Mr. Speaker, I move that the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, presented on Thursday, March 24, be concurred in.
I think that what has just happened in committee is worth bringing to the House. In fact, by a vote of seven to four, the committee recommended to the Prime Minister that his appointment for the environment round table not be agreed to. Most of us went in there with a very open mind. We said we would cross-examine this person and find out if he in fact would be the best person to be the chair of the environment round table.
We did that largely because of things that the Prime Minister said. The Prime Minister said again and again and kept promising that he would end cronyism and he would end patronage. As he campaigned throughout the election, he said that he would in fact reduce the democratic deficit to empower standing committees to be able to exercise their will and review appointments and decide whether those persons were really qualified to do the job.
We did that in good faith. We believed what the Prime Minister said when he said he was concerned about that democratic deficit. He said:
No longer will the key to Ottawa be who do you know. We are going to condemn to history the practice and the politics of cronyism.
That is what the Prime Minister said during the election campaign. Of course, after the election we saw a number of examples of that same cronyism occurring. We saw Jim Walsh, the former Newfoundland Liberal MHA and co-chair of the Prime Minister's leadership campaign, appointed as a corrections investigator of Canada. We saw the revenue minister personally appointing a Royal Bank colleague, Gordon Feeney, to the Canada Post position.
Then there is Mr. Glen Murray, who was the mayor of Winnipeg. We saw Mr. Harvard put into the lieutenant governor's position and then saw this star candidate run as a Liberal candidate in Winnipeg. He was defeated, so then he was owed a job. That job then was as chair of the environment round table.
Obviously when we went into that meeting we wanted to find out what the qualifications of this gentleman were regarding the environment. Let me summarize what we found. We found that he had no academic or professional experience in global environmental or economic issues. We found that his only environmental concern was as consultant and owner of a firm called Envirofit Inc., which ultimately went into bankruptcy.
We found that Dr. Harvey Mead, Mr. Murray's predecessor in this position, brought 35 years of environmental experience to his appointment. Indeed, not only did he have previous experience as a member of the round table, but he had a number of very credible involvements in environmental issues. Anyone who seriously wanted to argue that Mr. Murray was even close to those kinds of qualifications would have had great difficulty.
I want to go to a quote from the group that should know him best: the newspapers in his home city of Winnipeg. Let me quote what they said about this appointment. The headline is pretty telling. It states: “Let's Just Be Happy Glen Won't Be Back”. The newspapers went on to state:
--he wasn't qualified for the job...But on the other [hand], as a selfish Winnipegger, I took some comfort in knowing that the appointment all but ensures Murray won't be returning to Manitoba....
Murray has no experience whatsoever in global environmental and economic issues and knows nothing about the complexities of carbon credits and emission trading markets.
Unlike many of the talented and very experienced people available for a job like this -- educated folks with decades of experience in global economics and specialized environmental issues -- all Murray's ever been is a Canada Post clerk, a community health clinic employee and a city councillor and mayor of a medium-sized Canadian city.
There's not much depth there.
He's never run a business, never been the head of a large private-sector corporation and has no experience in bilateral trade.
Murray's experience in environmental issues is limited to a debate on whether or not we should have a $2-a-bag garbage fee in Winnipeg.
It's hardly the type of experience one needs to engage the United States on climate change issues (one of the mandates of the roundtable) and to integrate climate change objectives into Canadian foreign policy.
Obviously, if that is what the person's home town thinks of the him, we had a number of questions we needed to ask Mr. Murray when he appeared before the committee. I can honestly say that we all had a pretty open mind. By the end of the interview, which was a job interview, all parties, including some Liberals, were so shocked by what we heard we wondered why the appointment occurred.
Will we ever forget the picture of Mr. Murray standing with two pictures of the Prime Minister behind him? I could table that if anyone wants to see it. However we have Mr. Murray standing with pictures of the Prime Minister at the Liberal convention after just receiving the appointment as the chair of the environment round table.
This is a non-partisan appointment, an appointment to look at the environment problems. It is not a Liberal Party job to have. It is not a Liberal thing to hand out to its defeated candidates, its fundraisers or its patronage hacks. This is a job that is important to Canadians. Canadians care about the environment and they certainly do not expect this position to be used in a patronage way such as this one was.
Mr. Murray ultimately found out from Howard Wilson that this was not the place to be and therefore left the convention. If someone has that poor judgment in terms of where he should or should not be, his ability to do the job comes into question. This was just this last month.
We also wondered about what kind of a mayor Mr. Murray was. We found out that on his watch Lake Manitoba had the second largest release of sewage and he went on for five days without reporting to council and without taking action on it. He was not able to stickhandle the concept of a new deal with the provincial government. In fact, he had a failed rapid transit proposal.
In his campaign literature, not a single mention was made about the environment. We would think that if this person were qualified as the chairman of the round table on environment that would at least be one of his key issues when running for election. A lot of people care about the environment and one would think that Mr. Murray would have at least mentioned it.
When the decision was made to bring this to the House in a concurrence motion, it was rather interesting that the former CEO of the environment round table voted to send it to this House, as did the parliamentary secretary for the environment. The vote was nine to two to send it to the House for debate and for a vote, hopefully this evening or tomorrow.
Things do not line up very well for Mr. Murray but this certainly is not a personal attack on him. We are just saying that this guy is not qualified.
The Prime Minister said that he would allow the parliamentary committees to examine the appointments, decide whether they were qualified and, if they were qualified, to recommend them to the Prime Minister. Something is obviously wrong here. Between the time the committee voted on this, in a seven to four vote, the Prime Minister announced the appointment. What is the Prime Minister trying to sidetrack? Why does he want this person there?
Let us look at what kind of a job we are talking about. We are talking about today's issues on the environment. Will this gentleman know what they are? By his own admission he said in committee, “I realize that I have huge inadequacies”. He went so far as to say, “I'm just a manager. I don't understand the environment. I don't know much about the environment but I can do this job I am sure”.
Yes, there are 24 other board members, but my understanding of a chairman is that a chairman shows leadership and takes the issue and says that we will examine the issue in-depth.
Let us look at what some of those issues might be. Let us look at the most current one, which is CEPA Toxic. If Mr. Murray had understood this issue I am sure he would have advised the government immediately that this was not the way to go. The government should not take an environment bill and sneak it in the back door under a budget and ultimately plan it to be a carbon tax. That is just not advisable. If the government had someone who understood the issue it would certainly have given that advice.
I asked Mr. Murray a few questions. I asked him what he thought about mapping our aquifers and how important he thought that was. I do not think he knew what aquifers were and I certainly do not think he had any answers as to what we would map. I also do not think he understood the 300 boil water warnings. I do not think he understood about the toxins that are seeping into our ground water. I do not think he understood any of that.
I thought I would give him an easier question. I asked him what he thought about CO
sequestering and whether he thought it had a future. If I were going to be the chair of the environment round table I sure as heck would know about the most important new technology coming around, the sequestering of CO
, which is how we achieve our targets under Kyoto. That is how we deal with the problem of CO
and he did not know what I was talking about. He said that he did not understand that principle. I was shocked when I heard him say that.
Since the environment round table is supposed to be advising the government on things like that, I would have thought that would have been one of the first things he would have said. The round table would say that we have to develop that technology and use it in Canada. It is being used in the U.S. and all through Europe and this guy did not even know what it was.
By the end of the set of questions, for which he knew no answers, he was literally close to tears because he had to have realized his inadequacies.
What did the Prime Minister not understand about those inadequacies to appoint him chair of the environment round table? This is one of the most abusive things I have ever seen in the House. So much for the democratic deficit.
Let us go on to look at some of the other problems, one being the whole Sumas issue and the air quality across our international boundary. Some of our members living on that border certainly know about that and understand that.
We now have a guy who I am sure does not understand even what pollution or smog is let alone understand the problems of a plant like Sumas and what that will do to the Fraser Valley, your home area, Mr. Speaker.
I want to come back to CEPA and to what we are doing with that, what we are doing with the Kyoto legislation and with the heavy emitter legislation. We have been promised this day after day, week after week. We have been told that it will be tomorrow, that it will be next week and on and on it goes. What we have done is we have given the industry four choices. We have said that we will have heavy emitter legislation to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide that companies produce and the four choices we are giving them are they can modernize their plant or reduce production. Obviously the reduced production is not a choice and the modernization in many cases is not a choice.
Yesterday I met with a heavy emitter who said that his company was using 2005 technology. China is using 1940 technology but we cannot modernize that technology any more. The chairman of the environment round table should be pointing that out to the government but this guy does not understand anything about the environment, so how could he do that?
The second choice we give heavy emitters is that they can donate into a technology fund. We can call it whatever we want but all of us believe the answers to environmental problems will come through technology. What we are saying to them is that they pay into this fund but if they are already using modern technology, as most of our companies are, that is just a tax. Who pays for that tax? Obviously it is the consumer, the taxpayer, who pays for it.
The third choice we give them is to buy international credits. They can buy 102 million megatonnes of credits and that will solve their problem. Again, that is a tax on those people who buy electricity, who heat their homes and who drive cars. It is a tax on that head of lettuce because of the extra transportation costs. An environment chairman would tell the government not to go that way. It is a huge tax on the consumer for all of those goods.
The best of all is the fourth choice, which is that we will fine them $200 a tonne of excess carbon. What that will accomplish is it will make all of our companies totally non-competitive and literally put us into a major recession.
We have quotes from various scientists who have told us that if we try to hit our targets it will mean a 100% increase in electricity and an increase in natural gas of 60% to 90%. What will that do to the senior citizen and to the young families? What will that do if in fact we try to achieve those targets? This is where the chairman of the environment round table would call in economists, academics and experts and tell them that we need a full, open inquiry to tell Canadians exactly what living up to a 270-300 megatonne target would mean to them.
Many people do not understand all of the details of Kyoto but what they would understand is paying 12¢ a kilowatt hour instead of 6¢ or paying $3 for a litre of gas instead of 90-whatever cents. They would understand when the cost for heating their homes went up 60% to 90%. The job of the environment chairman of the round table is to tell Canadians those things but this chairman does not even understand what CO
is all about or what can be done with it. He does not understand that Kyoto is about greenhouse gases and global warming. He thinks it is about pollution. This man is not qualified to be chair of the environment round table and we just cannot feel stronger about that.
If you had just been there, Mr. Speaker, and heard the inadequacies of this individual, you would have been shocked that he would even allow his name to stand. It had to be that if he would give up his job as mayor of Winnipeg, he would get elected, receive all the perks of a member of Parliament and he would live happily ever after. When that did not happen, wow, the Liberals had to find him a job. They asked him what he thought he could do? I do not know what he can do, but he sure cannot be chair of the environment round table.