Opposition legislators attacked Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper Wednesday after it emerged that he had once described the Kyoto global warming protocol as "a socialist scheme to suck money out of wealth-producing nations."
OTTAWA -- Opposition legislators attacked Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper Wednesday after it emerged that he had once described the Kyoto global warming protocol as "a socialist scheme to suck money out of wealth-producing nations."
Harper, who says Canada cannot meet its Kyoto commitments to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, made the comments in a 2002 fund-raising letter when he was in opposition.
He now heads the minority Conservative government and is under great pressure to show he is serious about tackling climate change.
"A real leader would say that he was wrong and say 'I agree that it was wrong and I have changed my mind'," said Stephane Dion, leader of the opposition Liberals.
"But the problem is he did not change his mind. He is still a climate change denier," Dion told Parliament.
Harper did not directly respond to the question of whether he was misleading Canadians about his views on Kyoto -- a suggestion which was put to him many times by Liberal legislators.
"This government is acting. This government accepts ... the science of climate change," he said.
In a letter, Harper sang the praises of his "campaign to block the job-killing, economy-destroying Kyoto accord", an agreement he said was "based on tentative and contradictory scientific evidence about climate trends".
The prime minister comes from the energy-rich western province of Alberta, where emissions are soaring as companies open up vast expanses of oil-rich tar sands. In the letter, Harper said Kyoto would cripple Canada's oil and gas industry.
Kyoto committed Canada to cutting emissions of greenhouse gases by 6 percent from 1990 levels by 2012. Emissions are around 35 percent above the target and continue to rise.
The Conservatives say the Liberals did nothing to curb emissions when they were in power from 1993 to 2006.
"Hearing the Liberals lecture on the importance of climate change and the environment is almost like listening to a former Enron executive lecture on the importance of sound accounting," said Environment Minister John Baird.
Last September the Conservative government introduced draft legislation that would not have imposed binding emissions cuts until 2020 at the earliest.
The bill was widely criticized and Harper agreed to send it to a special parliamentary committee so tougher provisions could be added.