Mr. Speaker, I would like to pick up precisely where we just left off. This is an important debate about the environmental regime in the country.
I would like first though, to go back and congratulate all of those hundreds of Canadian government officials, the lawyers at Justice Canada, all the witnesses who appeared and brought their wisdom and their experience to bear on this bill, a new environmental enforcement bill for the country.
I would like to pick up on something else I just mentioned to the parliamentary secretary. In response to his claim that the government is not whittling down environmental assessment standards, he said that it is all about the need to streamline. Maybe I could paraphrase for government members who are listening. Maybe what the parliamentary secretary meant to say is that it is all about eliminating red tape, or worse, maybe it is about eliminating green tape.
That is very interesting because that is the typical ideological spin that comes from far-right regimes that claim to be in favour of the free action of the free market. They believe their job is to remove impediments from the free market. That has been the mantra and the spin of successive far-right governments.
It certainly was the mantra of the previous Ontario government that led Ontario into almost economic ruin. It would not be surprising for Canadians to conclude that that mantra still resonates inside the current government's cabinet, given that five key ministers in the government were part of the Harris regime which set my home province of Ontario on fire. It was the same mantra we heard then, but here is the problem. There is not a single shred of evidence to substantiate the government's claim that there is a need to whittle down environmental assessment, which is linked to environmental enforcement whether the government likes it or not. There is not a single shred of evidence to link that whittling down of standards to its need and our collective need to invest in stimulus projects across the country. Nothing has been put forward by the government.
The real problem with this is that we have a who is trying to put drapes in the window by saying that the Conservatives are going to get tough on environmental crime, which again is part of the ideological spin of a typical far-right regime, while at the same, with his left hand, in the dead of night, without consultation, without parliamentary debate, without it coming to committee, he is actually issuing backgrounders and he is whittling the regulations on environmental assessment that are here for all Canadians to read and know.
It is really important to link these environmental assessment changes to the environmental enforcement bill because the two intersect and they are critical to drive up our environmental standards.
Let us take a look at what the Conservatives are doing here on environmental assessment.
As I mentioned, the Conservatives are bringing in regulatory changes, not through a House of Commons debate and not through a committee debate, but surreptitiously, in the dead of night, they are issuing new regulatory standards which will do the following. Effectively, from now until March 31, 2011, virtually every single project in this country that is subject to a federal environmental assessment that is worth $10 million or less, and $10 million is a very big project in the majority of Canadian municipalities, townships and towns, will no longer be subject to federal environmental assessment.
I understand that Mr. Mulroney is testifying down the hall on another matter. However, I suspect that if he found out that this new regime, this far-right Reform, Republican, Conservative regime was undermining the very environmental assessment that Brian Mulroney brought into this country in 1992, he would be displeased, I am sure. At best, he would be displeased.
The Conservatives are saying that where the sensitive area is protected by the federal government, the total cost for the project must be less than $10 million and measures must be in place to protect the area in order to be excluded. What measures? Set out by whom? By what department? By the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency? By the proponents? By a waste management company? By a municipality? By whom? What measures?
Then the Conservatives proudly herald in their news release that on as many as 2,000 infrastructure projects over two years, that is, 1,000 projects a year, as if they are going to move 1,000 stimulus projects a year through this Parliament, through the government, will no longer need an environmental assessment. They herald this proudly. Ninety per cent of environmental assessments for these types of projects will no longer have to be completed. Two thousand projects over two years will be exempted from the requirement for federal environmental assessment as a result of the government's regulation. Are the Conservatives serious?
It is unbelievable. It is actually more unbelievable because they are heralding this as progress. I am sure Mr. Mulroney, Mr. McMillan and real Progressive Conservative governments would have a lot to say about this.
It goes much further. They actually say that the federal environmental assessment process can be substituted by provincial environmental assessment regimes and processes.
Well, I checked into that too. It turns out that not a single province has an agreement with the federal government to allow for its EA processes to take the place of a federal one. Furthermore, evidence provided by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency tells us that if we substitute a provincial environmental assessment for a federal one, it is not actually catching all of the requirements under a federal EA regime.
Number one, provinces do not agree with this. Number two, it does not catch all the federal environmental assessment requirements. Number three, there is no agreement with any province anywhere. In fact, in the federal-provincial meeting where this was tangentially mentioned, there was not even a reference to this in the news release. It did not form part of any kind of communiqué. It was nowhere to be seen.
There was no discussion, no agreement, no substitutability and no identical substitutability. Then it goes further. The minister and his government say that the public have to have access to documents and they have to be able to participate if it is a provincial regime. If the provincial environmental assessment regime is kicking in and is substitutable for the federal one, the public must have access to documents and members of the public must be able to participate.
There is a problem with that. First, the allowed amendments to the Navigable Waters Protection Act to be inserted into a budget implementation bill as one of nine poison bills because he knew he could not get them through the front door of Parliament. What is really going on here is under the Navigable Waters Protection Act the minister is given unfettered discretion to decide whether environmental assessments should or should not occur. There is no conditionality attached around the public having to have access to documents. There is no conditionality here about the public having to participate. What is it going to be? There is absolutely no coherence in these changes that are being brought here for the environmental assessment regime in Canada, and it links directly to this question of environmental enforcement.
What the government gives with its right hand, it is taking away with its left. It is taking away with a left hand that is incoherent in between the EA changes and the Navigable Waters Protection Act.
The Conservatives say that they are going to consider a comprehensive reform of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act by 2011. I am not sure what that means. They go on to say, as I said earlier, it is 2,000 infrastructure projects that will no longer be caught. That could apply to all kinds of wonderful projects. Let me give Canadians an opportunity to understand exactly what kinds of projects will no longer be environmentally assessed by these federal Reform Conservatives.
For example, on modifying a municipal or community building for energy efficiency, an environmental assessment is not required. On modifying a municipal or community building, an EA is not required. On putting in public transit under $10 million, and supporting structures, an environmental assessment not required. On modifying a municipal or community facility for collecting, processing, diverting, treating or disposing of solid waste, an environmental assessment is not required. Imagine that, for the vast majority of landfills in Canada worth $10 million or less as projects, no more environmental assessments are required.
It goes on. If it has to deal with, for example, setting up residential, institutional or other accommodations, no environmental assessment is required. For meeting rooms, hotels and related facilities, no environmental assessment is required. For hospitals and emergency facilities, no environmental assessment is needed. For schools, universities, colleges, banks, financial services and information facilities, no environmental assessment is needed. For cultural, heritage, artistic, tourism facilities and services, no environmental assessment is required. For setting up an ecotourism system or a waste management system worth less than $10 million, no environmental assessment is needed.
For municipal parking garages worth less than $10 million, no environmental assessment is required. No environmental assessment is required for artistic, cultural and sporting facilities, and the list goes on and on. But it gets worse. Public transit facilities are no longer subject to an environmental assessment, as long as the facility is more than 250 metres away from an environmentally sensitive area. No environmental assessment is needed for a $10 million public transit addition, for example, in a small city or municipality in Canada. If we are installing, operating, expanding or modifying a rapid transit bus system, as long as it is not closer than 250 metres to an environmentally sensitive area, no environmental assessment is required. If we are modifying or expanding a public transit or railway system, no environmental assessment is needed. It goes on and on.
It is very unfortunate. It is something that we intend to continue raising here on behalf of all Canadians and on behalf of all cities and municipalities, and all proponents of projects. We know there is a link between enhanced enforcement, and a link between environmental assessment and standards that will drive up our competitiveness in this international carbon constrained marketplace that we are hurtling toward at breakneck speed.
My second theme today has to deal with how the commissioner's report applies to the question of environmental enforcement. It is a very fascinating read. Canadians should read it on the website. They should examine it. They should take a look at what has been going on for three and a half years on environmental enforcement on the climate change side and on the fish habitat side.
Let us turn to climate change first. That is a fascinating read. It tells us exactly what we have been saying for three and a half years to the government with respect to its third, second and first climate change plans. First of all, the environment commissioner and the Auditor General of Canada said that Environment Canada could not demonstrate that the emission reductions expected were based on an adequate rationale. The climate change plans overstate the reductions deliberately. They overstate the reductions that can be expected from the government's own plan.
I am wondering if that means the government is ignorant of its own potential targets. Is it ignorant with respect to whether the plan can achieve those targets, or is it deliberately misleading Canadians by saying we are going to achieve more reductions than we actually can?
This is linked to environmental enforcement. If we are not going to be environmentally enforcing the most important and pressing concern of the century, if not the millennia, which is the climate change crisis, what would it apply to? The Conservatives cannot provide a rationale. They are overstating the reductions. The third point the Auditor General's office is making is that the Conservatives' plans are not transparent. They do not disclose how they expect reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to be affected by future economic conditions.
Why is that important? It is important because the government now, as we move to deal with the NDP's bill on climate change, Bill , is demanding that it be costed. The Conservatives are saying that private members' bills now must be costed. The problem is that they have not costed their own plan. That is what the commissioner is telling us. How can we move to environmentally enforce a plan that the Conservatives themselves have not costed?
“It has no system”, the Auditor General goes on to say, “for reporting the actual emission reductions achieved from the measures in the annual climate change plan that this party, this official opposition, forced on the government to hold it accountable through the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act”.
The real kicker, and the really problematic part of the commissioner's report today is the following. I need to read this to be absolutely accurate. It states, “However, in the plans prepared to date”, the report says, “the department has not explained why expected emission reductions can be estimated in advance”--as the Conservatives keep telling us, for example, about 20% cuts by 2020, using intensity targets--“but the actual reductions cannot be measured after the fact for individual measures”. Something needs to give here in terms of environmental enforcement.
On the climate change front, we have heard enough now to conclude, Canadians must conclude, the commissioner is telling them to conclude and the Auditor General is telling them to conclude, that the climate change plan being put forward by the government is a fraud. Every time we raise questions about it, only one response is given by the ministers and the , which is that they are dialoguing with the American administration, as if it started in 2009.
We know that the energy dialogue was launched between Canada, the United States and Mexico in 2001. In 2006, when the government was elected, it wiped the slate clean because everything that came before was bad in Conservative speak and everything that came after was good. Therefore, it cancelled five years of dialogue and rebooted it in 2009 as an announcement when President Obama was here. However, Canadians will not be fooled. They know this is not a climate change plan.
I now turn to the question of environmental enforcement when it comes to protecting our fish habitat. Fish habitat, one might say, is not too important and maybe it is something that is tangential but not quite. The commercial fishing sector in 2005 generated $2.2 billion in economic activity and it employed more than 80,000 people in fishing and fish processing activities. More than 3.2 million Canadians participate in recreational fishing which contributed in 2005 some $7.5 billion to Canada's economy.
Now that we know the context in which we are talking here, the magnitude of the economic opportunities, let us talk about what is happening with environmental enforcement here.
First, the conclusion is that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is not cooperating in any meaningful way with Environment Canada.
Second, with respect to the state of fish habitat in our freshwaters, our lakes and our rivers, we have no idea whatsoever about the current state of Canada's fish habitat. We have no measurement and no data. We have nothing. Now one would assume, given the magnitude of that economic opportunity inherent in our freshwater fisheries and in recreational fishing, leaving aside the huge costs associated, for example, with a collapse like the cod fishery, that the government would be investing more in science, more in tracking and more in monitoring. However, not quite. We found out today that the government's budget is cutting scientific and monitoring support for the very habitats we should be looking to first, quantify, and second, move to manage because we cannot manage that which we do not measure.
On that note, I would conclude by imploring the government, now that it has delivered up an environmental enforcement bill that began under a previous Liberal regime and amends nine acts, which were brought in by previous Liberal governments, to make a decision on what it wants to do. It needs to make coherent the environmental assessment regime, which is weakening, the environmental enforcement regime, which we are working collectively on to strengthen, and decide whether we are going in one direction or in two directions. This dichotomy cannot stand and I ask the government to turn its attention to making the entire system more coherent.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill . The least that can be said is that this bill is a lengthy one. It amends a number of environmental statutes and it has been anticipated for a very long time. When it comes to environmental protection, be it the Migratory Birds Act, the Fisheries Act or the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, we have too often seen Canadian legislation that gives polluters a break.
Canada does have environmental legislation, but when we look more specifically at the regulatory regime associated with each act, in terms of fines and penalties, we realize that for some companies it may unfortunately be to their advantage to pollute. The penalties and fines are so low that it is worth it to break the laws enacted by Parliament. That is what was perverse in the regulatory regimes that we were presented with up to now.
The truth of this can be seen in the fact that in February 2009 a company like Syncrude in Alberta could discharge toxic substances into the tailings ponds used in oil sands production, with the result that nearly 500 ducks were killed. What was the consequence for Syncrude? It was sentenced to a maximum fine of $800,000 or a maximum of six months’ imprisonment.
We know these companies that make profits that might be described as colossal. An $800,000 fine is not much to pay to keep exploiting the oil sands. And so we saw companies polluting our environment with impunity, telling themselves it was better to keep going and pay the fines than to lose some of their profits. This is not acceptable in a regulatory regime when we want to send business a message. The polluter-pay principle must be applied, not the polluter-paid principle.
For that reason, we supported Bill in principle when it was introduced. We worked with all of the opposition parties and with the government to make some improvements, and we listened to the witnesses. When the bill was considered in committee, we realized that some witnesses had not been consulted by the government. We can agree or disagree with certain industries. I am thinking, for example, of people in the shipping industry, who told us they had not been consulted before Bill C-16 was introduced. That is totally unacceptable.
The government has a number of consultation mechanisms. It has advisory committees. This is a bill that the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development is asking for. This change in the regulatory regime has been called for by the environment committee since 1998. For over 11 years, parliamentarians, in committee, have been asking the government to amend the penalty and fine regimes because they were unacceptable. For 11 years, the government could have consulted industry, and it did not so. That is somewhat disappointing.
That is why the parliamentary committee decided to invite both the Shipping Federation of Canada and the workers affected by the legislative changes. As I said, these were essential changes requested by the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development back in 1998 in a report called “Enforcing Canada’s Pollution Laws: the Public Interest Must Come First”. Back in 1998, as I remember, during the 36th Parliament, the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development made 24 recommendations to the government, including four that I will repeat: first, that the minister should develop and publish a comprehensive enforcement and compliance policy with the act; second, that the minister should undertake a comprehensive review of the regulations—and revise them if necessary—to ensure that they are adequate, up-to-date and enforceable; third, that the minister should take the necessary steps to have certain offences designated for the purposes of the ticketing provisions under the Contraventions Act; and fourth, that more resources should be assigned to the proper enforcement of environmental legislation.
These four groups of recommendations were at the heart of the 24 recommendations of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development regarding the enforcement of the law. That is the reality in Canada.
I was first elected in 1997 and have seen a number of pieces of legislation passed in this House, including the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, the Species at Risk Act, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, and all the rest of the environmental legislation. In actual fact, though, this legislation is not enforced. As a result, one of the committee’s recommendations in 1999 was that more resources be assigned to the proper enforcement of environmental legislation.
It is no use having the best environmental legislation, the best Canadian Environmental Protection Act, if there are no authorities with the power to enforce it, nor the resources to do so. Despite the existing legislation, the result is a complete mess on the environmental level.
That is why our regulatory regime had to be modernized. Penalties had to be increased considerably to avoid tragedies like the one I described with Syncrude, which had charges laid against it in February 2009. We should also remember the Exxon Valdez catastrophe that happened 20 years ago in the north. That kind of thing must never happen again because the people responsible got off very lightly, not only to the detriment of the ecosystem but also of the economic development of these regions. In order to avoid situations like that, we need to be very strict and increase the penalties. However, our environment cannot be protected with just a law and order approach.
We cannot simply increase our fines and prison terms. We also have to change our ways of doing things. We have to be able to say to companies like Syncrude that if they do not install nets to protect ducks, they will be subject to increased fines of something like $4 million, as provided under the new regime in Bill .
We must make people realize that the decisions we make with respect to production and consumption have enormous consequences.
Let us look at the oil sands development. It is a good example. It is not only a contravention of the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, but also a contravention of the legislation we have passed here in this House.
The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development has demonstrated this to us today. Bill , which was introduced in this Parliament by the hon. member for , was passed at first and second reading and amended in parliamentary committee. Then it received royal assent. It requires the government to report annually in compliance with its obligations under the Kyoto protocol. But the government has not honoured its commitments.
The example of oil sands development is not just a violation of the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, which is being amended today, it is also a violation of the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, for which we are still awaiting a regulatory framework from the government.
When this bill was introduced, we expected the government to announce something about Canada’s environmental compliance with respect to climate change. We expected the government to move from a regulatory framework on climate change to actual legislation on climate change, as Quebec has announced today.
Quebec has introduced a bill to comply with its climate change obligations by setting a cap on greenhouse gas emissions, and to fall in line with what U.S. President Obama is about to do by setting an environmental cap and trade, capping greenhouse gas emissions and creating the structure and framework for a carbon market that can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.
Meanwhile, today in this House, we are debating whether we are going to increase the fines from $800,000 to $4 million for those who decide not to install a net near a settling pond at the oil sands sites.
Eleven years after the report of the environment committee was submitted, we are still thinking about what we should do under existing environmental legislation, whereas in Quebec and the United States they are debating laws on climate change.
Quebec and other provinces like Manitoba, which produced one of the first plans for fighting climate change, the American states and the American administration have understood that when we fight climate change, we are tackling a number of environmental issues; we are tackling the importance of adopting renewable energy; we are making sure that we have greater energy efficiency in our homes and in industry; we are protecting ecosystems; and we are protecting our water resources.
If Canada adopted climate change legislation, our energy production would very probably no longer be the same. We would no longer have to count on oil sands production and exploitation as an energy source in Canada. If we did not have to do that, we would not be talking today about whether we should increase fines under the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, to $4 million from $800,000.
We would not be asking how we can protect our water quality in Canada, because we would have decided to use renewable energy. We would be using that resource to produce energy rather than using it to extract oil in the west. We would be using wind to produce energy. We would be using our natural resources intelligently, not just to produce energy, but also to create an economic force in North America. That is what the American administration has understood and what the Conservative government has failed to understand.
Our energy policy and economic policy are still in the stone age. We still believe that fossil fuel is where the energy revolution in Canada lies, when it really lies somewhere else altogether. We have moved from a coal revolution to an oil revolution, and tomorrow it will be a renewable energy revolution. That is where we are going, but the government is instead deciding to invest in the oil industry and provide billions of dollars in tax incentives to an industry that is exploiting a resource that does nothing but create environmental externalities and that puts Canada in the stone age of economic development.
That is totally unacceptable. It is not the path that Quebec has decided to follow. Quebec has decided to invest in renewable energy and focus on energy efficiency. If we are not capable of connecting the east and west to fight climate change, Quebec will make the connection between north and south, if need be. If Canada does not understand that energy for the future means developing renewable energy, if Canada does not understand that this calls for a cap and trade system, if Canada is not prepared to understand that we need a carbon exchange, we will do business with the American states, because they will understand that in budgetary terms and in fiscal terms, that is the direction the future is taking us.
When we compare the budget to the budget presented by the Obama administration, we realize that Canada is investing only one sixth as much per capita in energy efficiency and renewable energy as our neighbours to the south. Is this acceptable, when we know that every dollar invested in fighting climate change creates jobs? This is so well known that the UN has invited United Nations member countries to adopt what is called a Green New Deal. If we are to have an economic recovery, we have to inject massive amounts of money into our economy to create green jobs. And all this time, the government is bringing in budgets that give the oil industry tax incentives and help to increase greenhouse gas emissions.
Today, we are debating a bill that increases environmental penalties when we should be debating legislation and a bill on climate change. That is what we expect and we hope to have it before the climate change conference to be held in Copenhagen next December.
Mr. Speaker, it is of great interest to be entering this afternoon's debate. I think it is precipitous also for the timing. Just this afternoon, Canadians saw the Auditor General of this country and the Commissioner of the Environment release their extensive report, which turns into a condemnation of the government's own ability and willingness to enforce the laws, their own laws, that are on the books.
Here in Bill , which is substantial in size, one must be given over to the question of whether this is actually going to take place. These rules and regulations, this set of fines and penalties that the government has little or no intention of actually enforcing, are no laws at all.
There are number of themes that are recurrent in Bill , which is, in a sense, a housekeeping bill that tries to gather together a number of environmental penalties and set minimums and maximums for those infringements on the environment.
I myself represent Skeena—Bulkley Valley, which is the northwest quarter of British Columbia. It is absolutely rich in resources but also a conduit for some of the most volatile and dangerous goods in Canada and a place where some of the most dangerous projects are being pushed by the government, and hopefully the former government in British Columbia, such projects as coal bed methane and offshore oil and gas.
While the government promotes these projects, what is relevant to Bill is that they say Canadians should rest assured that if we are going to roll the dice on this oil and gas project in a sensitive ecosystem, in the Hecate Strait, which is the windiest, waviest place in Canada, it is okay to put the rigs up because we have strong environmental laws.
That is what has been proposed and Canadians can sleep well and rest assured, but lo and behold, when the auditor of the country comes forward and takes a look at the enforcement of those laws, the measurement of the pollution, the accountability and transparency of government, the laws do not become worth the paper they are written on. This is what calls into question the efforts of the government in Bill .
There was good work done by my colleague, the member for , on the bill at committee in trying to augment the penalties, because we see a rise in penalties to individuals who pollute the environment but we do not see the same concurrent rise in penalties for corporations.
We see that businesses, in a sense, are meant to keep the status quo, while individual Canadians, heaven forbid if they were to do the same thing, would see an increase of four times and more in the penalties.
The enforcement of any of these rules is absolutely essential and critical, because again, the government could give a wink and a nod to industry in saying it will put out a bunch of regulations.
I do not know if members of the House or the public remember when the minister announced the bill. It was quite a flashy display. He spent tens of thousands of Canadians' hard-earned dollars, taxpayers' dollars, to walk down the street some several hundred metres to a five-star hotel to announce that this bill was coming up.
He could not do it here in Parliament, which was sitting that day. We have many nice rooms in which to announce bills. The minister thought it was very important to show the seriousness of the government's intention. He actually had enforcement officers. I always feel sorry for these men and women of the force, because they have to do it. They have to stand there as props for the government, to show how tough the minister was going to be on environmental polluters, meanwhile in full knowledge of the audit going on in his own department showing that there was no enforcement intention from the government. It was not going to bring these penalties or any such penalties.
Whether it is straight out pollution we are talking about, oil spills, toxic spills, leaks, sewage and all the rest, we see the government stripping environmental regulation after regulation. It includes the loopholes for assessments, saying more and more projects of greater size and potential impact are going to be exempt from assessments.
We saw the absolute travesty that was in the budget. There were many, but there was one in particular with respect to the environment. The government used the budget as a Trojan horse. It wheeled the thing in here saying it was all about the economy, and it slipped inside it a little piece about the Navigable Waters Protection Act.
In the Navigable Waters Protection Act, the government stripped out a whole lot of regulations. Conservation groups have been coming to me and other members of the House with serious and deep concerns, not only about the effect that this stripping of the Navigable Waters Protection Act will have on our environment and the conservation of our environment but the fact that there was no debate and discourse whatsoever.
This is a government claiming transparency and accountability, and it slides into a bill about the budget a piece about the environment and navigable waters and the protection of our streams and rivers in this country. Conservation groups such as the B.C. Wildlife Federation got involved, and Mountain Equipment Co-op, for goodness sake. All these groups raised a concern in a coalition scrambled together at the last minute, because they never thought a government would do this kind of thing and strip out a 100-year-old act.
It was one of the first acts put forward and brought to full comprehension in this country to protect navigable waters, the waterways that Canadians relied on for trade and commerce and now rely on for a whole assortment of reasons. The government chose a budget, in which to fundamentally change the act.
The government claims, and it goes to Bill again, that there was too much red tape and it was holding up all those shovel-ready projects that we now know the government has hardly spent $1 on. I asked the government, if this was so important and there were so many projects being held up, to provide Canadians and members of Parliament with a list of all the projects, of all the jobs that were not being created because of the terrible Navigable Waters Protection Act, to show us the proof and evidence as to why it had to strip out this bill.
Of course, the government provided nothing, not a single project anywhere in the country that condoned this. Then one begins to question the philosophy and to suspect what the government is truly about when it comes to protecting our environment.
This bill has a whole series of thoughtful comments and amendments to eight other acts in Canada. As I said, it is quite a hefty tome and quite complicated, but is it worth the paper it is written on if the government does not actually intend to enforce it?
We see this again in the auditor's report. A private member's bill was brought forward by the official opposition and was worked on by all members of the House in the last Parliament. The government is just choosing not to abide by a Canadian law.
It is here, in the government's own words and text, where Environment Canada says it does not need to actually monitor greenhouse gas emissions, but here is the irony. It can measure the emissions that it is going to count on in the government's own plan in the future, but it cannot take account of anything that has happened in the past. How are Canadians meant to have confidence in the government's ability to negotiate anything, what to order for lunch, never mind a serious agreement like what will happen in Copenhagen?
According to the Auditor General, and I will quote in order to get it right, “In the plans prepared to date, the department has not explained why expected emissions reductions can be estimated”, so those are the estimated reductions in the government's own plans, “in advance but actual reductions”, meaning what is actually happening in the environment, “cannot be measured after the fact”.
The government feels totally confident in saying to Canadians that it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by such-and-such by such-and-such a date. It can measure that and get that accurate, but it cannot measure the things that have already happened because it is too complicated and not cost-effective to measure.
Going back to the idea of enforcement and penalties, this comes from a party that has prided itself on being tough on crime and on pushing every criminal to the letter of the law. It campaigns on it every time, but it only means it for certain types of criminals, not ones who pollute our environment. Those ones get off the hook. For those ones, it will not press the letter of the law. It has been shown time and time again.
This is a government that picks what criminals it will go after. Some are truly criminal, while there are others who, say, tip over a railcar and dump it into a lake and pollute the rivers or put out greenhouse gases that endanger future generations, who break the government's own regulations and laws, and the government may or may not enforce those penalties. Those criminals, the government is not planning to get tough on.
One cannot help but wonder about the collusion at the moment of the crime, when the government puts forward Bill and other such bills and says it will quadruple the fines for individuals but it will leave the fines for corporations the same. Then the Auditor General says, with regard to the few regulations that exist for pollutants under the greenhouse gas emission acts that exist as law in this place, the government is unable to enforce them, unable to account and does not provide the penalties. How can Canadians have confidence in the government when it cannot follow through on such simple measures?
The very industries that are doing this polluting, or those that are suspected to, have asked the present government and the previous government for certainty. They want to know what the rules are.
Industry wants to know what the actual carbon emissions limits and pollution costs will be, because it can put that into its actual budgets. Industry can figure out what the cost of doing business will be.
Instead, the government slipstreams in behind the United States and is just waiting, forming a talk shop with the Obama administration.
The actual regulations are two years late in terms of the government's own promised commitments to bring them forward to industry and to Canadians. They are two years late by the government's own fault and admission. Nobody here is holding them up. These regulations are done in-house. They do not even have to be brought to Parliament.
For two years, industry and Canadians have been waiting and have received nothing. There is no excuse for the government. There is no logistical problem. There is no problem with the data. There is no problem with knowing what regulations to put in place, because all the other industrialized nations in the world have gone ahead of Canada and put the rules in place.
The fact of the matter is that the government is still stuck in a place where it is either the environment or the economy; it has to be one or the other. This is where the government is going to have to give itself a shake and wake up.
These are the same characters who would look at a GDP result and say it is the only measurement and number they need in order to know how the economy is doing.We in northwestern British Columbia know that after the Exxon Valdez spill, which occurred just north of where I live, the GDP went through the roof. It did fantastic that year for Alaska. Business was booming. According to the government's systemic failure to manage the economy, that was seen as successful.
The regulations that the government proposes in Bill , which is now before the House on its third and final reading, take small steps. However, at the basis of the philosophy of whether Canadians can feel confident about the government's sincerity and ability to actually enforce its own laws, it is found wanting time and again.
When the government sets the limits and the penalties so low, as it did in Bill , it allows business to slide them in as a cost of doing business. I do not see the government proposing such penalties in other areas of criminal law. With a $5 fine for a break and enter, a criminal could sit back and say, “Well, if that is the penalty to break into a house, that seems worth it.” The government understands in that case that it must present a penalty that is a deterrent, so that perhaps the criminal will not break into Canadians' homes and will not steal things.
Yet when it comes to the environment, the government provides paltry fines that a lot of the biggest and most profitable companies will look at as a cost of doing business. If the cost of making their production safe is x, as opposed y, which is the cost, maybe, of a fine, then if y is smaller than x, they will just not do it and will let the pollution run forth.
Industry knows that fines are not coming from the government, that enforcement is not coming. How do they know this? It is evidenced by the Auditor General of Canada, a non-partisan and unbiased officer of Parliament who looked at the government's own laws. It applied the test of those laws to the government and found it wanting yet again.
The only reason the government thinks it can get away with this is because it thinks there is no political consequence. The government thinks that presenting these laws with press announcements at the five-star hotel down the road will somehow replace actual effect, spending thousands of Canadian taxpayers' dollars to rent the place and send the whole press corps down the road so the minister can look tough standing in front of a bunch of enforcement officers, for what? Could it not have done the same thing 50 feet down the hall?
This reminds me of the previous environment minister who spent $85,000 to announce a plan in Toronto that he could have announced right here. He held three different press conferences: one for business in one part of the city, one for the media in another part of the city, and another one for the environmental groups. Tens of thousands of dollars were spent on this little charade. What was announced? It was the Turning the Corner plan.
What a fantastic plan, which was actually talked about in the auditor's report today, which the government cannot account for. The government has had three plans, three ministers, three years, and all have failed to get the job done.
So the government comes forward with Bill , an amalgamation of old acts and old bills that it wants to combine. It tells us to rest assured that it is going to get serious about the environment, finally. It is going to go after the polluters. The Conservatives shake their heads and rattle their sabres, but unfortunately, nothing changes.
I will go back to the point around certainty because it is important for Canadians to understand that this is the actual intersect between business and the environment.
Businesses consistently said to us that they were frustrated with the Liberal Party and the Liberal government because it announced Kyoto. The Liberals went to Kyoto, signed onto Kyoto, ratified Kyoto and promised rules. A great number of businesses, in good faith and good intention, went forward and made some of the changes that would be required under a carbon-constrained economy, which is in Kyoto and which other countries have actually done. They would make the change and the government would come up with another plan and say that it would get to the regulations later. They would make more changes, spend more money, make their businesses less polluting, hoping to get some credit for it and the government would say “later”.
Then the Conservatives came in and the same movie started again. They said that they would get serious, that this was their climate change plan. Because the first two failed, now they would turn the corner, and they called the document “Turning the Corner“. The Conservatives are turning the corner so many times they are walking in circles.
The fact is when we look for regulations, when we look for the hard evidence of what businesses can count on and account for in their own ledgers as to where they spend the money, what the price of carbon will be, how they trade on the carbon markets with the U.S. and the international community, there are none. There are promises that are now two years old, and industry is still waiting.
The minister pretended today, during the question and answer period, that he would somehow show up in Copenhagen with some ability to negotiate. How can the we negotiate without credibility? The other countries know Canada's record. They know the government's intensity-based plan is used by no one else. Not one country in the world uses intensity to measure its carbon emissions.
Does that not give Canadians pause? Have we stumbled upon some unique solution to climate change with which the other countries will jump on board? No one else uses it because it does not work. It is not effective. We cannot measure, we cannot manage, we cannot control under an intensity regime. We told the Conservatives, when they first came to government, that it was a farce.
Finally, two weeks ago the stood and said that maybe the intensity regime would not work, that maybe the government needed an actual hard limit. Two years were wasted again. Why? Because the government is interested in only taking policy, not making it.
When it comes to protecting our environment, when it comes to being responsible on greenhouse gas emissions, the Conservatives are found wanting, not simply by New Democrats, who proposed a comprehensive bill. The government asked for policy. We proposed Bill , which passed through the last Parliament, which the government killed by proroguing Parliament again. The Conservatives are addicted to this. How democratic and accountable is it when the government of the day, because it does not like what is going on, Parliament, shuts Parliament down and locks the doors.
It is getting to be a habit of the Conservative government. Three times it has done that. Three times it has killed its own legislation. The members will scream out “coalition”. Twice the Conservatives did it with no threat of anything other than laws that were in this place, put forward by elected people meant to represent the people of Canada, not the will of the Conservative Party of Canada.
Time and time again, Canadians have sent parliamentarians forward to do something about climate change, to bring legitimate legislation forward. It is no longer good enough for the Conservatives to sit on their moral high ground talking about transparency and accountability when the auditor of the country says that it is a lie, that it is otherwise, that it is a mistruth.
This cannot continue. The government has to own up to its responsibilities. It is the Government of Canada, not the government of the Conservative Party of Canada. When the Conservatives get that through their heads, they will finally start to bring legislation forward that matters, that makes a difference and that Canadians can start to believe in this place again and know this place can fix a problem that we all created.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill at second reading. This bill requires a respect for and an understanding of science and innovation, a discussion of climate change and real investment in climate science.
Science and innovation must be fundamental to this bill. Environmental enforcement requires monitoring and surveillance. If we look at the atmosphere, we must look at atmospheric chemistry and how carbon dioxide and methane increase in the atmosphere. It requires looking at ice cores and the percentage of carbon dioxide from two million years ago.
Science is important. Science and innovation matter more than ever, because the challenges we face, climate change, emerging diseases and shrinking biodiversity, are greater, and the potential benefits are larger. Canada must innovate to stay competitive, as our country must vie with emerging countries such as China. Fortunately, innovation can be cultivated through incentives for research and development that is important for environmental enforcement, encouraging higher education, fostering collaboration between business and universities and expanding excellent and relevant public research.
Innovation requires leadership and real reform. China, the United States and a few other countries are blazing a trail. Canada must also forge ahead.
President Obama understands that research is fundamental to meeting America's needs. During his inaugural speech, he said:
We will restore science to its rightful place... We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.
It is even more exciting that President Obama is backing his words with action and money. He appointed top scientists to key positions, including Nobel Prize winning physicist Steven Chu as energy secretary, and Harvard physicist John Holdren as head of the White House office of science and technology. Moreover, the Obama administration is adding $10 billion to finance basic research that is important to environmental monitoring.
In stark contrast, the three agencies that fund basic research in Canada must cut spending by $148 million over the next three years. James Drummond, chief scientist at the polar environment atmospheric research laboratory at Eureka says he will be able to improve the lab through new infrastructure funding but he will not be able to afford to operate it as the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences received no new money in the budget. Without new funding, the foundation will shut down by March 2010, along with 24 research networks studying climate change.
As a scientist and former professor, I know urgent action is needed to safeguard research, keep talent in Canada and build for a better economy and environment. The government must increase funding for Canada's three granting councils, and it should match, on a proportional basis, the support offered in the United States. The government should ensure that programs and scholarships funded by the granting agencies are not restricted to specific fields.
It is my fervent hope that President Obama's appreciation for research and his optimism will spread to Canada as we discuss environmental enforcement. Last year, an editorial in Nature criticized our government for closing the office of the national science advisor, its skepticism about the science of climate change and silencing federal researchers.
It is the second point that troubles me with respect to Bill , namely the failure to mention the elephant in the room: climate change.
The Conservative proudly reported:
In the election campaign, our government committed to bolster the protection of our water, air and land through tougher environmental enforcement that holds polluters accountable. Today we delivered. ...the new measures, will provide a comprehensive, modern and effective enforcement regime for Canada.
How truly comprehensive is the proposed bill if it fails to address our most pressing environmental issue, namely climate change?
Global warming will impact the very items that Bill aims to safeguard. As a result of climate change, we are already seeing changes in caribou, polar bear and seal populations, and changes in permafrost and impacts on traditional ways of life. In the future, climate change will potentially impact migratory birds, their flyways and possibly even the spread of influenza.
Our country's current climate change policies are widely criticized by external research bodies, parliamentarians, the public and the scientific community. In contrast, President Obama is recognized for taking global warming seriously. He is listening to scientists who tell us that the situation is outdistancing our efforts to confront it. The president said:
We all believe what the scientists have been telling us for years now, that this is a matter of urgency and national security and it has to be dealt with in a serious way.
President Obama has since called for hard caps on global warming, cleared the way for tougher clean car standards, declared an intention to play a constructive role in international climate negotiations and introduced a serious green stimulus package.
However, the believes the differences between the American and Canadian regimes are not nearly as stark as some would suggest. He said:
When I look at the President's platform, the kind of targets his administration has laid out for the reduction of greenhouse gases are very similar to ours.
Climate Action Network Canada and the US Climate Action Network, representing 100 leading organizations in Canada and the United States that are working together to prevent catastrophic climate change and promote sustainable and equitable solutions, argue that Canada needs to overhaul its current approach and raise its level of ambition to have a credible climate change policy.
Today the issue of climate change is more pressing than ever, as considerable time lags in the climate system mean that many impacts of climate change are already locked in over the coming decades. Today's buildings, power plants and transportation systems continue to produce increased emissions, meaning an even greater delay and increased warming in the future. Moreover, as some of the climate risks materialize, the economic costs will be much steeper than those from the current financial crisis.
Canadians want action on climate change, as recognized by a former Conservative environment minister who said, in 2007, “Canadians want action. They want it now.”
As testament to this, almost 10 million people participated in Earth hour 2008, in 150 cities from coast to coast to coast. People in cities across Canada held candlelight dinners, enjoyed time with family and friends and went on neighbourhood walks. In Toronto, electricity demand dropped by almost 9%, the equivalent of taking 260 megawatts off the grid or approximately 5.8 million light bulbs.
Canadians understand that Earth hour will not reverse or reduce climate change, but it will raise awareness about the climate change challenges the world is facing. Earth hour presents a good opportunity for people to show their federally elected representatives that they support action to fight climate change.
It is worth noting that most Canadian provinces have emission reduction targets that are much more ambitious than those of the federal government. Canada's largest province, Ontario, is moving ahead with the cap and trade system based on absolute caps aimed at meeting its reduction target of 15% below 1990 levels by 2020, with an implementation date of January 1, 2010.
The Conservative government must protect our atmosphere, and it must build partnerships with business, consumers, local authorities and the energy sector. It must find abatement solutions and reduce fossil fuel subsidies that currently put a premium rather than a penalty on CO2 emissions. Indications of climate change must be treated with the utmost seriousness and with the precautionary principle uppermost in parliamentarians' minds.
Extensive climate changes may alter and threaten the living conditions of humankind, which may lead to greater competition for the earth's resources and induce large-scale migration. Such changes will place particularly heavy burdens on the world's most vulnerable countries.
Leading entrepreneurs, scientists and thinkers identify the greatest challenges facing humanity over the next 50 years as producing clean energy, reprogramming genes to prevent disease and reversing the signs of aging. They describe sunshine as a source of environmentally friendly power, bathing the earth with more energy each hour than the planet's population consumes in a year. They identify the challenge, namely capturing one part in 10,000 of the sunlight that falls on the earth to meet 100% of our energy needs, converting it into something useful and then storing it.
Solving the clean energy challenge will change the world, but change will not be met without economic and political will, as cheap polluting technologies are often preferred over more expensive clean technologies despite environmental regulations.
However, humanity is up to this challenge, as shown by financial and political investment in President Kennedy's tremendous vision in 1961 to land a man on the moon, and the initiatives to build the CN Tower and construct the Chunnel connecting England and France.
Today we need a new vision, or in the words of James Collins, “a big hairy audacious goal”, a renewable energy goal that stimulates progress and leads to continuous improvement, innovation and renewal.
We must economically and politically invest in renewable energy to protect our environment. It is no longer a choice between saving our economy and saving our environment. Today it is a choice between prosperity and decline. It is a choice between being a principal producer and a consumer in the old economy of oil and gas or a leader in the new economy of clean energy.
We must remember that the country that leads the world in creating new energy sources will be the nation that leads the 21st century global economy.
Failure to limit climate change to 2°C above pre-industrial levels will make it impossible to avoid potentially irreversible changes to the earth's ability to sustain human development. We have a five in six chance of maintaining the 2°C limit, if worldwide greenhouse gas emissions are reduced by 80% by 2050 relative to 1990.
In light of this science, there were 17 sessions on climate change under the theme, “the shifting power equation”, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this year. A total of 2,400 global leaders, including 800 CEOs, attended sessions, such as the economics of climate change, make green pay, the legal landscape around climate change, the security implications of climate change, and culminating in a plenary session entitled “Climate Change: A Call to Action”.
Clearly, global business leaders recognize that climate change is a serious economic and social challenge and that delaying mitigation will make future action more costly. Business leaders are therefore committed to addressing climate change and are already undertaking emission reduction strategies in their companies. More important, they support the Bali action plan and its work program to negotiate a new international climate policy framework to succeed the Kyoto protocol, and are ready to work with governments to help this happen.
There are numerous opportunities to mitigate and adapt to climate change, from carbon capture and storage to cleaner diesel, to combined heat and power, to fossil fuel switching, and to hybrid vehicles, to name but a few key mitigation technologies.
In closing, our most daunting challenges are the global economic crisis and climate change. Humanity needs a climate change solution that is scientifically credible, economically viable and equable.
Finally, we must heed the words of 12-year-old Severn Suzuki who, at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, was fighting for her future and who challenged us to fight for all future generations when she said:
Do not forget why you are attending these conferences—who you are doing this for. We are your own children. You are deciding what kind of world we are growing up in. Parents should be able to comfort their children by saying, “Everything's going to be all right. It's not the end of the world. And we're doing the best we can”. But I don't think you can say that to us anymore.
Mr. Speaker, I have the opportunity today to speak on Bill .
I would say that this bill is something like an apple pie. No one can be against apple pie: the only thing is, apple pie does not solve all our problems. I say this because we are talking about standardizing the framework for monitoring environmental legislation and imposing harsher fines on polluters. This is all very good, and I think everyone will be in favour of it.
That being said, it is clearly not enough because, even though the potential fines provided for in the bill would be staggering, if there is no one to enforce the law, if there are not enough resources in Environment Canada and not enough commitment from the government to implement these laws, then quite simply no one will be fined, and so the deterrent effect that is sought will simply not be there.
On this subject, I would direct your attention to the report by Hélène Buzzetti in Le Devoir of March 5, 2009, that officials in the environment department had admitted that since 2000 there have been an average of 3 to 14 charges relating to enforcement of environmental legislation by the federal government, one to five convictions per year, and the maximum fine of $1 million has been imposed only once in 20 years. We think this is inadequate, even though the principle of the bill is most praiseworthy.
This bill entirely avoids the most glaring and most urgent environmental problem on the planet, namely, global warming and the increased concentration of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.
I would like to offer a little scientific reminder of what is happening to illustrate the difference between greenhouse gases and pollution. I remember hearing at the beginning of this government’s mandate, when we were studying the budget in the Standing Committee on Finance, that pollution would be tackled in order to reduce greenhouse gases. It must be clear that these are two different things. Once again, here we have a bill that aims to raise environmental standards and make them uniform—here this refers to pollution—but does not specifically target the greenhouse gas issue.
What is the difference? Pollutants are substances that are harmful to the environment, to human beings—in many cases—or to ecosystems. This includes oil spills, emissions of toxic products of all kinds and land development that is detrimental to an ecosystem's functioning. Wetlands are a good example; they are environments with very high biodiversity but where the ecological balance is also very fragile. There is a need for intervention on this issue.
Now, one might think that this bill is going in this direction. That is not entirely false, but at the same time—I repeat—this is only a way to paint things green. There must also be a real will to apply and enforce the law. However, all of this does not relate to the issue of the increase in greenhouse gas emissions.
When I heard the Conservatives confuse greenhouse gases with pollutants, I was a bit surprised because carbon dioxide, CO2, is not a pollutant. It occurs naturally in the environment and has no effect on the human body, provided it does not displace oxygen. Nothing changes. CO2 enters the lungs and comes out just the same.
The problem with greenhouse gases, as their name indicates, is that they reflect the sun’s rays back into the atmosphere, where the warmth is captured, like in a greenhouse. We are not talking about a pollutant here but an inert gas. There are other gases, too, but the main one is CO2, which is not affected by the legislation on toxic substances, spills, or any other legislation. It is not regulated because it is not a pollutant as such.
The Bloc Québécois has been asking for years for a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions because, even if they are not really toxic, they can have a dramatic impact on our planet, on humanity, and on the citizens of Quebec and Canada. We need to take action and take it quickly. This is the greatest environmental issue of the day, and there is nothing in the bill before us to tackle it.
Canada is divided on this. Both the Liberals and Conservatives want Canada to be an oil-producer, an energy superpower when it comes to non-renewable fossil fuels. This primarily benefits the western provinces and some maritime provinces. In Quebec, there is a strong consensus instead that we should proceed with the Kyoto protocol and base our economy on non-renewable, non-polluting resources that do not emit greenhouse gases. We could speculate for a long time on how attached Quebeckers are to the environment versus people in the other provinces, but I think their contrasting positions are based more on some very concrete realities.
The obviously does not believe in the Kyoto protocol or even really in global warming. His counterpart, the Liberal opposition leader, argues in favour of the tar sands and is a firm believer in them. Why? Because it is in Canada’s economic interest, at least in the short term, in my opinion. If everyone in Quebec thinks we should follow the Kyoto protocol instead and abandon the other path, it is because this is in Quebec’s economic interest. Why? There is one very simple reason: Quebec produces no oil and very few hydrocarbons. Quebec is made poorer by oil and our dependence on it.
Some federalist parties have the temerity to come to Quebec and say that Alberta’s tar sands are making us richer. I fail to see how Quebec can be enriched by purchasing oil from outside its boundaries. I would make the following comparison. When someone goes to the gas station to fill up, he is made poorer not richer. Every time a barrel of oil enters Quebec, money flows in the other direction out of Quebec. It is in Quebeckers' economic interest to reduce our dependence on oil.
This is not just an economic issue. For a long time, the main political parties in Quebec, both the Parti Québécois and the Liberal Party which forms the present government—I want to be clear that I am referring to the Liberal Party of Quebec, for the Liberal Party of Canada wants to promote and develop the tar sands—have formed a strong consensus on complying with the Kyoto protocol. Basically, this means we have to set an absolute greenhouse gas reduction target relative to 1990 levels.
There is a mechanism whereby a corporation, province, state or territory that exceeds its objective, performs better than its assigned target, can sell emissions credits to an institution, organization, state, province or territory that has not met its targets. This trading principle derives from two things. First, this is a global problem. Reducing a tonne of GHG in Chapais or Djibouti changes nothing, since the objective is one less tonne of GHG on our planet. Global reduction is the objective. On the other hand, reductions may be less expensive in some places than in others, and so this mechanism is put in place.
When the Kyoto protocol was devised, 1990 was set as the base year. The Conservatives and Liberals want to change the base year, to move it ahead to 2003 or 2006. Why? This may seem very technical to those watching us. This is often the misfortune of the political issues we have to debate, for often they are not very sexy or entertaining. What can it change if the year on which our calculations are based is 2003 or 2006 rather than 1990? It changes everything. It is no longer the same concept at all.
Since 1990 industry in Quebec, particularly the manufacturing industry, has made substantial efforts to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile in the rest of Canada the emissions rate has simply exploded, reaching levels never seen in any other western country. That increase occurred under the Liberals, who did nothing to reduce greenhouse gases, and it has continued under the Conservatives. Unfortunately, we must acknowledge that it will probably continue, whether the Conservatives remain or are replaced by the Liberals. There is a consensus in Canada on developing the oil industry. The two parties have even supported a budget in which the main so-called environmental measures consist in helping out the oil companies, which you will agree are in great need of help. You will of course have noted the sarcasm in my words.
By setting the base year at 2003 or 2006, as the government would do, we wipe out all of the efforts that have been made by Quebec industry. At the same time, we wipe out all the economic potential and any possibility for these companies such as Alcan, which are asking the federal government to set up a system based on the Kyoto protocol with 1990 as the base year, to sell greenhouse gas emissions credits and to be somehow compensated for the efforts they have made to reduce their emissions.
Conversely, by moving from 1990 to 2006, we also wipe out the entire explosion of greenhouse gas emissions caused by the industrial sectors that made no effort, and in fact even increased their pollution levels.
The oil sands sector is the perfect example. Since the first efforts in any process of industrial rationalization are always the easiest, instead of it being polluter-pay, it is polluter-paid. Those who have made the least effort since 1990 will be economically rewarded now while those who have done their part, most of them in Quebec, the only province that has made absolute reductions in greenhouse gases, will be punished.
The government also wants to move from an absolute greenhouse gas reduction to a relative one in terms of intensity. What does this mean and what difference does it make? Are these not just highly technical terms that are the stock in trade of environmental specialists, and lack much effect? Absolutely not, they are not trifling in any way. On the contrary, they are very important.
The absolute targets set out in the Kyoto protocol say that there is a limit to what this planet can withstand, and that there is no connection between that limit and the economy. The planet cannot withstand more greenhouse gas emissions because the economy is in better shape. There is no connection between the two. Mankind has to reduce emissions, we must go from x tonnes to y tonnes, and we must not exceed that. Period. On the other hand, the government's approach, with Liberal backing, is intensity targets. They say we must not product more than x tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per production unit. This means that a province, a company, or some other entity, with twice as much oil sands development, for instance, would be authorized to pollute twice as much.
Once again, a greater effort is being demanded of the manufacturing sector, when it has been experiencing economic difficulties and has the same or even lower production volume, than of industrial sectors that are in full development.
Clearly, there is a conflict between two visions that are not guided, at least not solely, by environmental issues. They are closely tied to economic interests, which is also the case for many of the decisions made by every other company in the world. The problem that Quebeckers are dealing with is that they are and always will be in the minority in this Parliament. The Conservative Party, with the support of the Liberal Party and the NDP, have ensured that a shrinking proportion of members of Parliament will be here representing Quebec. Fortunately, the Bloc Québécois members, who make up two-thirds of the members from Quebec, are still here to take a stand for Quebeckers. Unfortunately, Quebeckers are getting less and less representation in the other parties, and their voices are being drowned out in caucuses that care only about the Canadian majority's interests. Not because they are mean-spirited or because they dislike Quebeckers, but because the national parties are bound to defend the interests of the majority of citizens.
There is no way for Quebeckers to escape this situation other than by taking control of their own fate and becoming the majority in their own country. Once we become a sovereign country, we will develop our own environment and green energy policy, one that considers our future and the planet we will be leaving to our children, an environment and energy policy that is in line with our economic and development interests.
The Bloc Québécois is also working hard to help Quebeckers understand that it is impossible to advance Quebec's interests on a regular basis in the federal Parliament. The only solution available to Quebeckers in the medium term is to become a sovereign country and to make our own decisions according to our own values and our own interests.