then naturally they would assume that this is not a real issue. They should tell that to the natives of the north. They should tell them about the melting of the polar ice cap or the floes that are now happening. My good friend from the Northwest Territories will certainly attest to the fact that we are finding problems in terms of habitat. Polar bears are now being disoriented because of the melting.

It may be good for some of us not to have to walk in the snow in the south but it is a tragedy for those in the north. I have to say that I believe this is the most important issue facing Canadians and in fact people around the world. We need to deal with this.

The government proposes this clean air act and yet that is the party that has always opposed Kyoto and always said that we could not do this and we could not do that. The reality is that we did a lot of very positive things.

We had an agreement in the 14th MOU with the Canadian manufacturers of automobiles. The government claims that this was a voluntary measure. We had 13 MOUs with the auto sector and every one was fulfilled. In fact, in the 14th one, we can measure the trajectory to ensure that the measures to reduce GHGs by 5.3 megatonnes would occur. If this did not happen, we could bring in and use a regulatory back stop, but the reality is that we have not had to. To suggest somehow that there is a problem, when we have already had 13 MOUs that were lived up to, I am not sure what the issue is.

We had 700 final emitters, the largest ones in the country, and we made an agreement with the 700 largest final emitters. Again, we hear from the Conservatives that this side did not do anything. Maybe they should talk to some of their friends in the flat Earth society because maybe the doubters over there just do not get it. They do not get it that the environment is extremely important and that we need to take action. What they have proposed under the clean air act is not action. It has a 2050 target. They now want to add things that they opposed back in September 2005, the things that this party proposed. Now they are saying that they are not bad ideas but that they need to change things because they do not have the proper tools. However, they do have the proper tools.

The amendments they are proposing to CEPA are completely and utterly unnecessary. We already have the vehicle but the members across the way said that it does not work so they opposed it. While they were opposing that vehicle, they have not read and do not understand what we already had in place. We do not need more legislation. We already have the legislation that we had adopted but the Conservatives refuse to use it.

We have a Minister of the Environment, and I do not know if she can spell the word, but she has not articulated a plan that will address the pressing needs. We were the government that dealt with taking 95% of sulphur out of gasoline. We were the government that was well respected on the international stage because of what we had done. As a member of Globe International, G-8+5, which is global parliamentarians for the environment, when I go to international meetings they now ask me what has happened in Canada when we were making such progress, moving forward, had the legislation and had the people on side.

We did not need to go to court as they did in California with the auto sector. We had an agreement on the reduction of 5.3 megatonnes. While the Conservatives were fiddling over there, we were taking action. While they were complaining, I did not see a plan during the federal election on the environment. I guess that is why we did not see anything until recently in the House called the clean air act or, as I like to say, the hot air act.

There is no question that we had programs. The present government is the one that gutted programs that we had brought in. In the one tonne challenge program, everyone had a responsibility to participate and to be involved. What did the Conservatives do? They cut it.

We did environmental audits so people could improve their homes, whether it was insulation for their windows, their doors, new furnaces, et cetera, but suddenly in the middle of the night the program was cancelled. Not only was it cancelled, it was not grandfathered. I, and I am sure others in this House, had constituents phoning and saying that they had just spent the money they thought they would be getting as a rebate and now suddenly they have nothing. We had to investigate this because the government was not clear. It talks about a clean air act but it cannot even come clean in here about the programs it gutted.

The real spokesperson on the environment is the Minister of Natural Resources. I went in October to the ministerial meeting in Monterrey, Mexico where all the environment ministers from the G-8+5 were there except our minister. It was the Minister of Natural Resources Canada who was the lead spokesperson. That is a travesty.

I will say again that everywhere I go around the world people are asking me what has happened. They want to know what happened to the leadership and the vision of the Liberal government in the past that took the lead and was the lead at the COP 11 in Montreal. I say that the best the Conservatives can up with is a hollow clean air act. I must say that it makes me very sad when they will not even try to embrace the positive things that were done and that because they were done by a previous Liberal government they must be bad.

However, according to those around the world, they were excellent and Canadians thought they were excellent.

Canada's Clean Air Act
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3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Merrifield Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, I did not catch all of it but I caught most of what my colleague had to say and most of it was absolute rhetoric.

I look at our clean air act and compare it to him saying that it does not meet the favour of the international community. He suggested that wherever he goes internationally people say how shameful it is that we in Canada are not actually doing what we said we would do when we signed on to Kyoto, which is that we would reduce emissions by 6%. Instead of that, under the Liberal watch emissions increased by 35%. That is the rhetoric.

The reality of the situation is that the Liberals signed on to an agreement that they had no intention of complying with, nor were they actually doing anything about it. Now we have legislation that we hope will become law after it is debated in the House.

We can talk about the rhetoric, one side or the other, all we like but we are talking about a substantive bill that actually deals with this in a way where businesses that do business in Canada will need to comply.

I am wondering what the member has to say with regard to indoor air pollution, which is also in the clean air act. The government opposite had no kind of vision or ideology on that. I wonder if my hon. colleague would stand in his place now and tell Canadians and the House that he at least will support the indoor air standards that would be provided under this legislation and say something a bit more positive about the environment. Everyone in the House and all Canadians are environmentalists. I would like to get my hon. colleague's consensus at least on that.

Canada's Clean Air Act
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3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, far be it for me to be negative. I am only going over what actually occurred. The member should not take my word for it. NGOs unanimously have denounced the clean air act. NGOs have all said that this is hollow legislation. In fact, they say that CEPA is already in place and that the government has the broad powers under CEPA to regulate all air pollution, indoor, outdoor, whatever one likes. However, this legislation does not have any short or medium goals and it needs them.

The answer to the hon. member is that the legislation already exists. This is another diversionary tactic by the government. Instead of dealing with the issue, it has put before the House a piece of legislation that does not address the needs and in fact which NGOs across the country have unanimously said is simply more hot air and rhetoric from a party that has never had, as a centrepiece of its platform, the issue of the environment, which is the number one concern of Canadians.

Canada's Clean Air Act
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3:55 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I have worked with my hon. colleague for years on energy issues, going back to the 1990s. We need to approach this movement to committee with a degree of optimism.

The past record of the Liberal government is not what is at stake right now. What is at stake is putting together an act that can drive progress in Canada and, with the support of all the parties in Parliament, will represent a consensus that will allow us to move ahead in a way that will take the politics and rhetoric out of it.

Does my hon. colleague not agree that the work we need to do in Parliament is actually very important in building a consensus in Parliament and across the country?

Canada's Clean Air Act
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3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, this party is prepared to work with all parties in amending this bill and making positive improvements. Maybe we could put back a lot of the good things that the previous Liberal government was doing that the Conservative government has decided to gut.

I will give the hon. member my assurance that we are prepared to work with his party and any others that are prepared to seriously deal with the environmental issues of the day.