In the Chamber -- Grant Mitchell's Blog

Bill C-311

Posted 7/20/2010 by


I am honored to be the Senate sponsor of Bill C-311 which is designed to compel climate change action from the government. The bill passed several months ago in the House of Commons and has come to the Senate and begun the second stage of the legislative process. Bruce Hyer, an NDP MP from Ontario who sponsored the bill in the House, asked me to sponsor the legislation. I am very concerned about the inaction of the government on climate change and jumped at the chance to be the bill’s sponsor.

Bruce has done a great job in managing C-311 through the House and in building support for it across the country. He received the support of the Liberals and the Bloc to pass it through the House and onto the Senate. The Liberals also presented a motion demanding action by the government.

I wanted to provide some information about the bill in the hope that it might clear up some of the misinformation about its scope and potential economic impact.

The bill calls for the government to establish successive 5 year emission reductions plans. The plans have to build to a mandatory objective of 80% reduction of 1990 levels by 2050. The bill also mentions a non-binding objective of 25% reduction by 2020 of 1990 emission levels. The target plans will be reviewed by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE) for the likelihood that they will meet Canada’s emission reduction goals. The bill also requires that the Minister of the Environment to report annually on Canada’s progress in meeting the target plans, and for the NRTEE to publically review the report. Furthermore, the Commissioner of the Environment must also review Canada’s progress every two years.

There is a great urgency to deal with climate change. If there are economic disadvantages in climate action, they will pale by comparison to the consequences of doing nothing or too little. There is much more economic opportunity in climate change action, however, than there is economic risk. The world understands that climate change is occurring and we need to keep up to the economic opportunities that this is creating, avoid the international reputational costs in not keeping up, and fulfill our obligation to future generations.

Here are my arguments about why this bill needs to be passed:

1.  Opponents say the objectives in the bill are too aggressive and would cause economic damage. This is simply not true. The bill states that in making its plans the government is not bound by the 2020 objective at all. It can establish whatever 2020 objective it would like.  

2.  In any event, the long term objective reflects the emission cuts that are necessary to limit the planet’s temperature increase to 2 degrees, which the Prime Minister has endorsed in the Copenhagen Accord.

3.  While the bill calls for review and monitoring of the plans and progress by the Commissioner of the Environment and the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy, these organizations are already doing this.

4.  In conclusion, this is not an unreasonable bill at all. It is a bill that would cause the government to focus on this important issue and make some real progress. (Ironically, the government could actually support this bill to great political advantage and end up not being pushed to do much more than it already says it is prepared to do).

The bill is now stalled in the Senate. I spoke to the bill at second reading on June 1, 2010, shortly after we had received it. Senator Banks spoke shortly after as we waited for the Conservative “critic” to speak. The tradition is that at least one member from each party in the Senate, and certainly the critic, speak to each bill before it goes to a committee for further study. Should they have wanted to, the government side in the Senate could have spoken at any time to further debate. For now, the bill is in limbo until the government speaks on it.

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