Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to speak to the Kyoto accord tonight. I made my position on the Kyoto accord very clear last summer. I said that I would listen carefully to my constituents, especially as more information came out and the plan was in place and more of the details were known. I am still listening.
Constituents have written many e-mails and letters to me on this issue. Some of them have asked me to stand in the House of Commons and make sure that we ratify the Kyoto accord. Others have asked me to make sure that we do not ratify the accord. To some extent the constituents have been left out of the debate. Most members' speeches have taken one side or the other exclusively. There is not a member in the House of Commons who does not have constituents who favour ratifying the Kyoto accord and constituents who are against it.
One of my constituents said that once again polarization has led to a lack of objectivity. This evening I will try to reflect what my constituents have told me they want me to do.
First I will talk about two e-mails that were against the Kyoto accord. They were the strongest. I will just repeat a line from each of the e-mails because in the time available I will not be able to get through them all.
One said, “This is not a harmless little agreement. It will be very hard on us and our potential development”. The person was also interested in penalties. I want to make sure that people know there are no penalties such as a fine for Canada, but if we do not reach certain levels in the first round, the ramifications are that we have to come up with a plan for the second round with increased reductions to make sure we make up for the lack in the first round.
I was very impressed by the other e-mail in the sense that the person had done a lot of his own research instead of repeating what other people have said and different scientists he had heard. I will read a few lines. It is a long e-mail and I cannot do it justice but in part it read:
President Bush has refused to ratify Kyoto calling it “economically irresponsible”. It is a global environmental panic aided and abetted by incomplete scientific studies. The greenhouse effect is both natural and necessary for life on earth.
He then talked about some computer simulations and particular aspects of them that left inaccuracies and gave false readings and thus alleged global warming is only a small percentage of what is being announced, as well as distorting figures for the future. He mentioned countries such as Germany for which it would be easy to reduce its emissions without any extreme effort. He pointed out that some countries have already done things, or were planning to do them, to reduce emissions and make it easy for them.
I want to comment on two organizations, the Whitehorse and Yukon Chambers of Commerce. Many people have commented on similar organizations.
The Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce talked to me last December about the importance to Yukon's petrol based economy. It is important because Kyoto to a large extent is based on taking into consideration the effects on petroleum products. I have made the case and explained that concern at length in the House. I think that voice has been well heard on the issue.
I also talked this weekend at considerable length with the president of the chamber of commerce. I explained my position, what has happened to a number of companies that have reduced emissions already, and what I thought the results would be. That was partly because I had a second submission from the chamber this weekend.
Chamber members were concerned as well that the U.S. was not ratifying and felt it might make us uncompetitive if we had extra regulations, especially because we are such a large exporter. Because we have an oil, gas and mining economy, they were concerned that a harder environment for those companies would deter investment in the Yukon. They were concerned about not having all the provinces on side yet, but they did maintain that governments and citizens have to reduce greenhouse gases and they just wanted to make sure there was more time to refine the plan and ensure certainty.
The Yukon Chamber of Commerce had similar points, one about more time. It wanted to accommodate growth in the economy, population and exports. I actually confirmed that the plan does that. Again, its members want to be competitive with our NAFTA partners. Because of the other demands on the budget, they want to make sure that there is money available for the steps we would take, and they said that fuel and auto efficiency would have special effects in the north. Once again, they want to continue consultation.
I want to now quickly go on to the support. There were many more e-mails and letters to this effect. I think I can read the comments of a number of them in the time I have remaining.
The first one is: “I believe it is foolish to have big gas guzzlers and to have poorly insulated houses. It is the common sense of our elders who went through wars and the great depression that we should be adopting--waste not, want not”. Another one says, “Please let the Prime Minister know that Yukoners support his aim to ratify Kyoto”. The next says, “The sooner we get this Kyoto protocol passed, the sooner corporations, provinces and territories will start looking for the measures, technologies, and capital investments that will make it happen”.
Of course, the Yukon Medical Association is strongly on side. I also had a lengthy conversation yesterday with a person who assures us that the gas pipeline will go through Yukon and it is so important for our economy if we ratify Kyoto because of course natural gas is lower in emissions than CO
. The Council of Yukon First Nations, which represents 11 Yukon first nations from across the Yukon, is strongly in support of ratifying Kyoto. Another e-mail says, “We need to take this forward for the sake of future generations”. Another one says, “We encourage you to speak for the ratification. This is a critical issue for Canada and the Yukon, as the North is most heavily affected by climate change”.
One would think that in the frozen north people would like it to get warmer, but that is not true when we listen to what the constituents say. The Minister of the Environment was there with me and heard some of this. One constituent said the spruce, willows and balsam firs are slowly moving uphill and further north.
The president of the Association of Yukon Communities is in town right now. A champion of ratifying Kyoto, he says that when he left Dawson City it was 5° above and there was just a lot of rain, while he came here to below zero. Normally it used to be 30° below in Dawson City. In fact I was there in October 20 years ago and it was 44° below. He has led the debate at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which has of course championed signing Kyoto, with conditions.
What is very important in the north is permafrost. It is different from the rest of the country. Construction in the north is based on the permafrost keeping things frozen. The chief of a first nation explained that all their administration buildings are shifting and will have to be rebuilt at great expense. The mayor of Dawson City talks about the cataclysmic costs of all these buildings shifting and moving as the permafrost melts. In fact, some of the sewer systems in the north are predicated on the permafrost staying frozen.
The spruce budworm is moving north. As well, the Gwich'in people have a terrible problem with the caribou herd. If climate change and snowfalls change their migration, they will not be able to get to the one spot where they can have the best calf survival, which may result in the loss of that entire culture in northern Canada and Alaska.
There is great economic loss because there is dependence on the ice bridges in the north to get things to communities and corporations and for the trucking industry. The people in Dawson cannot even get across for much of the winter now when the ice bridge does not freeze. Of course, we have heard about the Mount Logan atmospheric record and the elders who have been around for a long time. There has been climate change in the past, but they say that never so fast and never at this rate have their people seen this.
I told my constituents that I would reflect their views. I made as many as I could in the time I had. The most important part now is to refine the plan and to put it into action. These are the voices of my constituents and I encourage Parliament to listen to them.