Canadian Government Says Key Environment Bill in Trouble
OTTAWA -- Canada's minority Conservative government is unhappy that opposition parliamentarians have totally rewritten its draft clean air legislation and will now consider what to do with the bill, Environment Minister John Baird said Thursday.
The plan, unveiled last September, did not call for binding cuts in the emissions of greenhouse gases until 2020.
Under heavy pressure from opponents who consistently portray the Conservatives as weak on environmental issues, the government agreed to let the bill be amended by a special parliamentary committee.
The committee rewrote the bill from top to bottom, committing Ottawa to sticking to emissions cuts outlined in the Kyoto protocol on climate change. The Conservatives say Canada cannot meet its Kyoto obligations.
"I think this is clearly more about politics than it is about serving the environment," Baird told reporters, blaming the official opposition Liberals.
"I have real problems with the changes to this bill. We'll take a period to look at the entirety of the damage that the Liberals have done and make a call in the future ... I can tell you I'm not happy."
The options facing the government are unattractive. It could either admit defeat and scrap what is a key part of its agenda or present the amended version to Parliament and watch as legislators approved a bill the Conservatives oppose.
Baird said he would press ahead with other initiatives, which include unveiling emissions targets for heavy emitters such as industry and power plants. Opposition legislators and green groups expect that announcement next week.
John Godfrey, a Liberal spokesman on the environment, said it was the Conservatives who had asked the committee to make major changes.
"The amendments we have put in are entirely consistent with our initial criticism of the bill," he told reporters. "They (said) if we didn't like it we should change it ... we've done that and now they don't like that fact."
Last month Parliament approved a law obliging Ottawa to explain how it would meet its Kyoto targets. The Conservatives called the measure "a toothless tiger" because it did not provide any money to implement the cuts called for by Kyoto.
The topic is a tricky one for the Liberals, who signed the Kyoto treaty and committed Canada to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by 6 percent from 1990 levels by 2012.
Emissions of greenhouse gases, blamed for global warming, are currently 27 percent above 1990 levels, with virtually all of the increase taking place under previous Liberal governments. The Conservatives won power in January 2006.