In Parliament: Net Zero Emissions Bill does not provide Accountability

On June 22, I spoke at third reading of Bill C-12, an act to provide transparency and accountability for Canada's efforts to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Unfortunately - because this work is important - the bill does not achieve its goal of providing transparency nor accountability. The full transcript of my remarks, and the Q&A, follows the video.

 

 

Mr. Greg McLean (Calgary Centre, CPC) 

    Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure tonight to rise again in the House as the member for Calgary Centre and speak for perhaps the last time in this Parliament, if we hear what the government is saying correctly, which is that the Liberals are probably going to the polls at the end of this summer, but that is for another night.

    I would like to speak tonight about Bill C-12, an act respecting transparency and accountability in Canada's efforts to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050.

    I remember when the bill first came before Parliament. We did our jobs as parliamentarians. We read the bill and we looked at the bill, and a lot of us supported the bill because of what it represented, but we did our job as opposition parliamentarians, not just as parliamentarians on the government side. We looked at it and said that we have to pick our spots here about what we criticize, what we work with the government on and how we move these advances forward.

    When the bill was introduced, I looked at its words and what it seemed to indicate as its intent: to hold governments accountable for reaching assigned climate change targets. All things considered, how could I not support government accountability?

    Frankly, it is the absolute greatest failure of the government for the past six years. “Accountability” is not a word that seems to be understood by this weak government.

    Let us talk about accountability in this debate on the environment. In the Liberals' six years in government, we have seen six increases in greenhouse emissions. We have seen more and more failed experiments through misguided interventions, and I note the excess spending in the department and in contracts with so many self-interested non-governmental organizations. Billions of excess spending went out the door to unaccountable, connected organizations that are accomplishing nothing but are being very well paid in the process.

    Let us look at another example of virtue over objectives and results. Let us talk about two billion trees. How long ago did the government promise two billion trees? This year it is saying that this year it will actually plant 30 million trees. That is pretty good, but if we think about how many trees Canada actually has, we realize that it is hundreds of billions. This is a very small measurement, and it is accomplishing next to nothing. This is something that is more virtue over results. We actually need some results on the environment, and we need to get there as quickly as possible with some real programs.

    At first reading, I stood and supported the bill because it provided an accountability mechanism for a misleading, unaccomplished government. The veil came off that pretty quickly. The bill allows the Minister of Environment to appoint 14 representatives to a net-zero advisory board. They were already appointed prior to this legislation even being passed by the House, and it still has another House to go. The minister already has all his people picked out and put there, but it is also quite a power amassment by the Minister of Environment. Let us look at what he has done with his last power grab. Under the Impact Assessment Act, effectively he is the decider of every project that happens in Canada right now, whether or not it is provincial or federal jurisdiction.

    This is something that is continuous. It is very clear that the minister is trying to get more and more decision-makers involved with his department and that he wants to make all the decisions for the government unilaterally. This is not the way Canada has been governed.

    This board was constituted before the legislation even existed. It is a good thing that we took a good look at who is on the board. I will just go through one of the people, and I fully confess that I know two of the members on the board. I worked with them before, and they are actually pretty good members. However, I do not think two out of 14 are necessarily going to be holding the boat. There are some who seem to be quite obstructionist, so to speak, and the result is going to speak for itself at some point in time when the board comes to a conflict.

    The executive director, Catherine Abreu of the Climate Action Network, is one of the appointees. What is her skill? She is an award-winning campaigner. That is fantastic. A campaigner is on a government-appointed board now.

    Ms. Abreu believes we need to manage the swift decline of Canada's oil and gas industry, which is Canada's biggest industry, Canada's biggest contributor to taxes and Canada's biggest employer. That is great. We are just going to manage the swift decline of that industry rather than work with it to find out how we actually reduce carbon emissions. That is a good move.

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    What is this organization the Climate Action Network? It is a coalition of more than 100 organizations, including Clean Energy Canada, which all these others seem to collect around, and for some reason they need to fund an organization that oversees them. Who are they funded by? They are funded by each of the non-governmental organizations that is also funded by the government. It is a big circle of money pooling around, and eventually the taxpayer pays for it all, but let us follow the money. Environment and Climate Change Canada is the funder of many of these organizations. For a government department to spend tens of millions of dollars over budget and tens of millions of dollars more on external contracts for consultants is an embarrassment. This is where the money is going. It is all connected friends who are being paid in this process.

    This reminds me of last summer and the Task Force for a Resilient Recovery: that bold environmental initiative from summer 2020. Of course, we cannot find a record of what it did or why it recommended what it did, but quite famously 15 individuals from 15 government-funded organizations came together quickly in the midst of a pandemic to not let this opportunity pass. “This opportunity” was the pandemic and people dying, because thousands of people died to allow them to move their agenda forward.

    Those are scary comments. Parliament was shut down. Canadians were locked down. Were there meetings with these 15 organizations and these 15 individuals? Was external input sought? Did the Canadian economy or Canadian society participate in this report or these meetings? What about health care workers, teachers, businessmen, engineers, farmers, processors, technologists, workers, legalists and indigenous organizations? There was no input whatsoever. It was actually a whitewash of one professor's academic pursuit.

    Stewart Elgie, of the Smart Prosperity Institute, drove it forward with one document. Who were some of the other partners in this? I will read them off: the International Institute for Sustainable Development, Efficiency Canada, the Transition Accelerator, the Institute for Sustainable Finance, Clean Energy Canada, Environmental Defence Canada, Corporate Knights, the Stockholm Environment Institute, Environment and Climate Change Canada, again funding itself, the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation and the Broadbent Institute. As well, a number of other institutes that are all funded by government come together here under the helm of none other than Gerald Butts: that beacon of transparent, democratic government.

    If we look closely enough at all these organizations we will see significant overlap in boards, management and mandate. They love government money. Therefore, another circle of government-funded organizations gathered together to recommend more government spending on their initiatives. Members should not look for the report. It is not available, but we can see its recommendations, sometimes word for word and billion dollars for billion dollars, in the last throne speech and in this year's budget. It is government policy by a highly paid, self-interested Star Chamber. This is democracy under the current Liberal government. Are conflicts disclosed? They are not at all.

    Bill C-12 proposes to ensconce this unaccountable, self-interested, conflicted decision-making body as an instrument in Canada's environmental decision-making. Indeed, some members of this board were involved in the Task Force for a Resilient Recovery. “Thanks for the deceitful work,” says the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, “Canadians will thank you with an endless stream of unaccountable funds.”

    Bill C-12, supposedly about accountability of government, is in fact a removal of accountability of government. Members should follow the money. The government's friends are getting more expensive.

Ms. Lenore Zann (Cumberland—Colchester, Lib.) 

    Madam Speaker, I would like to say to the member that Catherine Abreu was here in Nova Scotia and doing excellent work for the environment for a number of years. When I was an MLA for 10 years, I was very impressed with her knowledge.

    Does the member actually know what her background is, or is he just choosing her out of a hat to make fun of for some particular reason?

Mr. Greg McLean 

    Madam Speaker, that was a strange question. This is not fun. I did not pick her name out of a hat. I am only reporting what was said in the paper about the person's qualifications and why she stood to be on this board. I do not know where she is coming from that. I know there was a reason she was picked to be on the board. I know what she said in public, as far as the Canadian economy goes, and I know she has been involved very much in trying to end one of the economic engines of the Canadian economy without accountability.

     That is what is wrong with the government, frankly. It is the lack of accountability.

Ms. Kristina Michaud (Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, BQ) 

    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. The Liberals keep saying that they listen to scientists and experts, but they gave the committee just a few hours to hear from witnesses, including scientists and environmentalists who came to talk to us about the issue, what needs to be done, why there is a climate emergency and the importance of having a climate act. In other words, that is a bit rich coming from them.

    I know the Conservatives really did their part in the debates. I would like to know what they would have liked to see in Bill C‑12 that would have made it more transparent, as the title suggests, more binding, and more demanding of accountability from whichever government is in power after the promulgation of a climate act like the one Bill C‑12 will become.

Mr. Greg McLean 

    Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia for her question. It is a good question. I am still looking for the bill's raison d'être and trying to understand why it is before Parliament now. Given its contents, I do not know why it is before Parliament, because it does nothing for the environment. I think we need to do better for the environment. We need to do something better for our future.

Mr. Matthew Green (Hamilton Centre, NDP) 

    Madam Speaker, one of my favourite points of entertainment in the House of Commons has been watching the member for Calgary Centre argue with the Minister of Natural Resources about which party is more committed to oil and gas. The hon. member talked about accountability. The bill would work to establish an advisory board, which he referenced, that was supposed to have a mandate for review of the government's progress.

    Specifically which measures of accountability would the member like to see to ensure the industry is held accountable for climate change?

Mr. Greg McLean 

    Madam Speaker, accountability is about the whole country being accountable, including the oil and gas industry, so I do appreciate the member's question, particularly as it relates to the Minister of Natural Resources on that side of the House.

    We need to set targets here. We need to force targets and regulatory targets about how we will reduce carbonization in our economy going forward, which applies to all industries.

    The thing about our natural resource industry is that it has been the most successful at decarbonizing so far. We need to continue on that trend. One company in my riding reduced its carbon footprint by 18% over the past four years. That is significant progress. Show me another company or another industry in the country where we are reducing our carbon footprint by 4.5% a year and we will all be successful in this effort.