Harper set to impose 'strict' regulations on smog producers

The Conservative government will introduce a new Clean Air Act next week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Tuesday.

The Conservative government will introducea new CleanAirActnext week, legislation that will impose tough regulations on smog-producing industries,Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Tuesday.

But critics said the plan will further delay action on climate change.

Harper, who unveiled his proposal in Vancouver, provided few details but said the new act wouldrequire industriesto move from voluntary compliance with environmental goalsto "strict regulation."

Harper said the new act will include national standards and that the government plans tospend a year consulting withindustry and the provinces with the aim of developing short-term, medium-term and long-term targets.

"It's a serious made-in-Canada plan that will deliver real results over the long-term," he said.

The prime ministersaid poor air quality is not just a "minor irritant," but poses a "serious risk to the health and well-being" of Canadians.

Harper hailed the proposed act as the "first comprehensive and integrated approach" that will tackle air pollution and greenhouse gases.

Improving 'the air we all breathe'

He said it would replace the current "ad hoc patchwork system" with consistent and comprehensive national standards.

"In short, this act isgoing to put in place the framework necessary to improve the air we all breathe."

Harper made no mention of the Kyoto accord, the international agreement requiring Canada to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to six per cent below 1990 levels by 2012.

The Tories have said in the past that Canada has no chance of meeting its targets under the Kyoto accord and must set more realistic goals for cutting greenhouse gases.

Instead, Harper said Tuesday that the government will institute a "holistic approach" that doesn't treat related issues of pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions in isolation.

Harper alsotook shots attheprevious Liberal government, saying he wouldn'thire a comedian to promote his new legislation.

The Liberals had hired satirist Rick Mercer to make public service announcements promoting their "one tonne challenge" initiative, a plan that called on every Canadian to cut greenhouse gas emissions by one tonne every year.

Harper admitted the new legislation won't detail specific reductions for each polluter. That will come years later after more consultation.

But Liberal MP John Godfrey, the environment critic, said industries need specific targets and timelines.

"They don't know what the rules are, what the targets are, so why would they risk shareholder money in getting on with it," he said.

The Climate Action Network, which includes Canada's major environmental groups, criticized the plan, saying the government is trying to appear as if it's taking action.

"The Clean Air Act is a hot air act. There is no need for it, said Stephen Hazell of theSierra Club of Canada. "We have all the legislation we need to bring in the regulations that are necessary."

"It's a recipe for delay."

NDP Leader Jack Laytontold CBC News thatHarper's announcement was "pretty disappointing," adding that action needs to be taken now, not in a year.

"This idea that thereare going to be some tough regulations some day, that's good but we need them now. This idea that we're going to treat pollutants and … greenhouse gas emissions together is good, but we need it now."