Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bill C-311 : Inside the Environment Committee

Last week Iggy vowed to make the environment central to the Liberal platform again.
Today the Libs voted with the Cons to delay passage of the Climate Change Accountability Act by granting the Standing Committee on the Environment yet another extension to study it instead of pass it.
As noted by Pogge this morning :

The bill is identical to one that passed final reading last year but died in the Senate when the last election was called. This version has already passed second reading. Layton wants to push it through before the climate change talks in Copenhagen to send a message that Harper and company, who have been quite happy to sabotage international efforts whenever they can, don't represent the majority of Canadians on this issue. So why are the Liberals suddenly withdrawing support from legislation they've supported on five previous votes?

This is the party that signed us on to the Kyoto Protocol in the first place and then spent a decade or more studying implications without actually doing anything. So does this mean they didn't study the implications of this bill the last five times they voted for it?
Good question. Bill C-133 sets long-term targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 25% below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. It does not prescribe specific measures on how to achieve this ; it just says yes we really mean it this time, not like the other time, and authorizes the government to set penalties for failing to reduce emissions.

Back in April, Lib environment critic and environment committee member David McGuinty pushed to have discussion on the bill deferred until this fall. Then the meetings on Sept 29 and Oct 1 were cancelled because they didn't have a chair. Now they want an extension.

The Standing Committee on the Environment :
6 Cons - Bezan, Braid, Calkins, Jeff Watson, Warawa, Woodworth - all voted against Bill C-311 in April, Calkin absent. [Note : Iggy also absent for the vote]
3 Libs - McGuinty, Scarpeleggia, Trudeau
2 Bloc - Bigras, Ouellet
1 NDP - Linda Duncan

So what's going on in that committee?
Yesterday I listened to the audio of Tuesday's meeting as the committee heard four climate scientists , including Nobel Prize winner and former IPCC Working Group Chair John Stone, speak for two hours on the importance of passing the bill prior to the Copenhagen talks in December. Without it we are not even in the game, the scientists said. We will have no voice there, no credibility. Being scientists, they stuck to explaining sciencey things.

No good, said McGuinty and the Cons, we need solutions and concrete plans. What about waiting to see what happens to Obama's targets? What about the other countries? Where is your specific plan of action for Canada and how much it will cost?

We're scientists, not economists or policy makers, the scientists patiently explained about six freakin' times, noting again the importance of making a start.

"Bill C-311 is a first ingredient - we must begin by setting targets.
Kyoto did not work because we didn't have any legislation in place with which to begin to implement it."
Ok then, said the Cons, just give us your personal opinion on what a solution would look like.

One scientist tells about a Saskatchewan project on carbon capture that he says actually works. Another says that if Canada implements a target to keep temperature increase to 2°C, then we would only lose one year of GDP growth by 2050.

The Cons immediately pounce : "What is your expertise in making this claim? Where are your qualifications in economics?"

And after that the scientists politely declined any further ventures into the Con Catch-22 land of being berated both for not providing policy solutions outside their expertise and also for providing them when badgered into it.

Note to committee : Your credibility as members of an environment committee was not particularly enhanced by bringing up climate change 'skeptics' like Ross McKitrick and Rex Murphy and asking actual climate scientists to address the points you recently read about in the National Post.

And then the meeting ended after approving a budget of $39,650 for further study of Bill C-311.
Update : Devin .
Upperdate : The vote : 169 to 93, with 8 paired. Bill C-311 now officially mired in committee and unlikely to pass before Copenhagen.
Although all three Lib environment committee members voted with the Cons for the extension as expected - including St├ęphane Dion! - 14 Libs broke ranks to vote with the NDP and Bloc against it.

Canadians who give a shit about the environment thank the following Libs for their support:
Scott Andrews, Kirsty Duncan, Andrew Kania, Dominic LeBlanc, Keith Martin, Alexandra Mendez, Shawn Murphy, Anita Neville, Robert Oliphant, Glen Pearson, Mario Silva, Michelle Simson, Alan Tonks, and Francis Valeriote.
Oct 26 Update : 200 protesters disrupted Question Period today as one by one they stood up and shouted : "I say 311, you say 'sign it' " - before being dragged away. 6 detained; at least one roughed up. Good for them. Probably raised the level of debate in the House several notches.


thwap said...

Awesome work and appalling behaviour on the part of those neanderthals.

Oemissions said...

YES! Awesome work from Creekside again.
WOW! Do you think they will have something to say on Saturday? Or will they hide out somewhere?

Chris said...

Thanks Alison...duly tweeted.

Oemissions said...

I called and left a 'thankyou' message and/or emailed these 14 Libs today!

Clayton Grassick said...

I live in Justin Trudeau's riding and someone is putting up posters pointing out how he voted on the 21st and suggesting that people call him and tell him what they think if it.

I hope lots of people call. I did. Grr.

Alison said...

Thwap : It was pretty unbelievable.
Sorry not to note individual names - too hard to keep up with just audio.

Chris : And I'm sure that's a very wonderful thing - whatever that is ;-)

Way to go, O. You're always so good at doing that. I shoulda embedded the links - keep forgetting to do it.

Clayton : Trudeau's vote rather surprised me as in committee he was pretty tough on the Con targets being insufficient, as in amounting to a 3% increase on 1990 levels.
To his credit, he has tried to get the committee meetings televised, although I fear public exposure of meetings like this could cause the percentage of voting Canadians to flatline altogether. ;-)

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