The Commons: Back to the future -

The Commons: Back to the future

When it comes to climate change, John Baird is not about to make promises he can’t keep. Or keep promises he once made.


The Scene. Michael Ignatieff stood with a slight smile. His side cheered, government members jeered.

“Welcome back!” chirped one.

Then to the question, which was, lo and behold, something to do with the environment and the need for urgent action against potential ruin.

“Mr. Speaker, for four years, the government promised a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Mr. Ignatieff reported. “Today, the Environment Minister has once again postponed the announcement of any action until the end of 2010. We’re three weeks from Copenhagen. How can we protect the environment if the government takes no position?”

This was some riddle.

Up to answer was John Baird, an environment minister in a previous life.

“Mr. Speaker, this government is working constructively with our partners around the world to ensure that we tackle global warming and the challenge of climate change,” Mr. Baird declared. “What we will not do is make promises that we cannot keep.”

It is a testament to Mr. Baird’s abilities as a public performer that he did not here descend into giggles.

We dissolve here into ancient history.

“Canadians want action, they want it now and our government is delivering. We are serving notice that beginning today, industry will need to make real reductions,” Mr. Baird once said. ”In as little as three years, greenhouse gases could be going down, instead of up. After years of inaction, Canada now has one of the most aggressive plans to tackle greenhouse gases and air pollution in the world.”

This is, as historians of the written word surely know, what Mr. Baird said two and a half years ago, in a press release announcing his government’s second plan to deal appropriately with the environment. Mr. Baird was subsequently replaced by Jim Prentice and it is Mr. Prentice who now says Canada will wait until not only the United States has settled on a plan, but, indeed, much of the globe has agreed on an approach, before committing to much of anything. Late 2010 is the latest target.

In fairness, while Mr. Baird called his plan “Turning the Corner,” he did not specify precisely how wide a corner we were apparently in the midst of navigating.

Mr. Ignatieff gave it another go. “Mr. Speaker, the government has been giving that reply for nearly four years,” he lamented. “Three plans, three ministers, no action. The government keeps promising Canadians this plan, but the environment minister reports today that it is going to put off all publication of regulations until the end of 2010. The conference in Copenhagen is three weeks away. How are Canadians supposed to believe that the government is going to defend their interest when they have no plan whatsoever?”

There was much grumbling from the government side, including one shouted reference to a carbon tax.

Mr. Baird appealed on Mr. Prentice’s behalf. “We have seen the Minister of the Environment come forward with initiatives to work with the United States with respect to automobiles, with respect to aviation emissions,” he said.

“Where’s the plan?” begged a Liberal.

“This government,” Mr. Baird continued, “is committed to working with the Obama administration to get the job done that never happened in 13 long years when the Liberal Party was in power.”

In fairness, the previous Liberal government signed the Kyoto Protocol in 1998, so in a sense, their specific inaction on this file totalled something like eight years. And, by that count, the current Conservative government is at least half as apathetic. Not that the current Liberal opposition has been particularly keen over the past year to press too forcefully for change, apparently fearful that doing so might remind everyone of last fall’s election. (“Where have you gone Stephane Dion?/An increasingly disinterested capital turns its eyes to you/Woo woo woo/Woo woo woo.”)

“Mr. Speaker, I would remind the minister that the government has been in office for four long years. It cannot keep blaming other people,” Ignatieff lectured, swiping his left hand dismissively at Mr. Baird. “It talks about leadership. I will tell the House what leadership looks like.”

Government members laughed derisively. Because, of course, this was all more or less a joke.

“China has invested $250 billion in green tech,” Mr. Ignateff continued. “The United States is investing six times per capita what we are doing. It is one thing not to lead but it is another thing to not even follow. Why has Canada fallen so far behind?”

Mr. Baird stood one more time and registered his own carbon emissions for the official record. The smog in Ottawa grew a little bit thicker.

The Stats. The environment and ethics, seven questions each. Nuclear energy, five questions. Poverty, four questions. H1N1, pensions, shipyards, agriculture, Afghanistan and employment, two questions each. Arts funding, trade, education and Aboriginals, one question each.

John Baird, eight answers. Lisa Raitt and Peter Kent, four answers each. Christian Paradis and Diane Finley, three answers each. Leona Aglukkaq, Mike Lake, James Moore, Rona Ambrose and Gerry Ritz, two answers each. Jay Hill, Peter MacKay, Gerald Keddy, Gary Goodyear and Steven Fletcher, one answer each.


The Commons: Back to the future

  1. “China has invested $250 billion in green tech,”

    wtf? What is with Libs and their love of the ChiComs. I just posted this somewhere else but I put it here for everyone to see how great ChiComs are with the environment.

    Keeping the government out of the environmental stewardship business is absolutely the best thing we can do for the environment. Communist countries – former or current – are easily the most polluted places on earth. Locals always take care of their surroundings better then some half wit bureaucrats hundreds of miles away.

    • So why did they promise do keep the government in the environmental stewardship business as being the absolutely best thing we can do for the environment?

      Clearly, Ignatieff was not comparing the environmental pollution record of China, but their financing of future energy technologies.

    • Very compelling and disturbing imagery. It is also completely beside the point.

      The quote you pulled is about investment – in other words, looking forward and capitlaizing on the inevitable wave of the future. China is apparently doing that in order to profit.

      Your imagery also belies your assertion that locals will always take care of their surroundings better than bureaucrats. Do the locals look capable of resisting anything? And, in my personal experience, local municipal councils are inherently incapable of plowing roads effeiciently, let alone making hard decisions that might potentially possibly cause the largest local employer to look elsewhere for a factory location.

      • Do you believe ChiComs give a monkey's about the environment? Their 'investment' in green technology is their minimal way of saving face when foreigners come to call and cavil about global warming. ChiComs can point to 'solar street' and say they are trying while doing little to stop being one of the most polluted places on Earth.

        Of course the locals can't resist anything the ChiComs are doing because they don't have property rights or any other kind of rights. ChiComs are the State and can do whatever the hell they want. Locals would do a far better job of keeping their area clean if they were actually allowed to.

        And what's your solution to municipalities being unable to clean streets of snow? Put the prov or feds in charge of snow removal. Do you think snow removal would improve if there was a Fed ministry for clean streets.

        I guess I am always surprised by the useful idjits who are quick to defend Communists.

        • I guess I'm always surprised by the useful idjits who are quick to defend capitlaists. Except I wasn't defending communists just as you aren't defending capitalists.

          Your willingness to deliberately take a discussion down the nearest convenient rabbit hole to sidetrack the substance of the discussion is quite remarkable.

          Another example: Nowhere did I imply or suggest that I would turn to feds or the provicne for snow clearing. That, too, is deliberately intended to introduce into the argument a nonsequiter to distract form the real point, which is that municipal councils are incapable of doing anything menaingful – when necessary – to punish or deter bad behaviour when the "bad guy" is the biggest local employer.

  2. "it is Mr. Prentice who now says Canada will wait until not only the United States has settled on a plan, but, indeed, much of the globe has agreed on an approach, before committing to much of anything. Late 2010 is the latest target."

    Is this the "made-in-Canada" plan they promised Canadians?

    Is this the "made-in-Canada" plan they promised Canadians that would already be "reducing carbon emissions by 2010"???

    These clowns will say anything and do anything to keep power.

  3. Conservative Party platform, 2006, page 37:

    "For all the Liberal talk about the environment, they have done nothing to clean up the environment here in Canada. They… can't seem to get anything done to help people here at home. A Conservative government will implement a "made-in-Canada" plan focused on ensuring future generations enjoy air, clean water, clean land, and clean energy here in Canada. A Conservative government will … address the issue of greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), with a made-in-Canada plan."

  4. you missed a lot of what happened in QP by only concentrating on the exchange between Ignatieff and Baird. What about everything else?

  5. Only 2 questions about H1N1? I thought we were in the midst of a pandemic. Why so few questions on that subject today?

    • More deaths today from h1n1. Perhaps your loud snide comments and doggedly partisan patter on the keyboards is getting results. No doubt your opaque interest in climate change has helped empower Harper to continue with the 20th century-glacier-like retreating on environmental file/promises/lies.

  6. Let's put Canada's GHGs into a global context. Canada produced 2.5% of global GHGs, and we are about 32% in excess of our 2012 Kyoto target. If we were able to physically reduce our excess GHGs, that would reduce global GHGs by a humongous 0.8% …!!!!

    Meanwhile the Chinese, who are now the largest GHG emitters, represent 25% of global GHGs … and are forecast to increase their GHG emissions by 10% annually …. which amounts to a 2.5% to global GHG emissions … OR … their increase represents Canada's total GHG output …!!!!!

    Maybe Suzuki, Gore and all the Liberal and NDP fearmongers should relocate to China and traumatize their population instead of scaring the bejeezuz out of Canadian women and children … putting them on a massive guilt trip over Canada's measly GHGs …. and telling them that our GHGs represent the "tipping point" amount that will plunge the planet into an overheated hell for our children and their children.

    • So Harper, Prentice and Baird are just lying to us?

      Well that is certainly believable, I agree with you there.

      And while we are on it, you know, Canada on its own is never going to defeat terrorism or world poverty or piracy or a whole of host of global problems, so why bother, right? That's what you are saying?

    • Because we can only play a bit part in the solution, we should just continue to be part of the problem?

      Observant, your logic sucks.

  7. Global warming is just another way for governments to implement a tax grab and more control over our lives. Full stop.

    • And avoiding doing anything about global warming is just another way for oil and energy companies to implement a profit margin grab and more profits at our expense. Full stop.

      • Not to mention avoid developing sustainable technology in favour of mantaining our dependence on oil which will run out before the end of this generation.

  8. Regardless of ones position on AGW, which the evidence, on balance, appears to support, the larger questions raised by the government's positions include:

    When and why did the Conservatives determine that Canada's energy policies will be drafted in Washington, DC?
    When and why did the Conservatives determine that Canada's environmental policies will be drafted in Washington, DC?
    When and why did the Conservatives determine that Canada's industrial policies will be drafted in Washington, DC?
    When and why did the Conservatives determine that Canada's technology investment policies will be drafted in Washington, DC?

    And, when did Canadians decide this is all okay?

    • We didn't.

      Yet another big broken promise from Harper.

      Yet another big broken promise no one will call him on.

  9. Where's the plan?” begged a Liberal.
    Amen, anonymous Liberal, amen.

  10. Funny after years of fear mongering I see absolutely no interest by the general public to do anything about global warming or any other fairy tale. That is why Cretian, Harper and Obama do nothing about it, because they know they will not pay an iota for it at the polls. The public loves to hear lots of bromides and euphamisims so they can pretend they are doing something. But even at todays rip off prices for gas I still see the monster trucks and SUV's plying the roads. If people gave a rat's rear end Dion would have won by a landslide and Lizzie May would have been in the Senate and in Cabinet. And we all know what happened to Stephie. Plus I don't see Big Al, Sting or Bono giving up the mansions any time soon. Cheers

    • It's so true. Nobody in this entire country really believes in global warming. You have the people who pretend to believe – and want others to do something – and the people who don't bother pretending. I'm in the latter group, myself.

      If we want tougher environmental legislation, just on general principles, then sure lets have it. But why do we have to discuss everything through this false framework of global "climate change"? Not even the high priests of this new religion can be bothered to follow the dogma they are trying to impose.

  11. It's rather simple actually – It's called a carbon tax on fuel – The USA needs to join in along with Mexico – A North American Solution –

    What does it fix?

    Governments get more revenue (They need it)
    Environment gets help (Quite simple – we cut back when it gets more expensive – Myself I'd rather see the government paying back some of their debt with the increased price than Oil Execs lining their pockets from high oil – Oil prices would likely stay around the same price per Bbl with a higher tax)
    Economy gets help – As transportation becomes more expensive the costs of shipping goes up making local suppliers more competitive. Staycations – housing renos – more fuel efficient cars – alternate energy all become more feasible and jobs come with that.
    Income tax cuts at the lower level become possible as the shift goes to consumption taxes putting more money in peoples pockets to chose how to spend.