Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Hon. members, I thank you for the opportunity to appear before you this morning in consideration of Bill .
This government has made it clear, we are committed to delivering real solutions to protect the health of Canadians and their environment.
I was in Paris last Friday to hear from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, as they released their Fourth Assessment Report.
Mr. Chairman, the science of climate change leaves little room for doubt—it is real, it is linked to human activity, and it compels us to take action. I get it, and so does Canada's government.
We accept the IPCC as an internationally-recognized scientific authority on climate change.
And we will consider the findings of this Fourth Assessment Report very seriously.
Even by Canadian standards, recent weather here in this country has been alarming. I saw first-hand the pounding the west coast has taken over the past two months. Thousands of trees that stood for centuries could not withstand the record winds, snow, and rainfall that battered our coast.
The most active Atlantic hurricane season in recorded history was less than two years ago, and the two warmest years on record for the world were 2005 and 1998. No one can say that climate change has caused every blizzard, every hurricane, every flood, and every drought the world has seen in recent years, but trying to disprove the basic science is pointless and diverts us from the real work of finding solutions. Instead, we need to accept what the experts are telling us and move on. It's time to take real action on our environment.
As President of the Treasury Board, I oversaw the development of the Federal Accountability Act and worked with colleagues from all parties of the House of Commons to assure its passage. Such a healthy debate is required once again, and I intend to bring the same spirit of cooperation and determination to Canada's Clean Air Act.
Just as Canadians demanded accountability in government, they are now demanding action on one of the most pressing issues of our time: the state of our environment. We believe we have taken a strong approach to begin fighting climate change, and we are willing to work with all parties to build an even stronger piece of legislation.
Canada's Clean Air Act will set in motion Canada's first comprehensive and integrated approach to tackle both air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and, in doing so, will deliver better air quality for Canadians and also tackle climate change.
Canada's Clean Air Act would amend three federal acts: the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, the Energy Efficiency Act, and the Motor Vehicle Fuel Consumption Standards Act.
It creates a new clean air component in CEPA that will provide a tailor-made approach to enable integrated regulatory actions for air pollutants and greenhouse gases. For the first time ever, Canada's Clean Air Act will provide new, explicit authority to collect information and regulate products that affect indoor air quality.
The proposed amendments to CEPA will require the Ministers of the Environment and Health to establish national air quality objectives and to report annually on actions taken by all governments in Canada to improve air quality.
Canada's Clean Air Act will also strengthen CEPA by enhancing the government's ability to establish effective regulations to meet our commitment for the blending of fuels, enabling Canada to achieve 5% renewable fuels content in the next three years. That's the equivalent of taking 1.3 million cars off Canadian roads.
The Clean Air Act will strengthen our ability to enter into equivalency agreements with the provinces and territories and avoid regulatory duplication, as long as they meet the same environmental objectives.
Canada's Clean Air Act will modernize the Motor Vehicle Fuel Consumption Standards Act, which will improve the government's ability to regulate vehicle fuel efficiency.
Lastly, Canada's Clean Air Act will allow the government to set energy efficiency standards and labelling requirements for a wider range of consumer and commercial products by amending the Energy Efficiency Act.
I believe Bill C-30 is a platform from which the government and Parliament will provide concrete and realistic action to reduce air pollutants and greenhouse gases, all of which increasingly threaten our health, our quality of life, and indeed our economy.
While this bill is essential to protecting the environment and the health of Canadians, it is important to note that the government is already getting to work to improve our environment. Within months of taking office, our government invested tax credits and new funding to increase public transit ridership, removing the equivalent of greenhouse gases produced by 56,000 cars from Canadian roads every year.
Canada's new government has also invested $2 billion into the ecoENERGY initiative through a series of announcements, including $230 million for clean technology with the ecoENERGY technology initiative; $1.48 billion for renewable energy with the ecoENERGY renewable initiative; and $300 million for smarter energy use by Canadians with the ecoENERGY efficiency initiative.
We have also contributed $2 million to assist in the cleanup and restoration of Vancouver's Stanley Park, and thanks to the efforts of the government, future generations will know the same joy, beauty, and inspiration that this magnificent park has provided Canadians for so many years.
As well, our government has contributed $30 million to help protect the Great Bear Rainforest, the largest temperate rainforest left on earth. This 1.8 million hectare land mass on the northern coast of British Columbia is home to thousands of species, plants, birds, and animals.
In the coming months we will announce ambitious short-term targets for air pollutants and greenhouse gases from industrial sources, with sector-by-sector regulations coming into force starting in 2010. For the first time ever the federal government will regulate air pollution for major industry sectors. And, as the said clearly on Tuesday, for the first time ever we will regulate the fuel efficiency of motor vehicles beginning with the 2011 model year. We will regulate energy efficiency standards and labelling requirements for a broad range of consumer and commercial products. Together, these will address about 80% of the energy used in homes and almost 90% of the energy used in commercial settings.
The recently announced the creation of a new cabinet committee on the environment and energy security. The committee will pursue practical, results-oriented solutions that will result in real mandatory cuts in Canada's greenhouse gas emissions, reduce pollution, and improve the health and well-being of Canadians. Make no mistake, the era of voluntary compliance is over, and this government intends to take action.
Let me be clear that there are some fundamental principles that guide this government. We will not spend taxpayers' dollars to buy international hot air credits just to meet our Kyoto targets. We know it would be easy to buy these credits. But as Professor David Boyd from the University of British Columbia said to this committee just Tuesday, those hot air credits would be a bad investment for Canada, spending billions of dollars abroad for zero environmental benefit. We want to spend this money here at home in Canada. The Conservative government's plan is to get Canada on the right track so that we can make real progress in addressing our greenhouse gas and air emissions for the long term.
The second principle is also clear. The plan must be achievable, affordable, and practical. It must deal with the reality this country faces. Because of previous inaction, Canada is some 35% above its Kyoto target, and there are only two years remaining to start meeting it. Some critics have said we should simply push harder and make it our mission to meet the 2008 to 2012 reduction target. Let me explain what that would mean.
We would have to reduce emissions by some 270 megatons. And what would that mean? Again, as Professor Boyd told this committee, to achieve that kind of target through domestic reductions would require a rate-of-emissions decline unmatched by any modern nation in the history of the world--except those who have suffered economic collapse, such as Russia.
Canadians do not want empty promises on a plan that we cannot achieve, and they do not want our country to face economic collapse. Instead, they want this government and this Parliament to take real action and achieve real reductions in both greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. They want a sensible plan, just as in the progress the world has made on CFCs. It was because of the Conservative government of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney that Canada was one of the first countries to sign and ratify the Montreal Protocol. Sometime in 2010, CFCs will be completely eliminated from developing countries, as has been the case in Canada for some time now.
This protocol was one of the most successful multilateral international agreements that the environment has ever achieved. It should serve as a reminder to all of us that great things can be accomplished when we have a concrete and realistic plan and put it in place. I look forward to discussing what actions we can work on together to address environmental challenges like clean air and climate change that we need to tackle today.
Let me say in conclusion that Canada's new government has charted a fundamentally new course on the environment, and the Clean Air Act is a big piece of that journey. As hard as it is to believe, the discussion is not about partisan politics or barbs tossed across the floor in the House of Commons during question period. Ultimately, all of us will answer to the people who sent us here, and they are watching. Canadians want this committee to succeed, and I believe they want action. In that spirit, I pledge to work closely with all opposition members to craft the best piece of legislation that's possible. I hope you will join me in this effort.
Thank you. Merci beaucoup.
We're not interested in participating in carbon markets overseas.
The previous government's efforts were very different.
Let me give you an example of why I think it's so important to make investments here in Canada—a concrete, clear example that underlines the point.
When I was Minister of Energy in Ontario, we announced a plan to phase out our coal-fired electricity generating stations by 2015. The first one we slated for closure was the Lakeview Generating Station in Mississauga.
At the Lakeview Generating Station, when three of the four units went down, the only good news was that only one unit could go down. So it was at the end of its lifespan, being held together with duct tape. When it was closed by the successor government in Ontario, we were able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and also, at the same time, improve air quality by reducing the pollutants that were emitted by that generating station.
That's the kind of action, integrated action, that deals with both climate change and human health, and that's the kind of action we support: an integrated approach here in Canada, an integrated approach in our airshed and making investments in Canada.
I appreciate that that's an honest difference of opinion, and it's one that I'm happy to defend to Canadians.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you for coming today, Minister.
Minister, we've got a lot of work to do. The reality is that the bill that was put in front of us, , is a dud. In fact, Mr. Boyd, whom you referenced quite extensively at the beginning of your presentation, said that what this bill in fact represented was a series of minor amendments to CEPA, not an action plan for climate change, and that the reality is it did little to nothing to actually advance the cause of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and taking action on climate change. So what we have is a CEPA-tweaker, not a climate change plan. Now we've got to really build this thing from the ground up.
I want to start with cuts, and specifically cuts that have been made by your government over the last year: $395 million to EnerGuide for house retrofit programs, $500 million for EnerGuide low-income household programs, $250 million to the partnership fund for climate change projects with provinces and municipalities, $593 million for wind power production initiatives and renewable power initiatives, $584 million for environmental programs at Natural Resources Canada, $120 million for the One Tonne Challenge, $1 billion for the climate fund to reduce greenhouse gases, $2 billion of general climate change program funding generally--for a total of $5.6 billion in cuts.
I know you've repackaged a couple of Liberal initiatives and given them a new name and given them reduced targets and not quite as much money, but I'm really asking two questions. One, do you regret now the actions you took in Budget 2006, and, more specifically, given the fact that you said this $5.6 billion has not in fact been cut--it has gone to some phantom place--can you give us a detailing of where that's gone and exactly how you've reinvested that $5.6 billion?
It's a very pretty laser.
If you don't want to answer that question, I'll have to wait for, hopefully, something you send us on that.
I want to talk a little bit about oil sands, because I have a concern with some statements that have been made. First, the started off with a less ambitious target of three to four times expansion of the oil sands by 2015. Then we had the say 4 million to 5 million barrels from 1 million barrels within the same timeframe. Then Minister Flaherty, in China, in late January not so long ago, said 4.6 times.
Given the fact that sequestration infrastructure is not going to be online in that kind of timeframe, any expert at all has said that will mean our greenhouse gas emission targets are absolutely blown out of the water. On the one hand, you're coming and telling us you care about greenhouse gas emissions; on the other hand, you have ministers who are talking about multiplying times five--at most, five--the expansion of the oil sands, which would mean not only would we not meet our international commitments, but by 2020 greenhouse gas emissions would not be reduced at all; in fact, they would be higher than what they are today.
In light of that, can you tell me what your targets are if they're not Kyoto for 2012? What are your targets for 2015? What are your targets for 2020? Specifically with regard to oil sands and this massive expansion you're contemplating and very excited about, how does that match with what those targets are?
So start, if you would, with your targets, and then tell us about how this massive expansion can fit in with those targets.
Thank you, Minister, for coming today.
I want to confirm with you, Minister, that indeed Mr. Boyd did give some testimony, and one of his items of testimony was the grading of the Liberal performance over the last 13 years: he gave them a big, fat F. I also want to confirm that he was not aware of how expands the government's powers, more particularly, that it includes indoor air and other things.
I've asked the clerk to send on to him the deck that gives him that information so he'll be better informed in the future.
Minister, I know we've talked several times, and you know I'm from the oil sands region. I've lived there for 38 years. I know it might be a bit of a surprise to you, but my children live there, they breathe the air, they drink the water, and all my friends and family are there. Even the oil sands workers themselves, their families are there, and we're very concerned about water and air quality across Canada.
In talking to them, which I've been doing for two or three years now, ever since I had this job, the biggest concern they have had is the mixed signals coming from the Liberal government. They've spent billions on scrubbers, they've spent billions on water monitoring and air monitoring, but they have had no clear signal. What they have wanted and what they have told me is they want to know where the government wants them to go in the future. So I applaud you, for the people of Fort McMurray and for the industries there, on your initiatives.
My first question is in relation to cleaning up the legacy of polluted sites that we have across the country. I know that initially one of the first announcements this government came out with was on the Sydney tar ponds cleanup, which is a great initiative, but we have tens of thousands of other sites across Canada like that. I'm wondering, since it does apply to so many Canadians and so many Canadians are worried about it, can you give us some idea if your initiatives are going to be including some segment of cleaning up sites across Canada, like you did more recently this month?
I don't support spending money on hot air credits in Russia, where no greenhouse gas emissions will actually be reduced. It would just be credit for past actions. I think Canadians want us to take real actions here at home to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
When we take an integrated approach, we can hit two birds with one stone. That would mean that we could both reduce greenhouse gas emissions and deliver cleaner air. That's a huge priority for a parent with an asthmatic child or for the elderly.
I represent a lot of senior citizens, and on some days they can't go out of their homes because of the air quality in this city. I'm the youngest member of the cabinet, but when I was first elected we didn't have smog days in Ottawa. Ten or twelve years ago we had pretty clean air, but increasingly we're having problems. I think Canadians want to take action on both.
I used the example of the coal-fired generating station at Lakeview. By closing it down, we were able to make a substantive reduction in greenhouse gases, and at the same time and for the same amount of money we were able to reduce pollution—NOx and SOx, smog. That gives a greater benefit to human health.
So why not take the integrated approach here in Canada, where we can deal with the number one global problem with the environment and the number one domestic health problem with respect to the environment? It just makes sense.
Now, some people will continue to support spending billions of dollars of taxpayers' money abroad. They can have that field to themselves. I don't think it's one that Canadians support. They'd like to see an integrated approach.
I think you are very right, Mr. Manning, when you talk about how cynical the public is. They've heard a lot of talk for a lot of years on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and they've seen nothing delivered—nothing. If you look at the chart up there, nothing. If you look at the actions in place in the last 10 years, nothing.
This is not a new issue. This is an issue that was first defined in Rio de Janeiro at the Earth Summit when Jean Charest was the Minister of the Environment and Brian Mulroney was the Prime Minister. But nothing happened—nothing.
I agree totally with the deputy leader of the Liberal Party when he said to the former environment minister that we didn't get it done; Canada didn't get it done. But what Canadians want to see are results. They want to see specific action that's realistic and attainable.
I think in the course of the next two months the government will do its part, and this committee has to accept its responsibility as well. We look forward to delivering for Canadians.
Thank you for being here, Minister.
First of all, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that this week we saw Quebec expert Claude Villeneuve, who said that, as things are, it would be impossible to attain the first stage of Kyoto targets, given that the previous government had done nothing. So, one way of phasing out would be to buy carbon credits outside the country. I have noted your position on this issue and I'm glad to see you're opposed to it.
Now, I would like to congratulate you on your ecoENERGY initiative, launched with your colleague recently. I think we should talk about it a little bit.
If I understand correctly, the ecoENERGY program comprises three components. The first component is research and I see that you have targeted a series of projects. So, instead of trying to do two things at the same time, we are targeting projects to complete them properly. The second component of the ecoENERGY program, renewable energy, makes way for new forms of energy like biomass and solar energy. Both are very important to Quebec, particularly solar energy, on which a great deal of research is underway. The third component is retrofit, focusing on homes and small businesses. In addition, we should point out that more money would be returned to consumers—90 cents instead of 50 cents. I would like to congratulate you wholeheartedly on this initiative.
First of all, I would like to hear any additional comments you may have on the initiative.
Secondly, I would like to know how you see Canada's future role at the international level, with regard to Kyoto, now that we are so close to the post-2012 era?