Canada

Tories and Liberals trade barbs over environment

The Conservatives and Liberals blasted each other's environmental records as members of Parliament reconvened Monday in the House of Commons for the winter session.

The Conservatives and Liberals blasted each other's environmental records as members of Parliament reconvened Monday in the House of Commons for the winter session.

Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion led off the exchange, accusing Prime Minister Stephen Harper of denying the science behind climate change and demanding he acknowledge his error.

"Will the prime minister admit when he … broke Canada's word on Kyoto, went to Vancouver to announce a so-called clean air act that was so weak he had to fire his minister a few weeks after, it is because he does not believe in the science of climate change."

Harperreplied thatit's not sufficient to simply believe in something but to "do something about it," adding that the Liberals, and Dion as a former environment minister,did nothing about the environment for a decade when they were in power.

"It is this member [who] when in power signed the Kyoto Protocol, and then for a decade did nothing to get it done, left Canada with the worst record under Kyoto in the entire world," Harper said. "He didn't get it done."

Dion shot back that the Tories, upon being elected,had cancelled a number of Liberal environmental initiatives and opposed any regulation to combat climate change.

But Harper outlined a number of new Conservative environmental policies, including investment in projects thatgenerate electricity bywind, solar and other forms of renewable energy, and a plan to spendmillionsto encourage homeowners, businesses and industry to use energy more efficiently.

Environment a priority: polls

The debate on the environment comes asrecent polls suggest the issue is the top priority for Canadians.

Deputy leader Michael Ignatieff also slammed Tory environmental polices andcalled on the government to meet its international obligations on climate change.

Environment minister John Baird said Canada will accept its responsibilities to reduce greenhouse gases, but said it must do more than "giving lectures abroad"and take real action at home.

He alsopointed outthat Ignatieff himself criticized Dion during the Liberal leadership race for failing to meet the Kyoto targets for emission reductions. Ignatieff's past comments are being usedagainst Dion in Tory attack ads unveiled this weekend.

The adscriticizeDion's record as environment minister, charging that greenhouse gas emissions went up and air quality went down under his watch between 2004 and 2006.

"At least the Liberal party knows it has ajob to do," Ignatieff responded to Baird. "This government spent a year pretending it had no job to do at all."

Liberal environment critic David McGuinty urged the governmentto immediatelycap emissions of greenhouse gases.

Baird said the Tories are the first government to come forward with a notice of intent to regulate industry.

He also mocked the Liberals' past plans to deal with environmental challenges. Hesaidthey amounted to a"$50 million talk fest," aproposal to spend $5 billion in "hot air credits" in Russia and lastly"buy a dog, name it Kyoto and call it a day" —a reference to Dion's dog Kyoto.

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