House of Commons Hansard #101 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chair.

Topics

Nuclear Liability Compensation Act
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Prince George—Peace River
B.C.

Conservative

Jay Hill Secretary of State and Chief Government Whip

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Pursuant to Standing Order 45(7), there is an agreement among the whips of the recognized parties to further defer the recorded division on concurrence in the third report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration to 3 p.m. on Tuesday, June 3.

Nuclear Liability Compensation Act
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

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.

The House resumed from May 12 consideration of Bill C-377, An Act to ensure Canada assumes its responsibilities in preventing dangerous climate change, as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

Climate Change Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to pick up on Bill C-377, An Act to ensure Canada assumes its responsibilities in preventing dangerous climate change. It is bill brought forward by the leader of the NDP, as a private member's bill. I congratulate the leader for his work and thank him for his continuing contribution to the debate about carbon pricing.

I especially want to thank him for keeping an open mind. I know he came out strongly against the notion of a carbon tax shift at first, but yesterday he came some way back in recognizing that a carbon tax shift would be considered an invaluable tool as we took on the challenge of bringing greenhouse gas emissions back down our country.

Why is a bill like this even necessary? We looked at some questions just last night in the committee of the whole that were directly related to this issue.

I asked the Minister of Finance directly, as did my colleague, the hon. member for Mississauga—Erindale, about the effects of energy prices on the forthcoming government cap and trade plan, its regulatory plan due for October. The minister appeared confused by the question, as he did for that matter for much of the evening. He could not give us an indication that he even knew he had a cap and trade plan. He did not know it would cost Canadians more at the pumps, more for natural gas, more for home heating and more every time they made a purchase, but this is indisputable.

Let me quote directly from the government's “Turning the Corner” plan. At page 14 of the so-called detailed report of the government, which let me assure Canadians is no detail, it says, “Our modelling suggests that Canadians can expect to bear real costs” under the government's plan. It goes on to say, “these costs will be most evident in the form of higher energy prices, particularly with respect to electricity and natural gas”. I am not saying that. That is the Minister of the Environment, the Minister of Finance and the government in their plan.

Here is the real irony. Today we had the Prime Minister in London flogging his plan in Europe. Last night the finance minister could not even answer basic questions about the design of the cap and trade system, for which he is responsible, about the economic analysis that underpins the price of carbon, for which he is responsible. Yet the Prime Minister is out vaunting to the world, in Europe, in London, Rome and Paris, that he has a plan that will take Canada so far in the future. It is quite remarkable. The minister could not even tell us the price of carbon today, much less what he anticipates it to be in the fall.

How can we have 2008-09 budget estimates and projections if the minister does not know what the price of carbon will be and what the distributive effects will be on energy prices in the Canadian economy? The minister could not answer that question. He was not asked once, not twice but four times by two separate members of Parliament.

We have the minister so busy pursuing the politics of fear, racing down around carbon pricing, that he has not bothered to do even his own homework about the plan for which he is responsible for delivering in six short months from now. He even had more difficulty explaining his ecotrust scheme. This is really rich. It is $1.5 billion put into a trust with no strings, no conditions, no verification and no accountability at all.

When we were in government, there was the partnership fund. Under ecotrust, there is no agreement with the provinces. There is no verification. I asked if he could tell how he expected the $1.5 billion to reduce a single tonne of greenhouse gases. Not only was he flustered, he did not even know what I was talking about. He is administering the $1.5 billion fund, not his colleague, the Minister of the Environment. It is really unbelievable that we are trying to reconcile all of this and the Minister of Finance simply does not know what he is doing.

Let us turn back to the provisions of Bill C-377 and the amendments.

Motion No. 1 is simple. It identifies the GHGs we are talking about, as listed in the list of toxins under CEPA. Listing these greenhouse gases was a Liberal government achievement in the last Parliament. Other amendments deal with the roles of the round table on the environment economy and the Commissioner for the Environment and Sustainable Development.

I continue to manifest grave concern about the government's unilateral decision to change the reporting structure of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy out of the Privy Council Office and the Prime Minister's office and seriously weakening its reach and impact by putting it under the Minister of the Environment, particularly the current Minister of the Environment, but certainly the Department of the Environment.

I hesitate to support the mandate that is being called for by the leader of the NDP in his bill because the round table has been so seriously weakened. How did the Conservatives do this? They did it by subterfuge. They did it with the stroke of a pen. They cut the legs out from underneath the agency. The government does not even understand what Brian Mulroney understood when he set up the agency to report directly to his office.

It is about PMO control. It speaks volumes about the fact that the Conservatives really want to control the Ministry of the Environment. They want to weaken what happens with civil society actors who come together in a place like the national round table. What really happens is that the advice gets buried and marginalized.

It is very interesting, because last night we also asked the Minister of Finance to explain to us just what is happening with the cap and trade system that he is talking about and how, for example, it might connect with other trading systems. Wow. That was really quite remarkable, because the government has no idea how its own cap and trade system will affect energy prices. It has prepared nothing in this fiscal year for the distributive economic effects, increases in costs for home heating fuel, natural gas, oil, and increases in gas prices at the pump. Let the Conservatives stand and deny it.

On the one hand the Minister of the Environment says, “We are in favour of pricing carbon”. On the other hand the Minister of Finance says, “I do not know what you are talking about. I cannot even tell you what the price of carbon will be. I have no idea what the price of carbon is today in the marketplace”.

It is unbelievable that we are four months away from the Conservatives' so-called cap and trade plan, but it is worse again, because they do not know how it will connect with the emerging provincial regimes. Whether they are carbon taxes in B.C. or whether they are trading systems in Quebec, they do not know. This is worse, because they do not even know how their national cap and trade program will connect to the international cap and trade program coming from Europe and elsewhere for those countries that were still signatories to Kyoto, Canada having abandoned it.

Yet again, there is no evidence from the government that it knows what it is doing on cap and trade when it comes to an emerging potential American system under a president McCain, or a president Obama, or a president Clinton.

It is really quite remarkable that the Conservatives do not know what they are doing; the left hand, the right hand. The irony cannot be lost on Canadians as the Prime Minister is over in London giving a grandiose speech about his climate change vision for Canada, and the plan, which nine independent groups in Canada, including such left leaning institutions as the C. D. Howe Institute, Deutsche Bank, CIBC World Markets and others have looked at and said, “It is not believable. There is no analysis. They will never achieve the greenhouse gas cuts they claim they will achieve”.

How can they, when the Minister of Finance does not even know what the price of carbon will be in four months when he is going to set up the economics of a trading regime for this country? It is unbelievable for Canadians when they see that kind of incompetence, in fact, negligence. The minister was scrambling, looking for documents, turning to the deputy minister and the ADMs, who apparently knew even less. Yet we are four months away from the government claiming it is announcing a major regulatory system.

Worse, the politics of fear compels the government to try to deliberately mislead Canadians about the fact that when it brings out its plan, it will have a massive impact on energy costs: “Do not tell the people this. No, do not tip your hat. We are the tax fighters”, the Conservatives say, “We are the tax cutters”.

There is no surprise there again, because we now have in government the arrival of the Harris quintuplets: the prospective chief of staff to the Prime Minister, the Minister of Health, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of the Environment, and now the House leader; the five man wrecking crew who just about ruined the province of Ontario, leaving it with a $28 billion increase in provincial debt and a $5.6 billion deficit.

Canadians should be very concerned indeed about the fact that the government does not have a climate change plan.

Climate Change Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-377, which relates to climate change. As you know, my party, the Bloc Québécois, has been one of the strongest proponents of the Kyoto protocol since it was signed in 1997. It is the only party that has consistently called on the federal government to come up with a plan that meets the climate change targets.

I come from a region of wide open spaces, Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, where the environmental problems of air pollution are less visible than smog is in a densely populated city. However, I wanted to take part in this debate, because environmental problems are not always visible in our everyday lives, even though they have serious consequences.

The specific consequences of global warming are becoming increasingly tangible, and we must take urgent action before we reach the point of no return. Every day brings more information about the serious long-term risks and the implications for future generations. People in my riding, Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, and throughout Quebec and Canada are concerned about the effects of global warming.

The long-term implications are so obvious that paragraph 5(a) of the bill sets out a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a level 80% below the 1990 level. This reduction of greenhouse gas emissions generated by human activity in Quebec and Canada would have to be made by 2050. By 2020, one quarter of emissions would have to be literally eliminated.

These targets, which were included in Bill C-377 in accordance with the opinion of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, finally give weight to Canada's commitment. The government, which in recent years has unfortunately abandoned its role as an environmental leader, will be able to restore its image.

This bill also proposes that a report be made to the House of Commons on progress in the fight against climate change. Bill C-377 provides for five-year interim plans and annual reports. These requirements, set out in clauses 6 and 10, create accountability for targets and results. Moreover, they provide a way of clearly informing the public about developments.

That is the way to make a serious plan for public policy implementation. Neither the previous government nor the current one had these elements in place to bring in concrete actions in response to the commitments made. When we sign a protocol, we must honour our word.

The government must learn from its mistakes in failing to adhere to phase I of the Kyoto protocol. The two target-oriented measures make this bill a credible plan. The Bloc Québécois has supported the member for Toronto—Danforth's initiative since first reading. Now, following debates in committee and the resulting proposed amendments, we support Bill C-377.

It goes without saying that the Bloc Québécois played a positive, active role in the committee in order to improve certain provisions in the bill. The main issues were the measurements and the application of the plan. I shall explain.

The concept of equity is integral to the Kyoto protocol: equity between developing and industrialized countries, as well as equity between Quebec and the other provinces.

In the past, Quebeckers invested in hydroelectric resources and the results of that are clear: lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Here is an example that speaks volumes: my region, Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, is a major aluminum producer. Aluminum is a primary metal, and the industry is an economic engine that has undergone restructuring several times in the past 20 years. Companies have invested a lot in research and development. They doubled their aluminum production between 1990 and 2005: 1.3 million tonnes in 1990 and twice that in 2005. One might think that emissions doubled as well. But they did not. In fact, greenhouse gas emissions dropped by 500,000 tonnes. As a result, in 2006, emissions were 15% lower.

Aluminum producers in Quebec did not stop there. In June 2007, together with the Government of Quebec, they committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by an additional 150,000 tonnes between 2008 and 2011.

The Bloc Québécois has consistently asked that a territorial approach be included in any plan to address global warming. This has been an important objective for the Bloc Québécois and it is now included the amendments proposed in clause 7:

—each province may take any measure that it considers appropriate to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Thus, every effort will be based on specific targets with the objective of:

—limiting the amount of greenhouse gases that may be released in each province by applying to each province the commitment made under section 5 and the interim Canadian greenhouse gas emission targets referred to in section 6—

In short, each province will be able to enforce measures appropriate to its industries. We believe that all the amendments fit perfectly into the spirit of Bill C-377 while also taking the international context into account. It will be possible to adjust targets, based on future negotiations carried out in the context of the United Nations convention on climate change.

The Bloc Québécois' position has always been clear: rather than continuing its efforts to undermine the Kyoto protocol, the Conservative government must take immediate political action—and this is the only responsible action—and adopt a plan with specific targets.

Quebec is already on board with the Kyoto protocol and has implemented measures. The Quebec government's plan has been commended repeatedly around the globe. Of course, there is still room for improvement, but Quebeckers should not have to pay the price for the Conservative government's ideologies.

In closing, I would remind the House that this issue goes beyond partisan politics. It is of great concern to the citizens of my riding and my region, Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, and is bringing them together. It is gathering support from people of all ages, since it will be at the very heart of the lives of future generations.

The Bloc Québécois is in favour of Bill C-377 in principle and it will be our pleasure to support it.

Climate Change Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

I would like to thank the hon. member for Victoria for keeping order and decorum in the House during the past several minutes. The hon. member for Elmwood--Transcona would certainly be proud.

At this moment, I give the floor to the hon. member for Western Arctic.

Climate Change Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to speak to Bill C-377, a bill that would help Canada and would make Canada assume its responsibilities in preventing dangerous climate change gas emissions.

Over the last day and a half, I had the opportunity to travel to Greenland on the issue of northern sovereignty. While I was there with the Minister of Natural Resources, I had the opportunity to travel to the Greenland ice cap, which is an amazing place. It is a huge expanse of ice that has been in place for hundreds of thousands of years. There is an enormous volume of moisture tied up in the ice cap, but it is quite clearly under severe strain right now.

The scientists we met with on the ice cap talked to us about the conditions they are seeing within this massive and seemingly eternal landscape of ice that is thousands of metres thick and is covering a whole continent. However, right now it is moving. The movement within the ice is accelerating.

The rate of loss of the ice cap is accelerating as well. It accelerated over the past decade to a point where it had between 250 and 300 cubic kilometres of ice loss each year. Last season, it achieved 500 cubic kilometres of ice loss. That is a massive increase.

Any discussion of northern sovereignty, of course, links to climate change. We had the opportunity to hear presentations on climate change from very respected climatologists in large research institutions. They said that the situation right now with the Arctic ice is likely to mean that if we have another warm summer this year, they will be able to sail a boat across the North Pole, from Norway through to Russia.

That is an extraordinary statement. It may not come to pass. We may have a cooler summer. However, the direction that our climate is taking is extremely disturbing. We must recognize that. As Canadians, we have a tremendous responsibility to lead ourselves and the rest of the world toward solutions, toward mitigation as well as reducing our impact.

This bill sets out the kinds of goals that are required to achieve what the scientists have said is a sufficient reduction in greenhouse gas emissions for the world by 2050. Setting out the goals for Canada to achieve those things is extremely important. It is part of what we have to do here.

I am dedicated to this. I will dedicate the rest of my life to working to achieve the kinds of things we have to do in Canada to preserve our life and the chance for our children and grandchildren to continue to prosper. That is certainly a worthwhile goal and I have total faith that this country can do that. It can move ahead in a fashion that can achieve our goals in this way. I do not see why we cannot.

I had an opportunity to talk to the Danes. I like the Danes. The Danish minister of energy said to me last year that if we want to accomplish something on climate change and energy, we need to build a non-political consensus within our Parliament of the directions we have to take. That is so important.

The relentless sniping over climate change that we have seen in this last two years really does not accomplish all that much. However, we did accomplish one thing on climate change already. When we sent the clean air act to a special committee, we got a majority in Parliament to agree on the directions we should take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We got a majority in Parliament to agree to the mechanisms that we should use to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

What I heard from the members of the other party who did not quite agree with us at the time is that they were pretty well on side with most of those mechanisms anyhow. We said in the clean air act that we wanted to put a cap on emissions, put a price on carbon, and create a massive retrofit program for this country so the first step we would take would be to reduce people's use of energy. We would see rapid and substantial decreases in greenhouse gas emissions. We would have a mechanism to fund this and these things would come to pass.

We did that work. The bill is sitting there, waiting to come back to Parliament, waiting to spring into life and to provide that direction to this country. We have done that work and we need to see that kind of plan in place.

Sometimes we find that other parties change in regard to that. They start to talk about other ideas like they are picking fruit from a tree. Here is a different fruit, they say, let us try that one. What really is required is a consensus on action. We worked on that for a long time.

I would say to the Liberal Party members that they should remember what they worked on in this Parliament. They should remember the effort they put into this, the good ideas they put forward and that we supported, and the good ideas that they have accepted from us. When they move forward with anything on this issue, they should remember that.

We need consensus and we need to build from consensus in the government and in this country to accomplish these rather difficult paths that we have ahead of us. However, if we accomplish them, we will do a major and wonderful thing for the world, for our own society and for our children and grandchildren.

Bill C-377 is setting out the goals. It is giving us a framework with which to analyze the goals and make sure that we are on track. It is a planning document of the first order. It is an opportunity to layer in the mechanisms, to understand how they work and to ensure they are meeting the targets as we move along.

Why would we not have a process like this, a process that will take the politics out of it and will mean that we can move ahead very carefully?

I appreciate your gesture, Mr. Speaker. As always in the House, the work that the Speakers do to keep us on track is great. I also appreciate the fact, Mr. Speaker, that you shared that green chair with one of my colleagues, who I am sure will always relish the memory of that opportunity.

To get back to the subject at hand, how can we continue to work on this together? We can continue by passing this legislation. The bill is a planning document. It allows us all to agree on the process that we will follow. It is a document that gives us the flexibility to look at how we are making decisions and to ensure that those decisions are moving us in the right direction. By its nature, it is a non-partisan document.

If we all support this, we can move ahead. We can make a difference in this country. We can make this Parliament sing a different tune. We can say, “Here is the reality of what we are dealing with in this world and in this country, so let us make it work together”. Let us make a better place for all of us. Let us put aside the politics on this particular issue for a second, a day, a week, a month, a year, and let us move ahead with this for the good of Canadians.

Climate Change Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment now has the floor. I thank him for his patience.

Climate Change Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

Langley
B.C.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak on Bill C-377, the NDP's so-called climate change bill. It is actually a very poorly written bill and is the first bill I have seen in years that did not make it through committee.

During the report stage of Bill C-377, we were reminded of the 13 long, dark years of Liberal neglect on the environment, a time when emissions continued to rise every year and the Liberals did absolutely nothing on the environment. Those were dark years.

We also heard again and again about the NDP's dismal record on the environment, and how they say they care about the environment through carefully crafted media announcements, yet regularly vote against cleaning up and protecting the environment. The fact is that the NDP has been an absolute failure when it comes to the environment.

The previous Liberal government, with much fanfare, committed Canada to a formal target under the Kyoto protocol, but as we later discovered through comments from the former Liberal environment ministers and a senior Liberal adviser, the previous Liberal government had no plan and no intention of ever achieving the ambitious targets set out by the Kyoto protocol agreement.

The end result was 33% above the commitment that Canada made under the previous Liberal government.

Climate Change Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

An hon. member

Shame.

Climate Change Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

The member is absolutely right: it was a shame on Canada internationally.

Our government believes in being honest with Canadians as well as our international partners. That is why we introduced the “Turning the Corner” plan, an environmental action plan that not only is realistic and achievable but will maintain Canada's economic competitiveness. We need greenhouse gas targets that are technically achievable and at an acceptable cost. That is what is found in the government's turning the corner action plan. Unlike Bill C-377, which was not costed, our plan was costed.

Before setting any targets, we need to know the economic impacts. As I mentioned, Bill C-377 has not been costed by the NDP despite repeated calls for that analysis to be undertaken. What is the NDP trying to hide from Canadians?

Does the NDP not believe that Canadians have the right to know what the bill, if adopted, would mean to the Canadian economy? Do Canadians not have the right to know what sectors of the economy will be impacted by the legislation and how badly they will be impacted?

Does the NDP not believe that Canadians have the right to know whose jobs will be lost as a result of the bill? Yes, Canadians do have that right. Do Canadians not have a right to know the price of gasoline if Bill C-377 were to go forward? As we have heard, we are looking at another $1.50 a litre on top of what Canadians are paying now.

I want to read for members what the former commissioner of the environment said in critiquing the former Liberal government:

We expected that the federal Liberal government would have conducted economic, social, environmental, and risk analyses in support of its decision to sign the Kyoto Protocol in 1998...we found that little economic analysis was completed, and the [former Liberal] government was unable to provide evidence of detailed social, environmental, or risk analyses.

That is exactly what the NDP is attempting to do here.

Every witness group that was heard at the environment committee, including the leader of the NDP, said the bill should be costed, yet the NDP is moving forward without it being costed, I believe because they are ashamed of the costs for jobs and to heat our homes and the cost of energy. When we include that with what the Liberals are proposing with their carbon tax, we can imagine what would happen to the cost of energy in Canada. I would like to contrast the NDP plan and its approach with that taken by the government.

In setting our greenhouse gas targets, the Government of Canada is not only looking at targets but it is looking at the best way to achieve them. The government is taking into account what impact those targets would have on all sectors of the economy, for every sector will be expected to do its part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Any discussion about Bill C-377 has to be taken in relation to the so-called plan issued yesterday on carbon pricing by the leader of the NDP. Actually, it was nothing more than another one of those empty NDP media events.

I have to ask my friends in the NDP: Where have they been for the last two years?

Instead of talking about putting a price on carbon, our government has already shown leadership on the environment and delivered a balanced solution to tackle climate change with our “Turning the Corner” environmental plan, which includes, for the first time in Canadian history, a price on carbon.

As members know, our “Turning the Corner” plan to cut Canada's greenhouse gas emissions by an absolute 20% by 2020 will see the market set a price on carbon starting at around $25 a tonne and rising to $65 a tonne. That plan can be seen online.

In addition, our government's plan has brought certainty to the carbon market, and that is important. The Montreal Exchange has said that our March “Turning the Corner” announcement has given it the green light to start trading as early as tomorrow, May 30.

The NDP leader actually bragged yesterday that the NDP raised the issue of climate change back in 1983, yet greenhouse gas emissions have skyrocketed since then. I guess he has actually been celebrating 25 years of NDP failure on the environment. The fact is if we look at the track record of the NDP, it has been an absolute failure on the environment. Those members have done absolutely nothing. Ultimately, that is the problem with the NDP. Those members can talk all they want, but the fact is they have never actually done anything to protect the environment.

The fact is while the opposition parties squabble and try to make themselves look the greenest, the Prime Minister is showing real leadership this week on the world stage by meeting with international leaders from across Europe and around the world. The Prime Minister is demonstrating that Canada is taking real action in the fight against climate change, both here at home and abroad. We received an award yesterday from the United Nations on our accomplishments on biodiversity. That is the kind of leadership that Canadians can count on with this government to deliver every day.

I could go on and on about other issues, such as the fact that the opposition tried to completely rewrite Bill C-377. As I said at the beginning, it could not even be completed and had to be sent back here unamended completely.

There are serious legal issues over Bill C-377 that should be of concern to Canadians. Peter Hogg, a respected constitutional scholar, told the committee that:

Such regulations could reach into every area of Canadian economic (and even social) life...Such a sweeping grant of authority to the executive is unprecedented outside of wartime—and should be a matter of grave political concern--

He went on to say:

If Parliament were to enact the Bill, it would be struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Another structural deficiency in the bill is the proposed penalties and fines. Bill C-377 includes only a very rudimentary set of offences and penalties, neither complemented by a statutory enforcement regime. That is why this government is proceeding instead with mandatory regulations under the existing Canadian Environmental Protection Act, which contains a strong penalty regime for polluters. Unlike the opposition, this party and this government will not play partisan politics with the environment.

We will continue to oppose Bill C-377 and continue to move forward with the implementation of our “Turning the Corner” action plan, an environmental plan that will finally result in a clear reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution for the benefit of Canadians and the international community, both for this generation and for coming generations. We care about the environment. We are getting the job done.

Climate Change Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

NDP

Denise Savoie Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-377, which ensures that Canada assumes its responsibilities in preventing climate change. This bill is even more important because it does not put a partisan spin on this issue, an issue that is probably the greatest challenge of the 21st century. Canadians expect us to be above partisan games.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say that I was very honoured that you asked me to replace you for a few minutes. I had the opportunity, while sitting in the green chair, to look at things from a different perspective. I spent a few minutes thinking about how important it would be for the government to show true leadership on this issue that is so important for the future.

I recently attended a conference in Victoria.

The conference, called “Gaining Ground”, was held in Victoria during the break week. There were people gathered from all over B.C. and indeed from all over Canada and even from the United States. There were students, scientists, economists, and business people.

The students, the young people, said, “Do not mortgage our future”. The economists were saying, “Do not treat environmental impacts as externalities, as we have been doing and as we continue to do”.

Business leaders are far ahead of where we are at the moment. There were builders there who talked about the incredible impact that we could have by simply having some leadership at the level of changing the rules around construction in Canada and beginning to build green buildings, green homes, the kinds of green economy jobs that we could be creating, but that has not happened yet.

This bill would allow us to work together to build consensus. This bill is really science-based and I would like to go back to that. However, I want to talk a little about the consensus that I think the New Democrats have tried to build on during this Parliament, given how strongly we feel about this issue and how important we believe it is.

There was the Liberal Bill C-288, the Kyoto bill, and we agreed to work with the Liberals to bring that bill through committee to the House and to pass it. It was the same thing with Bill C-30, the Conservatives' climate change bill, which in its initial stages would have done very little to mitigate climate changes, but we proposed that all parties bring their best ideas and work together in consensus at committee.

We did that and there were some great ideas that came from all parties and this bill remains at third reading. The government has refused to bring it to the House for a vote and that simply goes against what Canadians expect of us. They want real change.

As everyone tries to understand the shifts that are required to achieve a more sustainable future, they are discouraged by the lack of action by successive governments. We know that biophysical and social changes can reach a tipping point, beyond which there is potentially irreparable change.

My colleague from Western Arctic spoke about his visit recently to Greenland and observed with scientists the way glaciers are receding. I had the fortunate experience to do the same thing on the other coast. I had the opportunity to visit Prince William Sound and the glacier called Nellie Juan. The people who were with us, who had been living in that area for some 30 years, showed us the way the ice was receding. There were beginnings of growth of vegetation where the ice had stood for centuries.

That is our children's future and our grandchildren's future that we are looking at. This is why I take this issue so seriously, as I think do all Canadians. The reason this bill is so exciting is it sets firmly into law the responsibility Canada must assume to prevent the tipping point that I mentioned.

Setting targets into law is key. Before I ran for election I remember having a conversation with the former minister of the environment. He was discouraged by the lack of action and the lack of commitment of his own government to move forward on climate change after accepting the Kyoto agreement.

I got the impression that the reason he felt there was a lack of commitment was that the discussions always occurred behind closed does in cabinet and there was no formal legislation requiring government to take action. It was always discussions behind closed doors and power plays that prevented any real decisions to take action. This piece of legislation would change that process.

Scientists tell us there is a consensus that an increase of 2° in the world's surface temperature from pre-industrial levels would constitute dangerous climate change and trigger global scale impacts and feedback loops from which it is difficult to imagine coming back.

Dr. Andrew Weaver, a leading scientist, Nobel prize winner, a professor at the University of Victoria, and a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, spoke to the committee. Here is what he said:

What I can say is that any stabilization of greenhouse gases at any level requires global emissions to go to zero.

I had to reread that because it is difficult to imagine how we can get there. Dr. Weaver is one of the leading world experts and certainly is a well-respected Canadian scientist. He said:

There is no other option. To stabilize the level of greenhouses gases in the atmosphere at any concentration that is relevant to human existence on the planet, we must go to zero emissions.

Hence the importance of this bill, because it will set into law the targets and the timelines that science tells us we must meet if we want to stop irreversible damage: medium targets of 25% below 1990 levels and long term targets of 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

The Conservatives have set a new starting date and we know from all the comments we have heard that their targets simply do not get the job done as they would like to tell us they do. Science tells us that if we follow the government's plan we are going to--

Climate Change Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

It is with regret that I must interrupt the hon. member for Victoria.

The hon. member for Northumberland—Quinte West has the floor with the understanding that I will cut off debate in nine minutes.

Climate Change Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to add to the debate on Bill C-377 at report stage .

The Conservative Party members on the environment committee, which studied the bill, have some serious concerns about the legality and constitutional status of this bill. I know that the Conservative members were, and are, extremely concerned regarding the lack of any economic analysis or costing of the bill, its constitutional validity and the manner in which the bill was reported back to the House. Bill C-377 is an irresponsible piece of legislation.

What the NDP is proposing would require a 40% reduction in greenhouse emissions from where we are today. Much like the Liberals' hidden carbon tax plan, this simply is not possible without causing massive job losses and huge price increases in electricity, heat and gasoline. The costs that this bill would impose on Canadian families and businesses could be quite considerable. Yet, when he testified at the committee about the bill, the leader of the NDP actually admitted that he had not bothered to find out how much the bill would cost Canadian families in increased gas and energy prices.

One would think for a member who stands in this House almost every day and rails on and on about gas prices, he would have taken the time to step back and get a fair costing of what he was proposing.

Costs alone should not be the only reason to defeat this bill. Earlier, I believe that one of my colleagues addressed comments made by the respected constitutional scholar Peter Hogg at the environment committee in early February. I know he made reference to his comments that this bill would likely be struck down by the Supreme Court. What he did not mention was another comment made by Mr. Hogg. He said, “the constitutional issues are all that I am concerned with, and they are, in my view, enough to defeat the legislation”. Wise words from a wise man. I believe that Mr. Hogg's comments should be heeded by all members of this House.

Unfortunately, all the NDP members care about is passing feel good pieces of legislation that will not accomplish what they want them to accomplish.

It is not just the cost and the constitutionality of the bill that are in question, but it is also the issue of regulatory targets. I think we all agree in this House that regulatory targets like those being proposed in Bill C-377 should be evaluated carefully and logically. For example, we all know that the previous Liberal government set arbitrary targets on greenhouse gas emissions at Kyoto under pressure from former Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and then stood back and did nothing for 10 long years.

That brings me to a comment made by a witness at the environment committee earlier this spring.

Andre Turmel from the Canadian Bar Association appeared as a witness. One of the things that he said which I found most interesting is that targets “should be linked to and coherent with targets set out in existing international law.... The targets in Bill C-377 are not”. That is a very interesting comment. The targets in Bill C-377 are incoherent with those set out in international law.

Either the NDP research bureau did not bother doing any homework or the NDP leader is more interested in scoring political points than fighting climate change. In either case, this is not responsible behaviour.

In conclusion, the question that this House is facing today with this bill is: Should we set climate change objectives that we know from the very beginning make little or no sense; objectives that would be impossible to meet without considerably disrupting the Canadian economy? Or should we set realistic and achievable targets that would strengthen Canada's long term competitiveness; targets that would still represent significant and positive progress in the fight to reduce harmful air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions?

I know that the Conservative members agree with the latter position. That is why we cannot support this bill. Quite frankly, this bill is comparable to a foot on the throat of the automotive industry. Thousands of jobs in my area, in the area surrounding the Durham region, Northumberland and Peterborough, are reliant upon a healthy and vibrant automotive industry, yet we have seen some job losses. We have seen two shifts laid off at the General Motors truck plant.

This legislation will just add to the problems of the automotive industry, an automotive industry that the NDP claims to support and yet at that committee, I am told that the automotive industry said that this will be tantamount to almost obliterating automotive plants and parts assembly plants across the province and the country. That is unacceptable. That is why we will not support the bill.

Climate Change Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Essex. He should know that in three minutes he will be interrupted by the Chair.