Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to enter into the debate. It seems to be, and I hope it is not the first and only, a week of talking about the environment.
It gives me particular pleasure because the issue has been one on which I do not think Parliament has been seized with the proper energy over the last number of years, certainly over the last number of decades. While the debate today is somewhat representative of where we need not to be on this issue, Canadians have heard the Liberals time and again claiming that the Conservative Party members do not believe in climate change or that they are climate change skeptics. While I do not necessarily doubt the allegation, the fact is that they need to respond.
I am not sure any party in this place has a choice any more. We cannot stand on the side of the biggest polluters or on the side of those who wish to continue to be irresponsible in their decisions. We must stand on the side of responsible governance.
We saw the report out of Paris today that was made by 1,200 leading scientists, more than 2,300 contributors of the best and brightest our world has to offer and more than 113 countries. For those of us who have been involved in the United Nations process, we know that getting language into a document can be onerous because it needs to be done by consensus. When we have all these different views and countries represented with their own narrow national interest, it is hard to establish strong language. However, even under those conditions, the language that came out of the United Nations today compels every one of us to work within our parties, to work within our constituencies and to work with all the groups and businesses on this issue for a common cause, which is the reduction of the amount of pollution that is produced by our economy.
We have had many witnesses. For more than two and a half years the former environment committee heard witnesses and now the present environment committee, which was looking at Bill C-288 and is now looking at Bill C-30, will hear more witnesses. Something that has been consistently brought to the attention of members of Parliament is that Kyoto is not so much an environmental protocol as it is an economic one. It goes to the very heart of the decisions that are made about our economy and about the way that certain costs are captured.
The costs for pollution have never been properly captured in this country. That has been true for many other nations as well but they have been moving ahead of us, particularly on the European front but other nations as well, to capture the actual costs of production, one of those costs being how much pollution is emitted into the air.
If anyone remains doubtful of the science or doubtful of the impacts I would gladly invite them for a tour of my riding in northwestern British Columbia where the foresters have come to me and said that they are witnessing the impacts of climate change. The forestry experts have said that the changes they have seen in their weather are causing an infestation of parasites that they have never see the likes of before. They are losing virtually every pine tree in the province and it is now sweeping over the Rockies into Alberta into the boreal forest. The consequences are serious.
We have also heard in the debate today, which I am not sure is helpful, the Conservatives disclaiming the record of the Liberals. Something calls to my mind when I look at Bill C-288. Where was this bill in 1998 and where was it in 2000? Where was the demand for an accountable plan? I know the hon. member was not here but his party was in power.
This is important to point out because timing is important when we talk about the adjustments we need in our economy. I had an excellent meeting with a group of mining executives in the last Parliament. They were upset and frustrated with the government at the time on the question of energy. They were smelting a great deal of ore and it is very energy intensive.
They watched us go through the Kyoto debate, sign on in 1988 and ratify later on. They saw this coming, because they heard from the government that this was coming, and they started to make some changes to the way they used energy and the way that they were polluting. They have been reducing that pollution and their energy uses, which was mostly natural gas in their case, and yet they were not getting any credit for it. There was no level playing field created because the government kept waiting and waiting.
Meanwhile, their competitors in the industry were allowed to continue business as usual. They were not making those types of investments. They became frustrated, and rightly so. The timing of the thing, the fairness and the certainty that businesses have been requiring for so long is critical for moving across our economy.
Despite all the failures of the previous government to set a fair and level playing field for all those competing, on their way out I asked the Liberals one last question: “By the way, how is it going? How is business?” They said, “It is great. Natural gas prices went through the roof in the last couple of years. We used far less than our competitors and we are beating the pants off some of them”, and then they walked out.
At some point we need to debate the environment versus the economy. I often hear some of my colleagues on the benches to my left ask what we have against Alberta and what we have against jobs. That type of thinking needs to end. At some point, with the water crisis that we had in Alberta and when the mayor of Fort McMurray and her council pass a unanimous resolution begging, pleading with the provincial and federal governments to put a halt to any new projects in their area, one begins to question the economy versus the environment debate and see that it is not true.
We see the IPCC report today, the UN's report. We are no longer debating if the seas are rising, we are debating how much. We are no longer debating if the earth is in fact warming, we are debating how much.
An important thing for Canadians to realize, when they look at the numbers and the estimates go from a little less than two degrees to potentially as much as six degrees average temperatures, is that the average temperature for the entire globe is felt most in the northern hemisphere. The further north one goes the more intense those degrees move and the greater they are. For the people who live in the far north and who depend on the resources for resource extraction, we have seen the number of permafrost days and ice road days go down. Mining companies are closing up shop for longer and longer periods of time.
We need to understand and appreciate that this is a battle we must all be seized with. We need to realize that to continue this ping-pong debate back and forth in question period and in debates like this between who is doing worse on the environment between the Conservatives and Liberals, I do not think Canadians are all that interested, to be frank. I do not think Canadians are as interested anymore in hearing that the Liberal record for 13 years led to 30% above, which is true, or that the Conservatives are not seized with the issue of the environment, which is true.
I encourage my colleague who is introducing this bill to hand over some of the amendments that exist in his private member's bill and we can stuff them in, or cram them in or force them into the government's bill. I constantly hear some opposition members at the committee and here in the House say that they want to hear more about the government's plans before they can make decisions about the government's bill. My goodness, courage my friends. The opposition parties have a majority on the committee, as they do in this place, and we should tell the government what we want to do. We should not be waiting for government plans or for this hopeful Kyoto strategy that may or may not come from the government. I am not holding my breath. I waited a long time for the previous government to do it, and I kept waiting and waiting. One gets bored of waiting and just wants to make the changes and do the things that we know are right, in particular, in the debate around Kyoto and whether we are staying in.
Kyoto is a contract that we have with the international community. We are in this protocol. Unless the government steps forward and says that it is tearing it up, we are in this protocol and we must honour our commitments. I know the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment and the Prime Minister have not said that we are tearing it up. However, if the government is not suggesting that we step out of it, then we are in, and, if we are in, there are penalties that are incurred for missing the targets. That is how it was written.
The world community thought this was so serious that we could not just have another international meeting, have more politicians standing up at more microphones making more pronouncements and yet continuing down a disastrous path when it came to pollution and to climate change. Because they knew this was not an option, the leaders of the day, who signed on to this agreement and drafted this, made sure there were penalties. They are the penalties we abide by.
The debate over the science of climate change is over. The debate over whether Canada is in this protocol must be over. The only debate that now exists is on the measures we as parliamentarians together need to take to change course in this country to once again be proud of our international reputation, particularly when it comes to the environment. We absolutely owe it to ourselves, to the constituents who sent us here and to future generations.