NDP to support net-zero emissions bill before Commons break, possible election

Though NDP environment critic Laurel Collins says the Liberals' net-zero emissions bill still isn't as good as it could be, the NDP will help pass the legislation through the Commons before its summer break and a possible fall election that would kill it.

OTTAWA — NDP environment critic Laurel Collins says her party will help the Liberals get the government's climate accountability bill to the Senate as soon as possible, even though the bill isn't as good as she thinks it could be.

The net-zero legislation sets legally binding greenhouse gas emission reduction targets over the next three decades, culminating in net zero emissions no later than 2050.

That would mean Canada captures any emissions still produced using nature or technology, a critical requirement to the world's attempt to slow global warming.

Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson introduced the bill in November, and is now seeking help from the NDP and Bloc Québécois to speed its passage through the House of Commons.

Wilkinson says the Conservatives are purposely trying to drag out the clause-by-clause review at the House environment committee, which allows MPs to vote on proposed amendments.

But if the bill doesn't get to the Senate this week, it likely won't have time to pass there before Parliament rises for the summer, and with an election a distinct possibility before it resumes in the fall, the bill would then die.

"Given Conservative procedural tactics, I am asking for your support to use the parliamentary tools available to ensure this bill advances to the Senate of Canada for consideration as soon as possible," Wilkinson said in a letter to NDP and Bloc leaders Tuesday.

The bill is 10 pages long with about four dozen clauses and Wilkinson notes 12 hours of review has only moved the bill half way through clause-by-clause review. Amendments have been proposed by all parties which is slowing the process, but Wilkinson says the Conservatives are purposely lengthening the discussion of each one to slow everything down.

"It is clear the Conservatives will do whatever it takes to prevent its consideration by the Senate of Canada before Parliament rises," he said.

Collins agrees the Conservatives are trying to run out the clock on the bill, but said the Liberals put themselves in the position by not introducing the promised bill until late November, and not bringing it up for meaningful debate until April.

"We are willing to use any of the parliamentary tools available to us," she said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

"It's so vitally important that Canada has climate accountability legislation."

Such bills in the United Kingdom and New Zealand helped them meet all the targets they have set. Canada, said Collins, has never met any of its climate targets, and its emissions have increased since the 2015 Paris climate accord.

Under Paris, Canada agreed to help limit global warning to as close to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels as possible, and no higher than 2C. Experts say the goals aren't achievable if developed nations aren't at net-zero emissions by mid-century.

The Liberals have agreed to a number of NDP amendments to the legislation, including adding an interim emissions target as early as 2026, instead of waiting until after 2030, and requiring progress reports in 2023 and 2025.

The Bloc Québécois however won't do anything to help the Liberals affect the bill's movement. All amendments Bloc MPs introduced were rejected by the Liberals and the NDP.

"The Bloc does not intend in any way to hinder, slow down or interfere with the proper functioning of the committee currently studying Bill C-12," said party spokesman Julien Coulombe-Bonnafous in French.

Environment groups are also urging all parties to get the bill passed.

Andrew Gage, a staff lawyer at West Coast environmental law, said the bill would be stronger if it showed plans that actually achieved its emissions targets, and had an advisory body reporting to Parliament instead of the minister.

But he said the bill as it now stands, with the agreed amendments, is better than anything Canada has ever had.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 9, 2021.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

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