Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Thunder Bay—Superior North for splitting his time with me. I also want to acknowledge the passionate work he has done in terms of ensuring that Canada takes a leadership role in protecting the environment.
As the member noted, we will supporting the Bloc opposition day motion and, in part, it is because it reflects work that the NDP has already proposed. The NDP has long been out there speaking to the need to take on action around climate change and to protect the environment. We recognize the significance of the crisis that is facing us.
Bill C-377 was originally introduced by the member for Toronto—Danforth. In his appearance before the committee, he talked about the fact that we need to deal with climate change. It is a fundamental issue. How fundamental? The United Nations Secretary General has called climate change the biggest challenge to humanity in the 21st century. The Global Environment Outlook by the United Nations environmental program stated:
Biophysical and social systems can reach tipping points, beyond which there are abrupt, accelerating or potentially irreversible changes.
We must do our share to prevent the planet from reaching the point of no return.
That was the underpinnings of Bill C-377, which was adopted by Parliament on June 4, 2008, so clearly there was debate and the hearing of witnesses. The bill talked about long term targets to reduce Canadian greenhouse gas emissions 80% below 1990 level by 2050 and medium term targets to bring emissions 25% below 1990 levels by 2020.
We have heard in the House that the NDP simply does not have an action plan. That is absolutely untrue. Our fighting climate change program contains a lengthy list, so I will not go over every detail, but it does talk about implementing a $3 billion green collar jobs plan, including a fund for training; establishing an industry innovation plan to help businesses reduce their energy use; investments in renewable energy solutions; reduce pollution through an early adopters program that encourages the purchase of commercial and electric hybrid vehicles; investing in environmental solutions and incentives to encourage individual Canadians and small businesses to make better choices for their environment through a better building, retrofit and energy efficiency initiative; investing in stable annual transit funding, and it goes on and on.
I would encourage members who have not read our fighting climate change action plan to read it because there are those kinds of concrete actions in it.
The member for Thunder Bay—Superior North has covered some of the details and some of the other potential links with the economy. Sadly, however, we have some serious inaction by the Conservative government. As the member for Thunder Bay—Superior North pointed out, the Minister of the Environment said that they would wait for 192 other countries to put in place regulations before Canada would develop its regulations.
Canada should be a leader, particularly since we are the second highest emitter per capita in the world. We should be out there demonstrating leadership in this field, not waiting for 192 other countries to come onside.
In Canada, fortunately, we have communities and members of Parliament who are actually taking action, not waiting for the government to step up to the plate. I want to turn to a couple of communities on Vancouver Island. In Victoria this past week, about 1,000 people showed up to say that they wanted the government to demonstrate global leadership on climate change. We also know that greater Victoria is the national leader in green commuting. Its bike commuting rate is nearly triple the second place city and the walking rate is tops among census metropolitan areas.
Victoria also has a an excellent member of Parliament who is also taking some initiative. The member for Victoria has introduced Bill C-466 to make employee benefits for transit car pooling and bike commuting tax free. That would go a long way toward encouraging the kinds of behaviour that we know can have an effect on greenhouse gas emissions.
We also know that the member for Victoria has called for a national transit plan. Canada is the only G8 country without one. We also need to increase the municipal share of the gas tax. I am well aware that the City of Victoria and the member have called for global leadership at Copenhagen.
As well, there is an organization in Victoria called the B.C. Sustainable Energy Association, which is certainly an organization that is taking concrete, meaningful action. It has a program called the SolarBC Solar Hot Water Acceleration Project, which has put solar systems in 50 homes in 17 B.C. communities. It also has a climate change showdown program, delivering an interactive climate change education program to 5,000 grade 5 and grade 6 students and challenging their parents to reduce emissions. These are grassroots community initiatives that can have some influence on the kinds of behaviour that we see as important to position Canada as a global leader.
As well, I know the member for Victoria has also taken a leadership role right here in the House, by initiating a series of talks to bring parliamentarians together to find common ground on climate change. These are important educational initiatives to help parliamentarians understand the seriousness of the problem.
I want to turn to my own riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan for a couple of minutes, because in my riding we have many local initiatives. I just want to focus on a couple. One is the Cowichan Green Community, part of whose mandate is the promotion of energy efficiency, healthy housing and environmental sustainability in the Cowichan Valley. It does that through a whole series of initiatives. It has a food security initiative for community gardens, for growing one's own food, fruit gleaning and buying local. It has healthy, efficient housing initiatives, which build sciences geared specifically to the valley's temperate climate. It has a water conservation and water quality initiative; sustainable gardening and landscaping around organics and native plants; natural based household products; rural air quality; and alternative transportation.
Just a couple of things it has undertaken to help support local responsibility for greenhouse gas initiatives include a buy local push to prompt local grocers to support local farmers; a car share co-op; help to start a garden; support for the Duncan Seedy Saturdays, including seed sharing and preserving heritage seeds; and food security concepts, where they have initiated a local food security program.
It does not stop at Cowichan. The little town of Cowichan Bay is part of the slow food initiative, which links local restaurants and farmers.
We have a biodiesel co-op and local restaurants providing vegetable oil to it. We are finding that a lot of our local people are signing up to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by using local biodiesel.
We have the Nanaimo food link program, which has a field-to-table program and is looking at food policy and food security systems. Again, it is trying to link up and protect local farmers, and encouraging and purchasing local food.
We also have programs supporting the cultural and traditional indigenous foods project. In this particular project, we are seeing organizations work with first nations all over Vancouver Island to support the traditional local diets that were far healthier. It is also making links back to local growers and local suppliers, including our wild salmon suppliers.
We can see that local communities are stepping up to the plate. Local communities recognize that in the absence of leadership, we need the municipalities, the provincial governments and the federal government to come to the table.
In its recent report, the “World Energy Outlook”, the International Energy Agency warned that each year of delay in addressing climate change will cost $500 billion globally. This is the kind of legacy we are leaving behind for our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. I would argue that it is time for us to come together as a House and work across party lines to take on this very serious challenge and demonstrate that Canada can be a leader in fighting climate change, both in this country and internationally.