At the outset, let me say that I'm joined today by the Associate Deputy Minister of the Environment, Ian Shugart; and the Assistant Deputy Minister for International Affairs, David McGovern. I thank them for coming.
Good afternoon, colleagues. It is of course a great pleasure for me to be here with you today.
Thank you for the kind invitation. As always, I look forward to working with the members of the House of Commons environment committee.
As you know, next week the world will convene in Indonesia for the thirteenth United Nations climate change conference. It's obvious that in the lead-up to those meetings, Canadians too should be informed on where their government stands on what the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon calls the defining challenge of our age. It's also the reason I find myself before this committee today ready to discuss Canada's position in Indonesia and what our government hopes to accomplish.
But first, let me remind the committee of the current context in which Canada—and indeed the world—find themselves.
Mr. Chairman, the world is at a turning point. The recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the previous reports issued earlier this year make that point abundantly clear.
The simple fact that of the matter is this. Failure to fight climate change is not an option. As Canadians, we have a responsibility not only at home but to the world to take action. And the world also needs to do its part together in the fight.
Otherwise, we face an uncertain future in a changing climate.
The picture may look bleak to some, but I believe strongly that humanity and human ingenuity must face this challenge head-on. The effects of climate change are becoming increasingly visible, including right here at home in Canada. For example, we've lost large areas of our majestic boreal forest because hotter and dryer summer weather has created conditions that are perfect for forest fires. In the British Columbia interior, destructive pine beetles that thrive in the mild conditions of recent years are expected to have ravaged 50% of the province's mature pine trees by next year. In the north, we see real evidence of climate change: buckled roads, schools falling off foundations, and significant infrastructure crumbling, all because of the rapidly melting permafrost. In urban areas, our most vulnerable citizens—children, the elderly, and those with respiratory problems in particular—are fighting through more and more smog days.
This is just the Canadian perspective. Elsewhere in the world, climate change is just as aggressive, with consequences just as serious as those we're seeing here in Canada.
The scientific evidence is there, and I believe it's real, but what's encouraging in all of this is that the world is finally taking the science seriously. More countries than ever before are signing on to the fight against climate change, and Canada is certainly one of them.
This government is unwilling to stand on the sidelines limiting ourselves to playing a cheerleading role like the previous government. In fact, we've already been active on the global stage in shaping the post-2012 climate change regime. At this spring's meeting of the G8 leaders in Germany, Canada was a critical bridge-builder in helping countries find common ground between those in the European Union and the United States.
In Germany, we were able to come up with a language that calls for setting a long-term global goal for emission reductions involving all major emitters. This is a big step forward, particularly when considering that this is the first time the United States has shown any flexibility in agreeing to a long-term goal.
For its part, Canada's government counts itself proud and privileged to have played a leading role in the negotiations. Our approach at the G8 was founded on our domestic commitment to reduce emissions by 60% to 70% by 2050, a plan that was welcomed by other G8 nations.
We made similar progress during meetings of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum earlier this fall. APEC members account for 60% of global greenhouse gas emissions. And they include two of the largest emitters: the United States and China. In Sydney, APEC leaders reaffirmed their shared commitment to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and they aligned a set of principles to underpin an effective post-2012 climate change regime that would include real action by all emitters to achieve shared global goals.
Mr. Chair, the post-2012 climate change regime must include all major emitters, for a variety of reasons. I'll go to chart 2. If you look at this chart, you will see that by 2050, if the developed world reduces its emissions by 100%, greenhouse gases will continue to skyrocket because of the enormous growth of emissions in the developing world. That's why we need to get countries like China and India on board to accept their responsibilities and to reduce emissions. The fact is that those developed countries that accepted greenhouse gas reductions under the Kyoto Protocol will be responsible for only 18% of emissions.
In 2004, Canada represented only about 2% of the world's emissions. Go to chart 4 for that one. This number is expected to decline based on our government's actions and on actions throughout the country. But emissions in India and China, for example, are on the upswing, and the Chinese are expected to account for nearly 23% of all global emissions by 2050. Even if Canada were to eliminate all its greenhouse gas emissions, China would replace every last ounce of them within 18 months. Even if we eliminate only 10% of our emissions, it would take China only 60 days to replace them.
Mr. Chair, based on the evidence, we can draw one simple conclusion: where greenhouse gas emissions are concerned, the status quo does not equal progress. If we expect to succeed in protecting the environment, all major emitters must be ready, like Canada, to act and to act now. This is the message that Canada's delegation will be bringing to Indonesia next week. We are optimistic that the world will heed our call that any post-2012 agreement must include all major emitters.
But we're also realistic. Let us be clear about what the world should expect from the UN climate change conference. Many agree, including the United Nations, that the conference represents the best start towards negotiations on the post-2012 agreement—the start, not the end. The members of the opposition environmental groups would have Canadians believe that a post-Kyoto deal will be hammered out and that Canada will be a holdout. This is simply false.
The truth is simple, and it's clear. The Indonesian meeting will build the foundation for a process and a timeline to negotiate a post-2012 deal. Canada will work very hard to define a process for a post-2012 agreement that requires greenhouse gas emissions cuts by all major emitters, no matter if they are in the developed or the developing world. Greenhouse gases know no borders and affect everyone on this planet, and that's why a deal must apply to all nations.
Progress comes in steps when we're dealing with treaties that bring together various degrees of international opinion. Canada will work towards a successful conclusion in Indonesia. Our country's broad position going into the conference is clear and is based upon three points: the world must come together to agree to launch negotiations on a post-2012 agreement; there must be an agreement on what the building blocks of a future agreement would be; and finally, there must be an agreement on an end date for negotiations. Canada will be pushing for 2009.
Let me repeat that in French. Canada will work toward a successful conclusion in Indonesia. Our country's broad position going into the conference is clear and based upon three key points: the world must come together and agree to launch negotiations on a post-2012 agreement; there must be an agreement on what the building blocks of a future agreement would be; and there must be an agreement on an end date for negotiations. Canada will be pushing for an end date of 2009.
These goals are outlined and shared by Yvo de Boer, the executive director of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. These are his goals, and Canada accepts them.
These are fair, balanced, and reasonable goals to achieve in Indonesia. We must remember that the Kyoto Protocol was launched a full five years after the 1992 Rio earth summit. Today we just don't have that kind of time, and that is why Canada is seeking a speedier timeline.
Mr. Chair, let me just say again that Canada will participate in any process to fight climate change that leads to an agreement that includes all the major emitters. We believe that this is critical. Failure to include major emitters in any post-2012 agreement will set the world down a path that leads absolutely nowhere.
Canada's position on what any post-2012 agreement should look like has been clear and concise. The has made this clear at the G8, at the APEC summit, at the United Nations, and at the recent Commonwealth summit. Any long-term post-2012 agreement must include the major emitting countries, such as China, India, and the United States.
Let me go to slide 6. As you know, a prime minister once said:
||I've always indicated that when it comes to the future, we have to get developing countries onboard, and for the second commitment period...to ensure that developing countries also accept commitments. That's what we believe is necessary, because we need to have both the major emitters from the developed world onboard as well as the developing countries....
That's of course the Australian Prime Minister-elect, who will become Prime Minister on Monday.
He is not the only one. Let me go to slide 7: “It makes no sense for Canada--which emits two per cent of the world's greenhouse gases--to ratify a treaty forcing deep cuts unless the largest nations sign.” That was in 1997, just before the Kyoto summit.
Mr. Chairman, as my colleague Line Beauchamp, Quebec's Minister for Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks said—we believe that targets have to be imposed on everyone, and that all countries have to take part in the fight against climate change, including the United States and emerging economies like China and India.
Mr. Chair, our has been clear that any post-2012 agreement must be fair and realistic, without placing unfair burdens on any one country. It must be long-term and flexible, and it must have a balanced approach that preserves economic growth and protects our environment.
So in Indonesia, Canada's delegation will be actively engaging with the international community. We will work to ensure that negotiations will produce an agreement to satisfy these principles.
I'm pleased to say today that our delegation will be joined by a team of eminent advisers from Canada to provide advice and assistance to the delegation and to me personally as Minister of the Environment. These advisers will be announced in the coming days and will bring a great deal of experience and expertise across many issues, including the environment, health, industry, first nations, and the north.
The advisers will attend many of the conference sessions and advise me on a wide range of issues, including the most appropriate framework for negotiating a post-2012 agreement, the implementation and promotion of green technology and how Canada can contribute, the role of developed and developing nations in any post-2012 agreement, the impact of climate change on the north, and the role of adaptation in responding to climate change.
In addition, the Canadian delegation will have significant representation from a number of provinces like Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and others who have an interest in the outcome of this conference. I am pleased that many of my provincial colleagues will be joining me in Indonesia.
And, Mr. Chairman, when we are in Indonesia, we will take every opportunity to discuss our Turning the Corner Action Plan to cut greenhouse gases by an absolute 20% by 2020, and by up to 60% to 70% by 2050, as well as cutting air pollution by up to 50% by 2015. No other country in the world is doing more in such a short time to tackle greenhouse gases and air pollution.
We feel very comfortable in taking this role, particularly in light of the leadership position we've assumed within the international community. We also feel that our domestic record gives us the credibility that Canada, under the previous government, lacked for far too long.
The fact is that in 2005, our greenhouse gas emissions were 33% above our Kyoto targets under the leadership of the previous government. As you know, I can expect to hear some criticism from some, as I have in the past. The fact is that those feelings know no bounds when it comes to fighting climate change. For many years, we've had far too many people in this country talk, and talk, and talk, at the same time doing nothing. I can count a good number of plans that came forward, but very little action. Four different plans were discussed by the previous government, and what was the result? A massive rise in greenhouse gases to the point where we have blown our Kyoto targets by 33%. I believe the C.D. Howe Institute called this strategy “burning our money to warm the planet”.
The point is that the previous government went to too many United Nations climate change conferences for years and preached to the world while all along, at home, the previous government deliberately undermined real action on climate change. This government will not sit here today and listen to lectures from people who have no credibility on this file. And if you look at some of my predecessors on this issue--if you go to slide 11--the Minister of Finance could never find money for Kyoto, which was a terrible disappointment to me.
Slide 12 shows another one of my predecessors. I remember very well when Prime Minister Chrétien actually endorsed Kyoto. He called me before he went to South Africa, because he was getting tremendous push-back from the bureaucracy, the Department of Finance, the former Minister of Finance, Paul Martin, and all of those attached to the natural resources, including Mr. Goodale and Anne McLellan. They were viciously against Kyoto.
The fact is that this government is taking real action on cleaning up the environmental mess left behind by members of our own Parliament. Mr. Chair, I won't take responsibility for the previous government's horrible record on climate change and the way it has embarrassed Canada on the world stage. I can't turn the hands of time back and meet our Kyoto targets, which start in just 33 days, but we are prepared to take action and move aggressively in the coming years.
Our plan will put Canada on the path towards real greenhouse gas reductions. For the first time ever, Canada's federal government is requiring industry to reduce greenhouse gases and air pollution by putting in place strict mandatory targets. This is an unprecedented step in Canada, and I think the voluntary approach, simply put, has not worked.
When we talk about climate change in Canada, we need to recognize that we are in a unique position when it comes to fighting climate change, perhaps unique in the world. We are the second largest country in the world. Our towns and cities are spread out across thousands of kilometres. Our climate is essentially a cold climate. The fact is it takes energy for Canadians to carry out their daily tasks: to go to work, to take their kids to hockey and piano lessons, to keep the economy moving. And yes, we are blessed with precious natural resources, which make Canada an emerging energy superpower.
We also want to make sure that Canadian jobs in a variety of industries stay right here in Canada. The government doesn't want to see companies shut down operations. We don't want to see jobs move out of Canada because of our tough regulations and move to China, where there would be no regulations.
Unlike many other countries, we don't have a burden-sharing option or a collapsing economy...to rely on, and I think that's a good thing. We saw last week at the Commonwealth the tactics of some countries that would prefer to engage in political posturing rather than getting serious on fighting climate change with an agreement that gets the major emitters on board. We will actually have to cut greenhouse gases to achieve our targets. The fact is that our actions are tough, but they are also balanced. They will lead to absolute reductions in Canada's greenhouse gas emissions and immediate benefits for the health of our citizens.
In response to our action plan, we have heard from supporters and detractors alike. Their opinions from either side tell me we've struck the right balance between the perfection that some environmentalists are seeking and the status quo that others in the industry are seeking to protect.
Believe it or not, Mr. Chair, it is possible to simultaneously grow the economy and drastically cut down on harmful greenhouse gases and air pollutants. It's possible provided that the rules are directed and enforced evenly upon all major emitters and as long as all parts of our economy, from transportation to oil and gas, to smelting and mining, are required to reduce their emissions and the air pollution that they create. We have developed a plan, one that sets stringent rules and regulations, but one that also opens the window for more creative development on the part of various companies that power our economy.
Here I want to make it clear that when we put together these stringent regulations, we didn't do so blindly. In fact, still today we're working with industry and environmental groups to get the regulations right.
Next is slide 15. Groups like the Sierra Club, the Pembina Institute, the David Suzuki Foundation, and the Climate Action Network, as well as some industry groups, wrote to the this summer and said, “The Regulatory Framework for Air Emissions recently announced by your government is a regulatory initiative of a scale and complexity that may be unprecedented in federal history.” I was happy to meet with representatives from these groups and from industry together this summer, and we're working together on a way forward to cut emissions.
This government also recognizes the significant actions that provinces and territories are taking to promote clean air and address climate change. To assist them in their efforts, we have set up a $1.5 billion trust fund to support provincial and territorial governments. It is intended to reduce greenhouse gases and air pollution.
We believe that Canada can be a clean energy superpower and we want to develop that green technology right here at home--unlike the previous administration, which wanted to ship billions of Canadians' tax dollars to buy hot air credits from Russia. Just what was that money going for?
For example, British Columbia will be getting $200 million to help support the construction of a hydrogen highway. Alberta and Saskatchewan are getting about $200 million to focus on carbon capture and storage. The Province of Ontario is getting $586 million to help close down the coal-fired plants in the province of Ontario. The maritime provinces are getting about $92 million to focus on tidal and wave power.
Quebec is getting $350 million to help it fight climate change. That is $25 million more than Premier Charest requested.
But green technology isn't enough. We've also acknowledged that we will have the responsibility to clean up a legacy of contaminated federal sites, with $214 million to clean up 279 high-priority sites.
This government also believes that conservation plays a key role in preventing climate change by preserving our natural heritage. Just last week we announced we were setting aside possibly the largest amount of land set aside in Canadian history: the east arm of Great Slave Lake, and the Ramparts River and wetlands. Mr. Chair, this is an area about twice the size of your home province of Nova Scotia.
We also took action by announcing a massive expansion of the Nahanni National Park Reserve, the creation of Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area, and $30 million in federal funding to protect the Great Bear Rainforest in northern British Columbia, right in the riding of our colleague Nathan Cullen.
Mr. Chair, I only mention these accomplishments among so many others to underscore how committed this government is to the environment and to conservation. I mention them as well to re-emphasize that what we have done at home has gained us credibility abroad--enough credibility, I might add, to feel confident in asking the international community to accept our position that any post-2012 framework on climate change must include major emitters.
The road toward reaching this agreement will obviously be long and bumpy. In fact, I harbour no illusions that we will sign a new treaty quickly or without heated debate and discussions, but I will say this: 20 years ago, in September 1987, the world united to confront what was arguably the greatest environmental challenge of that era, CFCs and the devastating toll they were taking on our ozone layer. Up until then, not all had agreed with the science, nor had everyone believed that the collective will of the international community could solve that problem. But once people understood what was at stake, once they understood even back then that actions could resonate 10, 20, and 30 years down the road, they were ready to talk and willing to agree that a consensus was possible.
The result, as we now know, was the signing of the Montreal Protocol, which former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called “perhaps the single most successful international...agreement to date”. And 20 years later, again in Montreal, this past September the world came together again to speed up the phase-out of HCFCs, another group of harmful ozone-depleting substances.
I was very proud of the leadership Canada helped play in Montreal, but there was also great leadership played by the United States and significant engagement from China throughout that entire process. They deserve a significant amount of the credit, as well as the United Nations team in Montreal.
The same can happen again as this generation confronts climate change, the greatest environmental challenge of its era. Canada was a leader in 1987 when the original Montreal Protocol was signed, and again this past September, when it challenged and convinced the international community to speed up by 10 years the phase-out of chemicals that deplete the ozone layer and also by chance contribute to climate change.
Canada was a leader when the brought consensus at the G8, at APEC, at the United Nations, and at the Commonwealth, but all major emitters need to be on board to fight climate change. Mr. Chair, Canada will be a leader once again next week in Indonesia and well beyond, as the world unites to define a post-2012 agreement on climate change. When Canada speaks on the world stage, it now speaks with legitimacy.
Thank you very much. Merci beaucoup.
Minister, thank you for being here today.
I want to give you a little bit of interesting background—I think it's interesting—on what's been happening in this committee for the last year, approximately.
It was in June of this year that many of us went to Berlin for Globe G8+5, which was just before the G8 in Heiligendamm. The Liberals and NDP talked about our international credibility abroad. It was quite embarrassing to be there as a Canadian and have to face what happened over the 13 long years of Liberal inaction on the climate change file. They signed on—that was in 1993, when they were elected—and they promised to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; they did absolutely nothing.
So it was embarrassing. But Minister, I want to assure you that internationally there was a real optimism that we had turned the corner, that the rhetoric had ended, and that we were actually taking action. Our plan is very similar to what Japan is doing. We heard for the two days that we were there in meetings at that conference, in Berlin, the importance of focusing on solutions, as you are doing, Minister. We heard about carbon capture and storage and how important that is, particularly in Canada. We heard about the technologies that the world is hoping Canada will help create that will help the globe.
Minister, if I could ask you to turn back to slide number 4, it's relevant to what we heard when I was in Berlin too. They said....
I'm hearing some laughter. I would encourage the opposition members.... This is not a laughing matter; this is a very serious matter.
We were encouraged to come back and share what we learned here in Canada and look for solutions. Again, the government has provided a framework, and my hope is that we would, as a committee, focus on solutions. Carbon capture storage is the one. I've listed what we came back from Germany with: this list of solutions that we were assigned as a committee, internationally, to please focus on. “Canada, please focus on these solutions.”
Minister, unfortunately this committee has refused to focus on solutions, and what we see happening today is a focus on attacking the government instead of working on solutions, which I find very disappointing. The fact is, as that chart shows, that globally there is a huge problem, and Canada has committed to be part of that.
It was a week ago, Minister, that we had IPCC panellists here—we invited them—and on Tuesday of this week we had some people here. At the IPCC report, it was asked what would happen if emissions from Canada and the United States were dropped to zero—which is impossible, but hypothetically, if everything stopped in North America, what would happen to greenhouse gas emissions. We heard very clearly that emissions would continue to climb globally. That is why it is so important that Canada be a world leader in creating the technology that will help the rest of the world be able to bring down their greenhouse gas emissions. It was a challenge to which I was saying yes, because that's exactly what you're doing, Minister, and that's exactly what this chart is showing.
On Tuesday of this week, we also heard an example. A question was asked about aluminum. For every tonne of aluminum that is created here in Canada, four tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions are created, but in China it's seven tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. Your point and this chart support that we need to have not Canada, but globally all the emitters, participating. Without that, we will have growing greenhouse gas emissions, which means a continuing climate change crisis.
My question for you, Minister, is, in your opinion of a post-Kyoto deal, how important is it to have everybody...? You've elaborated on it, but looking at that chart again, how quickly do we need to get commitments from China, India, and the United States—all the major emitters—to start reducing their greenhouse gas emissions also and follow Canada's example?
Our targets are some of the toughest in the world: 20% by 2020, and 60% to 70% by 2050. How important is it that we get everybody involved, and how quickly?
Thank you, Chair. I was just getting started here.
Mr. Chair, we'll implement a new water strategy to help clean up our major lakes and oceans and to improve access to safe drinking water for first nations. Mr. Chair, that is excellent news. And again, it was endorsed by Parliament. We've already taken action on that strategy by announcing a plan to get tough on sewage dumping and to bring in tough new regulations on sewage treatment across the country. Chair, himself expressed concern about the blue-green algae, and we've supported that report to the House. But also we need to deal with agriculture, we need to deal with blue-green algae from sewage, and that's what this government has done. Again, we've received the endorsement of Parliament to bring that message to Indonesia.
Last week, Canada's government announced $42.5 million for Canadian oceans. That's amazing, Mr. Chair. Not only does this take action on ocean protection, but it helps protect environmentally sensitive areas across Canada, such as the Scott Islands in British Columbia, working with groups like the World Wildlife Fund.
Mr. Chair, for far too many years the previous Liberal government—long years, Mr. Chair—failed to act on the environment. Canada will finally have the tough national rules needed to improve water quality, to protect the health of Canadians, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and to globally deal with the issue that we all need to deal with.
Here are the facts. The opposition can't ask the government to do something it didn't do itself; there's an inconsistency. We saw under the Liberals that greenhouse gas emissions increased by 33% above target. Is that what Canadians were promised? No, in 1993 they promised to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The previous government committed to meeting the Kyoto Protocol and in 2004 ended up 33% above the target, above those promises.
We heard today that there has been a failure to fight climate change. Part of that failure is the responsibility of some around this table. Decisions were made to not take seriously the issue of climate change. We heard that from the minister today.
We owe it to Canada, we owe it to the globe, to get serious, and this government has. Failure to fight climate change is not an option. We must face the challenge head-on. We heard that from the minister today, and we need to take that message not only here in Canada, but to Indonesia.
Chair, I think it's appropriate to continue the support, as I said earlier to members of this committee. In the House, some did not support it, but the majority of Parliament did endorse the message of the government that we heard in the Speech from the Throne, and it's to get serious about climate change. We've turned the corner on 13 long years of Liberal inaction.
We need to look at solutions, and this government is committed to solutions, solutions such as energy efficiency, renewable fuels, carbon capture and storage, a domestic carbon trading market. And we want to work with the United States, with China, and with India to make sure they are committed to the solution.
We all remember the chart we saw here not very long ago, a chart that showed increases in greenhouse gas emissions that will be coming from India and China and the United States. We have an obligation—I believe each one of us believes in that obligation—to deal with it. We need to deal with the problem. The problem is growing greenhouse gas emissions.
Chair, how do we do that? We need to make sure everybody is participating. If you saw somebody there with a garden hose emptying water onto a lawn, and it's flooding, you would stop the flood, stop this abuse, and stop the waste of this water, this precious resource. It's one thing to water a lawn, but to have it soak and waste and to see the water running down the curb would be a terrible waste. That's what we're seeing in the environment. We have to turn those taps off. We have to stop the abuse of the atmosphere. We have to stop the abuse of dumping excess amounts of carbon dioxide, greenhouse gas emissions, into our atmosphere.
We heard, actually, from , I believe it was, last week, or it may have been at the beginning of this week, but he talked about dumping greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere at the expense of the globe. I'm paraphrasing; I hope I'm not misquoting him. I agree. There has been a past history of governments doing that, of dumping excess greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. What do we have as a result of that? Climate change. We have warming climates.
We've heard through the IPCC report that even if Canada and the United States were to go down to zero emissions, to stop everything, greenhouse gas emissions would continue to rise. We saw that on chart number 4.
So how important is it that we have everybody participating? Again, going back to that analogy, I have too many people putting water on the lawn. It's gone far beyond watering the lawn; it's now flooding it and wasting this resource. We need to get China to start closing that tap. When? Now. How about India? How about the United States? To get a solution to deal with the crisis of climate change, you have to get all the major emitters to be part of the solution. That's what the has said. Clearly, he has taken that leadership. Also, the minister is going to be taking that message to Indonesia.
Mr. Chair, I think it's critical that we continue our support, continue the endorsement. I'm concerned that if members around this table don't support that, they're not supporting how they voted in regard to the Speech from the Throne. What kind of message does that give? We need consistency. We need to deal with the issue of climate change.
Mr. Chair, I think the motion is very clear. It supports continuing the mandate, and I hope all members will support this.
--giving of his time unselfishly as he did.
Canada will continue to work forcefully within the United Nations process. I think we set the tone in Uganda at Kampala and will in the days ahead as well. The Canadian delegation--the member Mr. McGuinty actually made that point in the House, for all of us there--will not include him. It will be a much tighter, more focused delegation than ever before.
An hon. member: How do you know?
Mr. Maurice Vellacott: We know that opposition MPs are free to attend. You can attend if you choose; there's nothing stopping you. The member from Ottawa South can go off to that place if he wants. He had his chance to stand up and represent Canadians. He didn't. He could have represented those Canadians he speaks of as representing, but he didn't. He abstained. The House of Commons gave this government, the Conservative government, a mandate, and a mandate on the environment in particular, while he sat on his seat. He sat on his hands there for a period of time, not standing up for Canadians on this issue, as he should have. But in fact by way of his abstaining he actually gave support to the government and the mandate of this government.
I'd like to remind the House as well that when this delegation goes to Indonesia, it's a good delegation, and they won't be there with the intent to embarrass Canada. I think some of the performances at Bonn were pretty shameful. It's clear that the opposition parties--it would appear again even today by this late-breaking tactic and a motion thrown in at the last moment here--are trying to derail the committee, I suppose, in part. It's clear that the opposition parties are not interested in working abroad, and they would rather use it as a platform to make partisan political attacks. They can do that at their own expense, but not on the government dime.
Really, the functioning of this committee is not a partisan exercise, but it's a working meeting on the next step in the process. I think the honourable member well knows that. The provinces will have representation there as well. Various environmental groups, and other third parties, will be there. They're planning on attending and there's really nothing stopping them. They'll be there.
I cited before, in addition to the other good stuff that was up on the screen here earlier, a statement from the British High Commission, and one of their very first points was this issue of universal participation. It was Mr. Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada, who pressed that issue, and finally they got consensus at Kampala. They state that as their very first aspiration for what's to take place in Bali from December 3 to December 14, launching, as they say, a very important process. It's a process of the highest importance for the whole international community. And as they set out their aspirations, in particular they say: we seek universal participation, and we look for agreement on a global, long-term stabilization goal. And our party is pushing, as our government is pushing, as our environment minister and the Prime Minister just previously did as well, for absolute emission reductions by developed countries.
I think that's pretty stellar, to be showing leadership abroad, but again, as I said in my questions to the minister as well, I think it's even more vital to be showing to us the fact that we have leadership on the home front as well.
I don't think, Mr. Chairman, the Canadian public will be fooled. Liberals in action have been well documented. We can look at what the environment commissioner reported from 1998 to 2006. There's the 1998 report--you can get the whole context there, but it's true to the nature of the report--where the environment commissioner says bluntly that “the federal government”--the Liberal government at that time--“is failing to meet its policy commitments”.
The environment commissioner went on to say in 1999 in that year's report: “federal departments were divided on the degree and significance of risks posed by some individual toxic substances, the interpretation and application of legislation and the nature of their respective roles and authorities. We noted that this division has led to indecision, inaction and strained relations among departments and agencies.”
That's not me saying that, Mr. Chairman. That's actually the well-regarded environment commissioner in her report in 1999.
The environment commissioner goes on to say more in the 2000 report--there seems to be a bit of a pattern here--making the point that there were “persistent problems with the federal government's management of key issues like climate change, toxic substances and biodiversity.” I continue to quote: “As a result, commitments made to Canadians were not”--I underline “were not”--“being met.”
Then again, we could carry on here. The 2001 report states that the continued upward trend in Canada's emissions demonstrates that the government has not transformed its promises into results.
I hope this is insightful for you, Mr. Chair, because as I promised, I would hope to enlighten you and go on at length here in respect to the motion before us now.
In 2002 the report by the environment commissioner said, “The federal government's sustainable development deficit is continuing to grow.” So again, we have it on and on like that.
But it's clear from the environment commissioner with respect to the abject failure of this government in respect to environmental issues. There are others as well that we could cite, but I think that's a fairly objective source we have to refer to.
In contrast to that, Mr. Chair, as you well know...because I know you follow these issues with great interest and you are an astute student of these things. You would be well aware, Mr. Chair, Mr. Regan, that the government has announced a fairly clear agenda for the environment. It's out there. It's on the record. Our plan will continue to deliver realistic and achievable results on cleaning up our environment.
That's what I'm hearing from my constituents, what they want. They want the practical deliverables. When I talk to youth, when I talk to others, I find that the airy-fairy approach of blowing hot air in terms of fine speeches and so on.... They want to see the consequence of action, significant action forward, concrete steps that are taken. And so they will.
Our plan will continue to achieve those realistic and achievable results on cleaning up our environment. It focused on some fairly broad action here at home, and it continued internationally--