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Marjory LeBreton, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, speaks at a news conference in Ottawa on Nov. 13, 2007. (FRED CHARTRAND/The Canadian Press)
Marjory LeBreton, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, speaks at a news conference in Ottawa on Nov. 13, 2007. (FRED CHARTRAND/The Canadian Press)

Liberal, Tory senators blame each other for climate bill's demise Add to ...

There is much confusion around how the NDP climate change bill ended up being defeated by Conservative senators on Tuesday afternoon.

The Tories say it was the Liberals who forced a vote on the legislation. The Liberals say that is patently untrue.

The Conservatives say Liberal Senator Grant Mitchell called for a vote on Bill C-311, the Climate Change Accountability Act, which was passed by the House of Commons with the support of all three opposition parties. Mr. Mitchell was the sponsor of the bill in the Senate.

"If Grant Mitchell is concerned about the government defeating his bill, he should go and have a look in the mirror and have a strong look at the person looking back at him," Marjory LeBreton, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, told reporters on Wednesday.

Conservative Gerald Comeau had asked the Senate to allow the bill to stand on the order paper and that prompted Mr. Mitchell and a couple of other Liberal to jump to their feet, Ms. LeBreton said. "And of course, when two people stand, just like in the House of Commons, the Speaker called the vote."

The bill was then killed before it had even gone to a Senate committee for debate.

"The fact of the matter is we did not kill the debate. Grant Mitchell, by calling a vote on second reading, killed the debate," Ms. LeBreton said.

The government obviously did not support the bill so, presented with the chance to defeat it, Conservative senators exercised that option, she said.

Hansard, the official transcript of the Senate, is unclear about who called for the vote that killed the bill. But the Liberals say Ms. LeBreton is "incorrect" and that it was Mr. Comeau, not Mr. Mitchell, who called for the vote.

Mr. Mitchell said he was merely pressing for the Conservative senators to move the bill forward after it had sat untouched in the Senate for 193 days.

"If you listen to the audio and you then look at the written Hansard, it is very different," he told reporters. "It's very clear in the audio, which is the first-hand record of the Senate debates, that they called for the question."

The Liberals say they will ask that the transcript be corrected on Wednesday afternoon.

"That Conservative unelected Senate voted to defeat Bill 311 on climate change, one of the most important issues that was facing this country," Mr. Mitchell said.

Like the New Democrats, the Liberal senator pointed out that the bill, which required the federal government to establish targets to bring greenhouse gas emissions 25 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 and to set a long-term target to bring emissions 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050, was defeated as the government prepares to participate in an international environment conference in Cancun, Mexico.

"They won't even pass a bill that was only calling for them to have a plan that might just have been useful when they went to Cancun two weeks from now," Mr. Mirtchell said. The government "is absolutely unprepared otherwise."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who came to office four years ago promising to appoint only senators who have been elected, has stacked the Senate with appointed who are friendly to his Conservative government. The Conservatives now outnumber the Liberals and will soon have an outright ,majority in the Upper House.

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