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Speech at Third Reading of Bill C-288: The Kyoto Protocol Implementation Bill

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Mitchell, seconded by the Honourable Senator Trenholme Counsell, for the third reading of Bill C-288, to ensure Canada meets its global climate change obligations under the Kyoto Protocol.—(Honourable Senator Tkachuk)

Hon. David Tkachuk: Honourable senators, I want to begin by citing an article published last week in the National Post. A top United Nations official said he is no longer alarmed by Canada's stand on the Kyoto Protocol now that he better understands the Conservative government's position. According to the article, the official said that he now understands that Prime Minister Harper's government was not rejecting the value of the Kyoto Protocol but rather was making the observation that its objectives cannot be met within the target deadline.

(1600)

The official in question was none other than the Executive Secretary to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Mr. Yvo de Boer. The man most responsible for dealing with climate change at the United Nations seems to be unphased that the short-term targets cannot be met. I will try to show this afternoon that we are not the only ones.

Honourable senators, we made it plain in the committee hearings on this bill that this government takes climate change seriously and is determined to do something about it. In April, Minister Baird introduced Turning the Corner: An Action Plan to Reduce Greenhouse Gases and Air Pollution. The plan moves beyond the Liberal platitudes about reducing greenhouse gases when they were in government. It, for the first time, imposes mandatory targets on industry to reduce greenhouse gases. More than that, the plan will cut industry-generated air pollution by one-half by 2015. These are serious targets and they are reasonable targets. They are also targets that can be met without causing untold harm to the economy.

Honourable senators, the impact of Bill C-288 on the Canadian economy would be devastating. We produced our own analysis of exactly what that cost would be and while the Liberals have spent a great deal of time criticizing our figures they have yet to produce a detailed plan of their own, not while they were in government, according to the environment minister and not now while they are out of government.

In the target period, 2008-12, our study estimates that Bill C-288 would result in 275,000 Canadians losing their jobs by 2009. Their electricity bills and those of other Canadians lucky enough to keep their jobs would jump 50 per cent after 2010. The cost of filling up your car would jump 60 per cent and the cost of heating your home with natural gas would double. The study also shows that Canada's GDP would decline by over 4.2 per cent and that Canada would be thrust into a recession on a par with what took place in 1981-82, which was the worst recession since the Second World War.

Our study also estimates that the personal disposable income of Canadians would be reduced by $4,000 annually. This figure should be familiar to those opposite because it is about the same as what they estimated some seven years ago. I believe the figure they used then was $4,400. The difference is that under their watch, emissions increased so that today we are faced with a situation in which greenhouse gases have increased by 35 per cent above the 1990 baseline level.

Bill C-288 asks us to do in eight months what the Liberals gave themselves 10 years to do and did not do. Instead, they increased emissions. Let us be clear about that and let us be clear that the price for meeting the Kyoto targets will be borne by all Canadians.

Senator Munson was on record as saying he would not mind being taxed if it would mean helping the environment. The Globe and Mail quoted Senator Munson as saying that however Kyoto works itself out, if you want to tax me today for the future, go ahead and tax me. That is fine for him, but not all Canadians have an income of $125,000 per year; and not all Canadians have job security until they are 75 years old; and not all Canadians would be able to bear another government tax that would reduce their annual income by some $4,000.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has issued its own assessment. The implementation of the Kyoto Protocol, they say, will cost $30 billion, or 2.5 per cent of the GDP by 2010. In 2002, the Liberals predicted a loss of 200,000 jobs and a decrease of 1.5 per cent in the GDP. Yet, when we point out the difficulty of meeting the Kyoto short-term targets as prescribed by Bill C-288, the Liberals — the same people who put us in this position in the first place — call us defeatist.

Honourable senators, I will quote something that Senator Mitchell said in one form or another a number of times in committee. This comes from the hearings with industry representatives. Senator Mitchell said:

What gets me is that sense of defeatism of this continual regurgitation of this line that focuses on what is not possible. It seems to me if we could simply focus on what is possible, we should be absolutely surprised . . . .

They point to good old Canadian ingenuity. However, when you go to the European community and speak the truth, as former Environment Minister Ambrose has done; when you take action against hazardous chemicals, as this government has done; when you put a plan on the table that outlines the costs of C-288, again as Minister Baird has done; and when you set mandatory targets for GHG emissions reductions, as Minister Baird has done; in 15 months we did all these things, and all they do is criticize our numbers and our assumptions.

What did the Liberals do in 10 years? The Liberals misled Canadians, they did not meet any of their goals, they failed to implement successfully any one of their numerous plans to reduce emissions, and they provided no costs because they did not have a plan.

The Montreal Economic Institute, which surveyed the various parties on the economic costs of the Kyoto Protocol, wrote a letter and asked each party to respond to a series of questions. The second question they asked was: How much do you believe the implementation of Kyoto will cost? That is a pretty straightforward question. I will repeat it. How much do you believe implementation of Kyoto will cost?

The following is the answer given by the Liberal Party to that question, and I quote:

In April 2005, the Liberal Government released Moving Forward on Climate Change: A Plan for Honouring our Kyoto Commitment. The plan outlines the core mechanisms and strategies the Liberal Government will use to implement the Kyoto Protocol. It is estimated that the approaches outlined will reduce greenhouse gases emissions (GHG) by at least 270 megatonnes annually by 2012. The associated federal investment plan will be in the range of $10 billion through 2012. The Liberal government approach to climate change builds on previous approaches and incorporates transparency, ongoing evaluation and learning.

Honourable senators, except when it to comes to costs.

The answer continued:

We will make modifications and course corrections to our plan over time, including an annual review and reallocation of climate change spending to ensure that investments are effective and cost-efficient and result in real and verifiable GHG emissions reductions. As well, annual reports will be made to update Canadians on our progress beginning in 2008.

Timely investments in innovative technologies for energy use and production not only have the potential to reduce our GHG emissions but also can open up economic opportunities. Canada's climate change-related investments to date have delivered energy efficiency, energy conservation and cost savings across the economy.

What was the question again? The last bit looks like it came close but estimating what you think your saving might be is not the same as answering the question: How much do you believe the implementation of Kyoto will cost? No answer.

Senator Segal: Shame.

Senator Tkachuk: We have answered that question and they have not. When the Liberals are asked directly to answer the question, they avoid doing so. Senator Mitchell has called for Canadian ingenuity. He said in committee, and I quote:

I am also struck that I can see that the same kind of attitude amongst those people who say we should not have started building the railroad 150 years ago because it could not be done, or we should not get involved in World War I because we could not possibly win, or we should not get involved in World War II because it would be too large a thing for Canadians to accomplish. In fact, those things were all done.

This comment comes from a Liberal senator whose party wants us to abandon the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan. I guess that so-called can-do attitude applies only to the most serious threat facing Canada in the last 50 years. When it comes to the fight against terrorism, a minor affair, I suppose, according to Senator Mitchell, but one in which Canadian and U.S. lives are actually being lost. "It can't be done" seems to be the Liberal mantra. Where is that can-do attitude that they want us to apply to the environment? Mysteriously absent.

They have also criticized us for referring to the past and the fact that had the Liberals done more to reduce GHG emissions, we would have to do less.

Senator Mitchell, the sponsor of this bill in the Senate, chastised us for focusing on the past as part of our defeatist attitude. His exact words were:

A corollary of that approach. . .

(1610)

That approach being defeatism

. . . is focusing on the past and making this argument to defend not doing anything by arguing that someone else did not do enough.

His references are World War I, the railroad and World War II. I guess the lesson is that the Liberals can refer to the past when it suits them, but Conservatives cannot, or is it that you can refer to the past when you are talking about things that got done, but you cannot refer to it when you are talking about things that did not get done, like reducing greenhouse gas emissions. I should be on safe ground then when I refer to what the Liberals got done in the past, so I will say it again. They increased GHGs by 35 per cent above the 1990 baseline level for Kyoto.

I should be on safe ground with the Liberals with that reference, but what does one expect from a party whose patron saint these days seems to be Al Gore, a man whose country, when he was Vice-President of the United States, refused to even sign the Kyoto Protocol, much less ratify it or set targets for GHG emissions. He is now the Liberal poster boy for climate change.

Al Gore and his Liberal buddies: Friends, both once in government, now seeking redemption. As Catholics, we would refer to "purgatory." As Protestants, perhaps "born again." Sinning, living the high life, ignoring environmental and treaty obligations and then in defeat, please, God save us. The only difference is, there is no repentance. Unashamed, they blame the newly elected government for not saving the planet. Al Gore is like the Liberals in that they blame everyone but themselves.

Let me read what Maclean's magazine had to say about Al Gore:

The collapse of the Greenland ice sheet at the hands of global warming will increase worldwide sea levels by nearly seven metres, Gore states. He sketches out that the impact this will have: India and Bangladesh will be inundated. Forty million people will be displaced around Shanghai. Florida will all but disappear. Most cruel of all, however, is the effect on New York City. His graphics then show a blue tide of water slowly swallowing up city streets. "This is what will happen to Manhattan. They [scientists] can measure this precisely." In a whisper, he adds: "The area where the World Trade Center Memorial is to be located would be under water." It is perhaps the most powerful moment in the movie. Yet, like the bulk of Gore's message, it is also heavily exaggerated and of questionable practical value.

Those scientists in which Gore puts so much faith do discuss the possibility of a failure of Greenland's ice. In fact, the February 2007 report of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change mentions the possibility of a seven-metre rise in the oceans.

But that report also says global warming would have to continue "for millennia" for this to occur. Gore's Manhattan/Atlantis scenario is thus a potential risk sometime after 4007. It is not exactly a clear and present danger. We bring this up not because global warming or environmentalism are things to be ignored — they are important issues to be sure — but to point out Gore's frequent distance from the useful truth. His comment last week in Toronto that the Conservative government's environmental plan is a "complete and total fraud . . . designed to mislead the Canadian people" is as exaggerated and misplaced as his movie's scaremongering. It is never a fraud to be honest. However painful it may be for single-minded idealists like Gore to admit, it is an absolute impossibility for Canada to meet its 2012 Kyoto targets without triggering economic collapse.

Honourable senators, as we have said countless times in committee, this bill is flawed. It does not take into account the devastating effect for Canadians of meeting the short-term Kyoto targets. The Conservative government has come up with a plan that is reasonable, a plan that is guided by a balanced commitment to environmental protection and economic stewardship. In fact, we have already taken steps towards real reductions in greenhouse gases. We remain committed to the principles and objectives of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol However, the economic and social impacts of Kyoto must be considered when taking action on the environment, and those impacts are far different now than they would have been 10 or even five years ago.

To reach our targets beginning in 2008, Canada would be required to reduce its GHG emissions by an average of 33 per cent each year of the Kyoto commitment period. That simply cannot be done without foisting untold hardships on Canadians.

However, we are faced here with a private member's bill introduced by a Liberal member of Parliament that says we have to. Never mind the implications of this bill on the economy, what does it say about accountability? We have before us a bill introduced and supported by someone who will bear no responsibility for what happens as a result of this legislation. Neither Mr. Rodrigues nor Senator Mitchell will be held to account should Bill C-288 steer the economy into a nosedive. No, only the people who opposed this bill, who voted against this bill in the other place will be the ones held accountable for its effects. How perverse is that?

We heard testimony in committee, though not nearly enough, about the sea change that this piece of legislation heralded. Mr. James Hurley, a constitutional expert who appeared before the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, explained it this way:

Because it must maintain the confidence of the house, the assumption is that the government is responsible for the legislative output of Parliament and will be held accountable to the electorate when the next general election is held. . .

Bill C-288 would reverse this dynamic, for in passing the bill, Parliament would be imposing its will on an unwilling government by compelling it to do something it does not wish to do. . .

It follows that while there are relatively minor precedents for Parliament proposing and imposing measures on the government, there are no precedents of the magnitude of Bill C-288, which seeks to resolve one of the most prominent and hotly debated public policy issues facing Canadians by obliging the government to implement the Kyoto Protocol, which it does not wish to do.

Certainly an issue of that magnitude warrants more debate than what was given to Bill C-288. An issue this important to Canadians warrants a full debate and the Liberals denied us that opportunity in committee.

We asked for more witnesses to be heard, but the Liberals who have been dragging out Bill S-4 for a year now are in a rush to push through Bill C-288. They did not want to hear from more witnesses.

Once we knew they were determined to go clause by clause, we, being few in number, used the procedural tools at our disposal to encourage further consideration of this bill. We managed to inconvenience the Liberals, but we did nothing to prevent them from carrying out their parliamentary duties. They, on the other hand, took advantage of our low numbers and prevented us from even participating in clause-by-clause consideration of this bill.

One is left wondering what the rush is all about. After all, Senator Banks said in 2002:

Let us look at the Kyoto Accord. Kyoto's purpose is not to reverse climate change. It is not to fix the problem. It is not to be the solution. No one ever said that it was. . . "It will not solve the problem," . . . No one ever said that it would. It will not by itself seriously reduce global emissions. No one ever said that it would. Those are not the goals of Kyoto. . . It is the beginning. It is a tiny baby step in the process of challenging our collective minds.

Given that Bill C-288 will have a very real economic impact on the lives of Canadians — and we all agree that it will — what is the rush? We need to take that first step, no doubt, but what is the harm in taking the time to make sure that, in doing so, we do not make that first baby step a giant misstep?

I will read to a letter from Don Drummond, one of Canada's foremost economists. He was one of the leading economists asked to review our cost study. Upon review, he supported this study.

(1620)

He wrote:

Canadians need to focus now on sound environmental initiatives that will be achieved over a realistic time frame. The course will only be adhered to if economic costs are mitigated. This is not a call for procrastination, quite the contrary. A comprehensive environmental policy should be set out very soon. The policy should target substantial progress in reducing emission within the first Kyoto period and greater progress over time.

This is a reasonable thing to ask. It is not what Bill C-288 asks. Bill C-288 asks us to do what few, if any, nations with Kyoto targets have been able to do. Let us look at the European Union, which Senator Mitchell has constantly referred to as an example for us to follow. Let me cite what The Economist has to say on this. In an article in the issue of March 15, the author wrote:

The targets may have a practical purpose; but they also need to be met. The EU's credibility as a role model rather depends on it. But the Europeans have a bad habit of missing their own targets. All 27 EU members signed up to Kyoto, but most have not cut their own greenhouse gases enough to meet their targets.

In fact, Denmark, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Ireland, according to the David Suzuki Foundation, have experienced significant emission increases and are unlikely to meet their allocated reduction targets. Then there is Norway. Norway has a profile similar to that of Canada. It is a northern country with substantial oil and gas development and export. Its target was to increase emissions by no more than 1 per cent. They were not going to cut. They have in fact increased by 9 per cent above 1990 levels and that figure continues to rise. That is a better record than that of Canada under the Liberals, but still a rise. Again, this is also according to the David Suzuki Foundation.

Austria is not expected to meet its Kyoto targets. Neither will Belgium, according to The Wilderness Society, an Australian environmental group.

What about those European nations that have met their Kyoto targets? France is often cited as one, but France is on track because France derives nearly 80 per cent of its energy from its 58 nuclear reactors — not a bad plan. I would support that type of strategy and have been supporting it for about 20 years. That would make me an environmentalist, I think. If, 20 years ago, this country had taken my advice, we would have met our greenhouse gas emission targets. Saskatchewan would have been Alberta. We would have relieved some of that pressure from the province that Senator Banks comes from.

However, there is widespread opposition to the use of nuclear energy in Canada. What is the big difference? In France there is little or no public opposition to nuclear energy.

We must then turn to Britain. Liberals have pointed to their grand record on Kyoto, but fail to mention — and this rather ironic — that the record was made possible from the shift away from coal, which dominated the energy industry in that country until the mid-1980s. It was then that Margaret Thatcher, the Conservative Prime Minister of Britain, won a year-long dispute with the trade unions and shut down most of the mines. Britain now uses natural gas rather than coal and has met its Kyoto targets.

On the new targets that Britain set for itself, I am sorry, they have not been met.

Honourable senators, I would like to move an amendment to Bill C-288. There are a number of amendments I had in mind to put in committee and, had I been given the opportunity to do so, would have done so. In the interest of the reasonableness, I have pared them down to what I think are the most necessary.

The effect of some is to follow parliamentary tradition in terms of time limits, for example, the number of days a minister usually has in the house to table reports. Others recognize that Canada is trying to meet its Kyoto targets but that some of the factors in meeting these targets are beyond any one order of government's jurisdiction. Still others incorporate some of what was in the Liberal Party Green Plan.

Motion in Amendment

Hon. David Tkachuk: Accordingly I move:

That Bill C-288 be not now read a third time but that it be amended,

(a) in clause 3, on page 3, by replacing line 19 with the following:

"Canada makes all reasonable efforts to take effective and timely action to meet";

(b) in clause 5,

(i) on page 4,

(A) by replacing line 2 with the following:

"to ensure that Canada makes all reasonable efforts to meet its obligations",

(B) by replacing line 6 with the following:

"ance standards for vehicle emissions that meet or exceed international best practices for any prescribed class of motor vehicle for any year,", and

(C) by adding after line 13 the following:

"(iii.2) the recognition of early action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and" —

This is for Senator Banks, and it is to recognize companies that have already taken action on greenhouse gas emissions and to ensure that they get recognized, which is a part of his plan and part of the Liberal plan.

(ii) on page 5,

(A) by replacing line 9 with the following:

"(a) within 10 days after the expiry of each",

(B) by replacing line 23 with the following:

"first 15 days on which that House is sitting", and

(C) by replacing lines 26 and 27 with the following:

"each House of Parliament is deemed to be referred to the standing committee of the Senate and the House of Commons that";

(c) in clause 6, on page 6, by adding after line 29 the following:

"(3) For the purposes of this Act, the Governor-in-Council may make regulations restricting emissions by "large industrial emitters", persons that the Governor-in-Council considers are particularly responsible for a large portion of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions, namely,

(a) persons that are part of the electricity generation sector, including persons that use fossil fuels to produce electricity;

(b) persons that are part of the upstream oil and gas sector, including persons that produce and transport fossil fuels but excluding petroleum refiners and distributors of natural gas to end users; and

(c) persons that are part of energy-intensive industries, including persons that use energy derived from fossil fuels, petroleum refiners and distributors of natural gas to end users.";

(d) in clause 7,

(i) on page 6,

(A) by replacing line 32 with the following:

"that Canada makes all reasonable attempts to meet its obligations under", and

(B) by replacing line 38 with the following:

"ensure that Canada makes all reasonable attempts to meet its obligations", and

(ii) on page 7, by replacing line 4 with the following:

"(3) In ensuring that Canada makes all reasonable attempts to meet its";

(e) in clause 9,

(i) on page 7, by replacing line 33 with the following:

"ensure that Canada makes all reasonable attempts to meet its obligations", and

(ii) on page 8,

(A) by replacing line 3 with the following:

"Minister considers appropriate within 30 days", and

(B) by replacing line 7 with the following:

"(1) or on any of the first fifteen days on which";

(f) in clause 10,

(i) on page 8,

(A) by replacing line 9 with the following:

"10. (1) Within 180 days after the Minister",

(B) by replacing line 11 with the following:

"tion 5(3), or within 90 days after the Minister", and

(C) by replacing line 38 with the following:

"(a) within 15 days after receiving the", and

(ii) on page 9,

(A) by replacing line 6 with the following:

"Houses on any of the first 15 days on", and

(B) by replacing line 9 with the following

"(b) within 30 days after receiving the advice,";

(g) in clause 10.1, on page 9,

(i) by replacing line 17 with the following:

"and Sustainable Development may prepare a",

(ii) by replacing line 32 with the following:

"report to the Speakers of the Senate and the House of Commons", and

(iii) by replacing lines 34 and 35 with the following:

"Speakers shall table the report in their respective Houses on any of the first 15 days on which that House"

I have here for the page the amendments, in French and English, which I would like to hand to her.