Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak to this motion, but I would like to focus my remarks on Bill itself and the importance of passing this legislation.
As I hope all members in this House know, climate change is a global threat and Canadians rightly expect us to take action to counter the climate crisis. The net-zero emissions accountability act is a fundamental part of this plan. If we do not reduce emissions rapidly and consistently down to net-zero by 2050 at the latest, we will not achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. This is an existential threat to the planet on which there is global consensus.
At the Leaders Summit on Climate convened by President Biden in April, the joined 39 other world leaders of nations that account for more than half of the world's economy as they committed to set emissions reductions, the pace required globally, to limit warming to 1.5°C. We have a responsibility to all Canadians and future generations to act now.
In November 2020, our government tabled Bill , an act that would enshrine in legislation Canada's commitment to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and provide a framework of accountability and transparency to ensure governments undertake the planning, take the actions and conduct the monitoring needed to achieve that goal.
In May 2021, Bill was referred to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development for consideration and clause-by-clause. During this study, our government listened to the broad range of feedback and worked collaboratively with members of the House of Commons in order to further strengthen and improve the bill. Several amendments spanning virtually all areas of the bill were adopted by the environment committee to reinforce Bill C-12.
This is the version now before the House of Commons, and I will summarize the amendments that were adopted. First, new language has been added to the preamble to state clearly that climate change is a global problem requiring immediate and ambitious action by all governments in Canada. In addition, the preamble lists Canada's international and domestic greenhouse gas emissions reporting obligations as such under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act.
As we know, the objective of Bill is for Canada to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The new version of Bill C-12 clarifies that nothing in the act would preclude Canada from attaining net-zero emissions before 2050. In other words, net-zero by 2050 is the minimum goal. If we can reach the goal earlier it would be even better, and nothing in this law would prevent that kind of ambition.
The committee also worked on improving the act's provisions in relation to targets. First, the committee voted in favour of codifying the 2030 greenhouse gas emissions target as Canada's nationally determined contribution for that year under the Paris Agreement, which the announced at the recent Leaders Summit on Climate as 40% to 45% below our 2005 levels. In addition, each greenhouse gas emission target set under the act must be a progression from the previous one. This amendment would prevent backsliding on Canada's greenhouse gas emissions targets. Lastly, each target must be as ambitious as Canada's most recent nationally determined contribution under the Paris Agreement.
Under this new version of the act, all targets after 2030 would be set at least 10 years before the beginning of its corresponding milestone year instead of the five years in advance provided by the original version of the bill. This new provision would ensure the government starts planning for future targets earlier and would align with Canada's current practice under the UNFCCC.
Going a step further, the committee adopted a complementary amendment that would strengthen the act by requiring the to publish within a year of setting the targets for 2035, 2040 and 2045 a high-level description of key emissions reductions measures to achieve that target, as well as the latest projection of greenhouse gas emissions.
This provision would, for example, ensure the targets set for 2035 in 2025 are accompanied by a high-level description of those measures that will be undertaken to reach the target, as well as the most current emissions projections. The detailed plan to achieve the 2035 target would be due no later than December 2029.
With respect to the criteria for setting the targets, the must now consider submissions and advice provided by the advisory body in addition to the best scientific information available and Canada's international commitments with respect to climate change.
Another set of amendments enshrines the role of indigenous knowledge. The preamble now states the Government of Canada's commitment to taking indigenous knowledge into account when carrying out the purposes of this act, and a related amendment would require the to consider indigenous knowledge when setting greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets.
Year 2030 is not that far away, and Bill C-12 needs to provide accountability for taking action prior to 2030 as well as after that. To address this, the committee adopted a new provision that would require the inclusion of an interim greenhouse gas emissions objective for 2026 in the emissions reduction plan for 2030.
Further amendments would require additional progress reports in 2023, 2025 and 2027. These reports must now contain an update on the progress made towards achieving the 2026 interim objective. Moreover, the bill would now require that the first report to the Commissioner of the Environment and the Office of the Auditor General to be submitted by the end of 2024. Taken together, these changes would provide a midpoint check-in between now and 2030, and ensure meaningful accountability checkpoints over the next decade.
The committee also strengthened the planning requirements in the bill. The amended bill would now require the to take into account the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the submissions provided by the advisory body, and any other relevant consideration when establishing the plan.
It also prescribes some of the items that must be included in each plan, such as the description of how Canada's international commitments with respect to climate change are taken into account, projections of the annual greenhouse gas emission reductions resulting from the plan's combined measures and strategies, and a summary of the co-operative measures or agreements with the provinces and other governments in Canada.
Consultation is an important element of Bill . Canadians, indigenous peoples of Canada, environmental and non-government organizations, and other interested parties would be able to provide opportunities and make submissions at various stages of the act's implementation, such as when the minister has to set a target or plan.
To strengthen the commitment to transparency, Bill now includes a provision that would require the to publish a report on the results of the consultations carried out in relation to targets and plans.
The committee also approved the progress report requirements. As I previously noted, the 2023, 2025 and 2027 progress reports on the 2030 target must also include an update on the progress made to achieving the 2026 interim objective. In addition, the 2023 report, as the midpoint between now and 2025, would be required to contain an assessment of the 2030 target and include changes being made to correct the course, if needed, to achieve the target.
Other amendments would also require more content to be included in the progress report, such as Canada's most recent published greenhouse gas emissions projection for the next milestone, and details on any additional measures that could be taken to increase the probability of achieving the target if projections indicate that a target will not be met.
Similar amendments were also adopted with respect to assessment reports with a view of ensuring they also contain a summary of Canada's most recent official greenhouse gas emissions, inventory and information submitted by Canada under its international commitments on climate change, as well as an assessment of how key co-operative measures or agreements with provinces or other governments in Canada described in the plan contribute to Canada's efforts to achieve the target.
The committee also adopted a number of changes with respect to the advisory body. The act now formally establishes the net-zero advisory body. It specifies that the net-zero advisory body would provide independent, forward-looking advice on achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, which also includes providing advice on targets and plans. These amendments within the act align with the current net-zero advisory body's terms of reference, which were published by the in February 2021. Further, the act would now require the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to publish the advisory body's terms of reference and amendments made to them.
This strengthens the act by increasing the transparency of the process. With respect to the membership of the net-zero advisory body, the amended bill contains new provisions that would require the to consider the need for the net-zero advisory body, as a whole, to have expertise in or knowledge of, among other things, climate change science, indigenous knowledge, physical or social sciences, climate change policy at the national, subnational and international levels, energy supply and demand, and relevant technologies.
With regard to the annual report of the net-zero advisory body, the committee adopted a new provision requiring the net-zero advisory body to take into account a range of factors when preparing the report, including environmental, economic, social, technological and the best scientific information and knowledge, including indigenous knowledge, with respect to climate change.
This provision recognizes that multiple factors must be taken into account in developing a plan that meets the science-based objectives of the net-zero emissions by 2050 in a way that works best for Canada.
Moreover, in line with the objective of keeping the government accountable and transparent toward Canadians, the act now clarifies that the net-zero advisory body's annual report must set out results of its engagement activities. It also requires the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to publish the report 30 days after receiving it and to respond publicly within 120 days. The minister's response must also address any target recommendations by the net-zero advisory body that differs from the one the minister has set.
The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development plays an important role in the accountability regime established by the bill. Unlike the net-zero advisory body's report, which will provide forward-looking advice, the CESD will assess past performance of the government on its path to achieve net zero by 2050. Its first report is now to be submitted no later than 2024.
Finally, with respect to regulations made by the Governor in Council, the act has been modified to clarify that any regulation made by the Governor in Council under the act must align with the international standards to which Canada adheres.
Canadians are counting on us. They want assurance of Canada's sustained commitment to achieve net zero by 2050 and they want ongoing input into the consideration of the pathways to get there. By putting climate obligations into law, the net-zero emissions accountability act would ensure that governments are accountable for and transparent about their actions to combat climate change. Putting Bill into law as soon as possible is critical to this effort.
I am very proud of the collaborative work that took place during the committee study. Those efforts have resulted in a strengthened and improved version of the act, one that provides greater predictability, transparency and accountability. This collaborative work will continue and is crucial to successfully fight the climate crisis and transition toward a resilient and strong low-carbon future. Our government is committed to doing just that.
It is therefore my hope we can advance the bill and this motion to a final vote on this revised and improved version of Bill , and allow it to be considered by the Senate as expeditiously as possible.
Madam Speaker, is this not a strange set of circumstances? When the said that we would be debating Bill last week, I foolishly assumed he meant the actual bill. Multiple times last week it looked like maybe Bill C-12 would be debated, but no. The Liberals say that we Conservatives are delaying. Unfortunately, instead of debating the bill today, we are debating a motion to shut down debate on the bill because the government cannot seem to manage the House agenda at all. To say this bill is urgent after not calling it for months, and indeed after proroguing the House and delaying everything, is the height of hypocrisy. Therefore, here we are.
This is not the first disaster of management on this legislation by the current government. Indeed, it is just the most recent in a long list of failures relating to the bill. I would like to go through some of those here.
When the bill was first introduced, I stood in the House and said I would support the bill. That is true and on the record. However, at that time, I made the mistake of taking the at his word: that he was willing to work in good faith with opposition parties. Very quickly I was disabused of this notion.
The first domino was when the government pre-empted the bill entirely. It ignored its own promises and appointed the advisory body. The had committed to working with us and with the oil and gas industry to develop the advisory group. In fact, the said, “We're not reaching net-zero without our oil and gas sector in this country. We're not reaching it.” I agree with this minister and expected direct representation from this critical industry on the group advising government. Unfortunately, instead, the minister appointed a body with no direct oil and gas representation. It was full of people devoted to the death of that industry and the jobs and prosperity it brings.
There were some choice quotes and statements from various members of the advisory committee. One tweet thanked Greta Thunberg for calling on the to stop all oil and gas projects. Another rejected that fossil fuels could co-exist with climate action, rejecting the industry and its workers entirely. Another advocated for stopping all fossil fuel exports and another said, “Tomorrow, I'll join thousands gathering around Canada to call on premiers to act on climate and reject pipelines.”
Members may think that I am done, but I am just getting started because all those were from one person: Catherine Abreu of the Climate Action Network.
Another board member, Kluane Adamek, again quoted Greta, advocating abandoning the fossil fuel economy. Simon Donner from UBC, another board member, called to halt all new oil sands projects and asked if we should cap production entirely.
To be clear, I am not saying that these people are not entitled to their own opinions and beliefs. We are a free country with free speech, until Bill passes I guess. However, the chose these people who are actively anti-oil and gas and put them on this group to tell him what to do in regard to policies relating to oil and gas.
We wanted to work with him on this advisory group and felt it could represent expertise in which Canadian industry excels. Instead, the would much rather reject industry entirely, so I for one have no interest in supporting his crusade or his legislation. It has become clear that the minister is completely focused on destroying Canada's oil and gas sector and all the people it employs.
Even knowing all that, we went into the committee process in good faith. I met with many groups from across the ideological spectrum, did a lot of research and worked to create productive and relevant amendments that would improve the bill. What did we find at committee? As many more people watch the House and committees, despite being wonderful entertainment, I will let those at home know what exactly occurred.
Initially, when the bill came to us at committee, all parties worked together to create a timeline for consideration that would have allowed enough time to hear witnesses, receive briefs and review the bill. However, when the committee next met, the Liberal members dropped a surprise motion to reverse all that had been agreed to in order to fast-track the bill and get it through as fast as possible. At the time, Conservatives warned that this schedule would make it difficult to properly conduct our important work, and how right we were.
The Liberals, with their NDP allies, were able to speed things up, so we started the study immediately. Witnesses were due the next day, so everyone had to scramble to do their best. Witness testimony was essentially limited to two days. We did hear some particularly good testimony from a variety of witnesses, yet on something clearly this important to the Liberals, why would they not want more evidence? It would become clear soon enough.
Many people do not know that when committees study a bill, there is a deadline to submit witnesses and amendments. As well, drafting amendments takes a couple of days. The incredibly hard-working staff, who assist in drafting these, are amazing to work with, but writing law takes time. The deadline for amendments in this sped-up Liberal-designed process was immediately after we heard the last witness testimony, so there was not much time to formulate ideas and get them ready. Even worse was how it affected the written submissions. This is what really gets me.
As soon as the bill got to committee, we put out a call for written briefs. These are quite common: Generally experts or interested Canadians send in their opinions on a piece of legislation. They are an essential aspect in ensuring that Canadians can feel included in the process and feel heard. I spoke to witnesses who, when invited to the committee, were told the deadline for submitting a brief was the day they were invited. These briefs are often technical and professionally researched articles. How is an expert supposed to write a submission with literally zero days' notice? The answer is they cannot.
Additionally, as we are a bilingual nation, all of the submissions had to be collected and translated before being sent to members of the public. All of this led to the farce that we saw at the environment committee on the study of Bill . When amendments were due on a Friday before we started clause-by-clause review, only a small number of briefs were available to members. The next week, there were dozens of briefs. Over 70 were posted and then made available. That means that due to the Liberals' single-minded focus on passing the bill as fast as they could and limiting the witness testimony as much as they could, the vast majority of public opinion on the bill was not available until after amendments were due. This is a completely disrespectful act conducted by the Liberals and their allies in the NDP to ignore public opinion.
Ontario Power Generation, Fertilizer Canada, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the Canadian Nuclear Association and the Canadian Electricity Association all sent briefs after amendments were due. Even environmental groups were hurt by this. The briefs from Ecojustice, Citizens' Climate Lobby, Leadnow, the David Suzuki Foundation and the previously mentioned Climate Action Network all were not available until after amendments were due.
Perhaps the most egregious impact of the Liberals' behaviour on this bill is that no indigenous witnesses were heard from during the study. As par for the course, the brief from the Assembly of First Nations, as I am sure everyone has guessed, was available only after amendments were due.
Additionally, there were a great many briefs from individual Canadians who worked hard to have their voices heard. Thanks to the Liberals, they feel ignored. I heard from one Canadian who said she worked hard on her brief and was excited to have her voice heard, yet when she learned that amendments were due before her brief could even be read, she was totally disenchanted with the process. Our responsibility as elected officials is to ensure that Canadians feel heard, feel included and feel a part of something. What the Liberals and their NDP allies did during this process is disgraceful, and it is a terrible mark on the history of this place.
Now I will get to the clause-by-clause study itself. Despite all I said, we still went in with productive amendments and hoped for the best. Indeed, the said he was willing to work with all parties to make the bill better. Again, that turned out not to be true. It became clear very quickly that, instead of there being a willingness to debate or even engage on good ideas, the fix was in. The Liberals and the NDP made a deal to approve their own amendments and reject everyone else's, no matter how reasoned or reasonable.
Before I get to our proposed amendments, I just want to share an example that shows how ridiculous the whole process was. At one point during the study, the Green Party proposed an amendment that was identical to a government amendment. The Green Party's amendment came up first, and the Liberal and NDP members opposed it even though it was exactly the same as their own amendment.
It is clear that their strategy was to reject literally every other suggestion, regardless of what it was. For context, the amendment in question would have required emissions targets to be set 10 years in advance.
People who are familiar with the workings of Parliament and committees can probably guess what happened next. If an amendment is rejected, any subsequent amendment that says the same thing is automatically removed from the list because the committee has already expressed its will on the matter. The Liberals and New Democrats are so staunchly opposed to any amendment other than their own that they ended up killing one of their own amendments.
What followed was an absurd exchange during which the member for proposed a new amendment that would require targets to be set 9 years and 366 days beforehand, instead of 10 years. I am not giving this example to poke fun at the Liberals and the New Democrats, even if it was funny, but because it shows to what extent they were reluctant to consider changes that were not theirs.
What were some of the reasonable changes we proposed? I think Canadians would like to know.
First, we think that solving the very real problem of climate change must be done through a whole-of-government approach. The federal government is famous for operating in silos. One group or department that is responsible for a problem or a particular issue does not usually work with others, or does not coordinate with them. I am sure anyone who has worked in Ottawa or for the federal government has many stories about this. That cannot happen when it comes to tackling climate change. Everyone must work together.
Of course, Environment and Climate Change Canada is the key department, but it also needs to coordinate with the departments of industry, finance, natural resources, employment, crown-indigenous relations and many others. We therefore proposed a series of straightforward amendments to remove the powers to set targets, create plans and approve reports from the Minister of Environment alone and include the entire cabinet. The Minister of Environment would recommend policy to cabinet, but cabinet would ultimately decide how to move forward. This is not exactly reinventing the wheel.
That is generally how policy is made in government: Silos are broken down as much as possible and other departments are included.
Perhaps the Minister of Environment did not consider the impact on industry, jobs and indigenous peoples. Bringing together cabinet to make decisions about these objectives and plans is the right thing to do. Unfortunately, the Liberals and the NDP even refused to debate, and they rejected every amendment we proposed for that purpose.
In their dream world, the is an omnipotent figure who dictates every policy by decree. That is not how the Conservatives want to manage things. We believe in collaboration and the importance of working together, especially on the issue of climate change.
Another set of amendments that we proposed would have added that, when objectives were set or plans formulated, the minister would be required to balance social and economic factors, including the impact on employment and national unity. Climate change is real, and we absolutely need everyone to work hard to address it.
We cannot accomplish this by blowing the top off Canadian industry and the well-paying jobs that support Canadian families. We need to look at the big picture and make decisions that will improve the lives of all Canadians. That includes Canadians in the regions that will be most affected by these policies. Our country is stronger together, and we must do all we can to keep it that way. A government that is bent on destroying a region's main industry is not a government that knows how to build a nation. Therefore, it seems to me that examining how these policies will impact these factors would be a good idea.
However, the Liberals and the New Democrats refused to so much as debate the subject and rejected all the amendments, which, frankly, surprised me. The government loves to talk about how the green economy will create so many jobs. If that were true, our amendment would allow the government to brag about it, would it not? Instead, they rejected it. Why? Because it came from the Conservatives.
We then suggested that the progress report include the greenhouse gas emissions and sequestration from non-anthropogenic or non-human factors. This would include the amounts sequestered by our vast unmanaged forests and prairies and emissions from such things as forest fires and methane releases from melting permafrost. I personally feel that we cannot make a plan unless we have the full picture. Canadians often ask me what impact our forests have on emissions. Although this information is available in some places, it would be much easier for Canadians to have access to it in the main reports. Again, this seems like an obvious thing to include, but the Liberals and the NDP voted against it without debate.
After that, we proposed another great addition. As people know, Canada is a federation, and the provincial governments control many of the policy levers that are needed to achieve our climate goals. They manage the resource sector, the electrical grid and the building code.
We wanted the assessment reports to include a summary of the measures taken by the provincial governments to achieve the national greenhouse gas emissions targets.