Publié par le sénateur Grant Mitchell le 23 novembre 2010
Cet article est disponible dans la langue dans laquelle il a été redigé.
This article is available in the language in which it was written.
As the senator who sponsored Bill C311, I thought I should respond to the Nov. 20 article U of G Chancellor Wallin defends vote in Senate to kill climate Change Accountability Act.
In voting to defeat Bill C311, the Conservative senators betrayed the democratic process. They did so without debating the bill, although they had 193 days to do so. They also killed the bill before it could reach committee stage where it would have received detailed study. And, they still would have had third reading to defeat it.
This is unprecedented. In its history, the Senate has very rarely defeated bills passed by a majority of elected MPs. When it has done so, it has been only after extensive debate from both sides of the Senate and detailed study in committee.
In defeating the bill, they have also set back climate change action.
But rather than focusing on democracy and climate change, Conservative senators have tried to distract the debate by focusing on a very small point of parliamentary procedure. They are saying I called the vote that made them kill the bill.
But, opposition senators, like me, cannot call or cause votes, period. The rules of the Senate are structured so only the government in the Senate can call or allow votes. The audio tape of the proceedings clearly indicates the government house leader called for the vote. There was one hour from the time the vote was called until it was taken. This would have given Conservative senators time to decide to at least abstain so the bill could have gone to committee. Finally, the Conservatives have the numbers to dominate the Senate and could have determined any voting outcome.
They chose to defeat the bill, plain and simple.
In one sense, I wish my Senate Liberal colleagues, all of whom voted for the bill, and I could take credit for calling the vote. Had the vote been delayed by the Conservatives until the bill died on the order paper at the next prorogation or election, we never would have seen their real agenda for this bill.
The Conservative senators have tried to say the bill was unreasonable. That is patently false. Bill C311 was a very good piece of legislation.
It would have required the government to develop consecutive five-year plans, starting at 2010 and ending at 2050, outlining how it proposed to achieve a 2050 greenhouse gas reduction target. It called for these plans and actual progress toward the 2050 objective to be reviewed and assessed by the commissioner of the environment and the National Round Table on the Economy and the Environment.
It also stated two greenhouse gas reduction objectives, one for 2020 and one for 2050. Conservatives argue meeting these would destroy the economy. However, the 2020 target in the bill was not binding. The bill allowed for the government to declare its own interim objectives in the five-year plans leading up to 2050. If the government thought the bill’s 2020 suggestion was too onerous, it would not have had to use it.
The bill would have required the government accept a 2050 objective which is more onerous than the one it has declared. However, this objective was to be achieved over 40 years, rendering the difference in annual reductions required by the two objectives to be almost negligible.
The Conservative rhetoric asserts that climate action, even as limited as that implied by this bill, will wreck the economy. But, it is far more likely climate change action will stimulate it. An interesting analogy would be the massive changes required in our economy to help win the Second World War. These created one of the strongest industrialized economies in the western world.
Harper implemented a stimulus package to fight the recession which hardly invested in green projects generally, or climate change action specifically. How it is that investing in green projects does not constitute stimulus while investing in traditional stimulus projects does? One of our greatest economic challenges is productivity. Using our resources more efficiently through conservation, this being a key tenet of climate change action, helps fix this problem because, by definition, it improves productivity.
Unchecked climate change will be infinitely more damaging to economies. It is already happening here and elsewhere. Problems with our fisheries, the assault on our forests by spruce budworm and pine beetle, and sustained drought and floods afflicting our farmers are early indications of this. Many international competitors are aggressively pursuing climate action technologies and business. There is an almost $8 trillion world market for green products and technologies today. We are being left behind.
After the defeat of this bill, what are we left with? Democracy has been betrayed by unelected Senators defeating a bill passed by a majority of MPs; we have a part-time environment minister; Canada has no climate change action policy or program to take to Cancun in several weeks for the next round of international climate change negotiations; and the Conservative senators have defeated the bill that would have required such a plan.
Of course, the real issue here is that we need leadership on climate change; and this government is providing none.