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Liberal MP's Kyoto bill passes, but faces 
uncertain future 

[PoliticsWatch updated 6:15 p.m., February 14, 2007]

OTTAWA  — Opposition MPs ganged up on the government and  passed a private member's bill in the House of Commons Wednesday evening that would compel the Canadian government to live up to its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol.  

The bill passed by a margin of 161 to 113 over the objections of the government. 

However, whether the bill will ever come into effect is the subject of much confusion and speculation on Parliament Hill.  

The Liberals say the bill will become the "law of the land," while the Conservatives are calling it "meaningless."  

The private member's bill in question is from backbench Liberal MP Pablo Rodriguez

Bill C-288, An Act to ensure Canada meets its global climate change obligations under the Kyoto Protocol, compels the government to bring forward a climate change plan to meet the Kyoto targets, within 60 days of the bill becoming law. 

The Tories have twice attempted to have Speaker Peter Milliken rule the bill out of order, arguing that the bill is a money bill because meeting the Kyoto protocol targets would cost the government money in the form of programs or purchasing greenhouse gas credits from other countries. Only cabinet ministers can put forward bills that call for the appropriation of funds. 

But on Wednesday afternoon following question period, Milliken again ruled that the bill was not a money bill and can proceed through Parliament. 

"In the case before us, the adoption of a bill calling on the government to implement the Kyoto protocol, might place an obligation on the government to take measures necessary to meet the goals set out in the protocol, but the chair can't speculate what those measures may be," Milliken concluded in his previous rulings which he upheld on Wednesday. 

"As it stands, Bill C-288 does not contain provisions which specifically authorizes any spending for a distinct purpose relating to the Kyoto protocol."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Environment Minister John Baird have argued that Canada cannot meet its Kyoto targets without purchasing foreign greenhouse gas credits or doing great damage to Canada's economic growth.  

As of 2004, Canada was 27 per cent above its 1990 targets. It is supposed to be six per cent below 1990 levels come 2012. 

Baird said the Speaker's ruling shows Rodriguez's bill is "laughable." 

"It says it doesn't require any money to be spent," he told reporters after question period. "If we could implement Kyoto without it costing a dime, I suspect we would have done it back in 1997. 

"I don't know if it passed how I would say to my department, 'How do we implement a bill with no money and no regulatory powers.' So it's somewhat of a joke."

"This is like someone coming forward and saying you can have a huge chocolate cake and it's got no calories. It's ridiculous. It's unbelievable."

But the Liberals do not think it's ridiculous. And if the Conservative government ignores the bill, they argue, it will be ignoring the will of Parliament. 

The bill is expected to be passed by the Senate and receive Royal Assent, but there is speculation in Ottawa that the government will simply leave it in the final promulgation stage after that, even though the wording of the bill calls for action within 60 days of Royal Assent.  

Rodriguez speculated that environmental groups could take the government to court if the government sits on the bill after Royal Assent. 

"There's a full list of environment organizations and lawyers that would go to court tomorrow morning," he told reporters after a Liberal caucus meeting. 

Rodriguez said Harper cannot pick and choose which laws he can respect. 

"This is the law of the land and it's stronger (than the protocol) and he's really forced to respect it."

As much as Rodriguez's bill is an attempt to commit the Conservatives to Kyoto, it is also an effort to taint the government as anti-Kyoto despite its recent attempts to appear green to Canadian voters who now rank the environment as their No. 1 issue. 

"The government has consistently voted against any forms of Kyoto compliance," Liberal MP Michael Ignatieff said after question period. " And that means they are simply not credible on the environment. 

"You can't be credible. You can't come before the Canadian people and say we believe in green and this and that and the environment unless you make a serious commitment to honour our Kyoto obligations."

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