Federal New Democrats are ensuring the survival of a key piece of Liberal legislation aimed at keeping Canada accountable to its target of achieving net-zero carbon-related emissions by mid-century, while former Green Party leader Elizabeth May mounts a last-ditch effort to strengthen the bill.
Parliamentarians are currently discussing Bill C-12 at a committee voting on a series of changes to the proposed climate law tabled late last year, The Canadian Press reports. If passed, it would see Canada set rolling five-year targets to slash greenhouse gas emissions through 2050.
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That’s when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has pledged that any pollution the country does emit can be offset by initiatives like tree-planting or captured before being released into the atmosphere.
New Democrats have criticized the legislation as lacking short-term accountability from now until 2030. By working with the opposition party, Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson says the government will accept changes to the bill, which the NDP says includes climate progress reports in 2023 and 2025, as well as an “interim emissions objective” for 2026.
“This is too important to let this legislation have no accountability whatsoever, which is what we were faced with,” said NDP environment and climate change critic Laurel Collins.
“Either an empty bill, which what was initially put forward, or voting against it and having to wait for the next government to put forward something that would actually provide accountability.”
“We were able to use our leverage and use the pressure that we were able to put, to ensure that we actually get a measure of climate accountability.”
By accepting its proposals, the NDP has pledged to work with the Liberals to get it through the House of Commons, and into the Senate, before the parliamentary session concludes.
But May is distinctly dissatisfied with the amended bill. She’s calling the committee process “an abomination”, noting that detailed review of the legislation was limited to nine hours and left a long list of potential witnesses unheard. In an opinion piece Friday, she urged Canadians to press Trudeau, Wilkinson, and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh to “send back your half-baked loaf” and “deliver a bill that meets the demand of science—and our kids”.
“I am shocked that Canadians wanting to testify are being turned away,” she tweeted May 20. “Thanks to NDP, BQ support for Liberals, witnesses are only heard over 3 days—and rushing to clause by clause next week!”
Conservative environment critic Dan Albas said in a statement that the Liberals are “rushing” the bill through its committee stage.
So far, the party voted against the bill, saying a government-created advisory body on the net-zero goal doesn’t include representation from the oil and gas industry, which could be hurt by the influence of so-called “climate activists.”
At least two of the advisory panelists have a background in oil and gas.
“We entered the committee process in good faith with amendments suggested by witnesses that would make the bill better,” Albas said.
“Unfortunately the Liberal government and their NDP allies made a deal and are refusing to even debate or engage with any ideas from other opposition parties.”
In his own statement, Wilkinson said the government always wanted to work with opposition parties in the minority parliament to improve the bill, and that its passage would be a “win” for Canadians.
The main body of this report was first published by The Canadian Press on May 27, 2021