House of Commons Hansard #34 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was afghanistan.

Topics

Climate Change Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, at the outset I would like to thank the member for Thunder Bay—Superior North for bringing forward this bill.

I have had an opportunity very briefly to talk to the member. I know that he is serious, sincere, and committed in mobilizing every resource possible to deal with the serious issue of climate change. I know that he believes that in this bill, as his party does, that they are putting forward the mechanism that will challenge the government to in fact enunciate by setting targets a strategy that conforms with the Kyoto protocol, and that in fact will serve as a legacy for future generations.

In that statement of mission, I think that the member and his colleagues are to be congratulated because in that mission we should all very emphatically state that we support the objective. In fact, we can see that the science tells us irrefutably that climate change is going to be probably the most significant threat to civil society globally in the near future.

Even this morning, we were reminded of the juxtaposition of the towns and villages in Nova Scotia that would be affected with just a small temperature change. That cataclysmic effect will be felt around the globe. Therefore, the seriousness of the bill and its relevance to climate change cannot be denied.

However, there are other issues at this particular point we also should keep in mind. The government, through its members, has spoken very eloquently with respect to the most recent action plan statement as a stimulus menu of those areas through research, commercialization and technology and is starting to seriously confront climate change with a template for action.

I appreciate that there are those who doubt what the impact is going to be. In fact, as we look at the very near past many have said that the government de facto had said that we have withdrawn from the Kyoto commitment and others have said that we are the only country in the world to have signed on to the treaty to have unilaterally declared we will not use, for example, the 1990 baseline, or at worst, we will not even try to meet our targets.

That has been suggested and it will be for the government to have the opportunity to illustrate very clearly that it is not true. On this side, we hope it is not.

I just came from the natural resources committee where in a non-partisan way the committee is looking at part of a strategy to deal with climate change across the country from sea to sea to sea with what is called a comprehensive investment in technologies that will be integrated and that will seriously reduce the threat of climate change and contribution to the targets that Canada implicitly at least has said that it is dedicated to.

The members of the committee have been, I think, tremendously impressed with the engineering and practical implications that this has on the future economy in terms of creating jobs, in terms of creating high value added investments, and at the same time dealing with climate change. In other words, we are combining the most important ingredients of sustainable development, economic growth on the one hand, and meeting our environmental challenges together, and not one to sacrifice the other, but both together marching down and meeting our climate change targets.

The reason we are having a bit of difficulty with this bill is we have already been on record, through two acts that were designed as a template to deal with climate change.

Prior to Bill C-311, in its last sitting, this Parliament approved the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act and the Federal Sustainable Development Act, which are superior to this private member's bill. If they were seriously used as the template for the mission that has been the subject of Bill C-311, those two acts have within them the mechanisms to deal with the issues and to measure the accomplishments that we discussed at our natural resources committee.

The worst thing in any organization is to have a goal that is very complex in a very large country like ours, which is to achieve sustainable development in our climate change objectives, but never get the feedback and measure what we have accomplished. If we do not stand back every so often and take account of what is happening, then we have this doubting Thomas approach that nothing is being accomplished, which is not altogether true.

A careful reading of those two acts would show us that the opportunity for measurement is encompassed with them. This private member's bill has suggested that we should have periodic reports, with the baseline targets of 1990 and the target of 2050, from either through the Auditor General or through the round table on the economy and development. In fact, those mechanisms are being used under Federal Sustainable Development Act and the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act.

I have sat on the environment committee when the Auditor General, for example, has reported department by department. She has reported on how the department has met its sustainable development objectives. The committee has an opportunity to suggest what remedial action is required.

At some point we try to separate the politics of environmental sustainability and our strategies to deal with climate change and accurately position us in a non-partisan way with respect to what our mission is and how we have been dedicated to it.

In bringing this bill forward, I know it was not the intent of the member to detract or add a political dimension to it. When we do not use the acts we have passed, which are affirmations of what we believe, then we place ourselves in the position where we may marginalize the issue because of the politics.

I know this is not what has been intended, but if the alternative course had been taken that there are shortcomings to the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act and the Federal Sustainable Development Act, they should have been the subject of the bill, not one that appears to transplant them.

At this point we will be observing very closely what is happening in Copenhagen with respect to establishing those targets and we will support those. However, this bill marginalizes the two acts that are already affirmations of the mission we have to deal with climate change.

Climate Change Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-311, An Act to ensure Canada assumes its responsibilities in preventing dangerous climate change, or as it is known, the climate change accountability act.

This is issue is very important to me as a Nova Scotian, as a Canadian and as a citizen of the world. A desire to see meaningful action on climate change is one of the reasons I decided to run for election, and it is one of the reasons I decided to run for the New Democratic Party, the party that first raised this issue in the House over 20 years ago.

That spirited advocacy on behalf of our planet continues today with the bill. I am pleased to see the bill returning to the House, after the endurance test that it faced in the last Parliament.

In my work with the Halifax Ecology Action Centre, we watched from a distance as Conservative filibustering at committee kept the first version, Bill C-377, in limbo, from December 11, 2007 to April 28, 2008. When that bill finally passed, I joined with thousands of other Canadians to celebrate in this world first, a victory for climate change and for Canada.

Bill C-311 would mandate the government to live up to Canada's obligations under international climate change agreements. These agreements are not merely suggestions, and governments are expected to have policies in place to bring them into compliance.

While the failures of governments for the last 15 years to deal with climate change are well documented, it must not be used as an excuse to do the minimum when faced with a crisis of this magnitude.

At this point in our nation's history, we are past the debate about whether climate change is real. We are past the debate about what causes it. We are nearly past the point of debate about how we should address it. There is consensus among the world's leading scientists, environmentalists and ordinary Canadians. We know we need targets for reducing greenhouse gases. We know those targets need to be science based and enforced by binding caps. We also know these measures need to be organized through a national emission trading regime.

The government has failed to act on each of these areas, but I am happy to say the bill would provide some real direction on climate change policy in Canada. The reduction targets in the bill are specified for the short, medium and long term, but with built in flexibility to adjust over time. Most important, as others have pointed out during the course of this debate, the bill would introduce legal certainty, as well as government accountability, something we have heard the government aspire to on so many occasions.

With targets set into law, Canada can finally make progress on an international obligation and our already germinating green economy can flourish and bloom.

Our country is filled with great minds who have already been tackling the climate change issue with innovative solutions, many of which I have had the opportunity to see first-hand in Nova Scotia. Industry recognizes that it must adapt or it will vanish, and it is taking steps to get where it should be. All it lacks is a partner in the federal government and some certainty that emission regulations will be predictable and stable.

The climate change accountability act does just that. It sets out these regulations in five year increments until 2050. It is legislation that is the first of its kind in our country and it deserves the support of the House.

Opposition to the bill from the government side has unfortunately relied on that tired argument that we can choose either the environment or the economy, but not both. Previous governments have been trying that one for quite some time and the result is a world that is even closer to catastrophic climate change and an economy that are both in shambles.

Now is the time when we should be taking stock of where we have been and where we want to go. Our twin crises, economic and environmental, can both be addressed with smart public policy that measures sustainability and prosperity with the same yardstick.

Therefore, why the same rhetoric about the economic cost of a bill that would finally take on climate change? There is really no excuse. The economic costs are significantly greater if we do not act now. For every moment that we waste, the greater cost will pass on to our children and our neighbours' children.

It calls to mind a novelty mug that my partner was given as a gift. It has this map of the world on it. When hot water is added, the shorelines change based on rising sea levels, thanks to a warming earth. Suddenly, Brazil is gone. It is bye-bye Bangladesh and so long Indonesia. By the time my tea is cold enough to drink, Nova Scotia has all but disappeared. This mug can get a chuckle out of our guests, but the sad fact is it is an accurate description of what we can expect to happen if emissions are allowed to grow unchecked. It is not a joke. We are only a few years away from a projected 2° temperature rise, after which we may be too late to halt some of the worst effects of the crisis.

In a column in the Halifax ChronicleHerald, Professor Sheila Zurbrigg describes the realities in much more compelling terms. I will quote from her article. She says:

The ultimate irony is that those least responsible for global warming will bear by far the most catastrophic consequences. Most [greenhouse gas] emissions (over 80 per cent) added to the atmosphere are ours, not theirs, and continue to come from the rich industrialized countries.

Yet the gravest outcomes the IPCC scientists warn about are to a considerable extent preventable. The necessary technology and energy-efficiency methods already exist that would allow us to make major GHG reductions right away. But only if we act immediately, intelligently, and together.

Professor Zurbrigg is a medical historian whose area of expertise is the history of famines. The last time she and I spoke, we talked about climate change. She looked me in the eye with such fear in her eyes. She said that a 2° increase would mean widespread, devastating famines unlike we had ever seen in the course of human history. She told me that we needed to act now or we would be unable the world's citizens.

Another signal that the time is right for this bill is the change of administration in the United States. The new President was elected, in part, because of his dramatically different vision for environmental policy. This shift represents a unique opportunity for Canada to act in concert with our largest trading partner.

I acknowledge my hon. colleague from Wetaskiwin who earlier commented about our partnership with the United States. Let us go further. While some states and provinces have gone forward with emission trading markets between themselves, Canada as a country has not acted to promote this sector. It is just one of the ways the bill could help steer our country in the right direction.

We must, as parliamentarians, as Canadians and as global citizens, support the bill. We need to be visionary, bold and innovative and we must act now before it is too late.

Royal Assent
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Order. I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:

Rideau Hall

Ottawa

March 26th, 2009

Mr. Speaker,

I have the honour to inform you that the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bills listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 26th day of March, 2009, at 17:05.

Yours sincerely,

Sheila-Marie Cook

Secretary to the Governor General

The schedule indicates the bills assented to were Bill C-21, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending March 31, 2009; and Bill C-22, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending March 31, 2010.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-311, 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

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

There being no other members rising on debate, I will call upon the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Superior North for a five-minute rebuttal.

Climate Change Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of the climate change accountability bill is simple: to make the government accountable to Canadians on achieving real reductions in greenhouse gases. Just as important, it makes clear to the world that we in Canada are willing to do our part to prevent a catastrophic rise in average global temperatures.

This bill is based on clear science. It provides for the bare minimum required to save us from disaster. Many scientists say we need to do even more.

Let us review what other jurisdictions have done and their plans for future reductions.

Canadian cities got the ball rolling in Canada. Twenty years ago, Toronto made a commitment to reduce CO2 emissions. Today Toronto, unlike Canada at large, has reduced emissions despite enormous population growth. In fact, all of Canada's big-city mayors have committed to take actions even more ambitious than those in this bill.

Let us look at what some provinces have done. B.C., Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec have already joined the Western Climate Initiative, which includes most western American states as well. This initiative to control greenhouse gases will be taken up by those provinces and states because of the leadership vacuum of the Bush administration and our federal governments.

The provinces knew they had to act even if our federal governments have failed to do so. Most of the public also know that real action must be taken. Opinion polls keep saying again and again that four out of five Canadians favour strict measures to reduce emissions, so most people and governments have begun to take action in spite of more than a decade of federal government inaction.

Let us look at the role that other national governments are playing. European leadership has long been apparent, and Obama will be moving quickly in the United States.

In island nations such as the Maldives, it is a matter of survival. They have legislated carbon neutrality within a decade. It is equally important for Kiribati, which will soon disappear beneath the waves because of melting ice caps.

They are going carbon-neutral, and praying that the rest of the world fulfills its obligations too, or be the first to lose their countries.

Our government's own scientists are warning of increased frequency of extreme weather: floods, fires, drought and severe storms. Implementing the targets in this bill is not just an ecological imperative, it is also an economic necessity.

Former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern concluded that not adopting serious reduction targets now will, in the end, actually cost us much more, perhaps more than any of us can think of affording.

In Canada, the recent Jaccard & Associates report shows that the costs of adopting these targets here will be quite minimal. Canada's economy will still grow at 2% and create over a million net new jobs.

We do not need studies to tell us this. We just have to look at the real-life examples in Europe, in forward-looking countries such as Germany and Denmark that have transformed their economies and stimulated growth in new industries. So we can afford to adopt these targets. We cannot afford not to.

A national climate change policy is the responsibility of the federal government. It is time to assume our responsibilities. This bill gives our government a way to work toward what cities, provinces and Canadians say we are ready to do, what we are all compelled to do.

Just two weeks ago the International Scientific Congress, preparing for Copenhagen, painted a stark picture. Researchers say our worst-case climate scenarios are increasingly likely to come true: melting ice sheets, rising sea levels, acidification of entire oceans, and social and economic chaos on a global scale.

Canada's Parliament passed this bill last year. It sets orderly targets for the next 40 years. It forces the government to publish a plan to achieve those targets. Mr. Dion and the Liberals voted for this bill last year. It did not clear the Senate law when an election was called early, but the problem has not gone away. In fact, it is clear that it is getting worse, and getting worse faster and faster.

This December, world leaders will meet in Copenhagen to sign a new agreement to avoid dangerous climate change. Will Canada be embarrassed yet again on the world stage, or--

Climate Change Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I regret to interrupt the hon. member, but the time allotted for his remarks has expired. Of course, I caution him about mentioning members' names, which he did over the course of his speech.

Climate Change Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

I apologize for that. I have a few lines to go, may I finish?

Climate Change Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I thank the hon. member.

The hon. member's time has expired. I did not get up until then, I deliberately waited. I am afraid the time has expired.

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Climate Change Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Climate Change Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Climate Change Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Climate Change Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

All those opposed to the motion will please say nay.

Climate Change Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Climate Change Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Accordingly, pursuant to Standing Order 93, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, April 1, 2009, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.