Toronto MP holds nose, votes for ‘flawed’ climate bill

The politics of climate change rolled on in Ottawa Wednesday as Bill C-311, the NDP’s Climate Change Accountability Act, passed through a House of Commons committee and is now on its way to third reading.

With a combined opposition 155 ‘yeas’ against 137 mostly Conservative ‘nays’, the Private Member’s Bill, if passed, would legally commit the federal government to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels, by the year 2050 and 25 percent below those levels by the year 2020.

It also requires Ottawa issue a progress report once every two years to keep the government on track.

But the bill, introduced by the NDP’s Bruce Hyer in 2008, had received a cold shoulder from Michael Ignatieff’s Liberals who stalled its passage out of the Common’s Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainability.

For Toronto Liberal MP Gerrard Kennedy, Parkdale-Highpark, who voted Wednesday to move C-311 forward, the bill offers a ‘flawed framework’ to climate accountability.

Kennedy took some heat for his position at a recent community council meeting – the theme was green energy and sustainability – and Liberal support for the bill was one of the hot-button issues for Sharon Howard, who said she was frustrated with the Liberal position on C-311.

“We would have a climate accountability act if the Liberals had voted for it in October but they didn’t. And I’m telling you, I’m not only disillusioned and disappointed, I’m really scared,” she said. “I fear the Liberals don’t understand tipping point and run-away climate change.”

Dave Martin, a climate and energy coordinator for Greenpeace Canada, chimed in, saying C-311 is a first step: “the bill is not sufficient but it is necessary,” Martin said. “If you don’t know what you’re aiming for, it’s hard to get there.”

In the end, the Liberals voted to push the bill forward, but Kennedy doesn’t deny that he plugged his nose and voted yea.

“I voted for Bill C-311 but I gotta tell ya, I disagree fundamentally that it will make a great difference. Fundamentally, nothing will change as a result of Bill C-311,” Kennedy said.

“And the question is – is that what we rally around, a vote in Parliament to say that it takes care of things?”

Few Private Member bills actually become law. The Climate Change Accountability Act continues in the tradition of the NDP’s C-377, introduced as a Private Member’s Bill by leader Jack Layton.