Canada

Environment report sparks Tory, Liberal war of words

The Conservative government had harsh words for the Liberals Thursday after the release of a federal report on the environment.

A federal report on the environment has revealed the "shocking mess" left by the Liberals and underscores the need for a new plan to tackle climate change, the Conservative government said Thursday.

John Baird,theminister responsible for accountability and ethics, spoke following the release of a report from the commissioner of the environment, Johanne Gélinas.

In her report, Gélinas criticized the Liberals for failing to adequately address the issue during their 13 years in power, and called on the current government to adopt aggressive new policies to cope with climate change.

Baird said the Tories inherited an environmental portfolio left in a "shocking mess," which required months of work to clean up.

He criticized former environment minister and Liberal leadership candidate Stéphane Dion for inaction during his time in office, which Baird said included years of consultations, talks and global summits.

"The Liberal record is great for events planners and travel agents," he said. "It did nothing to improve the lives of Canadians."

Despite the report's hard-hitting language, Dion told CBC News he supportedit andGélinas's call for much stronger policies. He also called into question Prime Minister Stephen Harper's environmental policies.

"The prime minister does not believe in the science of climate change," Dion said, describing it as "the worst ecological threat that humanity is facing."

Dion said if hesucceeds in winning his party's leadership this fall and goes on to win a federal election, he would"implement an even better plan."

Meanwhile, Liberal environment critic John Godfrey said his party accepts the findings of the report, feeling the criticisms are fair.

He also reiterated Gélinas's message to the Conservative government.

"If the government doesn't like the [Kyoto] targets, it should make new targets, not give up."

Harper has said Canada's emission targets under the Kyoto Protocol are unrealistic.

NDP energy critic Dennis Bevington said the government must target one of the country's fastest-growing greenhouse gas producers— the oil and gas industry.

"We're calling for a moratorium on tar sands development, we're calling for an end to subsidies that are now in place for oil and gas development," Bevington said.

Environment minister a no-show

Baird faced repeated questions aboutwhy Environment Minister Rona Ambrose wasn't available to answer questions about the report. He said she was out of town working on the government's new plan, which she would introduce in October.

"It will include strong action to reduce… smog and improve the health of Canadians," Baird said.

He refused to answer whether the plan would include mandatory restrictions for the oil and gas industry, or short-term greenhouse gas emissions targets.

Ambrose's office had said she would be spending the day in meetings in Calgary.

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