Blog Posts | Pembina Institute

Canada’s only proposed climate legislation defeated by government Senators

Blog - Nov. 17, 2010 - By Clare Demerse

We got sad news last night about Canada's Climate Change Accountability Act, a private member's bill that could have helped move Canada into a leadership role in tackling global warming.

Before it even had a chance to be debated, the bill was defeated by Conservative Senators in a surprise vote.

MPs from all three opposition parties have supported the legislation, known as Bill C-311, so it passed its final vote in the House of Commons in May. Conservative MPs voted unanimously against it then and have opposed it every step of the way.

Late yesterday, after months of delay on discussing the bill, C-311 came up for a snap vote. It's virtually unprecedented to hold a vote at that stage of considering legislation - before a bill has even been debated - and the move certainly took the bill's sponsor by surprise.

The bill was defeated 43-32 along strict party lines (with the exception of Independent Senator Anne Cools, who voted with the government against the bill). More than 15 Liberals were absent from the Senate yesterday, as were two Progressive Conservatives and one Independent. Among those missing was the bill's Progressive Conservative co-sponsor.

Pembina is a non-partisan think tank, but I don't think there's anything partisan about saying how disappointing yesterday's vote was for us. C-311 would have set a science-based national greenhouse gas emissions target for Canada for 2050. It would then have required the government to adopt annual plans and implement policies to reach the target, and to report on their progress.

Anyone who's serious about cutting greenhouse gas pollution would agree that we need a long-term goal and a transparent plan to meet it. Indeed, that's exactly why the bill has won consistent support from all three opposition parties, who have passed nearly identical versions of the bill twice now (the first version was lost due to the 2008 election.) Polls have consistently shown that Canadians worry about climate change and want to see their government take stronger action to tackle it.

In the Senate, the bill was championed by a non-partisan duo of Alberta Senators, Liberal Grant Mitchell and Progressive Conservative Elaine McCoy. (The two House of Commons versions have been introduced by NDP MPs Jack Layton and Bruce Hyer.) Support for the bill came from environmental groups, youth, labour, and faith communities across Canada.

The loss of C-311 leaves Canada without any federal climate legislation on the table. Unless there's a dramatic announcement, our government will head into the UN negotiations in Cancun later this month without any kind of a credible plan to meet its target, a point that columnist Jeffrey Simpson makes very clear in today's Globe and Mail.

It would have been difficult to watch the Senate defeat this groundbreaking legislation under any circumstances. But to see it lost in this way is even tougher: C-311 was defeated without any debate, without the chance to call a single witness to explain what it offered, and at a moment when key supporters of the bill happened to be away from the Senate.

I think that Canadians deserved better. 

Andrew Frenette — Nov 18, 2010 - 08:14 AM MT

Don't "think" we deserve better. We deserve better. Period. Senate reform including democratic elections? Check. Better gov't that listens to constituents? Check. A majority gov't? Check. Fire Harper. Fire his cronies. Fire the senate. Fire the Conservatives.

We really need to move Canada out of the Victorian era of the 19th Century and into the 21st. This is outrageous behaviour. Canada deserves better representation than this. I've had enough of the chicanery and skullduggery so prevalent in Canadian politics. As a nation, we're better than that and deserve better than that.

Stephen McKechnie — Nov 17, 2010 - 07:48 PM MT

Leonard. A man convinced about environmental B.S. asking a list of questions. All of the information every educated skeptic needs is available. Visit the Calgary based 'Friends of Gin and Tonic' site. Stop looking for innocent people to feel sory for you and wasting their time. FoGT is meant to be confused with FoS. (Friends of Stephen)

Matthew Carroll — Nov 17, 2010 - 01:55 PM MT

@Leonard, quit with the nonsense.

The "jury" is quite clear that we are committed to significant impacts already. Whether we will turn the climate juggernaut around fast enough to avoid truly devastating impacts is the only real question that remains.

We have had ample evidence for decades that the current warming is caused by anthropogenic emissions. That evidence only continues to get more concrete. Anyone who actually has a grasp on the science knows this. Clearly you do not.

"This" has never occurred before. By this, I mean the absolutely massive planet-wide release of carbon stored in fossil fuels by humans.

If you're asking about previous warm periods in (glacial timescale) history, I'd suggest you read this:

The last interglacial period before the end of the Pleistocene was about 175-25,000 years ago, and the oldest ice cores date back 800,000 years or so. The oldest ice on the planet (not sampled) is into the millions of years.

I have no idea why you're asking any of those questions, though, except to make it appear that you have unanswerable questions that some how lend weight to your utter rubbish.

As for "ruining" our economy, that's not only a straw man argument, but wrong. We will have to transition off oil when (not if) it runs out, and doing so sooner, investing in efficiency, green jobs, and renewable energy sources will only create jobs. Ask yourself this: how many full time employees would it take to retrofit every house in North America to modern best-possible insulation standards and install solar thermal water heating on every roof?

Melissa Hellwig — Nov 17, 2010 - 12:20 PM MT

Sorry? You think that Canadians deserved better ! The Earth deserves better. What kind of pity understatement is that ? A weak Canadian response which is why we are in this mess.............

You have no compulsory voting, no proportional representation, appointed Senators, the largest industrial project on Plaent Earth and that's the best you can say? I am enraged and I'm not even a citizen yet.

I want to have the option to become a Canadian citizen since I fear my home country of Australia may become uninhabitable sooner rather than later. But this political response is so abhorrent I cannot possibly bring myself to be a part of this place.

Look around you at the state of the rest of the world and know your economic comfort from the oilsands is at the expense of the rest of civilization. They deserve better.

Leonard D Aylward — Nov 17, 2010 - 11:59 AM MT

I think Canadians got just what they deserve on this one.
The jury is still out out on what impact any of this environmental "B.S."
We have zero evidence that the impact of all of our human efforts has caused the warming of the planet.
What was the cause of the planet warm up the last time this occurred?
What was the time span between the last thaw and the beginning of the last freeze?
What is the age of the oldest ice found on this planet?
Waht good will it do to ruin our economy to pursue policies that sound great but have zero evidence of altering the warming of the planet?

Neil — Nov 18, 2010 - 10:30 AM MT

Not go all ad hominem on you, but other commenters would do well to google a named troll to see whether you might better target your ripostes.

Leonard is clearly a small businessman, who has met some nice people employed in the oil patch, who is concerned about increased taxes. And who wouldn't be concerned about increased taxes?

Climate legislation would be useful to Leonard is that it would allow him and his suppliers to adjust at a gradual and controlled pace to a more sustainable energy system, rather than be shocked by oil price swings as tarsand supplies become harder to process.

Neil — Nov 18, 2010 - 12:16 PM MT

[Repost with edits: moderator may remove original post]

Not to go all ad hominem on you, but other commenters would do well to google a named troll so that you might better target your ripostes.

Leonard is clearly a small businessman who has met some nice people employed in the oil patch, and who is concerned about increased taxes. And frankly, who wouldn't be concerned about increased taxes?

Clear and meaningful climate legislation would be useful to Leonard as it would allow him and his suppliers to adjust at a gradual and controlled pace to a more sustainable energy system, rather than be shocked by oil price swings as tarsand and other marginal sources become harder to process.

Leonard D Aylward — Nov 19, 2010 - 10:49 AM MT

Thanks for you comments. Thanks for noting that I hide in plain sight. I clearly identify who I am at all times. I am a small business person. Policies on the climate thus far have been presented mostly about wringing of hands and doom and gloom scenarios. It would be great to hear some proposed laws that would actually cool down the planet as well as some of the alarmist positions.

Andrew Frenette — Nov 18, 2010 - 08:15 AM MT

Are you on glue?

P.J. Partington — Nov 17, 2010 - 03:59 PM MT

Leonard, for a good introduction to the scientific literature on this topic see the Geological Society of London's recent position statement, "Climate Change: evidence from the geological record:"

They address the drivers of past climate changes and put them in the context of the observed current warming. "While these past climatic changes can be related to geological events, it is not possible to relate the Earth’s warming since 1970 to anything recognisable as having a geological cause (such as volcanic activity, continental displacement, or changes in the energy received from the sun). This recent warming is accompanied by an increase in CO2 and a decrease in Arctic sea ice, both of which – based on physical theory and geological analogues - would be expected to warm the climate."

Leonard D Aylward — Nov 19, 2010 - 10:35 AM MT

PJ: Thanks for your comments and clarification. I don't disagree with you comments.
I do however see a zero percent connection between climate control policies and climate control. Instead I see massive poverty in our own country while shouting to the world what great leaders we are at designing our own suicide

evan leeson — Nov 17, 2010 - 03:10 PM MT

Leonard, what you have written here is demonstrably false by the measure of any decent scientific inquiry. It angers me because the misinformation you are spreading materially impacts on the lives of people around the world, and increasingly so as time marches on without a change in how we burn carbon. You are hurting my child's future because you are too lazy to seek the facts, or too stubborn to accept the consensus opinion of scientists around the world.

The 350 yr old Royal Society in Britain has published a paper that responds to assertions like your, which are typical of the climate change denier movement. I encourage you and anyone else who is moved by what you say to read it:

This is only one of dozens of publications from credible scientific bodies that show your comments to be uninformed and dangerous.

Leonard D Aylward — Nov 19, 2010 - 10:29 AM MT

Evan Leeson, Thanks for your reasoned response. Not. emotional outrage is not an argument. You might want to check out this site for a view from the other side.

David Wilson — Nov 17, 2010 - 10:47 AM MT

Fire them!

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