Opposition, environmental groups slam clean air act

Opposition MPs and environmentalists have slammed the Tory's proposed clean air act, saying it does nothing to immediately tackle the problems of pollution and greenhouse gases.

Opposition MPs and environmentalists have slammed theTory's proposed clean air act, saying it does nothing to immediately tackle the problems ofpollution and greenhouse gases.

All three opposition parties in the House of Commons said they will vote against the bill, meaning it has no chance of becoming law in the current minority Parliament.

Green party Leader Elizabeth May also dismissed the plan.

"There is really no news here," she said. "Canada stands alone repudiating Kyoto [accord on greenhouse emissions]."

The Tory planwould implement regulations to makeindustries cut their air pollutants by 2010. It also sets a new target for cutting overall greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050.

But politicians and environmentalists said action needs to be taken now.

'National disgrace'

During question period, opposition MPs took turns pouncing on the act. Interim Liberal leader Bill Grahamdescribed the bill as"nothing less than a national disgrace."

"How on earth could they have laboured so long to now tell us there isnot one single new action in this decade that will stop climate change or reduce air pollution?" he asked.

Parliamentary secretary Jason Kenney shot back, saying the Liberals did nothing to help the environment during their years in government.

"Why is it that the Liberal record of 13 years was one of unmitigated failure," Kenney said.

Fails to deliver: group

Beatrice Olivastri, CEO of Friends of the Earth of Canada, said the Tories had failed to deliver anything of substance with the proposed act.

"We've had three years of very intensive discussions about targets byindustry sector, just concluded before the election," she said. "We've, in fact, had two decades of discussions about greenhouse gases and the need for action on climate change.

"So I am right out of patience. This notion that they're delivering anything real is ridiculous. They are deceiving Canadians by saying there's anything real in this. Something that only kicks in in 2020 or even 2050 is not real.

"It means that we have killed Kyoto as far as Canada is concerned," she said. "We've violated our international responsibilities. I don't take that lightly and I hope that no one else does."

Aaron Freeman of the group Environmental Defence said the Conservatives don't understand the urgency of dealing with climate change.

"It's not clear this government gets the environment and the importance of that issue to Canadians," he said.

The Sierra Club slammed the vehicle emissions plan as too little, too late.

"The proposed federal regulations presented today by the Harper government line up with the outdated and weak standards of the Bush administration, not the stringent standards of the state of California," the group said in a news release.

Targets 'very ambitious'

Business reaction to the proposed act appeared to be cautious.

The targets for cutting pollution and greenhouse gases are "very ambitious," David Stewart-Patterson of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives said, addingit makes sense to avoid short deadlines on greenhouse gases.

"The big gains are going to take longer to put in place because they depend upon new technologies … some of which are in development, some of which are still in the early stages of thinking," he said.

The Canadian Vehicle Manufacturer's Association said it's good that Canada will harmonizeits new emission standards with the U.S., where most Canadian-built vehicles are sold.

But spokesman Mark Nantaissaid he isconcerned that Ottawa may try to regulate not only emissions, but howvehicles are built.

"Our industry and any other industry that manufactures is already subject to many regulations both federally and provincially … and it's going to require a great deal of consultation to determine exactly how they're going to go about that."

With files from the Canadian Press