Liberal caucus support for the Kyoto Protocol could erode if Ottawa proceeds with plans to unilaterally lower Canada's obligations under the treaty, an activist government backbencher warned.
"I don't think it should be taken as a fait accompli that we're going to go with [just]any kind of deal, particularly one that seems to renege on our obligations," Toronto Liberal MP John Godfrey said.
Prime Minister Jean Chrétien announced on Sept. 2 that he intends to ratify the treaty before the end of the year by putting it to a vote in Parliament, a vote he believes will find majority backing in the House of Commons.
But two key Liberal cabinet ministers have since qualified Canada's Kyoto commitment, saying Ottawa intends to give itself a big break on its greenhouse-gas reduction targets to reflect exports of so-called clean energy to the United States. The Kyoto deal does not authorize these credits and other signatories have accused Canada of breaking its commitments by using them.
Ottawa's clean-energy-credit scheme flies directly in the face of a petition led by Mr. Godfrey last month that collected the signatures of 97 Liberal MPs calling on Ottawa to ratify Kyoto without claiming the unauthorized credits.
The Prime Minister's Office is expecting the support of these 97 pro-Kyoto MPs, as well as that of the Bloc Québécois and the New Democrats, to help push the treaty through the House of Commons. The Canadian Alliance is expected to mount the biggest opposition to Kyoto when the House resumes on Sept. 30.
But Mr. Godfrey warned Liberal caucus support for Kyoto could soften if the federal government does not live up to its full obligations under the deal. The 97 Liberal MPs who want Ottawa to ratify without the credits comprise about 57 per cent of the caucus.
"I don't think that anybody's solid for Kyoto at any price if we have a fundamental problem with the way in which the deal is being approached," Mr. Godfrey said.
"If we're trying to somehow insist on clean-energy exports as a precondition or we're trying to wiggle out of our commitments, I would not feel comfortable saying that the 97 [MPs]will be there under those conditions."
Backbench Liberal MPs have become emboldened about forcing changes to legislation since earlier this year when a group managed to convince Ottawa to toughen endangered-species legislation.
Toronto MP Carolyn Bennett, another one of the 97 Liberal MPs opposed to claiming clean-energy-export credits, said she and her caucus colleagues will not be pushed around.
"I hope that what is brought to the House [on Kyoto]is something I could support."