Thursday, November 30, 2006

Remember Bill S-7?

I'm going to try to do something different from many of my fellow bloggers and not talk about what's going on at the Liberal Convention -- until after a new leader is chosen. There is, after all, a whole world out there. There are a few things on my mind, though; and after watching former Vice-President Al Gore last night on Leno promoting the DVD of An Inconvenient Truth, I think we need to remember something the Reform Party did a few years ago that might explain a big part of their current anti-environment agenda today.

The year was 1995. One of the things the Chrétien Administration promised was they'd give private members' bills a greater chance of being heard on the floor. That's a promise that was kept; by my count an average of a half-dozen or so per year were passed over and above the pro forma acts which inevitably do pass regarding changing the name of an electoral district. One of those was a bill presented by the Senate. Bill S-7, which managed to get through both Houses of Parliament and was enacted as Chapter 20 of the 1995 Statutes, committed the federal government to come up with a plan to get the executive branch to use its purchasing power to buy or lease alternate fuel vehicles. The reasoning being, leadership comes from the top and if one creates the market for such fleet purchases, it will drive down the prices for everyone else including consumers.

The target set was 75% of all government and Crown Corporation cars and trucks -- very ambitious but not totally unreasonable. The Liberals were persuaded, as were the NDP, the Bloc and the rump Progressive Conservatives (both of them). Guess who voted against final passage? That's right, the Reform Party.

One can only explain such a vote by presuming the lions' share of political contributions from corporations out West went to Team Manning and the MPs from a party that chose Green as its official colour were bleeding oil and not blood. After all, Alberta but also to a lesser extent the other Western provinces rely on energy royalties and they would not want to been as shooting themselves in the foot by not getting as much money as possible from gas-guzzling vehicles. However, this was a complete about-face for Reform and a total betrayal of their Blue Book promise to be the environmental "conscience" of Canada.

I don't know if the feds ever managed to meet the 75% alternate fuel vehicles target. But I can only imagine what things would be like right now if Stephen Harper had a majority. Kyoto really would be dead in the water. As it stands right now, a pro-Kyoto bill -- also a private members' bill -- is now before the House Environment Committee and has a good chance of getting final approval.

Then I watched Leno last night and saw Gore imitating Schwarzenegger and his promise earlier this year to "get rid of his 'ummer." At least Ahnold did, and he gets it when it comes to the environment and alternate fuels. Why won't the Conservative Party of Canada? To paraphrase Joni Mitchell, we don't know what we have until it's gone forever. And sooner or later the oil will run out.

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