The Scene. “One step forward,” Thomas Mulcair sighed, “four steps back.”
By Mr. Mulcair’s telling, the Environment Minister had just last week conceded the need for better environmental monitoring. But today, the leader of the opposition, reported, there was news that the government had decided to eliminate a unit dedicated to the study of smoke stack pollution. “What is the plan to replace Environment Canada’s smoke stack pollution team?” Mr. Mulcair asked of no one in particular. “The plan is to outsource its work to that great environmental country, the United States.”
He slowly pumped his fist to the beat as he delivered the question. “Could the Conservatives tell us how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is supposed to monitor smokestack pollution at a Canadian coal-fired power plant?”
It was Jason Kenney’s turn to play prime minister today and so the Immigration Minister stood to chop his hand and offer assurances. “We will take no lessons from the NDP on this,” he scolded. “If that member chooses to distrust the EPA or President Obama, that is his choice.”
Mr. Mulcair was unimpressed. “Mr. Speaker, usually countries try to take care of their own environment,” he shot back. “They do not outsource it.”
David Christopherson deemed this worthy of a hearty desk-thumping.
“The Conservatives claim that the cuts will not affect monitoring but they are already being contradicted by our own environment department,” Mr. Mulcair continued. “Environment Canada’s website confirms the work done by the smokestack pollution team includes enforcement and compliance. Clearly the minister who just spoke does not even know what programs are being cut.”
The NDP leader then managed to pump both fists as he chided the government side about volcanoes.
“Mr. Speaker,” sighed Mr. Kenney, “the only thing volcanic here is that member’s temper.”
This won chuckles from the Conservatives in attendance.
“Through the Clean Air Act, through the restriction on toxins, through the increased enforcement of our environmental laws, through higher fuel standards, through the reduction in carbon emissions as a result of our plan to reduce carbon emissions across the country, through all of these measures this government,” Mr. Kenney now boasted, “objectively speaking, has made more progress on the quality of our environment and the air that we breathe than any government in the history of the dominion.”
In the wake of so unimpeachable and authoritative a report, Peter Kent was soon thereafter moved to deliver something of an acceptance speech. “This is Environment Week,” the Environment Minister reported, officially in response to a question from Megan Leslie. “This is a great occasion for Canadians to celebrate what this government is doing for the environment, for cleaner air, for cleaner water, for regulation of chemicals, for mitigation and adaptation to climate change, Parks Canada, and for a responsible resource development.”
Either distrustful of President Obama or unwilling to accept Mr. Kenney’s truth, Ms. Leslie seemed unimpressed. “Mr. Speaker, the minister’s explanations are bizarre because he defends climate science to the Prime Minister, but then he happily axes the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy and he presses delete on the Kyoto accord,” she mused. “He extols the virtues of science, but he fires scientists, he guts environmental assessments and he stops emissions reporting. Why will the minister not actually put his money where his mouth is, do the responsible thing, do the common sense thing, and allow proper review of the environmental protection changes in the budget bill?”
Mr. Kent did not take kindly to the opposition critic’s attempt to spoil his celebration. “Mr. Speaker, I can only characterize the content of my colleague’s question as sanctimonious twaddle,” he lamented. “Our government is protecting the environment at the same time as it protects Canadian jobs and the economy. A responsible resource development is the hallmark of the budget which we are in the course of passing, a budget which is receiving more hours of debate than any budget in recent times. This government is getting it done.”
With Ms. Leslie out of turns, it was Bob Rae who offered the rejoinder. “Mr. Speaker,” he quipped, “I suppose that would count as sanctimonious claptrap.”
The Stats. The environment, seven questions. Ethics, five questions. Employment, three questions. Military procurement, government spending, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, cluster munitions, human rights and fisheries, two questions each. The RCMP, the census, natural resources, search-and-rescue, infrastructure, immigration, aboriginal affairs, trade, veterans and Internet access, one question each.
Jason Kenney, eight responses. Peter Van Loan and Maxime Bernier, four responses. Gerald Keddy, Deepak Obhrai, Diane Finley and Randy Kamp, three responses each. Julian Fantino and Andrew Saxton, two responses each. Vic Toews, Joe Oliver, Denis Lebel, Greg Rickford and Steven Blaney, one response each.