By Dale Marshall, Climate Change Policy Analyst

In two separate votes yesterday, the House of Commons shone a light on the chasm between Conservative inaction on global warming and the more ambitious wishes of the majority of the country.

The Climate Change Accountability Act (Bill C-311) is an NDP private member's bill that sets science-based targets for reducing Canada's global warming pollution and includes accountability measures such as setting interim milestones and having the environment commissioner ensure that the country is on track. The bill passed, with every opposition MP voting for it and all Conservative MPs voting against. The three opposition parties have all indicated they will support the bill at its final vote in the House of Commons sometime in mid-May.

The Liberals also introduced a motion calling for immediate action on global warming, including regulations to reduce Canada's global warming pollution, investments in clean energy and energy efficiency, phasing out subsidies for dirty energy, and funding poor countries to help them adapt to climate change and curb their own emissions. The motion is very much in line with the NDP bill, so it's no surprise that the three opposition parties also voted for it and the governing Conservatives again voted against.

What both votes symbolize, though, is how out of touch the federal Conservatives are on climate change compared to the centre of gravity in Canada. A majority of parties and a majority of MPs in Parliament are expressing the urgency of action. A majority of provinces representing the vast majority of Canadians have much stronger targets and plans to meet them. (The federal government still does not even have a plan.) And a majority of Canadians, in poll after poll, are saying that Canada needs to do more and even that federal inaction is embarrassing for them.

Environment Minister Jim Prentice's position that Canada needs to wait for the U.S. to act before we do also came under criticism in Parliament yesterday. Not surprisingly. I don't think the average Canadian likes the idea that Canada has handed over its sovereignty to a foreign country, no matter how close our ties. And citizens understand that waiting means losing out on economic opportunities in clean energy as well as increasing the negative impacts on the environment.

It's a good thing the Canadian Parliament and many Canadian provinces have decided that waiting is not an option.

April 15, 2010

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