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House of Commons Hansard #157 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was plan.

Topics

Opposition Motion—The EnvironmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have listened carefully to the remarks of my colleague from Fort McMurray—Athabasca. I find it somewhat disgraceful that he would suggest that the members on this side of the House were playing politics, cheap politics.

The reality is that our three political parties in the opposition represent a majority of the Canadian people. We stand for the hope that Kyoto will be respected once and for all. When the government says that it has introduced one of the toughest plans on greenhouse gas reduction, allow me to have my doubts.

Take for example his own riding, which is very specialized in oil sands extraction and oil production from oil sands. How can he state with any certainty in this House that his government will meet the objectives set out in its plan, when we know full well that there will be a high growth of oil sands production in coming years? By 2015, this production will have tripled from one barrel of oil per day produced from oil sands to three barrels per day.

My question is simple. How can he tell this House today that the plan introduced by the government is a real solution in response to climate change, when we know full well that oil sands production will be increasing steadily in coming years?

Opposition Motion—The EnvironmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I find it interesting and humorous, actually, because the Bloc members are never going to be in a position to do anything for the people of Quebec. Indeed, all they want to do is cause problems and create division between Canadians. We know that is their agenda.

The NDP's agenda, quite frankly, nobody wants to even talk about, besides the fact that their plan is to put gas at $2.00 a litre for Canadians. Canadians are not going to accept that. That is why they have this Conservative government. The Bloc and the NDP, with their friends from the Red Green Show across the way, want to increase the price of gas for Canadians to an outrageous amount.

We are not going to let that happen. We are going to stand up for Canadians, their environment, their economy, and Canadians from coast to coast to coast. That is what this government is going to do.

Opposition Motion—The EnvironmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I want to address my hon. colleague whose riding actually borders on mine. I live in the community next to the border of his constituency so I, too, understand the nature of air emissions from the McMurray tar sands and I have dealt with them for years.

The Conservative Party's plan for the next five years is to just simply allow these emissions to increase. My hon. colleague speaks of his daughter with asthma. My concern is what is going to happen in this region if we allow the kind of development that is in place now to increase by fivefold. In the next 10 years, the air emission increases are going to be extraordinary. The health problems of northerners and people from northern Alberta are going to increase.

How does my hon. colleague feel that his plan is justified for the people of the region that he represents: the people, not the corporations?

I will remind my hon. colleague that in a recent poll in Alberta, 70% of Albertans were in favour of hard caps on emissions from industrial developments.

Opposition Motion—The EnvironmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, very clearly, there is so much misinformation. The realty is that the oil sands sector has projected reductions of 250%; not all this rhetoric about increases and increases.

There is nothing more important to me than the air we breathe and our water. I have been up in that community since 1968 and I have continued to enjoy the water and the air. I fish there regularly. I have many family, including aboriginal family, as the member knows, within a very short distance of his own riding. Indeed, I am more serious about the protection of water and air than any member I have heard across the way, especially in my region, and I will continue to be a strong advocate for that. That is why I support the government's plan. It is real action with real results.

Opposition Motion—The EnvironmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Don Valley West.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to the motion put forward by the New Democratic Party today. The opposition parties are united in their desire to see Bill C-30, the clean air and climate change act, re-emerge from the government's politically induced coma, the coma that started when the environment committee substantially rewrote its weak and original effort.

Where can one begin on the merits of Bill C-30? Bill C-30 gives us a consensus based realistic plan that aims at meeting our Kyoto targets, something the government has adamantly refused to do. In fact, as every day progresses we learn that the government is ripping us out of the Kyoto protocol by stealth, by subterfuge and by the death of a thousand cuts.

Bill C-288, the Kyoto implementation act, passed this week in the other place. Now we hear that the new president of France is considering taking to the European Union trade sanctions and potential carbon taxes on countries like Canada under the present government, which would presume to unilaterally change the terms and conditions of our Kyoto obligations.

In committee yesterday, we discovered that massive amounts of money have been spent by the government attacking Bill C-288, millions and millions of taxpayer dollars in a shock and awe communications campaign, mounted by the Minister of the Environment, not to bring any kind of light to the issue but to generate way too much heat.

When asked, government officials concluded and confirmed yesterday that there had been no analysis whatsoever of any kind, economic, environmental or social, on the government's own bill, Bill C-30.

Bill C-288 restates Canada's commitment to the Kyoto protocol process. The government signed the protocol, and Parliament ratified it. Now that Bill C-288 has passed through the House of Commons, the democratically elected members have shown twice that we are fully committed to this goal. The minister's comments were defeatist. His confused rhetoric talked about a more realistic way forward. What he meant was that he is not willing to show any leadership whatsoever. He could not get the job done and neither could his predecessor who was summarily dispatched for failure to do anything in the first year of this government's short life.

After saying that Canada needed a new clean air act, the Conservatives presented a plan that will allow emissions to continue to increase for the next 10 years. To do so, they decided to use the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, completely contradicting their claims that Bill C-30 was needed.

The irony is simply too rich: the Conservatives' bill, their legislative committee, their admission that Bill C-30 was fatally flawed, centre overhaul, without a single substantive amendment put forward by any member of the government's caucus.

Thankfully, a lot has changed over the past few months. On February 8, the minister said that “This is bill is essential to protecting the environment and the health of Canadians”, referring, of course, to Bill C-30. If he really meant that, I guess we would be debating it today, and not as an opposition day motion.

However, the government, as we have seen and learned today, is more interested in censorship around the national climate change response than it is about putting forward a reasonable and defensible plan.

The minister said instead that our targets will be the toughest, a subjective word that he plucked out of a hat, and he is ridiculed for it by the United Nations head of the climate change secretariat, to guffaws of laughter in the 168 partner nations that have signed with us into the Kyoto protocol.

The numbers he shows are weak, and even these targets have no credible plan through which we can reach them.

We learned just yesterday that the mandatory, cabinet decreed, environmental assessment of the government's own climate change plan has not been performed. It has not been performed by the PCO, by Finance Canada, by Environment Canada, by Natural Resources Canada nor by Health Canada. There is no environmental assessment on this plan. It is in breach of its own cabinet decree.

The minister's comments are nothing short of defeatist. His confused rhetoric talks about “a more realistic way forward”. What he really meant was that he was not willing or, more likely, he was not allowed to show leadership because the PMO staffers who pull his strings tell him that he should control the message that more closely.

He cannot get the job done. His history of working to obstruct, no, to undermine, Kyoto is well-written. In partnership with thePrime Minister, who is an isolationist, triangulating between Canberra, Washington and Ottawa, a Prime Minister who is viscerally opposed to a multilateral, the only single multilateral response we have to an international phenomena.

Bill C-30 is the way forward. The centrepiece of it is a functioning carbon budget for Canada. Every family understands the importance of a budget. Income and expenditures need to be balanced. If we save, we can invest in our future, it is time to adopt such a strategy in order to reduce carbon emissions.

A balanced carbon budget is an innovative and bold plan enabling large industrial emitters to reduce, in a tangible and significant way, their carbon emissions. Our plan provides a concrete and effective strategy for significant reductions in carbon emissions.

It would also serve to stimulate the development of green technologies here in Canada, second only, globally, to the emerging ecotourism trade as one of the fastest growing sectors of the international global marketplace.

We know our businesses will seize those opportunities to promote environmental technologies. We know that Canada will seize the opportunities to become a green superpower.

Our companies are aching to take advantage of a new green economy, but only if they have certainty and clarity. They need to know in which direction our country is moving, especially those that have moved so aggressively to reduce their emissions of those greenhouse gases since 1990.

I will leave it to my colleague to follow up with some of the details in Bill C-30, which is the culmination of the cooperation, negotiation and mediation of 65% of the members of the House of Commons. We speak for Canada. The government does not.

It is important for viewers and Canadians to know that the government was bluffing when it brought the clean air act to Parliament. Worse than that, it deceived the Canadian people, an art of deception mastered by the minister at the heels of his previous political mentor, the former premier of Ontario.

The government was not ready but we were. It counted on what it excels at, division. We were not divided. We are united.

The Conservatives are isolated. They have struck out twice with two different ministers and it is now time for the House to accept nothing less than Bill C-30.

We call on the government to bring Bill C-30 back to the House transparently and accountably so Canadians can see that if it refuses it will speak volumes for the party opposite to defy the will of Parliament and remain foolishly silent.

Opposition Motion—The EnvironmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and Minister for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

Mr. Speaker, I have a question about gas prices and gas consumption and obviously, therefore, the consumption of fossil fuels and what that means for our environment. I hope the member can actually answer this question.

Maybe it is just the time year where it is that silly season part of politics where everyone seems to stand up and ask a question and everything has to be couched in political intrigue and “You guys are muzzled because the PMO says this and you guys failed”.

I want to try to have a conversation with someone who, in the past, I have respected for substantive interventions in the House. I know he supported the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore when he ran for the leadership of the Liberal Party. During that leadership campaign, the member proposed the idea of considering increasing gas taxes, increasing the price on gasoline to drive down consumption as a way of reducing CO2 emissions and trying to do something for the environment. This is not an uncommon idea. Many people share this view. David Suzuki and others believe very strongly in increasing the cost of gasoline as an effort to reduce consumption and, therefore, take action with regard to the environment.

The NDP historically has held this view. I remember, for example, the member for Vancouver Centre in the previous Parliament voting against a motion that we put forward at the time to reduce gas taxes because she said that lowering gas taxes and gas prices would increase consumption which is bad for the environment.

As that has traditionally been the Liberal position, I have a question for the member. Does the member believe, as the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore did and as the Liberals used to believe, that cutting gas taxes and lowering the price of gasoline is a bad idea because lowering gas prices will increase consumption and, therefore, it will be bad for the environment?

We seem to have duelling messages from the Liberals over the past number years. On the one hand they have said that we need to reduce CO2 emissions, that we need to reduce our carbon footprint on the world and that we need to preserve our fossil fuels but, on the other hand, we hear questions in the House from Liberals suggesting that we should cut gas taxes as a result of defending the interests of consumers.

It seems to me that they cannot have it both ways. The member has in the past, as I have said, supported the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore in his idea of increasing the price of gasoline. It is not a heresy. A lot of people believe in that idea. It is not an irrational idea. I do not happen to believe in it but I want to know if my colleague believes in cutting gas taxes. Or, does he believe, as his choice for the Leader of the Liberal Party does, in increasing gas prices in order to reduce consumption?

Opposition Motion—The EnvironmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is a very difficult question to answer in the little time I have because everything about it is founded on the lack of understanding of, first, what my colleague, the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore, said, and secondly, I think the member is very confused about the notion of a carbon tax.

What we have now witnessed is that only carbon tax that has surfaced in Canada to deal with climate change is the $100 to $200 per tonne charge that his colleague, the Minister of the Environment, blurted out after getting off a plane in Vancouver, as the charge that would be levied on Canadian large industrial emitters that do not comply with its regulated levels under the plan. The only party that has put forward a carbon tax is the Conservative Party.

The second thing that is important to remind Canadians about is that the Prime Minister, who led the fight against the Kyoto protocol for 12 years in Canada, also promised, not once, not twice but three times publicly, that he would cap excise taxes after fuel prices exceeded 85¢ per litre. He said that the excise tax applied by the Government of Canada would not be applied.

The third thing to remember here is that after extraneous questioning yesterday and the day before with senior officials from Finance Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Environment Canada and Health Canada, a number of things were revealed to us. First, no environmental assessment was conducted on the government's own plan in breach of the cabinet decree that requires it to do this before it is made public.

Second, there is a four to five-fold increase contemplated in exploitation in the oil sands. The government has yet to reconcile anything around its carbon taxation strategy and a four to five-fold increase in those oil sands.

When it comes to inconsistencies in positions, the government is in charge. It wants to act like a majority government but it is not. It is a minority one. It is up to the government now to explain to Canadians how it intends to actually reduce greenhouse gases when its plan indicates that gases will increase for at least a decade.

Opposition Motion—The EnvironmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

John Godfrey Liberal Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, historians looking back at the tangled story of Bill C-30, the government's so-called clean air act, will probably say that the chief lesson to be derived from the whole sorry exercise is “be careful what you wish for”.

Historians—and that is my profession, I must say, my occupational bias—will certainly take notice of the Conservative government's initial skepticism regarding the science of climate change.

Historians are going to recall a Prime Minister who described the Kyoto treaty as “a money sucking socialist scheme”. They are going to recall a Prime Minister who asked how we could possibly predict the climate when we could not tell the weather in three days. They are going to recall a Prime Minister who said about the science behind global warning, “It's a scientific hypothesis and a controversial one”.

This may be a lot of fun for a few scientific and environmental elites in Ottawa, but ordinary Canadians from coast to coast will not put up with what this will do to their economy and lifestyle when the benefits are negligible.

Historians will also recall that it was the previous Liberal government that signed and ratified, in December 2002, the Kyoto protocol against the fierce opposition of the Reform/Alliance/Conservative, call it what we will, party that were in turn allied and abetted by most of the provinces at the time and a large section of the Canadian business community, which collectively rejected the very concept of climate change.

It is so ironic for the Conservatives now to say that we did not get the job done when it was their most fervent wish that we not get the job done since they opposed the very concept of the fight against climate change.

Historians, while noting that the Liberals certainly might have done more, will also recognize that the previous Liberal government did bring forward, in 2005, a green plan, which regulated and would have put in place regulations for large industrial emitters by 2008.

It was the Liberal government that negotiated an agreement with the auto sector up to 2011, which has been honoured and kept by the Conservative government.

It was the Liberal government that brought forward a number of other measures which would have helped provinces, such as the partnership fund, do their part to reduce greenhouse gases, and there were major projects foreseen in Ontario and Quebec.

The Liberal government created a climate fund for us to buy into projects in Canada to reduce greenhouse gases and to use international-UN mechanisms under the Kyoto protocol to do our part to reduce greenhouse gases.

The Liberal government created a plan that supported the energy retrofit program, including EnerGuide for low income houses, to help Canadians save money.

It was the Liberal government that put $1.8 billion over 15 years into the wind power production incentive and the renewable power production incentive.

The Liberal government put in money for the sustainable energy and technology strategy.

All of these things were cancelled when the Conservative government came into place and then, with complete cynicism, brought back in a weakened and in feeble form in many cases, when it finally realized that it was out of step with Canadians.

Bill C-30 and its accompanying notice of intent to regulate only appeared in October 2006 as a desperate attempt by the Conservatives to reverse their previous strategy because polls told them that Canadians took climate change seriously and that they were on the losing side of history.

The Conservatives response was completely cynical. First, they muddled, deliberately, the issues of climate change and air pollution. Second, they did as much as they had to and as little as they could get away with. Hence we have Bill C-30.

The bill was so feeble, so universally condemned by non-governmental organizations, the media, opposition parties, and public opinion, that it was withdrawn in disgrace and sent to a special legislative committee after first reading, with an invitation by the government to the three opposition parties to re-write the bill to meet all of the objections that had been raised. “Be careful what you wish for”.

Following intensive and frequent meetings in February and March of this year, the three opposition parties joined forces, something rather rare in this House, to push for some amendments and respond seriously to the challenge presented by the Conservative government. Together, the opposition parties produced a much stronger, more serious and better bill. It is still Bill C-30, but the bill is now called Canada’s Clean Air and Climate Change Act.

Now irony of ironies, the government refuses to produce its own much improved bill, confirming the cynicism of those who said at the time, as my colleague from Ottawa South noted, that Bill C-30 was never necessary in the first place, that the Canadian Environmental Protection Act provided all the resources, all the power necessary to regulate both greenhouse gases and air pollutants.

On April 26 of this year, the government confirmed what we the official opposition had been saying since October 2006, by issuing a weak and incomplete climate change and air quality package of regulations, which was entirely dependent on the existing legislation, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. There was not in that document a single reference to Bill C-30, which the government had previously insisted was necessary in order to accomplish the changes through regulation of greenhouse gases and air pollutants.

The three opposition parties have acted in good faith. They did improve both the climate change sections of the bill and the air quality provisions of Bill C-30, as the government asked us to do. “Be careful what you wish for”.

Canadians need to compare the strengthened, improved and ambitious new Bill C-30 with the pathetic, loophole ridden, muddle-headed, unambitious plan of April 26. However, we can only do that in a formal sense if the bill is brought back to the House as it should be.

Historians and Canadians will look back on the first year and a half of Conservative inaction on the climate change file and note the following: a 180° turn on the whole subject and a 90° turn on the Kyoto protocol itself.

What we notice is the replacement of one ineffective minister of the environment, who was undermined at every turn by the Prime Minister's Office, with an aggressive, partisan, and I have to say, uninformed and ultimately discredited and ineffective new minister.

We notice Bill C-30 introduced, discredited, withdrawn, reintroduced, amended, improved, withdrawn again. We notice the regulations introduced, discredited, withdrawn, amended, reintroduced, discredited, and the dreary cycle continues. We notice over the top attacks on phantom bills no one introduced in the first place. We notice the apocalyptic Chicken Little attacks on a fantasy and a phantasm.

Meanwhile there is complete silence and no analysis by the government of the serious carbon budget plan introduced by the Liberals as part of the new Bill C-30 and endorsed by the Bloc and the NDP.

The final judgment of historians may well be that by May 2007, after having been in power for 16 months, the government had run out of bullets and credibility on the subject of climate change. It has run out of new plans to introduce. Having used up all its ammunition attacking a phantom plan, it has nothing left to say about the reasonable carbon budget plan of Bill C-30.

Having attacked the Liberal green plan, then reintroduced in feeble form many of its elements, no one believes a word the Conservatives say.

The true colours of the government have been revealed. There is nothing more to do, nothing more to say, nothing more to hide. “Be careful what you wish for”.

Opposition Motion—The EnvironmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member and the member before him should be very careful in how they mislead the House on the new Conservative government's environmental plan.

For example, they have said that the government has not done any environmental assessment plans. That is wrong. On May 16, at the House of Commons standing committee, officials from four government departments said that the environmental assessment had been done, that they had the economic analysis and that they had done the health and benefit analysis.

Here is an another interesting fact regarding this intensity based phrase that the Liberals throw out. It was officials, in that same standing committee meeting of May 16, from four government departments who confirmed that the Leader of the Opposition's 2005 project green was based on intensity targets. Surprise, surprise.

Let us just say that in our wildest dreams, and this is important, we can imagine that the Liberal government prior to us actually did know something about the environment. Let us say that this was some sort of a fact. It begs this question. If the Liberals knew the damage that was being done to the ozone layer, if they knew the damage that was being done to the water, the air and the ground, why on earth, in 13 years, did they not do anything about it? How can they stand there like hypocrites and demand from this government, which is doing something—

Opposition Motion—The EnvironmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member should know that when the Speaker gets up, he sits down.

We have had an expression of interest from other members, so I would appreciate it if the answer was shorter than the question so we can get to other questioners.

The hon. member for Don Valley West.

Opposition Motion—The EnvironmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

John Godfrey Liberal Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have two points.

First, on the environmental assessment that was referenced in the hearings, the question was whether they followed the full cabinet proceedings, which necessitates an environmental assessment of a certain kind, and the answer was no.

The second point, which is on the intensity target, is we recognized that project green was intensity based when it came to large final emitters. We also realize that is no longer sufficient because we have lost time and we now go to an absolute based system, as we should, in the new Bill C-30.

Opposition Motion—The EnvironmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for talking about the historical aspects of Bill C-30. However, he needs to recognize that when Bill C-30 first came to the House, the Liberal Party supported it to get it to a committee. It was our colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley who objected to it, saying that it was terrible, that it needed to be rewritten and that it needed to go to a special committee.

The Liberal Party at that time, along with the Conservatives, said that it could not be done. The member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley proved that it could be done, and we want to thank him very much for it.

However, I would like to give another shot at the Conservatives for the fact that they have been climate change deniers for years. The member for Red Deer, their environment critic, said that global warming was a myth. Does he believe the Conservative Party still believes that?

Opposition Motion—The EnvironmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

John Godfrey Liberal Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to return to what the initial question was. It is basically a who said what.

Our position from the get-go was that Bill C-30 was not necessary to achieve the objectives that were put forward. We agreed with the NDP that this was so.

We then agreed with the NDP to give it a try, to bring the bill to a legislative committee after first reading, although we always had grave doubts about this. Those grave doubts have been fully satisfied by the behaviour of the Conservatives. We never thought for a moment that they would accept a modified Bill C-30, but we worked with the NDP and the Bloc to give it our best effort.

As we said from the get-go, we did not think the Conservatives would do it. They did not need to do it, and we have wasted about six months doing nothing.

Opposition Motion—The EnvironmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with great joy that I am taking part in this debate on the New Democratic Party's opposition day.

The opposition motion reads:

That, in the opinion of the House, given the desire of Canadians that this Parliament meaningfully address concerns about air quality and climate change, the government should call Bill C-30, Canada's Clean Air and Climate Change Act, for debate and decision at Report stage and Second reading as soon as possible.

From the outset, I would like to indicate to this House that the Bloc Québécois intends to vote in favour of this motion, which, according to our party, is essential. It is essential for facing the climate change phenomenon, which will have consequences for the environment, our ecosystems and our natural resources.

Global warming will have a very negative economic impact if we do not soon start to correct the situation, if do not soon force those who are considered major industrial emitters responsible for increasing greenhouse gas emissions to commit to a real change in their production methods, and if we do not soon reduce our dependence on oil. Major economic consequences will result from our inaction.

We needed to proceed with consideration of Bill C-30 quickly. It was the responsibility of the opposition to amend the bill to meet the expectations of the people of Quebec and Canada. On October 19, 2006, when Bill C-30 was introduced in the House of Commons by the former Minister of the Environment, this government tried to have people believe that Bill C-30 was an adequate solution to combating climate change and that just because this government introduced a bill on air quality, which did not integrate the Kyoto protocol targets or targets for the short and medium terms, that the public would give it a blank cheque.

The response was exactly the opposite. In Canada and Quebec, there was an unprecedented angry outcry against this government, a government that decided to scrap the Kyoto protocol targets. Quebeckers reacted strongly, in the streets of Montreal, for example. They reacted through their civil society, through community organizations, as well as in the business community, the Cascades company, for instance, and through other Quebec businesses that saw that the government's decision to do away with the Kyoto protocol would have serious repercussions for the Quebec economy.

This became clear when the new President of France, Mr. Sarkozy, clearly indicated during a debate and again following his election that he planned to impose a carbon tax on all countries that refuse to comply with the Kyoto protocol. This is no trivial matter for Quebec. Forty percent of Canadian exports originate in Quebec. What is this, if not a telling blow against inaction? To not take action against climate change will not only decrease business opportunities for Quebec companies that wish to sell carbon credits they have amassed as a result of changes made to industrial processes, but the tax will also have repercussions for our economy, if the WTO deems such a tax legitimate.

The government is trying to make us believe that implementing the Kyoto protocol will lead Canada into one of the worst economic recessions ever; however, the opposite is true, Madam Speaker.

We have had a change in the chair occupant. We seldom have a woman in the chair, and I congratulate you.

It is not true that implementing the Kyoto protocol will lead to economic catastrophe. Some say that it will be worse than the 1929 crash. That is what we were told in recent weeks by economists hired by the government. We would have to look back 60 or 70 years to find a catastrophe of such proportions. The reality is quite different. It is inaction that will lead to economic decline.

It will be a lasting decline because we will not have adjusted to this paradigm shift, the change in the development of our economy, which was originally based on investment in natural resources. Given that climate change is a phenomenon which must be addressed with urgency, it is not right that we learn today that the government is thinking of buying the Mackenzie pipeline. Two years ago, it was valued at $7 billion and today we learn that it is valued at approximately $16 billion.

What hope do we have of this government fighting climate change when it is thinking of saving from bankruptcy a project whose sole purpose is to develop the oil and gas industry, which, in future, will contribute to the increase in greenhouse gases? It makes no sense for the government to table a plan that looks at greenhouse gas reductions in terms of emission intensity and not in terms of absolute results. It does not make sense to promote reductions by production unit. It is not right to try to make Canadians believe that they want to decrease greenhouse gases by 18%. On the contrary, the facts show that greenhouse gas emissions in one industrial sector alone—the tar sands—will increase by179%, and that increase will have an impact on the Canadian economy and the Canadian reality.

So, this is a government that must side not only with Canadians, but also with international opinion and consensus. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change keeps releasing new reports. There is confirmed scientific evidence that the increase in greenhouse gas emissions is, at 90% to 95%, an anthropogenic phenomenon, that is, caused by human activities. There is increasing evidence to that effect, yet the government refuses to take action in the short term. That is totally unacceptable.

That is unacceptable, because we, the opposition, had decided to act responsibly, despite what the government would have people and the public believe. As early as November 1, after accepting the Prime Minister's invitation to refer Bill C-30 to a legislative committee, the opposition had decided to act responsibly. The word “responsible” must be remembered, when we look back to the review of Bill C-30. We set aside the partisanship that sometimes comes into play here. In this House, we do not always agree with the Liberals or the New Democrats, but the one thing on which we do agree is that climate change requires immediate action.

We will not accept a plan—or a bill such as Bill C-30—which pushes back to the year 2050 the greenhouse gas reduction targets. We, on this side, and this includes the NDP and the Liberal Party, are making a solemn commitment to make the fight against climate change a priority, and rest assured that we will remain focused on that objective.

We made that commitment consensually, by telling the government that we want greenhouse gas reduction targets of 6% based on 1990 levels. We did that by setting a medium-term greenhouse gas reduction target of about 20% for 2020, again based on the 1990 levels. We also increased this Parliament's sense of responsibility, by setting a longer term objective of between 60% and 80% reductions.

We did not limit ourselves like the government did by setting a long term objective because we set short and medium term objectives and we also reiterated our commitment to setting up a carbon exchange. This is essential for Quebec and it is the best tool available to help us achieve our greenhouse gas reduction targets. This is a growing market, and we think it will be worth over $70 billion in a few years.

The government believes in implementing the market system, yet when it is time to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to apply this market theory to environmental policy, the government is not on board. The reverse must be done.

If it works for Europe, which has six exchanges that enable it to meet its environmental targets while keeping the impact on its gross domestic product below 1%, why would it not work for Canada? If we continue to delay, Canada might no longer be competitive in foreign markets.

Protecting the environment is not a constraint. Since when have development and technological innovation been an economic constraint? On the contrary, this is a golden opportunity for Quebec to develop new markets. We must not leave this to others. If we take up this challenge, Quebec and Canada will come out on top. Canada has every opportunity to become one of the most competitive countries in foreign markets.

We believe in this exchange because it is better than a carbon tax. I think this exchange will enable better trading. The European experience has shown that the exchange can meet the targets. We believe in absolute targets, and we reject intensity targets. Large industrial emitters emit between 40% and 50% of our overall emissions, which means that implementing a system based on intensity reduction targets does nothing more than let big industrial emitters off the hook and make it more difficult for us to achieve our greenhouse gas reduction targets.

So we must jump into this fight and push for absolute reduction targets. We must also actively and confidently jump into a carbon market system currently estimated at more than $20 billion by the Business Development Bank of Canada. We must give an opportunity to companies like Biothermica in Quebec, which wants to sell its credits outside the country, and which wants to be recognized for the efforts it has made in the past as part of a Canadian plan.

We must also let Quebec implement its own approach and plan. We must trust the provinces, who are responsible for natural resources. Quebec and Manitoba are examples of what a province can do when its government decides to attack climate change. Quebec's previous governments have shown this, from Robert Bourassa to Jacques Parizeau. All of Quebec's governments, regardless of their political affiliation, have shown that when we implement a plan to fight climate change with clear goals, we can succeed in keeping greenhouse gas emissions in check. We are also able to strive for and respect our Kyoto commitments.

This is what Bill C-30 is calling for. Some people think that the Bloc never makes any progress. But after negotiations with the Liberals and the New Democrats, the Bloc was able to incorporate a territorial approach into Bill C-30. Under this approach, if a province, such as Quebec, decides to meet its greenhouse gas reduction target, it can implement its own climate change plan.

Why are we demanding that? Not because we are so attached to the principle of sovereignty, but simply because this is the most effective way of reducing greenhouse gases. For every dollar invested in the fight against climate change, we must maximize greenhouse gas reductions.

It is not true that a dollar invested in Quebec will lead to the same reduction in greenhouse gases as if it were invested in Alberta. Quebec does not have the same energy policy as the rest of Canada. We generate 95% of our power from hydroelectricity; 95% of our energy comes from renewable sources. When we invest in energy efficiency in our homes, that does not reduce greenhouse gas emissions, whereas in the rest of Canada, increased home energy efficiency reduces the use of fossil fuels and consequently greenhouse gas emissions.

This example shows that we need a shared commitment in Canada, but that each province needs to take its own approach to meeting that commitment so that this plan to fight climate change is adapted to the realities across the country. That is what Europe did when it set a reduction target of 8%, negotiated in Kyoto in 1997. I was in Kyoto. I saw the Europeans come prepared. All the sovereign members of the European Union were in agreement at the time. They had a plan and targets. They knew how to address climate change because they had reached agreement with their partners, because they had understood that there could not be a target for Europe without equitable territorial reduction targets.

That is the commitment the Bloc Québécois made when it introduced this territorial approach, which aims to set a common target for Canada—we hope it will be the Kyoto target—but with a different approach for each province. Some greenhouse gas-emitting provinces have made huge profits in recent years. How did Alberta get rich? By developing an industry that, unfortunately, causes pollution. What we are asking for with the territorial approach and an emission credit trading mechanism is that the government apply the polluter-pay principle rather than the polluter-paid principle.

That is what we want. We want Quebec's efforts—because Quebec did not sit on its hands—to be recognized. Furthermore, we believe that Bill C-30 meets that expectation and we want it to be debated and voted on as soon as possible.

Opposition Motion—The EnvironmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the member's comments. He said that the committee acted in a responsible manner as its members dealt with this bill in committee. The previous speaker from the Liberal Party said they gave it their best effort. I am sure this is the expectation that all of our constituents have of us as parliamentarians.

However, instead of improving this bill, those members actually gutted it of many of the important elements relating to the preservation of the health of Canadians. We all know that air pollutants cause undue hardship for thousands of Canadians. In fact, the David Suzuki Foundation agrees. It states there is strong evidence that:

Air pollution is the most harmful environmental problem in Canada in terms of human health effects, causing thousands of deaths, millions of cases of illness, billions of dollars in health care expenses, and tens of billions of dollars in lost productivity every year.

Given the seriousness of air pollution, why would the members allow these key elements to slip away from the bill?

For example, through the opposition amendments, we have lost mandatory national air quality standards. As well, we have lost mandatory annual public reporting on air quality and actions to achieve national air quality standards. We have lost increased research and monitoring of air pollutants. We have lost tougher enforcement rules for compliance.

Why did the members allow these important elements to slip away from the bill?

Opposition Motion—The EnvironmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I seldom see a member from the Conservative Party promote reports in this House.

We have always striven to lighten the administrative burden. What we want to see in this place is not reports, but action. That is what is expected from the government. The hon. member is right; air pollution is a serious problem that has to be dealt with. However, the government and the member have to recognize that if we tackled global warming, we would be tackling the issues of smog and air pollution at the same time. The most pressing problem right now is global warming. Global warming being the most pressing problem, it has to be dealt with. Certainly, we can walk and chew gun at the same time.

Opposition Motion—The EnvironmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

We have five minutes left in this period and I have expressions of interest from various corners of the House so we will try to keep all questions and answers short.

The hon. member for Ottawa South has the floor.

Opposition Motion—The EnvironmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, in light of what we have seen in this government in the past 16 months, I have a very specific question for my colleague on the implications to Canada's international reputation following decisions made by the Prime Minister and the Minister of the Environment.

First, we saw the Minister of the Environment, as president of the conference of parties in Nairobi, send staff to weaken the post-2012 Kyoto negotiations. Today we heard that the Canadian and U.S. negotiators are working to water down the G-8 press release. Some 169 partners are starting to ask questions. France's President Sarkozy clearly said that France will look into the possibility of implementing a carbon tax on countries such as Canada which are effectively dropping the Kyoto protocol.

What does the hon. member think of this important matter regarding Canada's international reputation?

Opposition Motion—The EnvironmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I well remember when former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore denounced the Conservative government's plan to fight climate change. The Conservative members and ministers scoffed at his statement.

I well remember that Sunday when journalists called me for comments from the Bloc Québécois. At the time I said that Al Gore's statement was a sign of an international outcry to come. We then saw the head of the UN climate change secretariat, Mr. de Boer, indicate in the days following that the Conservative government was not on the right path.

David Suzuki is not the only one opposing the government; the worlds' leading climate change experts are as well. The government started out in Nairobi by sabotaging the Kyoto protocol and it is getting ready to do the same thing at the G-8 + 5. This is totally unacceptable.

Opposition Motion—The EnvironmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Parkdale—High Park.

Opposition Motion—The EnvironmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, my thanks go to my colleagues in the NDP for ensuring that Bill C-30 sees the light of day.

My question concerns previous comments made by a Liberal colleague who said that this bill in fact was unnecessary and that the Canadian Environmental Protection Act ensures environmental protection.

It is my understanding that one of the reasons the previous Liberal government failed to act on the environment, even after signing the Kyoto accord, was because these decisions had to be made under this act, under CEPA, behind closed doors, and even the environment minister could not get support for initiatives on the environment.

Could my hon. colleague comment on the changes in Bill C-30 and the importance of public accountability on environmental issues?

Opposition Motion—The EnvironmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie has one minute left for questions and comments.

Opposition Motion—The EnvironmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, of course, every member in this House knows that, although it is in force, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act is little enforced. I would say that, since 1997, Canada's greatest failure has been this inability on the part of the federal government to work together with its provincial partners, which have jurisdiction over natural resources and their management.

The answer is clear. Let us recall what the former Commissioner of the Environment, Ms. Gélinas, said. She said that it was imperative that it create partnerships with the provinces. Why? Simply because the provinces are responsible for producing and distributing energy. Energy consumption comes under the purview of the provinces.

As far as I am concerned, it is clear that as long as we do not have a federal government capable of working together with the provinces, we are likely to see this Canadian failure repeat itself in the future.

Opposition Motion—The EnvironmentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

It being 1:30 p.m., it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings.

Pursuant to order made earlier today, all questions necessary to dispose of the opposition motion are deemed put and a recorded division deemed requested and deferred until Tuesday, May 29 at 5:30 p.m.

It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Aboriginal AffairsPrivate Members' Business

May 18th, 2007 / 1:30 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should immediately adopt a child first principle, based on Jordan's Principle, to resolve jurisdictional disputes involving the care of First Nations children.

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to present Motion No. 296 to the House, which calls on the government to immediately adopt a child first principle based on Jordan's principle. This motion has been motivated by the need for this country to look at ending discrimination against first nations children.

Before I speak about the circumstances, I want to specifically acknowledge Jordan and his family, the many people who have stood behind them and the Norway House Cree Nation in bringing this matter to the House's attention. Others like the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, the Assembly of First Nations, and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada have all worked tirelessly to ensure that we truly do put substance behind the notion that children should be first in this country. Amnesty International has also stood behind the people working on this very important matter.

I want to tell the House a bit about Jordan and who he is. Jordan was born in 1999 with a complex set of genetic and medical conditions. For the first two years of his life he was in hospital and required a wide variety of medical services. The unfortunate story is that because of the lack of services on the reserve, his family had to make the decision to give the child up so he could access the best possible care.

After two years of being in hospital, the medical team determined that Jordan was able to leave the hospital and go to a special foster home where he could get the kind of care that would substantially improve his quality of life. Unfortunately, during the two years when Jordan could have gone into a home and had all the sights, sounds, senses and the love that a home environment would provide, Jordan spent those last two years in hospital.

The reason he spent that time in hospital was because governments had to argue, wrangle and discuss who should pay for Jordan's care. We talk about children being one of our most valuable assets, about being a country that cherishes its children, and yet we allowed that child to die in a hospital without the benefit of a home setting.

I would argue that appropriate care is one of the most fundamental of human rights in this country. Just in case we thought that perhaps it was going to be far too expensive to put Jordan into a foster home, I want to quote from a paper called “Honouring Jordan: Putting first nations children first and funding fights second”. It was a paper written by Trudy Lavallee.

In the paper she talks about the fact that it was not that foster care was more expensive and that the remedies were not available to provide this child the benefit of a home. She stated:

If the use of public funds in a responsible manner were at the centre of the storm of government disagreements, it was not evident because they paid the hospital twice the rate of what it would have cost to place him in a foster home.

If we are talking about accountability, governments would have been far more accountable to provide this child with a home than to allow him to languish in hospital until he died. I cannot imagine, as a mother and grandmother, what it must have been like for his parents to know that their son did not have access to a home in the final two years of his life.

I wish I could stand here and say that the situation has changed. Here we are two years later and there are still first nations children living on reserves who do not have access to the same quality of care that other children in this country have access to.

There was a recent release by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs dated April 3, 2007 entitled, “Disabled children lose services because governments won't pay”. It is about Norway House and states:

Thirty-seven profoundly disabled children on this First Nations reserve will lose essential services--

Again, this is because of ongoing jurisdictional disputes.

Further on down in the paper it says:

A recent research report in Manitoba found that First Nations parents often place their children with disabilities in child welfare care, so they can be sure the children get access to the specialized services they so desperately need. Yet children whose parents want to keep them at home may suffer physical pain without those services.

Even today mothers and fathers are having to give up their children to the state in order to ensure that they receive adequate care because we fail to provide, as a federal government, adequate funding to ensure that these children get the care they need in their homes.

We often speak in Canada about how proud we are that we are a country that has a high quality standard of living. Under the United Nations human development index, Canada is rated as number six. However, when we actually factor the plight of aboriginal children and their families into the complex system that talks about well-being in this country, Canada is ranked 78th, and that rank places us between Lebanon and Kazakhstan.

We have had international agencies looking at the plight of children and families on first nations reserves in this country. They talk about the water, housing, health care, and certainly the issue around child care, access to protective care and welfare services for children.

The Assembly of First Nations has actually filed a Canadian human rights complaint about the lack of funding for first nations children. Right now we have more than 27,000 first nations children in care in this country from coast to coast to coast.

We have more children removed from their families than at the height of the residential schools system. I cannot imagine the grief that this causes to families because they do not have the support they need in order to care for their children.

Much has been made of the fact that many of these children are removed from their families, but they are removed from their families because of issues around poverty. They are removed from their families because their families do not have the resources to provide that adequate housing and other services.

We had something called least disruptive measures. In our country the federal government will fund to have children removed from their homes, but it will not fund those least disruptive measures.

Many provinces have already agreed that this is the most effective way to work with children who need some additional services, but our federal government has failed to provide that.

These are the key findings from the “Wen:de we are coming to the light of day and the journey continues” report. This is a summary that was put out on March 12, 2007. In that summary it says:

The primary reason why First Nations children come to the attention of the child welfare system is neglect. When researchers unpack the definition of neglect, poverty, substance misuse and poor housing are the key factors contributing to the over representation of First Nations children amongst substantiated child welfare cases.

Further on in this report it talks about the fact that an additional $109 million is needed in year one of the proposed formula to redress existing funding shortfalls along with the levels of funding indicated for subsequent years.

They also talk about the fact that jurisdictional disputes between and among federal and provincial governments are substantial problems with 12 first nations child and family service agencies experiencing 393 jurisdictional disputes in this last year alone. These disputes often result in first nations children on reserve being denied or delayed receipt of services that are otherwise available to other Canadian children.

In a country that prides itself on its human rights record, I would argue that by having children continue to not have access to services on reserve that we take for granted in every other part of this country is truly a violation of human rights.

In a recent report that the other place is been putting out, it looked at the UN convention on the rights of the child. In that UN convention on the rights of the child report, we are again cited internationally for what is happening to aboriginal children in this country.

There are a couple of points I want to raise from that report under child protection issues. It says that one of the most prominent and recurring themes with respect to aboriginal children in Canada is their disproportionate representation within the child welfare system.

Not only are children overrepresented, but as we have seen in the case of Jordan, we cannot even agree upon what adequate services would be and then fund them.

There were lots of experts in Jordan's case who talked about the fact that he needed access to a wheelchair, a special shower head, and yet the federal government would not come to the table and put Jordan's needs first. They refused to say that this child needed the care that he needed and that they would worry about who would pay later.

Again, in the UN Convention on the rights of the child it talks about the fact that a report released by the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada in August 2005 stated that between 1995 and 2001 the number of registered Indian children entering care rose by 71.5% nationally.

The organization's 2005 one day report found that there are three times more first nations children in care now than at the height of the residential schools era in the 1940s. It goes on to say that the situation is particularly dire in British Columbia where over 50% of children in permanent care are aboriginal, and in Saskatchewan and Manitoba 80% of children in care are aboriginal. These numbers are startling.

The work that the Assembly of First Nations, the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, and Norway House Cree Nation have been doing over the years has all fallen on deaf ears. This has been going on for decades, but Jordan's case arose in 1999.

It is through their efforts that finally in 2007 this matter is finally on the floor of the House of Commons.

How many other children in the last six years have ended up being removed from their homes and not receiving the services they need because of this wrangling?

I would urge each and every member of this House to support the motion I have brought before the House to say that first nations children in Canada on reserve truly should come first and should receive the same care that other children in Canada receive.

I will close with a quote from a release by Assembly of First Nations National Chief Fontaine. He said:

The motion asks a simply question: Do Canadians accept the fact that their health care system treats certain children differently because of the race or community they belong to? And further, do Canadians accept that this double standard can result in death or disability? This practice should not be allowed to exist or be accepted as a normal business practice. We must stand together to protect and nurture the health and well-being of all children across Canada.

I would ask each and every member here to support this important motion and say that first nations children on reserve do deserve to be treated fairly, equally and with justice in this country.