Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Don Valley West.
I rise today proudly representing my constituents in Thornhill who wish to make their voices heard loudly on this compelling issue of our time. The residents of Thornhill want a sustainable environment, one where they can breathe clean air, where their children will have a healthy long life and ensure that their children's children have a healthy planet they can call home.
Like many of my constituents, I am deeply concerned that our environment is deteriorating at a rapid rate before our very eyes under the current minority Conservative government. By not charting a course that will put Canada in the lead, the Conservatives are abandoning our environment, the health and welfare of Canadians, the need to combat climate change and map out a strategy for the transition to clean energy, putting our future well-being and prosperity in jeopardy.
There is worldwide recognition, backed up with concrete scientific evidence and wisdom, that the climate is changing at a rapid rate as a result of human causes that require man made solutions. This is a global, borderless problem. The IPCC report, which is due to be released tomorrow in Paris, states “the warming of the climate is unequivocal”. A solution will require the efforts of all citizens of the globe and all countries to do their parts. This can only be done with strong leadership and multilateral action. Canada has an absolute obligation to future generations and to all citizens of the planet to make the fight against global warming a top priority.
Canadians are already feeling the effects of climate change as extreme weather has become the phrase of the 21st century. As each summer gets hotter, we see the number of severe storms and floods increase.
Global warming is a real and serious threat to our planet, which cannot be ignored. The Conservative government's role is to work on behalf of Canadians. It cannot afford to abandon Canada's commitment to the Kyoto protocol. What I do not understand is, with this knowledge, why does the Conservative government have its head stuck squarely in the sand, which has cost Canadians one full year of progress on this most pressing issue of our time?
Under programs set in place by the former Liberal government, we already had a made in Canada approach and a plan to ensure that future generations would enjoy clean air, water, land and energy. Project green, the climate fund, the partnership fund and the EnerGuide program were all made in Canada. We had a progressive, collaborative and multilateral approach to achieve our goals and worked hard toward meeting our commitments to the Kyoto protocol.
The former Liberal government signed on to Kyoto as a partner in a global commitment to take action on global warming and the environment. How can Canadians trust the Prime Minister to take charge of the environment when the very same Prime Minister has said that the science of climate change is “tentative and contradictory”. He ridiculed the Kyoto accord as nothing more than a “socialist scheme” and “environmental fraud”. It is comments like these that make the House, and in fact all Canadians, seriously question the credibility of any plan or hastily put together announcement put forward by the government on the environment.
It is time that the government gets the environmental policy out of reverse, put us back in first gear and reconfirm Canada's commitment to Kyoto. The clean air act has done nothing except undermine Canada's long-standing commitment to protecting our environment. The act allows for greenhouse gas emissions to rise until 2025, delaying action for decades, decades in which a firm commitment and action on environmental protection is critical to our planet and future generations.
Not only has the Conservative government called into question Canada's commitment to the environment on the world stage and caused international embarrassment with its isolationist approach, it has also cut important federal partnerships with the provinces and territories, increasingly narrowing our capacity to lead and diminishing our national potential. Last year the Prime Minister refused to honour a $538 million agreement between the governments of Canada and Ontario to shut down coal-fired electricity production plants. Further, the minority government refused to honour commitments in the partnership fund to fund climate change programs undertaken by provinces and municipalities, for example, resulting in a $328 million loss to the province of Quebec alone for its Kyoto plan.
The provinces want to effect change in the environment and so do Canadians. Why is the Prime Minister ignoring these clarion calls and sending successful programs to the cutting room floor? The proof is loud and clear in the Conservative's swift actions to arbitrarily gut 92% of the program funding for climate change programs based strictly on ideological reasons and not in what is in the best interests of Canadians.
The Conservatives cancelled and shut down successful climate change programs in Canada like the one tonne challenge, EnerGuide, the wind power production incentive and the renewable power production incentive and then, a year later, they turn around and reintroduce many of the same programs, watered down and wrapped with a big blue ribbon and try to pass them off as their own.
I know first-hand that the residents of Thornhill do not need to be woken up by polls to the importance and urgent need to take steps proactively to protect the environment. I have met with and have received letters and e-mails from Thornhill residents of all ages, backgrounds and professions. The message is consistently clear. They are calling for a federal government that will be responsible on climate change and the environment and not sit on the sidelines. Canada needs to be at the table internationally.
Canadians also want to know what they can do. The way they see it is that the more we can do now, the more their children and grandchildren will benefit down the road.
My constituents want a federal government that will take steps toward protecting their health, their safety and their infrastructure, the fate of all which rests squarely on a sustainable environment. Thornhill residents value deeply our quality of life like all Canadians. They want a more energy efficient and sustainable economy that will provide and ensure a better quality of life for themselves and for generations to come.
The previous government, under the leadership of the Liberals, did set in place a multifaceted foundation, a plan with a mission: to combat the damage done and prevent further damage from occurring through education, conservation and refocusing our need for energy through the development of renewable and clean energy sources and innovative technology.
The one tonne challenge provided funding to grassroots organizations in their efforts to educate and engage Canadians to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as to launch a national educational program and campaign to make Canadians more aware of our habits, our energy use and encourage, by virtue of that, our conservation.
In total, the previous Liberal government committed $4 billion in the 2005 budget for its climate change plan, which included expanding the one tonne challenge as well. Programs, like the EnerGuide for houses retrofit and the EnerGuide for low income households, were exactly the positive, cost effective, made in Canada energy efficiency programs the Conservatives themselves endorsed in the last campaign.
On hearing of the cancellation of these programs, the York Regional Municipality, among others, immediately passed a motion outlining the detrimental and far-reaching effect this decision would have in our community and our country. It requested the federal government to reconsider its faulty decision. For low income households that were struggling with the 60% rise in home energy costs between 1992 and 2005, this program achieved two important goals: conservation and real savings for Canadians who needed it most.
These programs were oversubscribed. The Liberals set in place a program that was well received. It was engaging Canadians who wanted to contribute and who wanted to be part of the solution of preserving our natural environment, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and offered them the great opportunity to save their hard-earned money by reducing their energy bills at the same time.
There is no logic in systematically dismantling programs and then resurrecting them a year later when the government realizes the horse has left the barn and it needs to quickly show some action.
The issue of climate change, as I have said before, is a borderless issue and one where strong leadership and a will for collective responsibility is a prerequisite for making progress on climate change. The Conservative government, with its ill- conceived clean air act, is abrogating its responsibility, just as it has demonstrated with its short-sighted cuts to other areas such as literacy and women's programs. It illustrates definitively a complete disconnect between Conservative members and the needs of Canadians.
We must fully honour our commitment to Kyoto. The Liberals have laid the groundwork and now we must move forward decisively. We must rejoin the battle on climate change, not retract. We must return to Kyoto. Reducing greenhouse emissions and cleaning up our global environment with our international partners together is critical to the future of our planet and to all of us. Instead of playing politics and focusing attacks on the opposition, the government should be attacking the issue head on.
There is no silver bullet and no single policy or program that will immediately solve the challenge we face in protecting our environment. We need to take action now, together. We must be fully committed partners. We must take action on all fronts in developing energy efficiency, encouraging and supporting innovation and renewable energy sources so that we and future generations can enjoy clean air, clean water and clean land.
We are global citizens and we must not turn our backs on our collective responsibility. Canada needs to recommit to fully honouring the principles and targets of the Kyoto protocol now in their entirety. The government must create and publish a credible plan to reduce Canada's greenhouse gas emissions to meet Canada's Kyoto commitment.