Politics

House of Commons declares a climate emergency ahead of pipeline decision

The House of Commons has passed a non-binding motion to declare a national climate emergency in Canada, kicking off a week that will test the Liberals' promise to balance environmental protection with economic development.

Liberal, NDP, Bloc Quebecois and Green MPs all voted in favour of the motion

Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna arrives at a cabinet meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, June 18, 2019. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The House of Commons has passed a non-binding motion to declare a national climate emergency in Canada, kicking off a week that will test the Liberals' promise to balance environmental protection with economic development.

The motion, put forward by Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna, calls on the House to recognize that "climate change is a real and urgent crisis, driven by human activity" and to "declare that Canada is in a national climate emergency which requires, as a response, that Canada commit to meeting its national emissions target under the Paris Agreement and to making deeper reductions in line with the Agreement's objective of holding global warming below two degrees Celsius and pursuing efforts to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius."

It passed Monday night with 186 votes to 63. According to the House of Commons Procedure and Practice guide, a resolution of the House "is a declaration of opinion or purpose; it does not require that any action be taken, nor is it binding."

Liberal, NDP, Bloc Quebecois and Green MPs all voted in favour of the motion, pitting themselves against the Conservatives and People's Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier.

"If it is such an emergency, why is the prime minister jetting back and forth today from the Raptors parade, creating a big carbon footprint?" asked Conservative MP Michelle Rempel during debate.

Despite voting in favour of the motion, NDP MP Peter Julian rose in the House to call it "meaningless."

"The Liberals are slapping each other on the back because they passed a motion that is meaningless. [On Tuesday] they are going to rubber-stamp the Trans Mountain pipeline, which will dramatically increase greenhouse gas production in the country. The hypocrisy is beyond belief," he said.

3 leaders missing from vote

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May took to Twitter to express her disappointment that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh were not in the House Monday for the vote.

"This is a national security issue, it is time we started treating it as one," she wrote.

The Conservative opposition to the motion likely will be raised by their opponents when the unveil their climate plan on Wednesday.

This week, the last scheduled week on the parliamentary calendar, will be heavy with debate over environmental protections and natural resources.

Later today, the federal cabinet will decide whether to approve the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion for a second time.

The Liberal government, which bought the pipeline last year for $4.5 billion, was forced to put the project through a new consultation process after the Federal Court of Appeal quashed past cabinet approvals for the long-delayed project and halted construction last summer.

The Senate also will be asked this week to decide whether it accepts Bill C-69, the controversial legislation overhauling the national assessment system for major resource and transportation projects, after the House rejected more than half their proposed amendments.

Cities across Canada, including Ottawa, Montreal, HamiltonKingston and Vancouver, already have moved to declare climate change an emergency.

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