Bob Rae dismissed Stephen Harper's Conservatives as "knuckle draggers" today as the Prime Minister stands firm in his refusal to put climate change on the agenda of the upcoming G8 and G20 summits.
"We have a consensus around the world that climate change and innovation are at the heart of the new economy. That is what the Secretary-General of the United Nations recognizes," the Toronto Centre MP said, filling in for Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff. "Why will the government of Canada not come firmly into the 21st century and start showing some leadership on climate change for a change?"
This was the second straight day that the opposition went after the government on the environment. Debate was sparked yesterday by Ban Ki-moon, who visited Ottawa and called on the Prime Minister to play a leadership role on climate change at this summer's global summits.
Transport Minister John Baird defended the government's record on climate change, arguing that Environment Minister Jim Prentice has provided "leadership" in negotiating "successful emissions for the auto sector between Canada and the United States."
And he mocked Mr. Ignatieff's comments of four years ago that the Liberals didn't "get it done" on climate change when they were in government. Mr. Ignatieff was not leader at the time.
Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe, meanwhile, added his voice to the chorus of criticism, arguing the Harper government does not deserve to succeed in its bid for a seat at the UN Security Council because of its intransigence in recognizing that the environment and the economy could be dealt with at the G8 and G20 summits.
"Ideological positions about the environment, women's rights and aboriginals … they've caused enough trouble here," Mr. Duceppe said. "With this attitude does the Prime Minister understand that Canada doesn't deserve a seat at the UN under this government?"
Not surprisingly, Mr. Duceppe's assertions provoked a strong response from the government, including accusations of "sabotage" from Natural Resources Minister Christian Paradis, who was standing in for an absent Prime Minister.
"We have always been clear," Mr. Paradis said. "The government's priority at G20 is to talk about the economy, job creation … These are terms that are misunderstood by the Bloc. They never talk about that because that is never their priority.
"Once again we are seeing progress here in Canada and these people are trying to sabotage this. … Their own only cause is to separate Quebec from Canada. It's as simple as that - sabotage, sabotage, sabotage."
It wasn't just the Liberals and Bloc concerned about environmental issues. NDP Leader Jack Layton has been consistently questioning the government over what he believes is a lack of planning in the event of an oil-spill catastrophe such as the one in the Gulf of Mexico.
"The exploratory well drilling season starts in just a couple of weeks and we are not seeing action from the government," Mr. Layton said, noting that in the United States the limits on corporate liability may be increased to as much as $10-billion.
"Guess what they are here in Canada? They are $10-million, a thousand times less," he said. "The estimates for the cleanup in the gulf are running at $450-million and we all know it will end up higher, then there are the billions of dollars in damage to fishing and tourism. Will the government at least realize that $10-million is not enough protection for Canadians?"
Replied Mr. Baird: "Let me say a few things to the Leader of the New Democratic Party. One is that there are no permits to drill in the Arctic, and let me remind the Leader of the New Democratic Party of another fact. We have unlimited liability for oil companies with respect to pollution. Polluter pays, but that is not good enough. We have to have strong and effective regulations to ensure it does not happen."