Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate today.
The issue clearly is that some of us in the House have recognized the fact that climate change is a reality. The fact is that this government signed the Kyoto protocol. It came into effect. The fact is that some in the House did not even believe that Russia would sign on. It did. Some of them did not believe it would ever come into effect. It has.
We on this side of the House are taking our responsibilities very seriously. In fact, as the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Natural Resources have indicated, there is a long list of achievements by the government with regard to dealing with this issue. This issue is not, however, solely a federal issue. It is a federal-provincial-municipal issue and obviously an individual issue.
The fact is that some in the House ridicule the one tonne challenge. It is a comprehensive approach, and clearly the one tonne challenge is one element to engage Canadians. Apparently some in the House do not believe we should engage Canadians directly. I believe that is important. Everyone has their own part to play. I would suggest that this is a good way to do it.
I would also point out that we are fully engaged with municipal governments. The announcement by the minister of state dealing with infrastructure clearly shows that in the $5 billion proposal over five years on the gas tax aimed at green infrastructure. Whether we are talking sewer improvements or water treatment plants, et cetera, it is obviously very important in helping in the battle.
Yet another element is working with the provinces. Again, somehow the suggestion is that we do not have a plan. Maybe some of the members should read the climate change plan for Canada 2002 and also look at the fact that in any plan there are needs for refinements. We have already said that. The minister has said that. A budget is coming out. I would suggest that after the budget some of these members take a look at the plan as it has been refined and then try to say to us that we do not have a plan. It would be very hard.
Government is about choices. It is about making the right decision. We made the right decision by signing the Kyoto protocol. We announced in Montreal just yesterday that the United Nations framework conference on climate change will be held in Montreal at the end of November. It will focus very strongly on Canada and Canadian leadership. This is an opportunity where we will have 7,000 to 10,000 delegates coming to Canada. It is an opportunity for the Minister of the Environment and the Prime Minister to certainly showcase and talk about the initiatives Canada is doing. Obviously Canada cannot and is not doing it alone; over 140 countries have signed on to the Kyoto protocol, but it is a first step.
We are going to be looking beyond Kyoto as well. The Minister of the Environment has talked very clearly about the need for a competitive economy, the need for a strong economy. Therefore, a strong economy and a strong environment can be married together.
We understand the importance of the auto sector. We have a very active and engaged auto caucus on this side of the House. Under the leadership of my colleagues on this side of the House, we have understood and have worked collaboratively with the industry. I am delighted to hear that the Conservatives have an auto caucus. I think it is important that we all engage. We do not all have the definitive answers, but I hope that we can work together.
I would suggest that our mission is to deal with the issue of greenhouse gas reductions. It is important that we do that. Clearly, working with the auto sector has been and continues to be an important aspect of government policy. We have signed 14 MOUs with the auto sector. The auto sector has adapted. One of the strengths is the Canadian workers in this country.
The gentleman across the way talked about the Toyota plant in Cambridge. I had the pleasure of visiting that plant last summer and I can tell hon. members that it is probably cleaner than a hospital. I must tell the hon. member that when the Japanese were looking around the world to produce the Lexus outside of Japan for the first time, they picked Canada. They picked Cambridge because of the quality of the workmanship, because of the standards of the workers and in fact because of the social programs, et cetera. We could go on and on. The fact is that our auto sector in this country is second to none.
I would suggest that whether it is in Cambridge, Windsor, Oshawa or Oakville, wherever it happens to be, the fact is that we understand and the auto sector understands that we need to be fully engaged on this topic. Clearly that is in the auto sector's interest. It knows what the consumers are looking for in terms of fuel efficient vehicles. We know what they are looking for and the auto manufacturers know that. That is why they have been responding, and I think very effectively, in that regard over the years.
On the suggestion that we are looking for a voluntary agreement, there are many voluntary things that go on in our society. In this case, there is a notion that somehow we are not going to make an agreement. Let me say that in 1998 the EU came to a voluntary agreement with its car makers and in fact on the whole issue of reduction of CO
140g/kilometre by 2008.
The fact is that we have an opportunity to work with the industry. We are negotiating with the industry. Obviously I am not going to be able to say at this point, because I have no crystal ball, how it is going to work out, but I am very confident that the negotiators at the table understand what we want. I believe very strongly that we will see this.
The member for Oshawa has indicated that he is concerned about jobs in his community. Naturally so. We are not trying to put people out of work. What we are trying to say is that we want to make sure the economy is strong and the environment is strong, working in ways which are effective. Let us look at other jurisdictions, including Australia, which did not sign the Kyoto protocol but which as well has voluntary standards committing its industry by 2010.
The fact is that in our discussions we have to remember that climate change is in fact something which is not only in the auto sector, with the large emitters. We and the Minister of the Environment have taken the approach of working with industries, saying “this is what we are looking for”, and I think setting a standard, which is very important in the sense that rather than scaring people we are saying,“We are prepared to work effectively and if in fact certain things do not happen, then we will go to the next step”.
I think the reality is, no pun intended, that the whole climate has changed in terms of how we are dealing with industries in this country. People are saying that we are in fact recognizing the role of a strong economy and a strong environment.
No one is more committed to ensuring that we have a strong environment, with clean air and clean water, than this Minister of the Environment. I want to make it very clear that on this side of the House we agree with the objective, and I am sure all members do. Some of us may differ on how we get there, but the reality is that we do agree. We need to have a cleaner environment.
Clearly the synergy is needed with stakeholders and with all orders of government. I think there are certain incentives. On that side of the House, people talk about incentives. We agree. Obviously we need to have incentives. Whether it is dealing with hybrid vehicles, hydrogen or the economy, incentives are important.
We talk about wind power and its importance. Again, we have 4,000 megawatts to power one million homes in this country. The fact is that this is extremely important. It is something that this government is committed to and has demonstrated in budget after budget and, I would point out, it will do so in this next budget. I know that those members are somewhat like little kids at Christmastime; they are anxious to get in there and see what is under the tree. The fact is that all departments have a responsibility. Once the budget is released, I would suspect that we will see some very positive elements there as well.
One of my colleagues mentioned the fact that in government we actually have to be responsible for what we say. I would point out that we have made it very clear that this government is looking at a comprehensive approach in dealing with climate change, not in just one sector but in many sectors.
I welcome the fact that the New Democratic Party has put this issue before the House, because clearly we all are interested in the same objective. The hon. member who serves on committee with me knows that there is no one more committed in terms of moving this agenda forward, I would suspect, than this Minister of the Environment. Certainly as his parliamentary secretary I want suggest to those members that, rather than criticism, if they have constructive alternatives they should put them forward.