Greenhouse gas bill passes despite Harper opposition

'Three of four parties paid attention to all the recent science, the growing international consensus and the clear call by Canadians for bold action on climate change.'

Bruce Hyer (left), MP for Thunder Bay-Superior North, and James Clancy, president of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE)Ottawa (2 April 2009) - An important bill that would set national climate targets and commit Canada to a responsible international role in dealing with climate change received second reading by a vote of 141 to 128 Wednesday despite unanimous opposition from the governing Conservatives.

Liberal, New Democratic Party and Bloc Québécois MPs combined to give the bill "approval in principle." It will now go to the Standing Committee on the Environment for study before coming back to the Commons for third and final reading.

Standings in the minority 308-seat House are Conservative 143, Liberal 77, Bloc 49, NDP 37 and Independent 2.

The proposed law (C-311) is a private member's bill that normally would not get past first reading without government approval. It was introduced by Bruce Hyer, the NDP MP for Thunder Bay-Superior North.

“I was pleased that today three out of the four parties in Parliament paid attention to all the recent science, the growing international consensus and the clear call by Canadians for bold action on climate change,” Hyer said following the vote.

“In December this year the world will meet in Copenhagen to sign the next major global climate change treaty. This Copenhagen Bill is the legislation that will allow Canada to be there with clean hands," Hyer added.

“[It] will move Canada from a laggard to a leader in combating dangerous climate change. We’ve debated this for years, and the science is clear. We know what needs to be done. We know what lies ahead for us if we don’t fulfill our climate obligations to our children and grandchildren. What we need now isn’t more talk, but action.”

The Commons voted for a virtually identical bill — then known as C-377 — last June with unanimous support from the three opposition parties. It did get through third reading before the 2008 election was called by Harper. That bill was also opposed by Conservative MPs.

James Clancy, president of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), wrote on March 5 to Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and Liberal environment critic David McGuinty urging Liberal MPs to support the new bill as they did the previous one.

What C-311 does:

If it becomes law, C-311 would require the Canadian environment minister to implement measures to ensure that Canada reduces absolute greenhouse gas emissions to a level that is 25% below 1990 levels by 2020, and to a level that is 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

It would also enforce greater government accountability by requiring the minister to prepare five-year target plans starting in 2015 and to report to Parliament every two years on the rate of progress. An independent body, the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, would also be mandated to review and report on the feasibility of each target plan.

NUPGE

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

More information:
Full text of Bill C-311: Climate Change Accountability Act

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