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NDP Leader Jack Layton attacks the government during Question Period in the House of Commons on Sept. 29, 2009. (CHRIS WATTIE/Reuters)
NDP Leader Jack Layton attacks the government during Question Period in the House of Commons on Sept. 29, 2009. (CHRIS WATTIE/Reuters)

Pass climate bill before UN summit, Layton says Add to ...

NDP Leader Jack Layton says parliamentarians have a chance this week to restore Canada's reputation as a protector of the environment, just in time for the high-stakes Copenhagen meeting on climate change.

Mr. Layton said all the MPs have to do is vote down a Conservative motion on Wednesday. The motion would delay an NDP bill to set out strict greenhouse-gas reduction targets for Ottawa, and require the government to give progress reports.

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"We have another delay tactic being proposed," Mr. Layton said Monday in a message meant to target Liberal MPs in particular.

"If that motion passes, it would be impossible for the bill then to come back before Copenhagen. And Canada would simply have to go and stand naked before the world, with Stephen Harper's terrible position on climate change."

The bill has gone through the House of Commons before, with the backing of the Liberals, but never made it into law because of last year's election.

Now, the bill has been rejuvenated, gone through second reading and committee hearings. But the Conservatives are asking for a delay that would send the bill back for more study, and the NDP suspect the Liberals will agree to the Tory "foot-dragging."

Mr. Layton wants MPs to reject the delay, so that they can vote for the bill and send a strong message, before the crucial meetings in Copenhagen take place in December.

That summit is hoped to yield a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, a global greenhouse-gas treaty ratified by dozens of countries, including Canada but not the United States.

The Harper government has been non-committal in the process leading up to Copenhagen, Mr. Layton said. But if MPs pass his Climate Change Accountability Act, it would send the world a strong message that the Canadian public and its elected representatives want to take action.

The bill sets strict targets for greenhouse-gas emissions and calls for an 80 per cent reduction from 1990 levels by 2050. Mr. Layton says he has the backing of the Bloc Québécois, but needs the support of the Liberals in order to make any headway.

The Conservative government has pledged to lower greenhouse gases 20 per cent from 2006 levels by 2020.

The Liberals supported the NDP bill last year. By highlighting the Tory motion for delay, and the NDP is indicating that if the Liberals side with the Tories, Mr. Layton will hammer Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff for lack of action on the environment.

Mr. Ignatieff made it clear last week that the environment will play a centre role in his next election platform.

Liberal environment critic David McGuinty said Monday that the bill is being divided into two parts, and so requires more study.

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