Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the Kyoto protocol. I also want to thank the government for the vote on the accord. I say thanks because under our parliamentary system the government is not required to hold a ratification vote on an international treaty. That is the sole prerogative of government. However the government does understand the need for members of the House to express themselves on the accord. It is the democratic thing to do and it makes for good politics. Members of the House have opinions on the accord and those opinions should be heard.
I want to say right off the bat that I will be voting for the accord. For me, it is the right thing to do.
Scientists, I believe, have made the case for action around climate change. The time for action is now, before it is too late or before the challenge becomes much more daunting.
I know that there is a minority of scientists who see no need for Kyoto type action at this time. They think that climate change has been overestimated. They could be right but they are very much in the minority. About nine in ten scientists do not agree with that minority.
I am putting my money on the overwhelming majority. They simply cannot be ignored. After all, I have to look at myself in the mirror, decide with a small minority and then lose on that wild gamble, and that, to me, would be irresponsible in the extreme. I will not do it. So, I will support the accord. I see it as an insurance plan, at the very minimum, and if future developments show that it was not needed, then the cost of that insurance will not be out of order.
We have an obligation to our children and grandchildren. We owe that much to those who will inherit this planet from us.
Will there be some costs in some areas of our economy when Kyoto is implemented? The short answer to that is, yes, but let me quickly add that I am an optimist and believe that any bad flowing from the accord will be outweighed by the good. Economic models suggest that the economy will grow over the next eight years or so at about 17.5%. That is with Kyoto. Without Kyoto, it may have gone to about 18%. I suspect that most Canadians would agree that is a tolerant level of investment for protecting the environment.
We are a proud and very successful nation. We have built one of the best economies in the world and in what some people believe to be a cold and inhospitable climate. Well, our winters are long, but we have never let that deter us. We just dress warmly and get on with it.
Ours is a proud history. We have invited people from all around the world to come here and pursue their dreams. Millions have taken up our invitation and have helped build our country to what it is today.
Well over 100 years ago we built a railroad from coast to coast. Some said at the time that it could not be done.
We fought in two world wars. Our nation matured in that process and the world recognized that Canada's soldiers are second to none.
We have built our country on two founding languages and, if that was not enough, we proudly proclaimed ourselves a multicultural nation about 30 years ago.
Why do I say those things in a debate about the Kyoto protocol? It is simple. We Canadians can do anything we set our minds to. We are up to the Kyoto challenge.
I truly believe that when ratification happens, Canadians will realize that there is no going back. I believe that it will be cathartic for our country. It will help us throw off our fears and march forward.
I think we will see innovation in this country like this country has never seen before. We will see our business community take up the challenge. It already has in some quarters. I will speak more about that in just a few minutes.
Canada has a dynamic private sector. It will not be left behind. Those in the private sector are smart, resourceful, competitive and are hungry for success. I have complete faith in them. Our government has already promised a strong partnership with the business sector to get the job done.
Our government is committed. It is committed to all concerned to do everything possible to meet the Kyoto targets by 2012. It will be a strong challenge but the government is in for the long haul.
The government has also committed to a plan that will not impose an unfair burden on any industry or region of the country. That is important. This is a responsible approach. If there are any national burdens they must be shared. I know, for example, that there are concerns in Alberta where the oil and gas industry is concentrated, but our government is committed to working with the Alberta government and with the Alberta people. Alberta will be treated fairly, as will all provinces and all territories.
Common sense tells us that the federal government must be fair to all regions, and it will be. There can be no other way. This great country was built on cooperation and partnership and that rule will be followed in Kyoto.
The federal government has been consulting widely with stakeholders, provinces, territories, municipalities and NGOs for several years. That will not stop. In fact, it will intensify. We are committed to getting things right. Canada is turning a corner on Kyoto. It is the right corner. Turning this corner takes us toward more opportunities and, in the long run, toward a more competitive economy.
That has already started. The environment minister reminded us of this when he kicked off the debate several days ago. It is worthwhile repeating what he said. He said:
Many companies are making the first important step of making their operations more efficient when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions. DaimlerChrysler Canada has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions for each vehicle it manufactures by 42%. DuPont Canada set a 10 year goal that would reduce energy use by 25% per unit. It reached that goal in less than half the time it had put aside to do so. Syncrude Canada has reduced greenhouse gas emissions per barrel of production by 26% since 1988.
That paves the way for the next step, which is to cut total emissions through wise energy use. We have examples, such as Weyerhaeuser Canada's Prince Albert, Saskatchewan plant which is energy self-sufficient and which has drastically cut its greenhouse gas emissions. Interface Inc. reduced energy consumption at its Belleville, Ontario plant by more than 35% between 1993 and 1997 while production increased 58%. Mountain Equipment Co-op's new store here in Ottawa has reduced its energy consumption by over 50%.
As members can see, the great work has already begun. It will not stop. In fact, it will only accelerate. This is why I see the glass half full when it comes to Kyoto. We can do it and we will do it. I am sure there will be some bumps on the road. That is inevitable. However those bumps will not feel so bad if we work together. Working together is one of the keys to success.
To do that we will all have to make a special effort to avoid playing politics with Kyoto. I know it is tempting for some politicians to fearmonger and endeavour to pit one region against another to put the federal government, or any other government for that matter, in a bad light. That is a dangerous game. It can damage the economy and threaten national unity.
In conclusion, I believe that all Canadians want us and every level of government to set aside partisan political differences and pull together for the sake of this great country. We can do it. We must do it. Canadians are counting on us.