moved that Bill C-377, An Act to ensure Canada assumes its responsibilities in preventing dangerous climate change, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, before I begin to speak briefly about the legislation, I want to acknowledge that I had the opportunity to be with some firefighters in Manitoba over the weekend, remarkable men and women who are working on our behalf, and yet I have to report today to the House that a tragedy has occurred and two firefighters died Sunday night after a massive flash of heat and flames overwhelmed them in a burning Winnipeg home.
A crew was inside the flame-consumed building when they were hit by what is called a flashover, a sudden violent burst of flames at extreme temperatures. Two senior captains, both with more than 30 years of experience, did not make it out. Others are suffering at the moment in hospital. Our thoughts and prayers are very much with them at this moment. I am sure I express the sentiments of all members of the House in drawing attention to this tragedy.
It is with a certain degree of emotion that I am able to stand here today and present a private member's bill on the crisis of climate change. That is partly because I never thought I would have such an opportunity when I first read Silent Spring in the 1960s and began to become aware of the environmental crises that were facing the country, or when my dad, who later was to become a member of Parliament and in fact a minister of the Crown, told my brothers and I that we should install solar hot water heating on top of our roof in Hudson, Quebec in about 1969. He had a vision that the way in which we were conducting our activities on the planet was going to have to change. He was someone who focused very much on that work. He was involved in putting up some of the first wind turbines in Canada in the mid-1970s on Prince Edward Island and in many other innovations and initiatives as well.
I am also thinking of our reaction when the global scientists came to Toronto in 1988. I was a member of the city council at the time. They spoke about the crisis of global warming that was emerging. Members of our council from all political backgrounds came back quite shaken and decided that we needed to act. That is when we created the Toronto Atmospheric Fund, which I had the privilege of leading for a period of time.
To be here in the House and to call now for significant action on climate change is therefore an opportunity that I cherish and respect deeply. I believe that members of the House want to see action taken.
Last week in Paris, the chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said:
If you see the extent to which human activities are influencing the climate system, the options for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions appear in a very different light, because you can see what the costs of inaction are.
Canadians are seeing the costs now. This winter, the costs of inaction have been very easy to spot. We had the devastating storm in Stanley Park. We have had the first green Christmas in memory in places such as Timmins and Quebec City. There was the giant slab of ice that broke off in the Arctic, a slab that was bigger and broke off sooner than any scientists were predicting.
I think that ordinary Canadians have for quite a long time known what these costs are. Canadians have been seeing and breathing the consequences of pollution for years.
In an experience that far too many Canadian families have had, I remember having to take my asthmatic son to the emergency ward. He came back from a camp up north and was breathing well, but he arrived in our city on a smog day, and within two days he was in the emergency ward and they were putting the third oxygen mask on him. As I stood at his side, the doctor said, “We normally don't get to put three masks on”. We lose far too many young people and far too many seniors prematurely because of filthy air, yet we do not take action.
Another image I will never forget as long as I live was being in Quesnel this past summer, walking through the forest with the experts and seeing the devastation of the pine beetle. I then flew over the forest in the helicopter to see the extent of the damage with those who were involved in trying to harvest the forest and protect it as well.
I then travelled back to Vancouver and realized that thousands of square kilometres of the lodgepole pine had been destroyed. Virtually an entire ecosystem has been destroyed.
As is visible from satellites, the lungs of the planet in our Canadian forests have been destroyed. More recently, in Kamloops we saw the Ponderosa pine infested just this past summer. Now, virtually all of the Ponderosa pines have died. The landscape is going to be transformed.
There are impacts in the north. The first person I heard speak about this so passionately was Sheila Watt-Cloutier, of whom we are very proud today because she has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She spoke about how streams in the north have become so torrential from melting ice that they have become very dangerous and about how new species are invading the north and having an enormous impact on the ecosystems there.
I remember meeting with aboriginal hunters in Dawson City, seniors who described how the animals they used to hunt are now being preyed upon by predators from the south. New kinds of mosquitoes, blackflies, fish and birds are coming into the north and disrupting ecosystems that have been in place for thousands of years.
The melting permafrost is having devastating impacts on buildings and of course is also having an impact on the migration of the caribou herds, which are now greatly threatened.
There is now a longer ice-free season. Ice roads are now weakened and are coming into place much later. I remember when Sheila Watt-Cloutier looked at me when we were in Buenos Aires at the COP conference and said that “global warming is now killing our young men”. She described how young men driving trucks on the ice roads were going through the ice and perishing. In fact, she felt that global warming was destroying the traditional Inuit way of life.
Canadians have been seeing these changes and are calling for action. I think we have to say that they have been disappointed to date, but they are hopeful that perhaps for this House, in this time, in this place, when we have a wave of public opinion urging us on, when we have every political party suggesting that it wants to be seen to take action and, let us hope, actually wants to take action, there is a moment in time here that is unique in Canadian history when action can be taken. It is going to require us to put aside some of what we normally do here, and we have to understand the need for speed.
When we proposed that the Bill C-30 committee move quickly to produce the best legislation possible, there was the comment by some members who were asking, “What is the rush here?”
I will tell members what the rush is. It is a polar bear population soon to be placed on the endangered species list, spotted farther south than ever before and in desperate straits.
It is about jobs in our communities, whether they be in forestry, fishing or hunting. These jobs are now at risk.
There is a decrease in water levels in rivers and lakes that is jeopardizing not only water quality but even the possibility of generating the hydroelectricity that we are going to need as part of the clean energy solution.
Therefore, the rush is about jobs, the rush is about protecting parkland and species, and the rush is about the health of our families and our kids' future tomorrow, not only here but all around the world. That is what the rush is all about. I would urge all members to realize that we have to get moving. Endless conversation and the dragging out of processes are counterproductive.
Over the years we have seen the Conservatives and the Liberals subsidize the oil and gas sector to the tune of over $40 billion. We need to end this practice. We need to start putting those precious Canadian taxpayers' dollars into the solutions, not into accelerating the problems.
We have to invest in clean energy and in energy efficiency projects.
We can create jobs through retrofitting the homes of low income Canadians. That would create work all over Canada, not just in one part of the country's economy having to do with energy. It would also help Canadians who are struggling, whether they are seniors or families with modest incomes. It would enable them to burn less, pay less and create work in their local communities as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This has to happen and it has to happen now.
We have to put in place fuel efficiency standards for the auto sector so that the automobiles on our roads can be much less polluting than they have been historically.
As well, we must honour the obligations that we have undertaken to the world under the Kyoto protocol.
Let us consider the scientific facts and data. The report by Dr. Pachauri from the international panel of experts released in Paris concluded that global warming was caused by human activity. It is clear that we have caused this problem, and we now have a responsibility to tackle it, a responsibility to our planet and a responsibility to our children and grandchildren.
The Paris report also predicts that the temperature will rise by up to 6.4oC by the end of this century; that is unacceptable, and quick action is required. This will mean more droughts and intense heatwaves, more tropical storms and hurricanes, and sea level rising by half a metre, which in itself is quite phenomenal.
Those certainly are alarming predictions and, as David Suzuki has said, “the scientists have done their part and the burden has now shifted to the politicians”. Let us take on that burden and let us do Canadians proud by taking action in the next short number of weeks.
We tabled the bill to ensure that Canada assumes its responsibilities in preventing climate change. It is only part of the solution. There are other elements that we have an opportunity to move on through Bill C-30, through the budget and through other processes. However, this is a very important piece of the puzzle because it is particularly rooted in what science tells us to do if we are to avoid the dangerous levels of global temperature increase.
The science tells us to do everything that we can to avoid a two degree rise in surface air temperatures. These targets that have been established and laid out in bill are based on a report by the Pembina Institute and the David Suzuki Foundation and they build on Canada's obligations under the Kyoto protocol.
Canada must honour its obligations under the Kyoto protocol. Canada has to be involved in international efforts to combat climate change. We must be involved every step of the way, and we should play a leadership role.
Under the climate change accountability act, action to reduce greenhouse gases would begin immediately. A full range of targets at five year intervals will need to be in place within six months of it being adopted. This is speeding up our entire process in the House and in Canada to achieve our goals.
Also, to ensure compliance, the bill proposes that we give the authority to government to make strong regulations and to ensure there are offences and penalties for those who contravene the regulations passed under the act. It is time to get tough on the polluters.
The bill also proposes to mandate the environment commissioner to report on the government's selection of targets and the measures it adopts to reach those goals. We continue to believe, in fact more so in the light of recent events, that the environment commissioner should be an officer of the House and report directly to the House of Commons.
With the bill, Canadians would see action in their lifetime. They would not need to hold their breath any longer for action by the House of Commons.
I would like to speak briefly to the companion effort that we are all undertaking through the special committee that has been established. This is a unique opportunity for each of us, for each of our parties, to put forward our best ideas and to vote on them. It is perhaps a rather radical idea the notion that each party would simply put its best notions forward, would, on a fair and reasonable basis, assess the proposals of other parties and would raise their hands in the committee and, ultimately, in the House in favour of the best ideas that Canadians have been able to bring forward to this place on the biggest crisis facing the planet.
The time for action is now, and we will continue to push for these measures. The NDP will press on with clear targets and goals. We will try to get this bill passed and we will lobby the parties represented on the legislative committee struck to rewrite the clean air act to meet the goals for strong, tough, meaningful and innovative measures.
That is something we can and must do.
Our commitment to the House and to all Canadians is to do everything that we can to produce results from the House in the very short period of time before we find ourselves having to go back to Canadians. I do not want to go back and tell them we were not able to get it done. I want to go back and tell them that we all got together and we got it done.