Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on the motion regarding the Kyoto accord and to raise my concerns and, in fact, my dismay and opposition to the circumstances surrounding this motion.
First, by this motion, the government is asking the House to call upon it to ratify this treaty. Under present national circumstances that is a most peculiar and, dare I say, unusual procedure in a parliamentary system. What we have heard repeatedly, and know to be unquestionably true, is that cabinet can ratify, that is to say recommend to Her Majesty that it be signed. Therefore the motion is in a form which seeks to have the House tell the executive branch to commit an act which the executive branch can do without any advice or direction from the chamber. This is, therefore, a take note debate which for reasons of political misdirection has attached to it a vote which is unnecessary and meaningless. It is unnecessary because the signing or ratification of a treaty is an exclusive prerogative of the Crown and it is misleading because the House can never give orders to the Crown on its exclusive rights or prerogatives.
Second, Kyoto is, once ratified, an irrevocable accord among nations. Once signed, the executive is bound. It is obligated to do all necessary to implement it. That is why our system, the Westminster model, demands that certain conditions precedent be met before signing it. There is good reason for this. It is, if we consider the popular term, the due diligence of our form of government. It exacts an extremely high standard of assessment by the executive, that is the cabinet, be met before advice to proceed, that is to say ratify, is given to Her Majesty to sign. A treaty is, above all, an agreement between or among sovereign states.
Approximately 85 years ago, a Liberal justice minister and attorney general, the Hon. David Mills, a member of both the Mackenzie and Laurier cabinets, wrote and later lectured on the subject of treaties and their implementation in Canada. He stressed that when a treaty would have direct impact on provincial governments, whether there be a cost or an impact on existing provincial laws, the federal government should not proceed to ratify until consensus be reached. I stress consensus not unanimity. We have heard both inside and outside the chamber that the federal cabinet has the unquestioned legal right in every way to sign and therefore the provinces will be required to live with it.
As I speak in this place today, eight provinces are not in agreement with the federal plan. These provinces, as represented by their cabinets and premiers as first ministers, are opposed to that which is proposed here. Today they are saying that they do not wish to be bound by this accord and at least one, if press reports are correct, will take concerted legislative steps to counter the effects of the so-called implementation plan.
I therefore ask and wonder where is the due diligence of this chamber in proceeding when there is clearly and unequivocally no consensus.
I would point out that on September 2 in Johannesburg the Prime Minister in his speech said that he would obtain consensus among the provinces before he proceeded, yet here we are proceeding.
We have, as we know, inherited a British style of treaty making. It is clear that country, Great Britain, had great global influence and interests around the world at one time which necessitated that the art, that is to say the steps to be taken before a treaty be signed, of necessity be fastidiously followed. This stress of due diligence had good reason. It recognized that the federal cabinet, giving advice to the Crown on the subject of ratifying a treaty, should not put itself in a spot or position whereby it would be in conflict or clash with itself, realizing that provincial governments gave advice to the Crown also as to their sentiments or agreement in adhering to the direct effects the treaty would have on it.
In brief, provincial consensus is absolutely necessary because it is they who will shoulder some of the costs and today there is no provincial agreement to do so. Today we see a state of profound disagreement, a fundamental dissonance between the federal crown and eight provincial crowns which is a most disturbing and peculiar embarkation on treaty ratification by the federal cabinet. I do not believe as a member of the House that I should abet this very real, and I would suggest, legitimate concern by provincial governments.
This is, in the absence of consensus among provincial premiers, a step which the late Liberal Justice Minister Mills warned against. He said it could not proceed because to do so brings this pact into disrepute. In brief, it is imprudent, the test of due diligence is not met and it flouts the federal cabinet powers to advise Her Majesty to sign. Quite simply, it is the wrong step to take at this time.
A third point to be considered requires, if and only if consensus exists, that the cabinet bring to the House as soon as possible upon signing, the estimates, what will be required from the public purse or cost, as well as any bills necessary to amend the existing legal framework to ensure the objectives and demands of the treaty be carried out. It is only at this stage that the accord, that agreement among sovereign states, will be in fact Canadian law.
I would only say on this point, when the treaty is ratified it will not change one iota of anything in the country, perhaps with the exception of a louder outcry from provincial capitals and other federal-provincial litigation.
In this short period of debate on this treaty it is easy to characterize the views as being strongly held and polarized. My observation is that there is a concerted attempt to fashion this debate around virtue, that is to say those who support the ratification and are the true and exclusive environmentalists and it is only they who really truly care for the country's environment. There will be this vast and perceptible change in air quality, rivers will flow clean and lung disease will become an ailment of the past. Their commitment to their grandchildren and unknown future generations is often raised. A new economy will spring up.
Conversely, others say certain industries will be inordinately impacted with job and future investment opportunities will be lost. They say this is an exercise premised on uncertain science which will have negligible environmental but dire economic consequences.
Certainly today's stories concerning the 190 member Investment Dealers Association's report, if true, are most disturbing.
We are by this unnecessary motion being asked to choose which side is correct.
Let me return to Justice Minister Mills' words on this. He said:
The matter of making treaties is a most serious business and one in which dilettantes should not engage. After all, a treaty is irrevocable.
I will state and openly confess that on this subject I am a dilettante since I possess neither the scientific acumen nor the economic insight to know who is correct. In such case I listen closely to those in my riding who have greater insights and understanding than I could possibly possess. They tell me Kyoto will cast uncertainty on industrial investment in many sectors. It will have a chilling effect that will be negative. Is that a matter to which I should pay attention and be concerned?
As a border community in southwestern Ontario will it have any effect on air quality? The answer is no, because 90% of airborne particulates and greenhouse gases come from the United States, a mere 400 metres away.
Will it lead to an explosion of new jobs? The answer is no one knows for certain. It is in fact less than clear. Some call it a leap of faith.
Therefore, in the presence of an apparent federal-provincial disagreement of considerable proportions on this agreement, in the face of an economic downturn or bad economic prospects with no environmental upturn, I as a dilettante am being asked to say, I support Kyoto.
I have seen nothing of the cost or the extent of the legislative agenda to implement it. I have heard the bravado of the polar extremes of those who love the environment and future Canadians while the others purport to speak for the economy.
I speak for the clear message received away from this place which is that there are too many uncertainties, too much risk, no due diligence, do not support it, and I do not. It is, I fear, a leap of faith one should not be asked to take.