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”.