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Hill Dispatches: Kyoto Act was a Liberal private member's bill; it is still the law of the land!

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The Hill Dispatches article posted on December 14, 2011, on the Environment Commissioner's December 2011 Report implied that the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act of 2007 was a government bill. That Act was, in fact, a private member's bill, proposed by Liberal Pablo Rodriguez. It was passed by both houses of Parliament and received Royal Assent in June of 2007.

And so, Prime Minister Harper and his Conservative colleagues did not support this Act with their fingers crossed, as the Hill Dispatches article stated. They opposed it.

The Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act is, however, still the law of the land. The Government of Canada acknowledges that fact on the Environment Canada website, which refers to the Act in some detail and treats it as a key part of current Canadian government greenhouse gas emissions control policy.

The Act also governs some of the activities of Canada's Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. The Commissioner is part of the Auditor General's Office and reports to Parliament.

At his news conference earlier this week, the Environment Commissioner, Scott Vaughan, told Canadians that his team is now working on a report based on the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, which, in the normal course of events, he would submit to Parliament in the spring of 2012.

Vaughn said he was unsure of his legal responsibilities, now that Canada has announced its intention to withdraw from Kyoto. But he did emphasize that the 2007 Act is still very much the law, and that both he and the government must respect it.

The Hill Dispatches story was entirely accurate in its essential point that Kyoto and legislation related to it are still very much the law of the land in Canada, whatever the Environment Minister says about his government's intentions.

It is also worth noting that with Parliament on winter break until well into the New Year there will be little time for the government to introduce new legislation on this matter before the spring (although this government has shown that it is not adverse to shoving bills through the process with unseemly haste).

The Conservative government has also demonstrated that it does not necessarily consider itself to be bound by existing law, if the Wheat Board case is to serve as an example.

In the case of Kyoto, will the government try to argue that it does not have to respect the 2007 Act because it was proposed by an Opposition member?

Stay tuned!

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