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House of Commons Hansard #93 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was nations.

Topics

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-377, An Act to ensure Canada assumes its responsibilities in preventing dangerous climate change, as reported (with amendments) from the committee.

Speaker's RulingClimate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

There are four motions in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-377, An Act to ensure Canada assumes its responsibilities in preventing dangerous climate change.

The Chair does not ordinarily provide reasons for its selection of report stage motions in amendment. However, in light of the point of order raised on Thursday, May 8, 2008 by the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh and the subsequent intervention of the hon. deputy government House leader, I would like to convey to the House the reasoning involved in considering these motions.

In his submission, the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh described the particular circumstances surrounding the committee consideration of Bill C-377.

During its consideration of the bill, the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development presented three separate reports. In the first of these reports, presented on April 14, 2008, the committee described procedural difficulties it had encountered in the course of its study of Bill C-377 and recommended some action that the House might wish to take.

On April 29, 2008, in its second report relating to this bill, the committee reported Bill C-377 with eight amendments. On the same day, the committee presented a third report. This report explained that having begun its clause by clause study on March 3, 2008, prolonged debate on clause 10 of the bill resulted in an impasse; and that as no further progress seemed possible, the committee turned to the consideration of a motion, the effect of which was to deem adopted the remaining parts of the bill and to agree that the bill be reported to the House without further debate or amendment. This motion was adopted on division by the committee.

The hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh also referred to previous Speaker's rulings where motions in amendment at report stage were selected on the basis that members involved did not have the opportunity to present motions during the committee consideration stage. Specifically, he cited a ruling given on January 28, 2003, regarding Bill C-13, An Act respecting assisted human reproduction, and a ruling given on November 6, 2001, regarding Bill C-10, An Act respecting the national marine conservation areas of Canada.

In his intervention on Friday, May 9, 2008, the hon. deputy government House leader also reviewed the sequence of events surrounding the committee consideration of the bill and referred to the two rulings just cited. He went on to argue that, in his view, the committee's decision to report the bill back to the House prior to the May 7, 2008 deadline represents a conscious decision of the majority of the committee not to make full usage of the time remaining and thus to forego further opportunities to propose amendments at the committee stage. On this basis, he concluded that the motions at report stage should not be selected.

Four report stage motions have been submitted. These motions are identical to committee amendments which were not considered due to the impasse, as described in the committee's report and the adoption by the committee of the motion to report the bill. The motions relate to clauses of the bill which were deemed carried at the committee stage, quite clearly as a way out of the impasse.

The Chair is now faced with the matter of selection. The note accompanying S. O. 76(5) reads, in part: “The Speaker ... will normally only select motions which were not or could not be presented [in committee].”

Having carefully reviewed the sequence of events and the submissions made by the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh and the hon. deputy government House leader, the Chair is of the opinion that we are facing very exceptional circumstances. The committee recognized that the impasse was significant and wanted to bring that situation to the attention of the House. It did so in a report which states in part:

Given the impasse, the Committee opted not to consider the remaining clauses and parts of the Bill....

Therefore, I am satisfied that these motions could not be presented during the committee consideration of the bill, and accordingly I have selected them for debate at report stage. Accordingly, Motions Nos. 1 to 4 will be grouped for debate and voted upon according to the voting pattern available at the Table.

I shall now propose motions numbered 1 to 4 to the House.

Motions in AmendmentClimate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

moved:

Motion No. 1

That Bill C-377, in Clause 2, be amended by adding after line 15 on page 2 the following:

““greenhouse gases” means the following substances, as they appear on the List of Toxic Substances in Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999:

(a) carbon dioxide, which has the molecular formula CO2;

(b) methane, which has the molecular formula CH4;

(c) nitrous oxide, which has the molecular formula N2O;

(d) hydrofluorocarbons that have the molecular formula CnHxF(2n+2-x) in which 0<n<6;

(e) the following perfluorocarbons:

(i) those that have the molecular formula CnF2n+2 in which 0<n<7, and

(ii) octafluorocyclobutane, which has the molecular formula C4F8; and

(f) sulphur hexafluoride, which has the molecular formula SF6.”

Motion No. 2

That Bill C-377, in Clause 13, be amended by replacing lines 28 to 43 on page 8 and lines 1 to 12 on page 9 with the following:

“the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy established by section 3 of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy Act shall perform the following with respect to the statement:

(a) undertake research and gather information and analyses on the statement in the context of sustainable development; and

(b) advise the Minister on issues that are within its purpose, as set out in section 4 of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy Act, including the following, to the extent that they are within that purpose:

(i) the likelihood that each of the proposed measures will achieve the emission reductions projected in the statement,

(ii) the likelihood that the proposed measures will enable Canada to meet its commitment under section 5 and meet the interim Canadian greenhouse gas emission targets referred to in section 6, and

(iii) any other matters that the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy considers relevant.

(2) The Minister shall

(a) within three days after receiving the advice referred to in paragraph (1)(b):

(i) publish it in any manner that the Minister considers appropriate, and

(ii) submit it to the Speakers of the Senate and the House of Commons and the Speakers shall table it in their respective Houses on any of the first three days on which that House is sitting after the day on which the Speaker receives the advice; and

(b) within 10 days after receiving the advice, publish a notice in the Canada Gazette setting out how the advice was published and how a copy of the publication may be obtained.”

Motion No. 3

That Bill C-377 be amended by adding after line 12 on page 9 the following new clause

“13.1 (1) At least once every two years after this Act comes into force, the Commissioner shall prepare a report that includes

(a) an analysis of Canada’s progress in implementing the measures proposed in the statement referred to in subsection 10(2);

(b) an analysis of Canada’s progress in meeting its commitment under section 5 and the interim Canadian greenhouse gas emission targets referred to in section 6; and

(c) any observations and recommendations on any matter that the Commissioner considers relevant.

(2) The Commissioner shall publish the report in any manner the Commissioner considers appropriate within the period referred to in subsection (1).

(3) The Commissioner shall submit the report to the Speaker of the House of Commons on or before the day it is published, and the Speaker shall table the report in the House on any of the first three days on which that House is sitting after the Speaker receives it.”

Motion No. 4

That Bill C-377 be amended by adding after line 12 on page 9 the following new clause:

“NATIONAL ROUND TABLE ON THE ENVIRONMENT AND THE ECONOMY

13.2 (1) Within 180 days after the Minister prepares the target plan under subsection 6(1) or prepares a revised target plan under subsection 6(2), the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy established by section 3 of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy Act shall perform the following with respect to the target plan or revised target plan:

(a) undertake research and gather information and analyses on the target plan or revised target plan in the context of sustainable development; and

(b) advise the Minister on issues that are within its purpose, as set out in section 4 of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy Act, including the following, to the extent that they are within that purpose:

(i) the quality and completeness of the scientific, economic and technological evidence and analyses used to establish each target in the target plan or revised target plan, and

(ii) any other matters that the National Round Table considers relevant.

(2) The Minister shall

(a) within three days after receiving the advice referred to in paragraph (1)(b):

(i) publish it in any manner that the Minister considers appropriate, and

(ii) submit it to the Speakers of the Senate and the House of Commons and the Speakers shall table it in their respective Houses on any of the first three days on which that House is sitting after the day on which the Speaker receives the advice; and

(b) within 10 days after receiving the advice, publish a notice in the Canada Gazette setting out how the advice was published and how a copy of the publication may be obtained.”

Motions in AmendmentClimate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for your wise ruling today and ask you to accept our accolades.

The reason this is important for us as parliamentarians is that what took place at the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development is something that all parliamentarians, regardless of political stripe or interest, should resist. The government's unwillingness to accept a private member's piece of legislation meant that it used a tactic that has never been known in the recorded history of this place: that of filibustering, in a sense, a private member's bill.

As was noted in a Speaker's ruling some weeks prior to this, the committees in this place must learn to function and govern themselves in an appropriate way. They must learn to conduct the will of Parliament and the will of Canadians who have sent us to this place to advocate on their behalf for good things to happen.

Bill C-377, with the four amendments that I will be addressing today, does exactly that. For the first time in Canadian law, the targets relating to climate change, the greenhouse gas emissions for this country, will be legislated into law, thereby prohibiting any government, this one or any future government, from resisting the will of Canadians, from resisting the inclination that we must do the right thing when it comes to climate change.

As for these amendments, the irony, I suppose, which my colleagues are well aware of although I am not sure that all government members are, is that when we ran into this impasse in committee, this filibuster presented by the Conservatives, it was around clause 10, which is a clause for accountability and transparency when dealing with greenhouse gases. That is all the clause said. This part of the bill said that the government must tell Canadians what it has done, what the record has been on climate change, where the successes and failures have been, and then also tell Canadians what the plans are and have that accountable to Canadians. That is where we hit the roadblock.

This is obviously ironic coming from the Conservatives, who spent a great deal of time and effort in the last Parliament and then in the lead-up to this one in their campaign, talking about transparency and accountability. When it came to facing a bill on the environment, on climate change, which is top of mind for Canadians, in the very section that says the government must be transparent and accountable the government chose to delay and deny the reality of what we are faced with.

The fact is that Canada as a nation, as an economy, is far off track with our own commitments, our international commitments, but also far off track with what the rest of the developed world is doing, which is to find a way to make our economy more efficient, to produce more green collar jobs, and to allow Canadians to feel assured about our environment's future and not have to continue to face the threat of irreversible climate change, which we are already seeing.

It is a moral question that the government has been unable to face. It is a question of ethics that the government is unwilling to consider. In its two and a half long years in the House, following up on the 13 long years in government of the previous regime--too many--the government has been unable to effectively address the issue of climate change.

New Democrats, under the leadership of the member for Toronto—Danforth, have finally presented a reasonable, considered piece of legislation that will allow the country to move forward on this critical issue.

The actual amendments dealing with this bill are I think quite instructive. This bill, like all bills by the time they reach their final stages and final processes, originated some two years ago. The final four amendments to this bill deal with lessons learned over two years. They are lessons learned at the special legislative committee on the clean air and climate change act. That act was a flawed government bill that the NDP rewrote and for which it presented the best thinking on issues related to the environment at the time.

This was learned from events with respect to Bill C-288, when the government found a way to again try to put the kibosh on what was happening. We learned again from this bill.

Mr. Speaker, please correct me if I am wrong procedurally, but I have just been handed a note about splitting my time with the member for Outremont.

Motions in AmendmentClimate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member has 10 minutes, of which there are 5 minutes left. There is nothing to share according to this schedule.

Motions in AmendmentClimate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I apologize to the member for Outremont. We will provide time for him to illuminate us in another official language.

Let me get to the four definitions. As the government spent day after day and week after week delaying the committee, Canadians stood by with growing concern about this bill being unable to pass.

The first amendment deals with the actual definition of greenhouse gases, which has been amended through changes we have made to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. This is a change in the bill that has been learned over time and is correct even by the government's own standards. I would expect the government to support this amendment, unless of course it chooses to stand on ideological principles only and vote against it.

The second will switch the role of who it is that will be guiding and looking over the shoulder of government. This is a role we clearly have defined as much needed. The commissioner of the environment appeared before us and made recommendations, which at least the opposition parties have adopted, to give the role to the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy so that it can verify with some final seriousness that what the government is proposing to do with climate change will actually happen.

What a remarkable breath of fresh air this will present for Canadians. The spin and the doublespeak that have been so consistent from the government when it comes to climate change will in effect be against the law, because the government's plans will be verified by the national round table, which is made up of a group of Canadian experts on issues of the economy and the environment.

The third role is to allow for a new role for the commissioner of the environment. The commissioner of the environment exists within the Auditor General's office. Again, this will provide the commissioner with a means to look back on what the government says it has done, the commitments it has made, and to verify whether those things happened or did not.

When I came to the House in 2004, there had been for too long a perception in the Canadian public that in issues related to climate change we were doing okay. My colleagues will remember it as well. The perception was that maybe we were not great, but we were not awful. Only when we started to open the books, and report after report came in about Canada's actual greenhouse gas levels, did Canadians and parliamentarians become increasingly concerned and then downright angry. International agreements that we had signed and committed to had been broken.

What Canada had put its signature to and its good name and reputation, which were earned over years and years, were suddenly in jeopardy. The world looked upon us as maybe not being an honest broker in the environmental global community, as maybe making commitments that we were not intending to keep.

This amendment and this bill would prevent that and would begin to recover and repair Canada's international reputation. Could anything be more critical to us in this place than to start to perform with authenticity and in such a way that we can hold our heads up with pride at international meetings and at future protocol meetings under the United Nations? This is what the amendment would do. Again I encourage all members in this House to support it.

Finally, the fourth amendment, which is as important as the rest, would allow the national round table to provide a more concrete advisory position to the minister of the environment, to guide his or her hand, if we will. One thing we have learned is that minister of the environment after minister of the environment has been in desperate need of adult supervision, of somebody looking over and making sure that as much time is spent on the policy as the politics. That is what Bill C-377 does. It should pass.

Motions in AmendmentClimate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I thank the hon. member for Skeena--Bulkley Valley. The sequence is as follows: the first MP to be recognized will be the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis, followed by the hon. member for Cambridge, then the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, and then the hon. member for Outremont.

The hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis now has the floor.

Motions in AmendmentClimate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak to the bill as a member of the environment committee. I have participated in all aspects of the committee hearings on the bill, including the very unfortunate and frustrating filibuster that occurred at committee for I do not remember how many hours, it was so long.

The point that was repeatedly made by the government members on the committee, throughout the period of the filibuster, was that the bill was too general and vague, that it set targets but did not specify the specific measures that would be taken to reach those targets, and that the bill did not enumerate the financial consequences of meeting those targets. The government repeated these points ad nauseam.

It is true that the bill is not the most detailed piece of legislation that has ever come to the floor of the House of Commons. However, we have to remember that it is a private member's bill, even though it is sponsored by the leader of the NDP. It is, after all, a private member's bill, and anyone who has been in the House long enough understands that private members' bills are drafted with the resources available. In other words, with the resources of an individual MP's office and with some of the resources of the legislative office of the House of Commons.

A private member's bill is not drafted with the benefit of the hundreds of experts that reside in government departments here in Ottawa, so to expect that the level of detail would be anything similar to that which should be included in a government bill is rather naive. To then claim, later on in the process out of the blue, like the government did, that it could not support the bill because there is not enough detail, after it allowed the bill to get to a certain stage in committee, is, in my view, bad faith.

One will have to remember that going into the committee process, the government's objections to the bill were not raised at the steering committee level. They were not raised through the first part of the committee process when amendments were voted on. They were only raised at a certain point, out of the blue, and that is an act of bad faith, I must say.

It is not a very detailed bill. Of course, the NDP members do not have to worry as much about detail because no doubt they do not expect to form the government at the next election. However, the party is obviously alerting the government to a problem, alerting parliamentarians to a problem, and that in itself has some merit.

I would like to get back to the point the government made that the bill does not have enough detail. It is ironic that when it suits the government's purpose, it does not worry about detail. In the last election campaign, it said it would provide thousands of child care spaces. It never got into the details in its election campaign. It never got into the details and it never met those objectives. It did not care about details back then when it came time to promising something that it thought would result in the party obtaining more votes during the last election.

The other interesting point, when it comes to this concern for details, is that the Prime Minister and the government do not seem to care about a very important detail that has been brought to the attention of Canadians by Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson, which is that the government cannot meet its own climate change objective. It cannot reduce greenhouse gases by 20% by the year 2020 over 2006 levels precisely because the government of Alberta will not be controlling its greenhouse gases.

Let me quote from a column that Mr. Simpson wrote not long ago. He said:

Just as a square peg cannot be squeezed into a round hole, so Canada cannot meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets, even the limited ones of the Harper government, if Alberta does not change direction. Any child can do the arithmetic. Alberta accounts for about 35 per cent of Canada's emissions. Premier Ed Stelmach's government plans to allow emissions to increase by 15 to 20 per cent to 2020. The Harper government, by contrast, is committing Canada to an overall emissions reduction of 20 per cent by that date. If the largest polluting province's emissions are rising, the rest of the country just can't take that many emissions out of the economy to reach the Harper target. Worse. The Stelmach government's policy calls for a 14 per cent Alberta reduction by 2050, whereas the Harper government's national target for 2050 is--

Motions in AmendmentClimate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Order. The hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis is aware that he cannot do indirectly what he cannot do directly. Members of this House are to be referred to by title or by the name of their riding.

The other thing is, when the Speaker stands, you sit. Please do not do this again.

The hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis now has the floor.

Motions in AmendmentClimate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

I apologize if I may have offended the Speaker in some manner.

If I may continue, the article continued:

Worse. The Stelmach government's policy calls for a 14 per cent Alberta reduction by 2050, whereas the [Conservatives'] government national target for 2050 is 50 to 60 per cent. It's the square peg into the round hole again.

There is a problem here. The government is promising one thing, but it will not delve into the details. It will not explain to Canadians that what it is proposing cannot be achieved.

The government is forgetting another detail. The Auditor General said last week that perhaps we should be looking, as a liability, at some of the costs to the government of not reaching the Kyoto target. We should do perhaps like what the government of New Zealand has done. It expects that by 2012 it will probably have to purchase some carbon credits on the international market and this foreseen cost should be somehow factored into the government's balance sheet. Somehow the government does not care about those details. It only cares about details when they are to its benefit.

When there are major national challenges facing governments, whichever government we are speaking about, whichever country we are speaking about, it is important to set targets, long term targets if need be. If we worry about crossing every t and dotting every i before we start to act, we will never progress. We will be stuck in neutral forever. I will use an example that I have used before.

Back in 1960, when the United States knew that it had to accelerate the pace of its space program, it set an objective 10 years hence. The objective, of course, was to go to the moon by 1970. The scientists at NASA did not know specifically in detail about how the US was going to get there, but they were inspired. They knew they could do it. They had faith and they moved forward.

This bill attempts to set targets, even though it has not laid out the specific road map for getting there. Unless the government starts taking targets seriously and starts to put together a credible plan, not a plan that is going to be contradicted by the actions of the Alberta government but a credible plan for reaching some targets that have obtained consensus at the international level, then we are never going to solve this problem.

In the final analysis, maybe the government has no real intention of making progress on climate change.

Motions in AmendmentClimate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I want to thank the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis. I want to assure him that he has not offended me, but I do have to be rigorous in how I apply the rules of the House.

The hon. member for Cambridge has the floor.

Motions in AmendmentClimate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Conservative Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today on behalf of my riding of Cambridge to debate this private member's bill, Bill C-377, the climate change accountability act.

We agree with the NDP that real actions are necessary to tackle climate change. We agree that the time of inaction is over and we recognize that Canadians did so in the last election. However, we are convinced that this is a poorly written piece of legislation and, therefore, is not part of the solution but could in fact be part of a bigger problem.

The medium and long term targets, which Bill C-377 calls for, would be difficult to achieve without causing significant disruption to the country's economy. The witnesses who appeared at committee and even the sponsor of this bill, the member for Toronto—Danforth himself, leader of the NDP, agreed that his party had failed to cost out its own bill. This is simply irresponsible.

We believe we can in fact protect the environment without destroying the economy. We are not prepared, nor should any member of this House be prepared, to blindly adopt targets that could put at risk the well-being of Canadians and the country's ability to participate in the necessary global solutions going forward.

Even at the most simplistic level this bill would result in much higher gas prices at the pumps and, ironically, the first person to rise in the House to challenge and demand that the government take action on the rising gasoline prices is none other than the member for Toronto—Danforth, the sponsor of the bill.

Is the sponsor of this bill prepared to tell the House how much Canadians will have to pay for gasoline under this bill? No, he is not or he would have. Is he prepared to tell how many jobs will be lost in the automotive and other manufacturing sectors in Ontario as a result of the poorly contrived plan to basically bludgeon the Canadian economy into reducing greenhouse gases? He is also not prepared to do that or he would have.

The NDP appears intent on crippling Alberta's oil and gas industry, and driving Ontario further into recession, just like it did provincially in the early 1990s. The NDP does not realize that our ability to fight climate change requires a strong economy. It requires both a plan to attack climate change and to keep the economic fundamentals strong so we can continue to do so. We cannot move forward with a bill that would shut down the economy. This government will not impose that on Canadians.

Financially speaking, the results of years of inaction on climate change has left Canada in a deep hole in terms of reducing gases. We must climb out of that hole but we cannot destroy the country to catch up overnight for the Liberals' decade of inaction.

Between 1990 and 2005, Canada's greenhouse emissions increased from 596 megatonnes to almost 750 megatonnes per year. Without further action on greenhouse gases, they could grow to over 900 megatonnes by 2020 and approach 1,500 megatonnes by 2050. That is double today's current levels.

On March 10 of this year, the government announced further details on its turning the corner plan in order to do what previous governments failed to get done. Our plan will get real reductions at manageable costs. By 2020, under the turning the corner plan of this government, emissions in Canada will be some 20% lower than 2006 levels, and that is good. By 2025, emissions will be some 25% below. That is great news. However, by 2050, under this government's emissions plan, we will be 60% to 70% lower, not double but lower, and that is fantastic.

By any comparison the turning the corner targets will lead to the most significant actions of any G-8 member between now and 2050. Unlike the NDP, the government did not just pick these targets and numbers out of thin air simply because they sounded impressive to Canadians and possibly could gain a vote. As a government that takes responsibility seriously and speaks the truth to Canadians, we designed an approach that would restore Canada's leadership on this most important global environmental issue of our time without crippling our economy or mortgaging the economic future of our children to pay for indecision, poorly written legislation and inaction of the past.

We have ensured that Canadians know what the trade-offs will be under our turning the corner plan. Through the publication of detailed analysis of the emissions and economic impacts of our plan, that is a measure of accountability which it seems the promoters of Bill C-377 have not only failed but have chosen not to assume. Maybe it is because they already know that Bill C-377 would impose punitive penalties on Canadians and would cripple the Canadian economy.

The fact is that Bill C-377 requires a rate of reduction of greenhouse gas emissions for Canada that is three to four times higher than what the analysis of turning the corner shows can be managed by the Canadian economy. This is unprecedented and frankly, completely irresponsible. If members wish to look at the Soviet Union, they will see examples of economies that attempted to do half of this and collapsed in their attempts.

This is a short-sighted publicity motivated bill. It attempts to substitute unrealistic rhetoric, and apparently is sponsored by the Liberals who are famous for such things, for sound economic, public and environmental policy. What Canada and the world need are an approach to climate change that recognizes the importance of keeping the economy strong and the citizens educated and employed. It is only on the basis of a strong economy and innovation by the citizens that the technological breakthroughs and investments essential to address climate change can become possible.

To the contrary, Bill C-377 seems likely to impose a crippling burden on the Canadian economy in the short term and clearly will not allow us to reduce greenhouse gases as our economy falters in the long term.

This government truly desires to work with all parties to find the right solution for Canada and for Canadians. We are committed to achieve real and concrete results and we do not simply want to throw around numbers without appropriately weighing the consequences of what is being proposed.

The member for Toronto—Danforth wants the House to adopt this bill in the absence of any information regarding its impact on the economy. This government cannot do that in all responsibleness. This government believes that Canadians have the right to know the economic impact of this bill.

This government is already on the right path and we have made it clear that we are committed to delivering solutions. We take that commitment very seriously. In establishing targets, the government is taking into account what impacts they will have on all sectors of the economy. Bill C-377 does not do that and therefore is irresponsible.

In closing, I cannot support a bill that is irresponsible in its costing and does not take the future impacts on the Canadian economy, Canada and the people of this country. I cannot support it at this stage.

Motions in AmendmentClimate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak today to Bill C-377, An Act to ensure Canada assumes its responsibilities in preventing dangerous climate change. From the outset, I want to say to this House that we are in favour of all the proposed amendments to Bill C-377 under consideration this morning.

It is somewhat paradoxical today to speak after having heard the speech by the hon. member from the Conservative Party. I was listening to him a few minutes ago and he seemed to be saying that the Kyoto protocol was nothing more than a socialist conspiracy that has now become a communist conspiracy worthy of the former Soviet Union. That is what the hon. member just said here in this House. This is an inappropriate response to such an important issue that will affect future generations.

I heard the member tell us today that the implementation of Kyoto and Bill C-377 would result in higher gas prices at the pumps. As though today the price of gas at the pumps is $1.40 or $1.50 because of Kyoto. That is basically what the member is claiming. In reality, in recent years, the Canadian economy has been built on an economic base primarily located in Alberta and based on the oil industry. More than $66 billion of our taxes have been invested, through tax incentives, in an industry to help it rake in huge profits.

This morning, the member told us that implementing Bill C-377 would cripple Canada's oil and gas industry. That is completely ridiculous, especially if we think about the profits this industry has made year after year.

Bill C-377 sets clear targets for the second and third reduction phases in 2020 and 2050. Why is there a reduction target of 25% below the 1990 level by 2020? Unlike what the member claimed this morning, these figures were not pulled out of a hat. They were chosen simply because the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said that in the coming years, the average temperature must not increase more than 2oC above what it was during the pre-industrial era. These figures and targets were not pulled out of a hat, as the Conservative member said. These same experts believe that industrialized countries will have to reduce emissions by 25% to 40% compared to 1990 levels.

Thus, the 25% target set out in the bill is essential if we want to escape the worst when it comes to climate change. What we have seen in recent weeks is just the tip of the iceberg if we decide, here in Parliament, to reject Bill C-377. We must go further and limit the temperature increase to 2oC. This is key.

What is the government proposing? First, it is proposing reductions in intensity, not absolute reductions. That means that greenhouse gas emissions reduction will take increasing production in the coming years into account. Basically, the government is proposing increases, not reductions.

The Minister of the Environment's plan sets 2006 as the base year. That is totally unacceptable. It conflicts with the essential reference set out in the Kyoto protocol—the base year, 1990, which has not yet been renegotiated, not even in Bali during the climate change conference. Not only is this unacceptable internationally, it is unacceptable for Quebec companies that have made an effort based on the 1990 baseline. They have succeeded in reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by more than 10%, particularly in the manufacturing sector, and they want access to a carbon credit exchange. That is the second reason why the plan is unacceptable.

The plan proposed today, however, maintains 1990 as the base year, and insists on absolute emissions reduction targets, not intensity targets.

Clause 6 of the bill specifies that interim plans are to be produced every five years. Why is that so important? Because experience has shown that without accountability or monitoring with respect to Canada's international commitment, emissions rise considerably. In fact, greenhouse gas emissions have risen by over 30% since 1990.

That is why we need interim plans. Why else do we need interim plans? We need them to avoid what is happening right now, with the UN investigating Canada for failure to fulfill its commitments. Why is that so important to Quebeckers? Because Canada is in danger of being cut off from the most important tools available to achieve greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets: international emissions trading markets.

What are people saying in Canada and around the world? The UN said that if its investigation finds Canada to be in violation, we risk—and Quebec businesses risk—losing access to international markets. Thus, Quebec businesses will be penalized for this failure to meet the greenhouse gas reduction targets set out in the Kyoto protocol—particularly the very real and calculated increases in the rest of Canada.

There is another consequence related to this failure to meet the Kyoto targets—particularly in the rest of Canada: Quebec businesses could be forced to pay an export tax. This means that if Canada is found to be in violation of an international agreement, Quebec businesses might have to pay a tax. What does this mean? Once again, this means that the manufacturing sector will be penalized, which will affect Quebec, because the federal government is clueless when it comes to supporting the Quebec manufacturing industry.

We have successfully amended the bill in committee—and I am sure we will do the same here in the House—to ensure that the territorial approach will be considered in meeting the reduction targets set out in the bill during the second and third reduction periods. What does this mean? I will read clause 7.

— each province may take any measure that it considers appropriate to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

What does this mean? In Canada, the tendency is toward a three-pronged approach that would allow us to do what Europe did, when 15 independent countries—15 at the time, in 1997—reached an agreement on joint—but varied—reduction targets among the members of the European Union. This ensures that the energy policies of each country can be considered.

Basically, with Bill C-377, we have obtained this important recognition for Quebec so it can contribute to the international effort. That is why we wholeheartedly support not only the amendments we are debating here today, but also Bill C-377.

Motions in AmendmentClimate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley has been looking forward to hearing from the hon. member for Outremont, who now has the floor.

Motions in AmendmentClimate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

What an introduction, Mr. Speaker.

I am very pleased to speak about Bill C-377. We know from the Interpretation Act and case law that a piece of legislation includes its title, which also helps to explain its objective and scope. When we read the title, we immediately know what topic the legislation covers. In this case we have the Act to ensure Canada assumes its responsibilities in preventing dangerous climate change.

I think that is the best place to begin because I listened to what has been said, as did my Bloc Québécois colleague, whom I would like to warmly thank for his comments on this important bill. I, too, was stunned to hear the litany of foolish remarks that came from the Conservative bench. It proves the extent to which the Conservatives are experts in the art of disinformation, as well as showing that they know absolutely nothing about climate change and its impact on future generations.

I took careful note of the words of the Conservative from Cambridge who spoke a bit earlier. He had the temerity to evoke future impacts of Bill C-377 while failing to realize the paradox of his words. The bill in question seeks to alleviate the consequences of Conservative and Liberal inaction on future generations. Future impact is the subject that we are dealing with.

However, we should never underestimate the extent to which the Conservatives are capable of focusing in on issues and explaining them in a way that will play to their base.

Here are some of the words that he spoke before. This bill would destroy the economy and put at risk the well-being of Canadians. We can hear him explaining to Canadians that they will be shivering in the dark if ever we played the role that we must play on the international stage in matters of climate change. Then they always pull the same rabbit out of their hat. They point, correctly, to the Liberal inaction over 13 years. On that, they will get no quarrel from us.

However, the incompetence of the Liberal Party of Canada does not, in any way, justify the Conservatives sending the bill to future generations for their continued indolence, inaction and mismanagement on the economy, on the environment and now on climate change. The real reason the Conservatives will do nothing on climate change is that they have put all their economic eggs in one basket: the tar sands.

Talk about destabilizing the economy for future generations. The result of that has been a soaring Canadian dollar. In turn, that has made it increasingly difficult, in particular, for our manufacturing and forestry sectors just in Ontario. Hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost in Quebec since the Conservatives came to power.

Since the Conservatives came to power, 116,000 well-paying jobs have been lost in the manufacturing industry. The very party that boasts of not meddling in the economy, yet is giving the oil sands sector a free ride by not requiring compliance with the Kyoto protocol, which Canada signed, is destabilizing the rest of the balanced economy we have built in Canada since the second world war. The very people who claim they do not want or like the government to play a role in the economy are doing just that.

Unlike other countries—Norway is an excellent example—that set aside a portion of the wealth that comes from a non-renewable resource such as oil, or the oil sands in our case—Norway has set aside over $300 billion for future generations—the imbeciles in the Conservative government are sticking future generations with the bill. Not only are they not setting aside any money for the future, but they are adding insult to injury by standing up in the House today and saying, “Look, there is no point in this. You are going to destroy the economy if you ask us to make good on our international commitments to fight climate change.” That is what is so scandalous about the Conservatives' position.

The Conservatives are great moralizers. Our generation has a moral duty to future generations, but the Conservatives do not care. They are unmoved. To them, what counts is their political base. They are short-sighted. If we look again at countries that are models in this area, such as Germany and Denmark, they have seized the opportunity presented by the need for economic change to build a structure that is creating jobs in the economy of the future, the green economy, which recognizes that we have a duty when it comes to the environment because it is simply not sustainable to go on as we have been doing. But this is not a big deal for the Conservatives. What counts is their own short-term gains. What they are saying is calculated to put people off and scare them at the same time. Here again, they are taking a page from the Americans' book. What better way to prevent people from asking the right questions than to tell them they should be afraid.

The remarks of the member for Cambridge are unworthy of a member who claims to be thinking of future generations. Claiming that respecting the environment, respecting the Kyoto protocol and respecting our international obligations will destroy the economy is pure folly. It shows the extent to which the Conservatives are misleading the public. Our duty is to have a credible, structured, positive dialogue and to hold out hope for the future. Bill C-377 gives that hope.

Building a balanced, mixed economy, which they are destroying, was an enormous challenge for a country of our size, but we managed to do it. Over the course of just a few years, not only have the Conservatives destroyed the environment but they are tearing apart this balanced economy, which has been built with great effort and determination since World War II. They are putting all their eggs in the tar sands basket and wiping out jobs in the manufacturing sector. There is no vision for the future and no willingness or courage to do what remains to be done.

It was an extraordinary revelation listening to the comments by the member for Cambridge because those things are usually just hinted at by Conservatives during partisan rallies. It was extraordinary to hear the member for Cambridge stand before this House earlier today and use scare tactics on the Canadian public when he said that respecting our international obligations was something that would destroy the economy. Word for word he said that it would destroy the Canadian economy, and they have the nerve to talk about future impacts.

The changes that are being operated on the world climate right now, because of the irresponsibility of people like the Conservative Party and their allies before them in the Liberal Party, it is the Conservative Liberal Alliance party, and I will let members work out the acronym, and the dose of climate change and of greenhouse gases that they are inflicting on Canadians and future generations is something that needs to be countered.

Future generations will take us to task. First they will look at the Liberals' inaction, mismanagement and incompetence over 13 years. I know something about that because I was Quebec's environment minister when the current Leader of the Opposition was Minister of the Environment, and their inaction was scandalous.

However, there is no excuse for the Conservatives to continue that inaction. Future generations will hold them accountable, as will the voters in the next federal election.

Motions in AmendmentClimate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

Noon

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, we have just witnessed more bafflegab from the NDP. Canadians know that the NDP will never form government in Canada so it can continue to make promise after promise without ever having to deliver on those promises. It can also afford to bash Albertans and the jobs it generates for this country because it does not hold any seats there and it never will.

This climate change accountability act is a bill that is so poorly drafted that nothing less than a total rewrite could salvage it. However, a total rewrite of Bill C-377 is not what Canadians are asking for and it is not the solution to addressing the challenges of climate change.

Canadians and the international community want to see this government take action, not Liberal rhetoric, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, action that was sorely missing during 13 long years of Liberal indifference toward the environment.

Our government recognizes that the time for endless studies and argument is over, which is why our government introduced its turning the corner action plan in April 2007. That plan will see absolute greenhouse gas emission reductions of 20% by the year 2020 for the first time ever in Canada.

Our targets are among the toughest in the world, and what is remarkable is that we are the only country to tackle greenhouse gases and air pollutants together. I will explain why that is important.

Air pollution has the most immediate short term impact on the health of Canadians. My daughter suffers from asthma and around June and July of every year, when the pollens come up, she suffers from asthma. Those events in her life are sometimes quite a struggle. Millions of Canadians suffer from pollution related diseases. Our government is not only tackling greenhouse gas emissions, we are also addressing the issue of air pollution and that is why it is important to connect those two.

Under the capable leadership of our Prime Minister, we have put our money where our mouth is. Since October 2006, our government has invested almost $9 billion in programs and initiatives designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution that will not only benefit the environment but improve the health of all Canadians.

We are putting in place a regulatory framework with mandatory and enforceable targets that will ensure reductions in greenhouse emissions in the industrial sector. For the first time ever in Canada, we actually have targets that will be regulated.

This will be the first time a Canadian federal government has ever taken such action. Previous Liberal governments had the opportunity to take that action. They talked a big game but when it came to actually delivering they failed Canadians miserably.

The bill states that its purpose is to ensure that Canada contributes fully to the stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. Without a doubt, our Conservative government agrees that Canada needs to take further action to tackle this complex challenge and we are committed to doing just that, however, this bill would not help us to achieve those objectives.

The major issue is that this bill has targets that are unachievable and unrealistic. In fact, if the Liberals were honest they would accept that because for nine years, since the Kyoto accord was signed, they had an opportunity to implement targets that were enforceable and mandatory. Did they get it done? No. It was an abject failure of leadership on the part of the previous Liberal government.

I know I will have a few more minutes to speak later on this but this is about being responsible and addressing the environment in Canada. We as a Conservative government are getting it done. Shame on the Liberals.

Motions in AmendmentClimate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

When we return to the study of Bill C-377, there will be five minutes left for the hon. member for Abbotsford.

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-30, An Act to establish the Specific Claims Tribunal and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, as reported (with amendments) from the committee.

An Act to establish the Specific Claims TribunalGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

There being no motions at report stage on this bill, the House will now proceed, without debate, to the putting of the question on the motion to concur in the bill at report stage.

An Act to establish the Specific Claims TribunalGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl ConservativeMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

moved that the bill, as amended, be concurred in.

An Act to establish the Specific Claims TribunalGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

An Act to establish the Specific Claims TribunalGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

An Act to establish the Specific Claims TribunalGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

(Motion agreed to)

When shall the bill be read the third time? By leave, now?

An Act to establish the Specific Claims TribunalGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

An Act to establish the Specific Claims TribunalGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I share the members' enthusiasm for Bill C-30, the specific claims tribunal act. The legislation represents a significant step forward in the relationship between Canada and first nations.

A specific claim is a grievance related to Canada's obligations under historic treaties, or the way it managed first nation land and other assets. Resolving these claims benefits not only first nations, but all Canadians. Resolved claims bring certainty regarding land and resource ownership, allowing first nations and all potential investors to go forward with confidence.

Settled claims help to create strong, prosperous first nation communities that generate social and economic benefits that spill over into neighbouring communities, creating even greater prosperity for all Canadians.

Settled claims help to create strong, prosperous first nation communities that generate social and economic benefits that spill over into neighbouring communities, creating even greater prosperity for all Canadians.

As my hon. colleagues know all too well, the processes now in place to negotiate and resolve specific claims are unacceptably slow. Bill C-30 is the first element in the government's plan to overhaul the specific claims process and to restore confidence in the integrity and effectiveness of the process.

Bill C-30 proposes to establish the specific claims tribunal, an independent tribunal empowered to settle specific claims. The tribunal can make binding decisions on specific claims that have been rejected for negotiation, or when negotiations fail or after three years of unsuccessful negotiations.

Bill C-30 proposes to establish specific deadlines and mechanisms to ensure that claims are settled in a fair, open and timely fashion. The tribunal will make final decisions on the legitimacy of claims and on appropriate levels of financial compensation. It can award settlements of up to $150 million per claim and decisions will be binding and not subject to appeal, although they will be subject to judicial review. This will all be overseen by federally appointed superior court judges, who will serve on the tribunal.

To hold the specific claims tribunal accountable to Canadians, the proposed legislation requires the tribunal chairperson to prepare annual reports to Parliament, complete with financial statements. In addition, the minister of Indian affairs and northern development must conduct a review of the legislation within five years and table the results in Parliament. This review will address everything from the tribunal's mandate and structure to its operations and achievements. Because this is all borne out of a partnership, first nations will be involved in the review, as amended by the standing committee in the House of Commons.

Bill C-30 includes several provisions to protect the interests of all Canadians. The tribunal cannot award land, for instance. It can only award cash settlements, even when land is the principal subject of the specific claim. First nations are free, however, to use moneys awarded by the tribunal to purchase land from willing sellers. When the tribunal decides a claim related to land, the first nation interest in that land would be released so that title would be cleared.

I emphasize that in no way does the proposed legislation diminish the government's commitment to negotiate specific claims. Negotiated settlements are always preferable because they are the product of collaboration, mutual respect and informed conciliation. Bill C-30 would support negotiations by articulating a clear, direct path toward settlement.

Bill C-30 is the product of a lengthy consultative and collaborative process that involved key stakeholders. The bill itself was developed jointly with the Assembly of First Nations. There is no doubt that these exchanges added considerable value to the proposed legislation. In fact, many of the witnesses who testified during the review of Bill C-30 by the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development remarked on the positive elements of this joint Canada-AFN collaborative effort.

The following is a quote from the testimony from Chief Lawrence Joseph of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations. He stated:

I...have served in the government for 30 years and also as a chief for 10 years, and I have never seen this high-level type of commitment from government to actually do something jointly with first nations in a very strategic and structured way. I applaud that.

Others applaud it as well. The national chief of the Assembly of First Nations shares this view. During his testimony, National Chief Fontaine made these remarks. He stated:

Bill C-30 represents a tremendous collaborative effort between first nations and the federal government at achieving agreement on the design, composition, and mandate of an independent specific claims tribunal.

The standing committee heard from many witnesses supporting Bill C-30 and the process that led to its creation. It is important to recognize, though, that representations from stakeholders over the years were important not only to the development of the proposed legislation, but also the implementation of the larger action plan on specific claims.

The plan includes several components such as dedicated funding for settlements, increased access to mediation and improved negotiation processes. In fact, government and first nations officials have worked tirelessly to refine and implement the plan ever since the Prime Minister and the national chief of the AFN announced it 11 months ago.

A joint task force helped develop the legislation now before us, in an agreement between the national chief and myself to collaborate on issues not explicitly addressed in the legislation, such as additions to reserve and claims valued in excess of $150 million. In other words, we continue to work on other things at the same time. Each of these components takes into account years of feedback from first nations groups.

This comprehensive action plan is designed to deliver meaningful, measurable results. The time it takes to process new claims will be cut in half. While it will take some years to eliminate the current backlog, the total number of claims in the system will decrease steadily. Given that unresolved claims often impede social and economic development, I fully expect that the increase in settled claims will usher in a new era of prosperity for many first nations communities. Our Conservative government knows that this will benefit all Canadians, aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike.

I will cite one more excerpt from National Chief Fontaine's testimony to the standing committee. In this quote Mr. Fontaine talks about why he was so keen to help develop the legislation. He said:

We thought we would finally be able to bring about a fair and just resolution to the many outstanding claims....We were talking about an opportunity not just to settle these claims but to revitalize first nations economies in many parts of the country....So we're talking about bringing about some major changes that will benefit and improve the lives of our people...

Bill C-30 paves the way for a new era, one that features greater collaboration between first nations and the Government of Canada. The proposed legislation will help create the legal certainty that first nations need to strengthen their communities and bring Canadians together in common purpose.

Bill C-30 paves the way for a new era, one that features greater collaboration between first nations and the Government of Canada. The proposed legislation will help create the legal certainty that first nations need to strengthen their communities and bring Canadians together in common purpose.

For all these reasons, Bill C-30 richly deserves the support of all members of the House. I encourage my hon. colleagues to vote in favour of this important legislation now before us.