Thursday, March 22, 2007

Opposition Cleans up Clean Air Act

If this bill goes to the legislature with amendments that bind the Conservatives to Kyoto targets or has other requirements they cannot accept and the Conservatives declare it a confidence motion than there could be an election. However I expect that the Conservatives will choose some other issue upon which to fall since even they do not think that they are regarded as strongest on the environment!

Clean Air Act puts Tories in hot spot as MPs propose changes
Report says speculation is growing that bill could trigger election
A special House of Commons committee has until the end of March to rewrite the Clean Air Act and opposition MPs say the Conservatives are slowing down the process.

According to a news report by CP, the bill could lead to an election call if Prime Minister Stephen Harper decides the bill is a matter of confidence and his minority government loses a vote on opposition amendments.

All three opposition parties have tabled amendments that call on the government to honour its commitments made under the Kyoto Protocol. Harper has said that the Kyoto targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are not realistic.

The amendments call on the government to place hard caps on industrial emissions and develop a long-term plan that sets out targets for every five years starting in 2015.

On Tuesday, the Conservatives cancelled a committee meeting scheduled for this week on the bill. Another meeting is scheduled for Thursday morning.

Environment Minister John Baird said the meeting was cancelled simply because the Conservatives have been busy preparing the federal budget, which was unveiled on Monday, and negotiating ecoTrust announcements with the provinces.

"Obviously, it's been a busy time," Baird said Tuesday. "One of the things we hadn't anticipated is that a lot of work has had to go on environmentally that we hadn't anticipated."

But NDP MP Nathan Cullen, a committee member, said the Conservatives cancelled the meeting because they did not want to be in a position where they were voting against opposition amendments that would take real steps to protect the environment from industrial pollution.

"They didn't want the Canadian public seeing them voting against it," he said.

'Dead on arrival'
Liberal MP David McGuinty, another committee member, said the government has to accept the fact that the bill is being taken apart and put back together again in a completely different form than its original version.

"It was dead on arrival," he said. "Now we're going to put Humpty Dumpty together in a form that's different from what it looked like from the beginning."

The opposition parties hold the majority of votes on the committee, which means the amendments will likely be included in the bill when it returns to the House of Commons.

Under the first reading version of the bill, there was no mention of Kyoto and there were no hard caps on greenhouse gas emissions until 2020 or 2025, but the government would seek to cut emissions by 45 to 65 per cent by 2050.

The bill did not set short-term targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions and its emissions regulations on large polluters would not take effect until 2010.

Under Kyoto, the previous Liberal government pledged that Canada would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to six per cent below 1990 levels by the five-year commitment period of 2008 to 2012.

The committee, officially known as the legislative committee on Bill C-30, must report back to the House of Commons by March 30.

With files from the Canadian Press

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