Why I voted against Bill C-12

Updated: Aug 10

Why would a Green MP vote against a bill entitled the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act? On May 3rd I did exactly that, I voted against Bill C-12 on it's second reading. I ran on the promise to push for serious climate action and hold the government to account. Despite the great sounding title, Bill C-12 was nothing but smoke and mirrors. The bill passed second reading and was sent to committee for study. I know that my caucus colleague MP Elizabeth May is bringing forward significant amendments. One can only hope that when it comes back to the House of Commons it will be greatly improved.


Here’s what I had to say in my recent speech about this weak piece of legislation.

It’s an honour and privilege to rise today to speak to Bill C-12 from the territory of the Snuneymuxw First Nation and to serve the communities of Nanaimo-Ladysmith in the unceded territories of the Snaw-Naw-As, Snuneymuxw, Stz’uminus and Lyackson First Nations.


Climate concerns rank high in my riding. On November 21st, I had the pleasure of taking part in the inaugural meeting of the Nanaimo Community Climate Hub. There were some great presentations and sharing of ideas about what we can do as a community to combat climate change.


The ideas included creating active transportation friendly streets; improving our local food system and lowering the carbon footprint of our food; energy retrofits for homes, businesses and institutions; and transitioning from fossil fuel heating, oil and fracked gas, to electricity and heat pumps. There were suggestions for better public transit, and for protecting the local natural environment and green spaces, to ensure vibrant biodiversity both within the city and in the area surrounding it.


It was an energizing meeting. Climate action at the personal and community level is important and necessary -- but all of the actions that Canadians take individually and locally can be wiped out with the approval of a single diluted bitumen pipeline or a liquified fracked gas terminal.


Just days before this community meeting the Federal government tabled Bill C-12 -- the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act. Unfortunately this piece of legislation will not hold this government to account for emissions reductions, or the next government, or the government after that. The accountability doesn’t start until 2030. And that accountability is weak at best. We need climate action and accountability now.


In 2015 this government went to the Paris summit with the Harper government's target of reducing emissions by 30% over 2005 levels by 2030. The government left Paris with that pathetic target in place and has tried to pretend that it was the Paris target. In the Paris climate accord Decision Document, Canada agreed to set a new emissions reduction target in 2020 and every five years after that. It didn’t happen.


It wasn’t until Earth Day this year -- under pressure from the Biden administration -- that the government increased the target to between 40 and 45% by 2030. That target is still completely inadequate and fails to address the urgency of the climate crisis -- and we still don’t have the 2025 target that we committed to under the Paris accord.


The last IPCC report stated that we have just 10 years to bring emissions down substantially or we can’t keep global warming to under 1.5 degrees. The prospect of a livable future for our children and grandchildren is in peril.


I have heard the argument too many times that what Canada does in terms of climate action will make no difference. But in fact, we are the ninth highest emitter of greenhouse gases on the planet -- and the eleventh highest emitter of GHG’s per capita.


When you compare GHG emissions reductions we have the worst record of the G8 countries. Canada is a climate laggard.


The UK has a Carbon Budget law that binds governments to emissions targets and holds them accountable. In other words, it eliminates politics from climate action. In 1990, the UK produced 25% more emissions than Canada. They have reduced their emissions by 42% and made a commitment at Paris to reduce emissions by 68% by 2030. Collectively the 27 countries of the European Union have reduced their emissions by 25% since 1990. Canada’s current emissions levels are 21% higher than they were in 1990. That’s not climate leadership, it’s shameful.


Successive Liberal and Conservative governments have signed on to nine international climate accords and have failed on every account. None of the governments that signed those agreements created a plan and Canada has not met a single one of the commitments it has made.


Canada's last target -- to reduce GHG emissions by 17% below 2005 levels by 2020 -- was set by the Harper Conservative government in 2009. Eight provinces and three territories representing 85% of Canada's population were on track to meet that target. But two provinces, Alberta and Saskatchewan increased GHG emissions so much that they completely wiped out the sacrifices, investments and advances to climate action made by the rest of the country. These emissions increases can be attributed almost exclusively to the oil and gas industry.


Where is the accountability? How is it that the federal government cannot ensure that the provinces work together to meet our international commitments?


Now British Columbia is joining the rogue provinces ignoring Canada's commitments to climate action and accountability. BC is providing billions of dollars in fossil fuel subsidies for fracking and the export of liquified fracked gas. LNG Canada is owned and controlled by five foriegn multinationals. It will be the largest single source of GHG emissions in British Columbia. The BC government is practically giving the resource away by providing fracking companies with billions of dollars in deep well subsidies while only collecting a fraction in royalties.


From the well head to the end consumer, fracked gas has the equivalent GHG footprint as burning coal for electricity. Extracting natural gas through hydraulic fracking releases methane into the atmosphere. For the first 20 years after it is released, methane is 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas;


Fracking uses and poisons huge amounts of water, poisons air sheds and has been linked to increased risks of asthma, cancer and birth defects. Fracking causes earthquakes and yet the BC government allows it in the vicinity of huge hydro-electric dams.


Many jurisdictions around the world have either placed moratoriums on hydraulic gas fracking or banned it outright.


Some jurisdictions are also banning the installation of gas heating and gas appliances in new construction. Why? Because they understand that creating more demand for a product that releases climate destroying methane is irresponsible.


Fracking needs to be banned in Canada. It is incompatible with lowering carbon emissions, combating climate change, protecting freshwater, maintaining a healthy environment and respecting Indigenous sovereignty, rights and title.


As I speak, some of the last big tree old growth forests in BC are either being logged or are under immediate threat of being logged. Trees that sequester massive amounts of carbon, far more than an acre of seedlings. The BC government is allowing those trees to be cut down. And the BC government is also allowing whole trees to be ground up, turned into pellets, and exported as biofuel.


That’s not climate leadership.


These are just some of the reasons that Canada needs a Carbon Budget Law. We need to take politics out of climate action, and follow the science.


The priorities of this government demonstrate that it is not serious enough about the existential threat of climate change. The government is spending $17 billion on the TransMountain pipeline expansion.


Transmountain is not just a climate loser it’s a money loser. According to the Parliamentary Budget Office the only way that TMX will not result in billions of dollars in losses is if the government abandons action on climate change and increases oil sands production.


We need a just transition for fossil fuel workers and an end to all subsidies to the fossil fuel industry.


Research conducted by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives which breaks down new and recycled spending promises shows that the government is proposing to allocate just 0.25 percent of Canada’s GDP toward climate action. That’s far less than the 2 percent of GDP that leading climate economist Nicholas Stern says is needed to stop global warming from surpassing 2 degrees. Canada has committed $5.1 billion per year towards climate action when we need to be committing $40 billion a year. That is not climate leadership.


The climate crisis is the defining struggle of our generation, just as World War II was the struggle of our grandparents' generation. Focusing on incentives for households and businesses is not enough. The government must take charge, force the provinces into line to meet our international commitments and bind us to a whole of government approach that mandates action to win this struggle.


The real obstacle is not the climate deniers, it's politicians who recognize the science but lack the courage to remove politics from climate action. We need a Carbon Budget Law. Bill C-12 is not it, and does not meet the challenge before us. It provides a false sense of security, and pushes long overdue action and accountability down the road for another decade. Young people across the country are demanding better from us. They and our children and grandchildren deserve more than this weak piece of legislation.