House of Commons Hansard #135 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Persons with Disabilities
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Bloc

Louise Thibault Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will vote in favour of this motion.

Persons with Disabilities
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Comuzzi Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I vote in favour of the amendment.

(The House divided on the amendment, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #159

Persons with Disabilities
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the amendment carried.

The next question is on the main motion, as amended.

Persons with Disabilities
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, let me be the first to congratulate the hon. member for Kitchener Centre because I think if you seek it you would find unanimous consent to support this amended motion unanimously.

Persons with Disabilities
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

Does the House grant unanimous consent to the motion?

Persons with Disabilities
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Persons with Disabilities
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion, as amended, agreed to)

Message from the Senate
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

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 a certain bill.

Message from the Senate
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order, I want to advise the House to be cautious in usurping the method of voting that this House has instituted for private members' business. I did not object because I can sense the mood of people wanting to get out of here, but I think we should be careful in the future.

I may object in the future because this House has gone through tremendous struggles to ensure that private members' business gets voted in a certain way and respected in that fashion and we are slipping away from that. I just want to say that I for one am concerned and I may not grant unanimous consent in the future.

Message from the Senate
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

I appreciate the hon. member's comments and I am sure hon. colleagues appreciate his intervention. As he probably knows, if he does have concerns with the House taking that kind of a decision, he can refuse unanimous consent and the normal voting procedure would apply that.

It being 6:25 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from February 5 consideration of the motion that Bill C-377, An Act to ensure Canada assumes its responsibilities in preventing dangerous climate change, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Climate Change Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Boshcoff Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, when I was entering university, it was a time of some real life environmental disasters. It was actually quite depressing. Some northern rivers were so full of mercury that they did not freeze in the wintertime. Eagles, ospreys, peregrines were becoming extinct. Loggers were cutting to the river's edge, the water's edge. The town stank from the smell of bad eggs. Some called it the smell of prosperity.

All those factors and many others helped me decide that I wanted to be part of the solution, so I went to graduate studies and got my master's in environmental studies in practice and intervention.

I became an environmental planner and, given my professional, public and private commitments, I started up and helped fund raise and continued to belong to numerous environmental organizations. I put my money up and I donate extensively to a wide variety of these groups that are dedicated to making the planet a cleaner, safer and greener place. We have to walk the walk. We have to talk the talk.

As a councillor and mayor later on, I supported many of these environmental plans. Indeed, Thunder Bay became a community known for starting recycling and all sorts of other innovative programs. That is why the $6.5 billion in cuts by the Conservative government to the environmental programs, which were essentially community based, were so devastating to not only the 27 communities in Thunder Bay—Rainy River, but to each and every community across Canada.

The previous government had built a broad based set of community involvement. In my area a group called EcoSuperior was more than just the wheels. It was actually the engine for delivering quality and better environmental programs and community activist activities. We saw small neighbourhood groups and larger regional based organizations commence with some serious momentum to address the environmental issues and to see what people themselves could do as individuals and as communities.

Even over the past recent months as new issues arise, we see these community groups take up the cause. Whether it is redressing the disposal of mercury in lamps and those kinds of things, we always ask ourselves this. What can a group of individuals do?

I believe the environmental programs, the type that are community based, the kinds that generate the letter writing and petition writing campaigns, actually make a difference. They motivate people and they inspire them to do what they can.

The success of those exercises was evidenced by the repackaging and the reintroduction of many former Liberal programs. That is fine, except for one thing, and that is the loss of the momentum and the destruction or collapse of many of those local environmental activist groups. Basically, over all of that, we also lost two years of achieving Kyoto targets. The guilty culprits are clear, the coalition of the NDP and the Conservatives.

In 1993 the Liberal government inherited the largest debt in the history of Canada, which was the legacy of Conservative spending. That was wrestled down to the point where our country was no longer an economic basket case. I believe the Liberal plan, which was derailed by the recent alliance, would have seen us two years closer to meeting our goals. Now, we are two years behind.

When the world gathered in Montreal in December 2005, it was the leader of the NDP who was against the conference and told the delegates they would never get anywhere. However, the chair of that conference, the present Leader of the Opposition, did achieve a remarkable consensus. We remember when the world had gathered 20 years earlier in Montreal to address the issue of CFCs. We saw the remarkable progress that had been made when the world pulls together. We tackled the issue of how to protect the ozone layer and we were successful.

Indeed, when we see the results and the dramatic changes that have been made in just that timeframe, it tells us that we can do it. When we were faced with a rather spineless clean air act, the opposition parties gave it strength.

I was at committee on the concluding marathon day of the final amendments, for choosing the title, the definitions and the preamble. I watched, with considerable dismay, as the minority government demonstrated its contempt for having to really do something to save our country and the planet. The Conservatives started voting against the amendments, the definitions and even the title. I found that extraordinarily hypocritical and shameful.

The fraud continues with the release of the new, perhaps secret, greenhouse emission plan, which was used last year as its starting point. It is kind of like saying we should start the 100 yard dash at the 50 yard line and make it a 50 yard dash.

Those kinds of examples give a pretty dramatic clue that if we care and we are sincere, then the concerns that we represent for Canadians and for the environment must be justified. They demand sincerity in their action.

Many people have watched the documentary film An Inconvenient Truth. There is also one on the dilemma of oil. These have raised the level of awareness of people who perhaps were not technically astute, but it puts them into a space where they can understand the ramifications of doing nothing. Indeed, the book, The Weather Makers, effectively refutes all Conservative claims that there is no global warming.

The newest short film, AHEAD OF THE CURVE: business responds to climate change, confirms that by reducing greenhouse gases, there is a way for countries and their businesses to profit in a very positive way.

We see the number of skeptics who perhaps never believed there was global warning or some kind of climate change occurring. The film alludes to Johnson & Johnson, Duke Energy, Wal-Mart and Dupont, all recognizing that indeed there is a problem that has to be addressed. When they start recounting the savings in their production costs, improving the bottom line and helping to protect the planet, I believe that success is its own standard of measurement.

There is a big gap between just thinking of it and doing it. When we talk about energy conservation and what the bill could do we ask ourselves this. What can one person, one community, one province and one nation do? The sum totality is when people add these, we end up not only saving all nations but we save the planet.

I believe the expression is that this planet is not ours, we are borrowing it from our future generations. That tells us that the role of government is to provide those incentives and facilitative devices so we can be part of the solution.

We can look at the articles published in various Canadian newspapers. The St. John's Telegram, for example, identifies that $150 billion in new investment for coal-fired plants is not only necessary, but we will also end up with near zero emissions. It states:

The potential benefits flowing from an ambitious and realistic clean air plan that reduces greenhouse gases are enormous.

I am here tonight to ask this minority Parliament to pull together and get the kind of legislation through that will actually do the job.

Climate Change Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Bloc

Marcel Lussier Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, according to the actual wording of the bill tabled on October 31, 2006, by the member for Toronto—Danforth, the purpose of this enactment is to ensure that Canada meets its global climate change obligations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

In a second stage, the bill will create an obligation for the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development to review the measures proposed by the government to meet targets and comply with the obligation to submit a report to Parliament.

The Bloc Québécois is in favour of Bill C-377.

The fight against climate change is without a shadow of a doubt one of the most important issues of the planet and represents a major challenge for Quebec and Canada. Although the Bloc Québécois is concentrating on respect for the first phase of the Kyoto protocol, namely the period from 2008 to 2012, we should plan for the next stage in order to improve further Quebec’s and Canada’s environmental record.

While awaiting the results of the official negotiations among the 163 signatory countries and stakeholders of the Kyoto protocol, led by the special working group which began meeting in Bonn last May, Canada must determine a medium and long term plan to show it really wants to significantly reduce greenhouse gases. By adopting credible targets acknowledging the importance of significantly reducing greenhouse gases so as to reduce global warming, Canada can resume its role as a leader on environmental issues, a role it has stopped playing in recent years.

The Bloc therefore supports the principle of Bill C-377 in the hope of being able to examine and debate it in committee. The Bloc will seek to improve this bill. For example, the Bloc had Bill C-288 amended so that it includes a mechanism for a territorial approach, the simplest approach, but above all the most effective one for Quebec and the other provinces of Canada, in order to meet the Kyoto protocol targets.

We are in favour of the principle of Bill C-377, and we wish to study it with all due seriousness, given the seriousness of the issue of climate change.

There are three parts to this bill: first, new targets for the years after 2012; second, the publication of an annual report; and third, the new obligation on the environment commissioner. I want to turn now to one of these three parts.

Clause 5 of the bill sets medium and long term targets. The Government of Canada will therefore have to ensure, as a long term target, that Canada’s emissions are reduced to a level that is 80% below the 1990 level by the year 2050.

The second target that is mentioned is 25% below the 1990 level by the year 2020, which is considered the medium term target.

Between 2012 and 2020, Canada will therefore progress from a 6% reduction to a 25% reduction on its way to finally achieving its objective for 2050.

Clause 6 adds something else: it sets interim targets. It establishes the targets to be achieved every five years beginning in 2015. This interim plan also specifies certain other things such as a greenhouse gas reduction target for each of 2015, 2020, and 2025 as well as the scientific, economic and technological evidence and analysis used to establish each target.

The second part of the bill requires that an annual report be published. Since there are certain targets for each of the years mentioned, the purpose is to see whether the government achieved these targets.

The measures may include: lower emissions and performance standards, market-based mechanisms; spending or fiscal incentives may also be mentioned in these proposals or in the objectives in order to reach the targets. Cooperation or agreements with provinces, territories or other governments are another way of achieving these targets.

In regard to the latter point, the Bloc Québécois will ensure that the approach is in accordance with the territorial approach always specified by the Bloc. In complying with the Kyoto protocol, the Bloc Québécois still insists that the federal plan must include a mechanism allowing for the signature of a bilateral agreement with Quebec.

This bilateral agreement based on a territorial approach should give Quebec the financial tools it needs to implement more effective measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on its territory. This is the most efficient and the only truly equitable solution that takes into account the environmental efforts and choices made by Quebeckers in recent years, particularly with the development of hydroelectricity. This measure must be included in the measures taken following the 2008-12 period, so that Quebec may also continue to implement its own greenhouse gas reduction plan.

The third point is the new obligation of the environment commissioner to produce a report. It is important to note that there is no provision in Bill C-377 that would make the environment commissioner an entirely independent officer of Parliament who would report directly to Parliament. The Bloc would like such a change to be made to the environment commissioner position so that he has the latitude to fulfill the new duties assigned to him.

As I said earlier, the Bloc Québécois has always sought a territorial approach. Given the major differences between Quebec's economy and those of the other provinces, as well as efforts that have already been made, this is the only fair and effective approach that does not require years and years of negotiation. It is very simple: Quebec and the provinces who wish to do so can opt out of the federal government's plan and implement their own measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 6% below 1990 levels within their territory. To enable Quebec and the provinces to make their own choices, the territorial approach should be combined with a permit exchange system.

As the deadline nears, the federal government must opt for the territorial approach to speed up efforts to reduce greenhouse gases as much as possible. However, the Conservatives twice rejected this promising approach and seem no more open to it now than they were before. For the period following the first phase of the Kyoto protocol, that is, after 2008-12, Quebec must be in a position to undertake its work according to its own plan.

The Bloc Québécois has no doubt that human activity is the cause of greenhouse gas production and is responsible for climate change. During discussions prior to the climate change conference in Bonn, the Bloc Québécois sent a clear message to the Conservative government. The federal government must shoulder its responsibilities and start thinking about medium and long term objectives. Since the conference, the Conservative government has stubbornly rejected the Kyoto protocol. It has lost face in the eyes of all of the countries that ratified the protocol. As my colleague said earlier, the past two years and the past few months have been a total loss in the fight against climate change.

Climate Change Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

NDP

Denise Savoie Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to speak to this climate change bill crafted by the member for Toronto—Danforth. He knows this issue back and front and, more importantly, he walks the talk. He has retrofitted his home to be a net producer of energy. As a Toronto city councillor, he proposed solutions, followed through and made them reality, such as the Toronto atmospheric fund, one of the most ambitious and effective building retrofit programs in the country.

Now, as MP and leader of the NDP, he has proposed practical solutions and has followed through on that, for example, with the cooperative initiative, bringing all parties together to bring their best ideas to re-craft the flawed Bill C-30. Now it is up to the House to make that a reality.

At the start of the year, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its fourth assessment report, which provides the most sobering and scientifically precise overview to date.

It is expected that sea levels will rise, species will become extinct and natural catastrophes will increase throughout the world. In North America, we can expect an increase in hurricanes, flooding, forest fires and drought. Our cities will have to cope with heat waves that will be more frequent and intense and that will last longer, as well as their effects on health, particularly in the elderly and children.

In my province of B.C., drinking water will become more scarce and threats to water quality will become more frequent and serious. Researchers at the University of Victoria have examined 70 to 80 glacier fronts over the past five years and have consistently found glaciers in rapid decline and already at their lowest ebb in 8,000 years.

Last year's boil water advisory in greater Vancouver was the largest in Canadian history, but it will not be the largest for long.

Given the irrefutable scientific evidence before us, what possible reason could any responsible government have for not acting with more urgency?

Liberals and Conservatives seem to agree: both tell us that the economy comes first.

Under the Liberals, greenhouse gas emissions rose by 24% instead of going down, but the economy was booming, they told us, and they could not very well slow it down.

The Conservatives use emergency closure measures to act immediately to impose unfair labour settlements, but not on climate change. For that, we are still waiting.

Pitting the environment against the economy is disingenuous and just irresponsible. Last October's report by former World Bank economist Sir Nicholas Stern makes this very clear.

Societies always need energy. However, we must change our collective mentality by turning from policies of productivity and excessive consumerism to policies that promote efficiency and conservation.

By practising conservation, we can reduce the gap between our energy needs and the supply of clean, renewable energy. The government can help promote the energy efficiency of our homes, buildings and businesses by providing incentives that will lead us to change our means of transportation and the way of ordering our communities and our daily lives.

As a city councillor, I saw the determination of some municipalities to use every tool at their disposal to take up the challenge, while the federal government's response remained weak and unfocused. Canada now ranks 28th out of 29 OECD countries in energy efficiency. We have a lot of room for improvement.

In Victoria, we are working very hard to do our part.

Recently in Victoria there have been several public forums on climate change, with hundreds of people attending, and I dedicated my fall newsletter to the issue of climate change. I commended my constituents for the small and large actions they take every day and I challenged them to do more.

As a result, I received an overwhelming number of feedback forms coming from that newsletter, all with actions that Victorians are taking, such as retrofitting their homes, choosing energy efficient appliances and choosing alternative modes of transportation.

As inspiring as these simple actions are, they are betrayed by continued government inaction or halfway measures, which make it harder, not easier, for ordinary Canadians to make these choices.

It is still easier to buy polluting products that have travelled for miles to get to big box stores than it is to buy local products.

The federal government has failed to correct what Sir Nicholas Stern has called the biggest market failure. When it has acted, it has been with half measures or even quarter measures.

The government's so-called recent ecoenergy home retrofit program is an example of this kind of half-hearted measure. It does not meet the needs of low income Canadians or those with rental properties, whereas what we need is a program that would systematically facilitate the retrofit of millions of homes and buildings in Canada on a yearly basis.

This bill has been introduced precisely because of the inadequate effort of the federal government now and for the past 14 years.

This bill would end the federal government's voluntary delay and would legislate action, action that is rooted in where science tells us we need to go.

It would be based on action that would begin to tilt the market away from polluting industries and would level the playing field between polluting and non-polluting ones.

This bill enshrines the 80% target in law. Furthermore, it requires a 25% reduction by 2020, on par with the commitments of the Kyoto protocol and the 2050 target.

These targets are based on the important report The Case for Deep Reductions, prepared by the Pembina Institute and the David Suzuki Foundation, and supported by all major environmental organizations in Canada. Thus, it stands to reason that the starting point for this bill is meeting our Kyoto protocol commitments. We are joining other countries that have set ambitious targets to comply with the Kyoto protocol.

To arrive at our destination, we must map out a route. That is why the targets are essential.

Since this bill was introduced, some of these measures, notably the medium and long term targets, have been successfully incorporated into Bill C-30 by the special legislative committee. We look forward to Bill C-30 coming back to the House for a vote. However, we know there is no guarantee in politics.

That is why I am urging members of the House to support Bill C-377 in principle and vote for it to proceed to committee. We expect that the committee can be just as constructive in exchanging views and propositions for this legislation.

To close, I would like to relay a thought from an IPCC scientist who attended Victoria's recent forums. He said that no matter what we do, short term temperatures will rise as a result of the past decades of inaction, but our actions today are necessary because they will determine the long term impacts that our grandchildren will feel.

It is said that politicians always look for short term electoral gain and I wonder if in this House today we have politicians who are willing to act, not just talk, but act with their vote for the long term.

Do we cherish our environment and our children's future enough to make the fundamental changes that are needed to protect them? Because what we do in this House today is for the next generation.