Hon. Rona Ambrose (Minister of the Environment, CPC)
|| That Bill C-30, An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, the Energy Efficiency Act and the Motor Vehicle Fuel Consumption Standards Act (Canada's Clean Air Act), be referred forthwith to a legislative committee.
She said: Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to rise today in my capacity as Canada's Minister of the Environment to speak to Bill C-30, Canada's clean air act, which marks a bold new era of environmental protection as this country's first comprehensive and integrated legislation to reducing air pollution and greenhouse gases.
I welcome all who are present today to discuss Canada's clean air act, understanding that our commitment to a better future for all Canadians is unwavering.
The environment is a sacred trust, bestowed on us by our ancestors to embrace and preserve for our country's future. Canada's new government intends to uphold this responsibility, which is why it is important that consideration of Bill C-30, Canada's clean air act, begin as soon as possible.
The environment is a concern to all of us. Greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants transcend borders and affect the health, environment and well-being of all Canadians.
Since taking office, our government has undertaken a number of important environmental initiatives. These include: action to reduce the release of mercury into our surroundings; reductions to the release of toxic substances from base metal smelters; new tax incentives for the banking of environmentally sensitive lands; funding for the development of renewable fuels; and the introduction of new infrastructure funding dedicated to public transit, as well as tax credits for the people who use public transportation.
The opposition has criticized Canada's clean air act, but have yet to identify one single clause in the act with which they disagree. Instead, the opposition has introduced two private members' bills that ignore the issue of targeting air pollution.
Not surprisingly, after decades of neglecting air pollution, the state of the environment this government has inherited from the newly elected Leader of the Opposition jeopardizes the health of every Canadian, but especially the most vulnerable in our society, our children and seniors, who suffer disproportionately from smog, poor air quality and environmental hazards.
Our government shares the concerns of Canadians about the environment and the quality of the air that we breathe.
Addressing only greenhouse gases is not enough. We must also address air pollution. Poor air quality is not a minor irritant to be endured, but a serious health issue that poses an increasing risk to the well-being of Canadians.
Again, Canada's clean air act is the first legislation to address both air pollution and greenhouse gases in an integrated fashion. Greenhouse gas emissions degrade Canada's natural landscape and pose an imminent threat to our economic prosperity.
Canada's clean air act represents real, concrete action to achieve results through mandatory, strict regulations.
We are sharply focusing our efforts on addressing the greatest threats to the health and well-being of Canadians. We need tough pollution regulations that measurably reduce asthma, chronic bronchitis and lung cancer by improving both indoor and outdoor air quality. This is why our government will take unprecedented action to regulate indoor air pollution, the second highest cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.
Canada's clean air act is the first legislation to recognize that most sources of air pollutants are also sources of greenhouse gases and they must be addressed together. Canada's clean air act proposes a comprehensive set of amendments to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, to the Energy Efficiency Act and the Motor Vehicle Consumption Standards Act.
Canada's clean air act contains crucial new provisions that will expand the powers of the federal government to address the existing inefficient voluntary standards and move to strict enforceable regulations.
By strengthening and bringing more accountability to our existing laws, Canada's clean air act requires the Ministers of the Environment and Health to: establish, monitor and report on new national air quality objectives tied to the health of Canadians; report to Parliament on the effectiveness and the progress of our programs; and move from voluntary to mandatory, enforceable regulations.
Canada's clean air act is needed to ensure that renewable fuel requirements can be implemented in an efficient and effective manner to provide cleaner fuels for our cars. A biofuels industry will lead to substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution and unprecedented economic opportunities for Canada's agricultural industry.
The government is also consulting on options surrounding an emissions trading regime.
That is why the government, through Canada's clean air act, is consulting on options that allow trading and that align our compliance regimes to support the implementation of a trading system that results in the lowest cost opportunities for emissions reductions for industry.
We have been clear that any trading system must be market driven, not subsidized by taxpayer dollars. Unlike previous governments, our government will not purchase credits or create an artificial trading market subsidized by taxpayer dollars.
The second key difference in our approach on clean air lies in our focus on mandatory, strict regulations. Past governments relied on voluntary measures, satisfied that industry could set its own standards.
The environment commissioner confirmed that this is not acceptable or workable and condemned the former environment minister, the newly elected Leader of the Opposition, by stating that the measures were “not up to the task of meeting the Kyoto obligations”. She went on to say that the Leader of the Opposition's efforts were inadequate, lacked accountability, and would have never reduced greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 targets.
Canadians will be glad to know that those days are over. From now on, all industry sectors, including the auto sector, will have mandatory requirements, and we will enforce those requirements. Our plan puts the health of Canadians and the health of our environment first.
Any polluters that go over their air pollution targets will be fined and all money will go toward an environmental damages fund.
We also have an ambitious long term target aimed at absolute reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, up to 65% by 2050, as recommended by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy.
The previous government signed and ratified the Kyoto protocol without an implementation plan to achieve results. That inaction and those empty promises have left Canadians with a 35% increase in greenhouse gas emissions above the targets set by the Liberals.
We must move beyond the arbitrary and unattainable targets set by the Liberals and work together at setting achievable targets. We must lead the world by example and show them that through government cooperation with industry we can make vast improvements for the health of Canadians and the health of the planet while still maintaining one of the most robust economies in the world.
By spring 2007, the government will announce short term targets for air pollution and greenhouse gases, and industry will have to meet these regulations within four years.
Our approach also encourages technological change. Technology plays an essential role in reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and provides us with huge economic opportunities.
We will also introduce mechanisms to encourage and facilitate investment in new technology, but we will not use a carbon tax, because the only people who end up paying are Canadian taxpayers and we think that they have paid enough through their health. Under a Conservative government, it will only be the polluter that will pay.
Any industry that goes over its greenhouse gas limits will have the option of paying into a Canadian technology fund to comply with the regulation. The money paid into the fund will be reinvested in technology to reduce greenhouse gases.
The third key difference in our approach on clean air is that we are taking action right here in Canada. Canadians will be able to hold our government and industry accountable for achieving results.
We will be accountable to Canadians by reporting on our progress in a public annual air quality report and we will be held accountable through measurable outcomes linked to the health of Canadians. We will also be accountable to Parliament by mandatory annual reporting to Parliament on our actions and their effectiveness to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gases.
Rest assured that Canada will continue to be a constructive player in global efforts to address climate change, but we need to clean up our own backyard and set an example for the rest of the world. We will set an example by leading here at home and we do not plan to do this by purchasing international climate change credits to meet unachievable targets as a substitute for a concrete regulatory agenda to reduce Canada's own emissions.
This government has charted a fundamentally new course on the environment. Canada's clean air act and Canada's clean air regulatory agenda will set strict, enforceable regulations that will result in concrete, realistic action to protect the health of Canadians and the environment for generations to come.
Hon. John Godfrey (Don Valley West, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the minister, but I must say that she raised more questions than she gave answers.
Amongst the questions, one of the challenges with this particular bill is of course its deliberate confusion between issues concerning air pollution and issues concerning greenhouse gases. The minister used the phrase that “the greatest threat to the health of Canadians is asthma”.
I submit that the greatest threat to the health of Canadians is in fact the destruction of the planet by global warming, so my first question to the minister is this: which is the greater threat to the future of humanity, pollution or greenhouse gases global warming?
Second, why is there no reference to Kyoto in either the bill or the notice of intent to regulate? Why is that?
Third, the minister has returned from Nairobi but insists that we will not purchase international credits or be involved in any kind of international mechanisms, and yet she was present for discussions on such things as the international emissions trading system and the clean development mechanism as well. Why is there no recognition of the process she was involved in?
Fourth, why is it that we have to deal with where the short term targets for greenhouse gas emissions are? By that I mean, what does she hope to have achieved by 2012?
Fifth, if she will not have a carbon tax, will she at least accept a cap and trade system which will create that domestic and international market that will allow polluters of all sorts to improve?
Finally, is it accurate for the minister to say that there were no regulated measures when the large final emitters were going to be forced by regulation to reduce by 2008?
Hon. Rona Ambrose:
Mr. Speaker, all of the hon. member's questions raise exactly the point as to why we should get this bill to a legislative committee as quickly as possible to address these issues.
I would submit to him that we should not have to choose between regulating air pollution and regulating greenhouse gases. What we have learned from other jurisdictions and from the measures put in place by the last government is that it is not enough. We did not go far enough. We definitely did not go far enough when it comes to air pollution.
We know now that taking an integrated approach to addressing both of these issues is key to the health of Canadians and key to the health of our environment, because one technology to reduce greenhouse gases may in fact result in increased air pollution, and vice versa, depending on fuel choices and many other related issues.
On the issue of Kyoto, Bill C-30 is a piece of domestic legislation so that Canada can finally make emissions reductions here at home. Obviously the discussion at the committee will involve whether or not this legislation is going to contribute to our overall Kyoto compliance and how, but what I will say is that we can finally say something positive to the international community, and we did deliver this positive message in Nairobi, which is that because Canada is finally moving toward mandatory, regulated emissions reductions, we will be able to make a contribution to the global effort to reduce greenhouse gases. We also delivered the message to the international community that we will also be reducing air pollution, which is obviously a priority for all of the member countries as well.
Again, in Nairobi, Canada was one of over 162 countries that led us to a consensus, and the consensus was that the Kyoto protocol needs to undergo a review. Canada supports a review of the Kyoto protocol to make sure that as we move forward to the next compliance period we make sure that we do not make the mistakes that were made previously.
We also introduced strong accountability frameworks around some of the international programs that the member raises. Again, the member needs to make a distinction between taxpayer funded programs and programs that are market driven. The Kyoto protocol has some mechanisms that are supposed to be used by the market, but the previous government was using taxpayers' dollars to invest in those projects. We believe that if it is industry led, that is fine.
The bottom line is that under the Liberal plan the taxpayer was paying and under the Conservative plan the polluter will pay. That is the substantial difference.
On short term targets, I welcome input from all parties leading up to January and through our legislative committee to help us set short term targets that are achievable and that will not ruin our economy but will instead encourage our economy to make a transformation into a green economy. I would thank the member for whatever he would like to add to the committee.
Hon. John Godfrey (Don Valley West, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, first I would like to congratulate the member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville on his victory in Montreal on the weekend. He won because of his passion and credibility on the issues of the environment and sustainable development. He made the environment the main pillar of his program and rightly so in light of climate change. It is in the spirit of this victory for the environment that we will be studying Bill C-30 starting today.
What is our approach? The role of the official opposition is to be responsible and take action based on principles. Our role is to identify—together with the other opposition parties, the government and the environmental NGOs— practical solutions that will improve this bill.
We are not insisting on the fact that this bill is a Liberal initiative so that we can take all the credit. That is not how we do things. What we will insist on is that this bill be the best possible bill for the environment, for Canadians, especially with regard to the fight against global warming.
What is at stake here in this bill is nothing less than the greatest challenge facing humanity today, the first order of business: dealing with global warming.
Our position since the government first introduced the bill has taken the following lines. First, that this bill is not necessary and that the Canadian Environmental Protection Act contained all the necessary power to combat climate change and, indeed, air pollution.
Second, which I think was demonstrated by the minister's speech, with all respect, that to bring the two elements together is deliberately confusing. Air pollution and climate change are not the same thing. They can be linked and they can be related but they frequently and most often require different strategies and different solutions.
Climate change is primary, a precondition for every other policy that any government would want to bring forward. If we do not deal with it first and foremost, we will not get around to the rest of it, whether it is air pollution or anything else that the government might bring forward.
Our third criticism is that this bill is not Kyoto compliant nor is it even Kyoto relevant. There is no reference in the bill or the notice of intent to regulate to Kyoto standards. It is important to consider the bill and the notice of intent to regulate as a package.
Fourth, there are no short term goals for greenhouse gas reductions. We are not talking intensity. We are talking reductions. There is no reference to Kyoto's first implementation period of 2008 to 2012. There are no regulations for greenhouse gases coming into force before 2010, unlike project green which saw regulations, not voluntary measures, coming into place for large final emitters by 2008.
The fifth point is that goals for greenhouse gas reductions in the medium and long term are not ambitious enough.
The sixth point is that the bill, as written, actually weakens the Canadian Environmental Protection Act by creating unnecessary and ambiguous alternate lists for greenhouse gases and air pollutants.
The final point is that the provincial equivalency agreements are not as strong in the proposed bill as they are currently under CEPA.
Our original intent was to vote against the bill at second reading since we could not accept its fundamental principles or the accompanying notice of intent to regulate. Our current intention, now that the bill is at first reading and can be amended, is to produce amendments which meet our original criticisms, as I have outlined, and work with the government, opposition parties and environmental groups to produce a serious piece of legislation.
I will not today speak to the air pollution sections because we can work to improve those sections. However, air pollution is not where the problems lie.
I will begin by simply suggesting the key deletions that need to be made to this bill. First, the changes that weaken the provincial equivalency provisions of CEPA and, second, the creation of unnecessary new categories of greenhouse gases and air pollutants and the parallel regulatory authorities created along with those categories that put the federal power to regulate these substances at risk.
As to the targets and purposes of this legislation, for Kyoto, Bill C-30 must be amended to make explicit reference to Canada's obligations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto protocol. This should include a reference to Canada's 2008 to 2012 target from article 3, paragraph 1 of the Kyoto protocol of a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to 6% below Canada's 1990 level.
For medium and long term targets, Bill C-30 must be amended to include a long term target for Canada of at least an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels by 2050. For the periods 2015 to 2050, interim targets should be established at five year intervals, with a 2020 interim target set at a level of at least 25% below the 1990 level.
Through Bill C-30, the following principles should be added to the preamble of CEPA. Canada's climate policy must be guided by the ultimate objective of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which is to prevent dangerous anthropogenic climate change. This means keeping global average temperature increases under two degrees Celsius relative to pre-industrial levels.
Canada needs to commit to doing its fair share to combat this global problem. We need the use of hard caps on greenhouse gas emissions that increase in stringency if the science shows that further efforts are needed. There should be no trade-offs between cleaner air and greenhouse gas reductions.
For more detail, we need some sectoral amendments. For heavy industry, we need an amendment requiring the governor in council to limit greenhouse gas emissions from heavy industry through regulations that take effect no later than January 1, 2008 for the period 2008 to 2012. The amendment must include a hard cap on emissions that impose a Kyoto target on heavy industry. This means working toward a reduction to 6% below industry's 1990 emission levels for all final emitters. We need an auction of permits with the option of revenue recycling for economic efficiency.
We also need a linkage to other Kyoto compliant emissions trading systems. For vehicles, we need an amendment that would require the governor in council to impose regulated vehicle emission standards set to match or exceed the California vehicle standards, with those regulations coming into force for the 2009 model year.
On energy efficiency, a preamble should be added to the Energy Efficiency Act that supports setting continuous economy-wide improvement targets in energy efficiency in Canada, with two new sections to be added to the Energy Efficiency Act. First: the governor in council would be required to prescribe energy efficiency standards for all energy using products that are responsible for significant or growing energy consumption in Canada. Second, the governor in council would be required to review all energy efficiency standards within three years after they were introduced or amended and every third year thereafter. Through this review, every energy efficiency standard must be made to meet or exceed the most stringent levels found in North America.
On the issue of governance, we need a budgetary policy that would require the Minister of Finance to table an analysis of the projected greenhouse gas impacts of the Government of Canada's budgetary policy, disaggregated by measure, at the same time that the minister tables the annual budget.
Finally, we need the creation of an emissions reduction agency that would draw on the model of the California air resources board and create an arm's length agency responsible for climate research, regulation and the development of science based, interim, greenhouse gas targets for Canada.
With this package of amendments, we would turn Bill C-30 into a real bill for climate change and a real bill for air pollution reduction. However, we must remember that the first order of business must be global warming and climate change without which no other government activity will matter if we cannot start by saving the planet.
Mr. Bernard Bigras (Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, BQ):
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-30, Canada's clean air act, as the government is calling it. This bill amends three existing acts: the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, the Energy Efficiency Act and the Motor Vehicle Fuel Consumption Standards Act.
We have been waiting a long time for the Conservative government to tell us what it plans to do to fight climate change and smog. We waited a long time because up to now, the policies of the Conservative Party, a political party on the verge of taking power more than a year ago, had nothing to offer in terms of measures or an effective plan to respect Canada's commitments under the Kyoto protocol signed in that Japanese city in 1997.
The bill before us here today is a far cry from what we were expecting. First of all, we were expecting a plan and a bill that would integrate the targets for greenhouse gas reductions set out by the Kyoto protocol, especially during the first phase of reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. Similar to Bill C-288, which is currently in committee, we were expecting this bill to include a 6% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions between 2008 and 2012, compared to 1990 rates.
Not only does this nearly 36-page bill never mention Kyoto, it also never refers to this target for reducing greenhouse gases during the first phase of targeted reductions. I would remind the House that this target was endorsed by Canada.
The bill also contains nothing about the second phase of reductions or the government's intentions. The only target the government is proposing here today to fight climate change is a target somewhere between 45% and 65% in greenhouse gas reductions by 2050, as though we can continue to produce greenhouse gases without worrying about short-, medium- and long-term targets for reductions. This is no different than presenting a business plan to a board of directors of a private company—and I wonder what the government would do—with no short- or medium-term goals, but only one objective for 2050.
Personally, I think that board of directors would send its managers back to do their homework, so that they could present a realistic plan that respects the international commitments signed by Canada.
Not only does the bill set a target for 2050, but the reference level for this 45% to 65% reduction in emissions is 2003, rather than 1990 as set out by Kyoto.
What does that mean in reality? It means that we will start calculating the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in 2003, as if nothing happened in the provinces or certain industrial sectors before 2003. Yet the Province of Quebec—sadly, we are just a province, even though we are now a nation—is one of the first provinces to have tabled a plan to fight climate change.
Quebec is prepared to comply with greenhouse gas reduction targets that use 1990 as the reference year. But the government is proposing 2003 as the reference year, as if it were possible to emit more greenhouse gas before 2003. In addition, this bill does not provide for offsetting credits for industrial sectors that have reduced their emissions in relation to 1990 levels.
This bill therefore does not comply with the international commitments signed by Canada. In introducing Bill C-30, Canada has flip-flopped on its international environmental commitments.
This government has also decided to set aside something that is vital to Quebec: the principle of equity. Past efforts by the provinces and territories and by industries should be recognized under the government's bill, yet there is nothing in the bill that does this.
In addition, we are expecting major efforts in transportation, an important sector in Quebec. What is the government proposing? Essentially, it is telling us that the voluntary approach that the government has agreed on with the auto industry can continue on its merry way until 2011. After 2011, the government will consider regulations based not on the most effective criteria and standards in North America—those in California—but on standards comparable to those of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
They have decided, in terms of automobile manufacturing standards, to use lower benchmarks, and thus lower the standards, when Canada should be using its regulations to raise them. Worse yet, we learned just this morning that the government will have two systems for the industrial sectors: one that will be based on the intensity of emissions and another on the absolute reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
It has been decided in Canada to spare the oil and gas industry at the expense of the industrial sectors that have made some efforts in the past. This is the second unfair factor: after the territorial aspect, or the non-recognition of the efforts made by Quebec since 1990, this is unfair to the industrial sector, in that Canada's oil industry is being spared.
We are indeed in favour of referring Bill C-30 to committee, but we believe that fundamental improvements need to be made to this bill. Recognition of the Kyoto targets, especially in the first phase, must be seen in the very essence and spirit, the principle and preamble of the bill.
We need stronger commitments and an immediate plan that will allow us to take action in the second phase of greenhouse gas emissions reduction, a year from now, in Bali, when the international community will begin to reflect on the system that should be applied in this second phase. The only debate we are having in this House is on the reduction objective for 2050.
Let me say again: if executives were to present this plan to a board of directors, they would be sent back to the drawing board to come up with reduction targets for the short, medium and long terms.
I will close by addressing a major aspect that we will defend in the parliamentary committee: this principle of acknowledging the territorial approach. We have not, thus far, been able to achieve our greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets because the proposed plans require reduction from coast to coast and Canada's economic structure differs from one province to another, while Quebec's energy policy also differs from those of the other provinces.
In committee, we will be working on having this territorial approach recognized within Bill C-30.
Hon. Jack Layton (Toronto—Danforth, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, what we are debating here is very important, not only for Canadians, but for the entire planet.
As the David Suzuki Foundation and the Pembina Institute said, climate change is set to become one of the defining issues of the century. I believe that climate change must become the defining issue of this Parliament.
In fact, we found ourselves at an impasse on taking action on the environment. Our party proposed a strategy to break through that logjam. As a result, we are now debating the creation of a special and new approach to handling issues in Parliament where there are differences of opinion.
It is an exciting day for this Parliament. It is an opportunity to actually make the House of Commons work for Canadians as its top priority. It is an opportunity to produce results which were frankly not going to be forthcoming. It is an opportunity for us to put forward our best ideas as political parties, to take the knowledge of Canadians, to take the work they have done for years and to bring it forward to the House of Commons into a special place, a special committee, and to work together to craft a way forward on the most fundamental issue of our time. It is vitally important that the House of Commons succeed in this effort and succeed rapidly. It will require a certain new spirit.
This is not an attitude we are used to seeing here in the House of Commons. We have had all kinds of debates. We are different and we emphasize our differences, but what we must do now is find common ground so that we can reach common goals: a safe and healthy planet, sustainable development and reduction of our currently disastrous impact on the environment.
Let us think about the consequences of climate change today. We are literally changing the atmosphere of the planet. As a result of that, we are transforming the flow of energy on a planetary basis not only in the atmosphere but when it comes also to the seas and the oceans. Fundamental changes are happening because of the way in which we are walking on the planet or should I say: tromping on the planet.
It is time we recognized that. The deniers are still there. We still hear them suggesting that indeed there is no problem with greenhouse gas emissions, but I believe that we have achieved, at the level of world science and world public opinion, a level of understanding of this issue which is unprecedented probably for any environmental issue ever to face humankind, maybe for any issue at all, with the possible exception of the devastating consequences of nuclear war.
The difference here is that we have an opportunity to actually set things right, but we have to move very quickly. We are facing global warming and we are seeing the consequences nowhere more than in Canada's north. We are facing a concept one could call global storming: the increase in devastating, powerful storms around the world. Of course this was predicted. The naysayers said it was just the weather and we should get over it. The fact is that we are transforming the weather of this planet.
That is why this book called The Weather Makers was the first book, the first piece of writing, that I gave to the Prime Minister at our first meeting after the election. I asked him to read it for our children and our grandchildren, and because it sets out in a very powerful way the transformations that are under way. I would like to quote just one of the many examples Professor Flannery, the author of that book, cited. He said:
|| We must remember that if we act now, it lies within our power to save two species for every one that is currently doomed. If we carry on with business as usual, in all likelihood three out of every five species will not be with us at the dawn of the next century.
These are devastating predictions and they are not the predictions of an individual. They are predictions of the best minds on the planet. The question is: Are we going to listen to them and do something about it? The good news is that even faced with droughts and flooding that are already affecting working families and the record fires that are burning across our country, there is still time to change the course that we are following now, a course that is actually beginning to affect ordinary families today.
Think about those who are facing the loss of their jobs as a result of forest fires and the impact of new diseases and pests on the forests. Think of those in the far north whose very livelihood, whose way of life, whose fundamentals as a culture and as a society are being undermined by climate change. These are ordinary families. Think of those suffering pollution, having to rely on puffers evermore in our polluted cities. All of our citizens are beginning to experience the impact of climate change and that is why we need to take action and take it now. This Parliament needs to move quickly.
We find that our discussions of many issues are interminable. We have been talking about this for 13 years, yet hardly any significant, necessary measures have been taken.
We have of course seen broken promises. We have seen hot air. We have seen just about every kind of inaction imaginable. But now we have the opportunity in this work that we are going to do, hopefully to be approved today to follow up on our proposal to create a special place where the best ideas can be brought forward. That will allow us to set ourselves on a new course, not to create an energy superpower as the Prime Minister likes to speak of but a country that actually respects the nature of energy, the way we should use it, and how we need to be custodians and stewards of the planet. We should not be claiming to be a superpower capable of transforming our planet in a negative way. Let us be responsible.
We can do this in all sectors of our economy whether it be transport, buildings, industry, individuals, provinces and territories. We can all engage together in these steps, but it is going to require real leadership from the House of Commons. We are going to have to take much more dramatic steps than we have contemplated to date.
That is why we recommended the creation of this committee. That is why we are going to propose amendments to this committee which will be very strong. It will begin with immediate action. In the short term it will focus on medium and long term goals as well and it will give this Parliament the power to set the direction rather than leaving it to a government that on occasion, I must say, does not seem very committed to the urgency of this issue or to taking action which is why the clean act before us will not be adopted as it stands and will be fundamentally changed.
The NDP has proposed many changes, --including: legislating rather than regulating short--, medium--and long-term targets to bring about significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions; demanding that Canada comply with its 2008-2012 targets under the Kyoto protocol; requiring Canada to reduce emissions by 80% relative to 1990 levels by 2050, based on scientific research; and reaching intermediate targets at five-year intervals between 2015 and 2050.
We must legislate in the act, rather than in notices of intent which may never happen, a much earlier date for regulating the industrial sector. These regulations must be in place soon for the biggest polluters.
We must legislate in the act, rather than again through regulations that may never come to be, a hard cap on greenhouse gas emissions from the industrial sector of at least 45 megatonnes per year. We must legislate in the act a requirement for mandatory standards for the criteria air contaminants within one year of the new act's passage.
That is getting things done and it is putting power in the hands of the House of Commons rather than leaving it in the hands of a cabinet which so far does not seem to have grasped the significance of the issue.
We must use legislation to require vehicle fuel efficiency standards similar to those in leading North American jurisdictions, which will be published in 2008. We can do that and we must do that.
We know that other parties have voted against some of these proposals in the past. We invite them to reconsider. We will reconsider their proposals. We believe that a great deal must be changed in this act, but in view of the need for all of us to leave a legacy, to get moving now and to participate with the global community, this is what we must do.
We must make this piece of legislation the most powerful piece of legislation, for healthy air in order to combat climate change, that this country and perhaps the world have ever seen.
Hon. Tony Clement (Minister of Health and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address the House on Bill C-30, the clean air act. It is a major step in meeting Canada's new government's commitment to introducing an environmental agenda that is national in scope, achievable and will provide the foundation for improving the health of Canadians and the environment of Canadians for generations to come.
It is through this act that we can address a problem that has a profound impact on the health of Canadians and, as Minister of Health, that obviously is a prime objective for me.
The health of Canadians is affected by the quality of the air that we breathe. The clean air act also provides Canada with a realistic and, we believe, an affordable plan to deal with greenhouse gas emissions simultaneously. Our government's objective is to minimize or eliminate the risks to the health of Canadians posed by environmental contaminants in the air. It goes without saying that clean air is important and imperative to the health of all Canadians.
I represent the constituency of Parry Sound—Muskoka. I also consider myself a so-called green Conservative. My constituents are concerned about clean air and clean water but they are also concerned about the water levels in our constituency that are directly affected by environmental change.
People want to see action. They have heard lots of talk in this chamber and elsewhere at the federal level and a lot of talk by the previous Liberal government but they have seen no action. As the hon. member said a few moments ago, what we have seen from the previous government and the previous environment ministers has been an increase of 35% or more above the Kyoto targets in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. This is a sorry state of affairs, which is only exceeded in the embarrassment by the fact that the United States of America under George Bush was able to do better than us here in Canada under the previous government. The Auditor General has said that the previous Liberal government should be ashamed of its record and she condemned it for it. I believe we can and we must do better.
As a starting point, Bill C-30 rightly draws attention to the fact that we must challenge the old ways of doing things, ways that have produced no tangible benefits, and voluntary approaches that have produced more hot air than true commitment and results. We must follow up with action to address air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions simultaneously and directly.
Unfortunately, as I said, we have been lulled into a false sense of security, which was created by the former Liberal government when it agreed to unrealistic targets that were impossible to achieve. The clean air act is the first step toward a true regulatory agenda that can and should be supported by all members of Parliament in order to protect the health and environment for future generations and a legacy that can be built upon to create better progress and, of course, be supported by a sound economy.
While I would like to focus today on a number of key areas that highlight the importance of the bill, I would also like to say that it has been designed to meet objectives which I believe are shared by most members of the House. The first of these objectives concerns the protection of the health of Canadians.
The clean air act recognizes the fundamental relationship between environment and health and identifies the health of Canadians as a key driver behind the regulation of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
As we all know, the quality of the air Canadians breathe is vital to their health. The air quality bill will lead to solutions that will improve the health of Canadians, and it recognizes the importance of protecting the health of vulnerable populations.
Air pollution can affect us all, no matter who we are, where we live, or how healthy we are. The World Health Organization recently estimated that air pollution caused two million premature deaths every year around the world.
Using data from eight Canadian cities, Health Canada scientists estimate that of all the deaths in these cities every year at least 5,900 deaths could be linked to air pollution. Research also shows that poor air quality sends thousands of Canadians to hospital each and every year.
There has been an increase over the past few decades of certain diseases affecting Canadians. It is a well-known fact that the prevalence of asthma among children has increased over the years. According to the 1996-97 national population health survey, over 2.2 million Canadians have been diagnosed with asthma. Asthma, bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease afflict over 3.7 million Canadians.
Breathing problems are not the only thing we should be concerned about. Air pollution also affects the heart. Cardiovascular disease is responsible for 40% of all mortality in Canada.
These illnesses are exacerbated and, to some degree, are caused by air pollutants.
Most people think only in terms of outdoor pollution but I want to talk today about the air we breathe indoors, where we spend as much as 90% of our time.
One particular indoor air pollutant is radon, which occurs naturally in the ground in many areas of Canada, particularly northern Canada. This is an air pollutant for which this government is planning immediate action. Radon is the largest source of radioactive exposure to Canadians. New scientific evidence demonstrates an elevated risk of levels of radon found in many Canadian homes. Exposure to radon accounts for 1,900 lung cancer deaths every year in Canada and is second only to tobacco smoke as the primary cause of lung cancer.
The government is currently preparing to roll out a new indoor air quality guideline for radon as a basis for taking action to reduce expose and associated health impacts. The clean air act would provide important authorities which can be used to ensure that we have the tools to effectively manage and promote the actions required to reduce or eliminate this health risk.
Clearly, we have to take steps to reduce all the potential factors that increase the incidence of illness and death, especially in our children.
Canada's clean air act will give us the powers and the tools we need to deal with sources of indoor and outdoor air pollution.
Our proposed new clean air act, the centrepiece of the clean air regulatory agenda, would also amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and strengthen the Government of Canada's ability to take action to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gases, as I said, simultaneously, and provide explicit authority to regulate air pollutants and greenhouse gases without requiring that they be designated as toxic substances.
In the past there has been opposition to designating greenhouse gases as toxic, which impeded constructive discussions about their management. Canada's new government would no longer have to wait for an air pollutant to receive an official toxic declaration.
I believe all governments must act effectively and in unison with their respective jurisdictions but clearly there is a need for national leadership. We must put politics aside and finally move forward on real concrete solutions so we can manage air quality and service Canadians today and in the future.
Mr. Omar Alghabra (Mississauga—Erindale, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the proposed clean air act, which is supposed to be the Conservative government's centrepiece in tackling the climate change challenge that our country and our globe face. I am glad to have the opportunity to comment on this issue because Canadians in my riding and around the country realize the urgency and the need to increase our focus in addressing this matter.
While some of my colleagues in the Conservative Party still want to debate the reality of global warming and its impact on our future and the future of the next generations, Canadians recognize the seriousness of global warming and its consequences on our lifestyle, living standards and the health of our planet. Canadians are telling us and the government that we cannot ignore this issue. We cannot just wish that it is not happening. The government has the responsibility to act responsibly and expeditiously in cooperation with countries around the world to manage this disturbing trend of increased greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.
The bill, as it stands right now, is a disaster and is a miserable failure that has let Canadians down. It reflects a lack of seriousness on behalf of the Conservatives to acknowledge and act upon the real environmental concerns we all have.
The bill proposes unnecessary changes to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, just for the sake of creating a perception that action is being taken while real measures are absent. The existing act actually provides the government with the necessary authority to regulate pollutants and emissions. The new proposals add no substantive power that did not already exist. What is desperately needed is real movement and real caps.
These new proposals are consistent with the Conservatives' mode of governing: showcase gimmicks and underestimate the intelligence of Canadians that they will be unable to see through these transparent and cynical moves.
Unfortunately, the Prime Minister and his Conservative colleagues are allowing ideology to trump science and common sense. Instead of proposing a real actionable plan to address the environmental challenges we are facing, they are undermining most efforts that were implemented over the last few years. Instead of demonstrating true leadership and offering tangible measures, they are risking the health of our planet and its inhabitants through delay tactics and phony slogans.
They abandoned Kyoto, a well respected international treaty that is the product of 160 countries coming together and working together to confront this global problem. Environmental trends and changes do not recognize political borders. They affect everyone who inhabits this planet. It took a lot of energy and commitment to negotiate such a historic treaty and bring countries, with various challenges and political ideologies, together to agree on a set of goals. It was disheartening that one of the first actions the government undertook in its first 100 days in office was to undermine Canada's commitment to Kyoto and its goals.
I do not want to give the impression that addressing the environmental challenges we are facing is simple or easy. We all know that any plan will require true leadership and tough decisions. That is what Canadians expect of their government. All the minority Conservative government is doing is blaming others, coming up with excuses and trying to distract Canadians from the real issue. If Canadians wanted a government that deflected all responsibilities, blamed others and offered no real vision, they would have been better off with the NDP.
When it comes to the environment, why is the government following a cut and run strategy? When will the Prime Minister accept his responsibilities in outlining and implementing a real and substantive plan for the protection of our environment and the future of Canadians? We want measures that would have an impact on the short, medium and long term, not proposals that start real caps on emissions by 2050. Canadians expect action immediately.
We need to be thoughtful in any additional measures we implement, but by delaying real caps until 2050, I am worried we are sending the wrong signal. If future governments follow the precedent of delaying targets, it is very likely that in 2050 we will realize that we are still facing the same challenges and are not ready to meet these goals.
The disheartening thing is that the Conservatives are not only refusing to take quick action, but are dismantling dozens of programs and initiatives that were created by the previous government, which offered incentives and opportunities for real measures.
EnerGuide, for example, was a program that helped more than 70,000 households to be retrofitted, to be energy efficient and to reduce energy consumption. What did the Conservatives do? They cancelled that program.
Six million Canadians have participated in reducing their energy consumption through the one tonne challenge program. What did the Conservatives do? They cancelled that program. Greenhouse gas intensity was reduced by 13% below 1990 standards and has showed a declining trend since the mid 1990s.
I am proud to stand here today, after my party has elected a leader who has shown a real commitment to the environment and the future health of Canada and Canadians. I am confident, under his leadership, that the Liberals will continue to promote what Canadians want to see from their government, real action and a real plan.
We have a lot of work ahead of us in examining the bill. It is clear that it needs much work and a lot of improvement, but we are committed to working beyond partisanship with whoever is serious about putting together effective legislation that would offer tangible measures to reduce pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions in the short term and set goals for the near and long term future.
I pledge to the House, on behalf of myself and my colleagues in the Liberal Party, that we will be relentless in ensuring the government is held to account and responds to the needs of Canadians and the future of our planet. We cannot let Canadians down.
Mr. Marcel Lussier (Brossard—La Prairie, BQ):
Mr. Speaker, this bill on air quality would amend three existing statutes, the first of which is the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. Based on our observations, however, these are not new regulatory powers that the government plans to grant itself, because they already exist in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. The bill would also amend the Energy Efficiency Act. We find it strange that this amendment is being introduced after the EnerGuide program was eliminated. The third part of the bill would amend the Motor Vehicle Fuel Consumption Standards Act.
The Bloc Québécois currently supports sending this bill to committee before second reading. In our view, the amendments proposed by Bill C-30 are unnecessary. They would only slow down the process of taking concrete action against climate change. This is simply a delay.
The bill is also accompanied by a notice of intent, which lists the regulations the government intends to adopt over the next few years and the deadlines it has set for doing so. This document shows that the government is starting from scratch and beginning a new round of consultations in three phases leading to new standard that would not be mandatory until 2010.
Bill C-30 in its current form is unacceptable. It practically means the end of the Kyoto protocol objectives. The bill would incorporate into the Canadian Environmental Protection Act the statement that respecting Canada's international commitments on the environment is a matter of government discretion. We agree with referring the bill to committee before second reading because that will give us the latitude we need to consider the admissibility of amendments to this bill.
We will work in good faith in this committee, but the Bloc Québécois will make no compromises because respecting the Kyoto protocol targets is what is important. We will also present amendments to address the fairness of the polluter-pay rule, Canada's respect for its international commitments and, most of all, the urgent need for action to fight climate change. I want to remind hon. members that the Bloc's priority is still Bill C-288, which clearly respects the Kyoto protocol objectives and for which the legislative agenda is controlled by the opposition and not by our government.
Thanks to past investments by the administrators at Hydro-Québec in the area of hydroelectricity, Quebec has a non-polluting electricity production network. Quebec's plan mainly targets transportation and pollution reduction in certain industries.
As far as transportation is concerned, the bill would amend the Motor Vehicle Fuel Consumption Standards Act to create the regulatory power to impose mandatory vehicle consumption standards on the industry by 2011, after the voluntary agreement expires. This does not seem soon enough.
The government has announced that Environment Canada and Health Canada also intend to hold detailed consultations with the provinces and industry starting in the fall. This consultation is late. It is planned in three major phases: the first will end in 2007, the second in 2008 and the third in 2010. Therefore, no regulation will come into effect before 2010.
What is important to the Bloc Québécois is that targets are established. These targets are in our report on the evaluation of greenhouse gas emissions.
In 2004, production of greenhouse gases in Quebec was about 12 tonnes per person, or half the average rate of production of 24 tonnes per Canadian. As for the other provinces, per capita emissions totalled almost 69 tonnes in Saskatchewan and 73 tonnes in Alberta, or five to six times greater than in Quebec.
If we compare increases between 1990 and 2004, we note that Quebec emissions have risen by 6% since 1990, compared to 39.4% for Alberta and 61.7% for Saskatchewan.
As I was saying earlier, opting for hydroelectric energy certainly was a significant factor in Quebec's enviable performance. However, the collective choices made by its citizens, industries and the National Assembly also made it possible to achieve these results. The Quebec pulp and paper industry alone reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 18% between 1990 and 2005.
The excellent performance of the Quebec manufacturing sector also made a substantial contribution to Quebec's positive results. Between 1990 and 2003, this sector reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 6.8% and emissions arising from industrial processes by more than 15%. These reductions were made possible by significant strategic investments by Quebec companies in innovative technologies allowing them to improve their processes and their energy efficiency.
The Minister of the Environment refuses to acknowledge the efforts made by Quebec or the value of the Quebec plan. It was again obvious in Nairobi, where she failed to mention Quebec's green plan in her official speech to the international community.
Rather than revise its international obligations by calling the Kyoto protocol into question, the Conservative government must implement the climate change action plan. That was the Bloc Québécois' proposal, founded on the very important principles of equality and polluter pays. With respect to the polluter pays principle, studies have been done on Canada's emissions and it is generally accepted that responsibility for reducing emissions should be shared non-proportionally based on population or gross domestic product. It should be shared by the provinces and the territories. The Bloc Québécois is proposing a three-part approach to distribute the burden across Canada and give each province quotas to comply with.
The European Union succeeded in reaching an agreement on distributing greenhouse gas emissions among 15 European countries. The negotiations took two years to achieve concrete results. Each country has its own targets to reach.
In Canada, negotiations went on for almost five years and were suspended. We have not yet reached a compromise on distributing responsibility among the provinces and territories.
According to this three-part approach, Quebec's goal would be 0% relative to 1990 levels. The province could therefore simply address its 6% increase since 1990 to reach its goal: 1990 production levels.
Other provinces' goals are much higher because of their energy choices.
In conclusion, over the next few weeks, the Bloc Québécois will propose amendments to this bill.
Mr. Nathan Cullen (Skeena—Bulkley Valley, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise to speak in this debate as we move this bill forward. It is a bill that is deeply flawed and has been discredited across the environmental sector and in other parts of our communities, because as members in the House join the daily gathering of question period, it speaks to the partisan nature that for far too long has overridden all good and sensible conduct when it comes to our environment.
As Canadians tune in to watch what has become the daily spectacle of question period and the partisan approach that seems necessary to attract attention to any given issue of the day, they despair. They despair because partisan politics have overridden the commonsensical approach, particularly to things like climate change.
There is a necessity to look at the context and the history of what has happened in the debate and in the actions of the Canadian government over the last 15 to 20 years as this issue has grown in importance and context throughout the world. As country after country has taken on this issue with seriousness and determination, why has Canada continued to fall further and further to the back of the field?
We saw a number of plans under the previous regimes. The Liberals came up with the so-called action plan 2000 that was anything but action. There was a climate change plan for Canada in 2002 that was nothing of the sort, with no plan and still no action. Finally, in 2005 there was project green, which the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development herself said was not enough to get us there.
On this issue, I believe that Canadians have been out in front of the politicians consistently, year in and year out, demanding more from us, demanding a sense of leadership rather than partisan debate and the small inaccurate steps taken by regime after regime, previously by the Liberals and now by the Conservatives, when it comes to what is now being represented as the most pressing issue, certainly environmentally, and perhaps it is the most pressing issue of all.
When the NDP and the other opposition parties first looked at the bill the Conservatives proposed, they found it wanting. It lacks principles and is thus impossible to support in principle. For those who are watching and just coming to this debate, I will note that when a bill gets passed through this House on second reading, it means that the House has agreed to the bill in its principles, in its very nature, and then wishes to tweak and alter some of those parts of the bill which can be altered.
However, the process that we New Democrats proposed and which the other parties agreed to was, without any such agreement, to take this bill and to have the opportunity to change its very DNA, to change the very structure of what is being proposed for Canada's environment and Canada's economy.
As has been said, Kyoto is more an economic pact than an environmental one. It asks the world to consider and bring about changes to the way we earn money, to the way we drive our economies, particularly when it comes to the energy sector, and to look at new ways that are necessary for the very survival of our planet, for continuing a prosperous planet and, in this country, a prosperous national economy.
Canadians have been demanding and expecting leadership on this issue, but in budget after budget and government after government they have seen otherwise. They have seen short term, nearsighted thinking. It is time that Canadians got what they truly deserve, which is leadership when it comes to the environment and leadership when it comes to restructuring our economy and our energy sectors to a place where we can all be proud.
Recently I was at the Nairobi summit, the United Nations meeting on climate change. Canada consistently won the fossil award, the award given to the country doing the least to promote global efforts on climate change. We won more fossil awards than all the other countries put together.
We were consistent in one thing: holding back the talks and holding back progress across our planet. China, India, Australia, France and Britain were all coming forward with solid and credible plans and there we were, the Canadians, once proud of our environmental record, with our delegates scurrying around the halls in Nairobi in shame because we could not bring forward a viable plan. What was suggested in the so-called clean air act was not enough. It was a delayed plan. It was long term. It left too much power in the hands of a few politicians rather than in the will of this Parliament.
One of the many suggestions that New Democrats brought forward was to return the power to the people who are actually elected to represent the will and the intentions of Canadians, because we know that this will and those intentions are to do something serious about climate change, change that we are experiencing already.
The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, essentially the auditor, is meant to look over Canada's plans and actions for a whole series of environmental initiatives. She looked at what the previous Liberal regime had proposed. Six billion dollars had been announced for this. The important word in this sentence is “announced”, because a little over $1 billion of that $6 billion in the announcement was actually spent and much of that not very effectively at all.
It is important to note that the commissioner is a non-partisan functionary of this Parliament who reports to us. She said of the Liberal record since 1997 that the government:
||--does not yet have an effective government-wide system to track expenditures, performance, and results on its climate change programs. As a result, the government does not have the necessary tools for effective management....
At its base, if we do not have the capacity to track, to monitor, to understand what is effective and what is not, how can we possibly make the proposed changes that we claim or hope to make? It simply cannot be done if we do not have the ability to monitor, to track, or to understand what is being done. The elected officials in this place, elected from across the country, do not have the ability to properly or accurately understand the situation until the dust has settled and the confetti has dropped out of the sky.
We know for a fact that the actual numbers that matter most on this issue are in regard to the increase in greenhouse gases in our environment. They went up by 27%, but we know that the goal, the stated claim and the signature that we put down on the Kyoto protocol indicated that Canada had the intention of dropping emissions by 6%. Lo and behold, as the numbers have come in and as the tests prove, we failed as Canadians when the Liberal government, year in and year out, failed to deliver. We needed more and Canadians demanded more. They expected leadership. They want leadership.
Let us look at what is proposed in the Conservative bill. The Conservatives propose a number of measures that have some potential, but they are all delayed measures. They are all put off, and without the ability of parliamentarians, the people elected from all corners of the country, to affect what is happening. Instead, it is left to orders in cabinet, intentions and notices of intent that do not bring the required seriousness to this issue. That seriousness means that this place must be able to mandate, regulate and hit the targets that Canadians expect us and need us to hit.
My friend from the Western Arctic and I, from northwestern British Columbia, with British Columbians across the entire province, are seeing the effects of climate change now. Canada's forestry council has directly cited climate change as one of the leading factors in the pine beetle infestation that has absolutely devastated our forests and has now hopped over the Rockies and is headed into the boreal, into Alberta, and across to Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
For those who are watching and for those members of Parliament who have not yet seen what devastation truly looks like, let me say to them to hold on, because that pine beetle can absolutely punish the forest and the economies that depend upon those forests. Direct action is needed.
The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development implored the government to take serious action on the environment. She said that “it must take immediate and long-lasting action on many fronts”.
She said “immediate”, but lo and behold, when the bill came out, all action was delayed. The action is delayed until 2015, 2025 and even 2050 for heaven's sake. That is not action. That is just an excuse for delay. The Conservative government is essentially asking Canadians to trust its ethics on the environment and unfortunately that did not pass the smell test.
What we need to do is remove the partisan nature of this debate. We need to finally step beyond that into a place where the issue of the environment, the issue of fighting global climate change, can occupy a place in the Canadian debate that goes beyond partisanship and allows members of Parliament to bring forward their best ideas.
By accepting this bill prior to second reading, by accepting it with the option of changing its fundamentals, of making it stronger, of bringing in the best ideas from across the economy and from across the country, we have allowed an opportunity to exist in this place, an opportunity that previously did not exist. I am proud of our actions. I am determined, as are my colleagues, and colleagues in the other caucuses as well, to make the most effective bill--