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The Bloc Québécois used its last opposition day to hammer the Liberals on climate change as forest fires rage across the country, forcing people from their homes and darkening the skies with smoke.

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet put forward a motion on June 8 during one of his party’s coveted days when the Bloc gets to set the agenda in the House of Commons and hold the government to account. This is the last opposition day for any party before Parliament takes its summer break.

In the motion, Blanchet called for broad recognition that climate change is exacerbating extreme weather, driving events like heat waves, tornadoes, floods and, of course, fires. The motion also demanded the federal government stop investing in fossil fuels and instead develop incentives to promote the use of renewable energy and public transit while respecting provincial jurisdiction.

While “we cannot say that only one single climate event led to these forest fires,” the world’s leading scientists have been clear that climate change is creating the conditions for more frequent and severe disasters like drought, floods and fires, Blanchet pointed out.

At the same time, “Quebec’s money is being invested by the federal government through subsidies and tax credits out West for oil and gas. Or even worse, it's invested in the hypocrisy of nuclear energy, which isn't clean,” he said.

The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project is one clear example of taxpayer dollars financing fossil fuels, said Bloc Québécois MP Monique Pauzé, calling the now $30.9-billion project “a costly trophy of the Liberal failure in fighting climate change.” She also took aim at the federal government’s investment tax credits for hydrogen production and carbon capture technology. As people around the world are displaced by rising water levels, natural disasters and droughts brought on by climate change, Canada will have a responsibility to accept these climate migrants, said Blanchet.

This year, the fires have already burned “10 times” more land than the historical average for this time of year, Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson told reporters on June 5. During the opposition day debate, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said this is “one of the worst wildfire seasons in the history of our country.”

The Liberals, Green Party and NDP indicated they would vote for the non-binding motion.

Conservative MPs used a lot of their speaking time to ask various MPs why they voted against North Okanagan-Shuswap MP Mel Arnold’s private member’s bill from the previous parliamentary session. The bill in question would have made amendments to the Criminal Code that creates a new offence specific to the theft of firefighting equipment. Other parties voted it down at second reading, so the bill never made it to committee.

The Bloc Québécois used its last opposition day to hammer the Liberals on climate change as forest fires rage across the country, forcing people from their homes and darkening the skies with smoke. #CanadaBurns #CanadaFires

MPs from the Bloc Québécois, NDP and Liberals did not have much to say in response to the multiple queries about why they didn’t support Arnold’s bill.

Although many opposition day motions — like the Bloc Québécois’ climate motion — are frustrating because they are non-binding, it is still important and worth paying some attention to, said Alex Marland, professor and head of the department of political science at Memorial University.

“The bread and butter of the Bloc is always something that is … very particular to Quebec,” said Marland. Go-to issues are often centred on Quebec nationalism, Quebec’s place in the federation and, above all, getting more autonomy for Quebec, he added.

“Climate change, on the other hand, is something that, yes, it matters to a lot of Quebecers, particularly progressives, but it's more of a national thing. So that's why it's a little more surprising,” said Marland.

Throughout the debate, Bloc Québécois MPs highlighted the impacts of the fires within their province. As of Thursday, there were 137 active fires in the province and that same day, Quebec Premier François Legault said there are approximately 13,500 evacuees.

Bloc Québécois MP Yves Perron said investing in renewable energies and transit does not always fall within federal jurisdiction, so federal transfers — similar to health-care transfers — will be needed to ensure this important work can be done.

Marland is the first to admit he isn’t a climate expert but says it doesn’t take one to identify the devastating forest fires as potential motivation for the Bloc to bring this motion forward. Another possibility is to shine a light on the one party that did not indicate its support for the motion: the Conservatives.

“All motions are put forward for strategic advantage,” said Marland. They can be used to reveal the hypocrisy of a government, stir up conversation on a controversial topic and force parliamentarians to take a stand on a particular policy issue.

Non-binding motions have previously had large repercussions in Canadian politics. For example, in 2006, Conservative MP Michael Chong resigned from his post as minister of intergovernmental affairs over a non-binding motion then-prime minister Stephen Harper made to recognize Quebec as a nation within Canada.

From the Conservatives’ side of the House of Commons, Arnold continually brought up his dead private member’s bill on firefighting equipment theft. York-Simcoe MP Scot Davidson said the federal government has not done enough to procure water bombers to fight forest fires, and Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MP Alex Ruff requested an update on the two-billion trees program.

Conservative environment critic Gérard Deltell said that most of his party members agree on climate change when responding to a statement made by NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice.

“I appreciated my colleague’s speech,” said Deltell. “We, like him, acknowledge that climate change is real and that we need to take action because humans have caused climate change, so we need to play a role in fighting the situation and decreasing pollution.”

Where the Conservatives disagree with the NDP is on the carbon price, said Deltell, adding that out of 63 countries, Canada was ranked 58th in terms of decreasing planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

Boulerice fired back that while the ranking is accurate, “we can't blame this solely on carbon pricing,” saying it is a “good tool” but shouldn’t be the only tool.

“But here's the issue,” said Boulerice. “I don't know what the Conservative Party's plan is to get any better results than these.”

Natasha Bulowksi / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer

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Hmmm, isn't Quebec responsible for managing their forests and also having their own climate change plan in addition to the federal government? It seems every province has taken to blame the federal government than taking ownership of their own province, and the problems they are responsible for.

It seems Quebec claims to be unique society until something happens and then blames the federal government. Seems like the Bloc has a double standard.

I'm not a big Bloc fan as a rule, but they're completely right about this. And your point is nonsense--you can manage your own forests, but you can't manage your own climate, and the federal government is indeed taking actions that make it worse, which they should stop doing.

It's a testament to the Liberals' ability to tie themselves in pretzels trying to be all things to all people that they themselves voted for this bill telling them to stop doing things like subsidize oil companies and build pipelines . . . things which they will now blithely continue doing.

Yes, indeed. And so far they are not just the first, but the *only* province to say no to new gas and oil, including pipelines. You'll recall the "Energy East" project (I think that's the name) that couldn't cross the Quebec border ... which was conceived as a way to get prairie gas to the East Coast.
I'm not at all convinced that the Liberals lie to themselves, but what is clear is that they lie to us.

Yes, it is very true that a province can't manage climate change alone. The federal government does play a key role here. The Bloc have taken some good steps.

As far as the Liberals, they do a great job talking the talk, but I don't see any real concrete action and still caters to the oil and gas sector. They lie about the progress made against climate change by cherry picking the statistics.

But even still, if every province just ignores the federal government and takes decisive action on climate change, we may achieve more than what the Liberals are doing. Unfortunately, it is easier to blame the federal government as a delay tactic to avoid making tough decisions.

Then if the Liberal do take serious action, you then have the provinces complaining about the federal government infringing on their provincial rights. It's a no-win scenario. On the same vein, Canadians expect the federal government and provincial governments to do something. When the respective governments do take action, then Canadians complain about the added costs they encounter on goods and services. Again, it's a no-win scenario.

That seems to me a bit unfair. It was Quebec that called the first cessation of new pipeline construction across its territory.
And he's called it correctly on everything quoted to do with climate and energy.
Credit where it's due, please!
ISTR also Quebec was the only province to ban gas fracking.
94% of their electricity is hydro-power, and the rest bio-methane from agricultural waste. I'd be much happier if that waste was being tilled back into the ground, but given what cattle are being fed these days, I wouldn't want it spread on my own garden.

There are definitely things about Blanchet's politics I don't like, but as far as climate change goes, he's been pretty much in line, and he hit the nail on the head about O&G "investments" in the western provinces ... though I'm not at all sure the residents of BC think of that as a plus.

Very interesting. I'm happy to hear about the Bloc motion and that it precipitated discussion in Parliament. While the provinces can enact some measures regarding the Climate Emergncy and reducing GHG emissions, there are certain things that only the federal government can do. The feds need to provide more leadership on this issue and they need to stop subsidizing fossil fuels. The TMX has been a HUGE waste of our tax dollars. Right now, federal action under the Liberals on Climate Change is half- hearted; do a few things such as the carbon tax and vehicle emissions reductions on one hand, while being careful not to anger the fossil fuel companies on the other hand. Sadly, it would be much worse under a Conservative government.

OK it almost goes without saying nowadays, but can we talk for a moment about the moronic, dishonest, inconsistent obstructionism of the Conservatives? Like, on a bill about climate change that OK, is, ah, "sparked", by currently bad forest fires, they yack about a bill they tried to do about firefighting equipment. Because they have nothing useful to say about climate change, and even if they did they are incapable of positive discourse of any kind; their only response to any situation is to scrape around the bottom of the barrel until they can find something, anything, that they can turn into some kind of lame "gotcha".

And it was the bottom of the barrel, because the bill was clearly incredibly stupid. 'Cause, like, stealing things is already a crime, but these "anti-red-tape" people seem to think if you really want to underline how tough on crime you are you need a separate law to make a separate crime for stealing every different kind of thing. The point is not to do anything useful, it's just to make it clear you disapprove. Like anyone steals firefighting equipment anyway--like, if I'm a thief, what am I going to do with a fire hose? It's asinine, and if I were a Conservative I wouldn't want to admit anyone on my side ever proposed such a stupid bill. But now they're going to send out tweets and social media whatever claiming all the other parties are pro-stealing-of-firefighting-equipment because they hate us and want our forests to burn. They're a bunch of worthless creeps--no, actually, they aren't worthless, because far from being worth zero, they constantly cause actual harm, making their worth significantly into the negative; the planet would be far better off without them. Still creeps though--lying, conscienceless confidence tricksters without a shred of ethics.

Have the conservatives ever had any real climate change policies other than dwell on the negative side of using disinformation tactics. Pierre is just another Stephen Harper Snake Oil Salesman, with the only goal is to destabilize the current Liberals so we can waste more money on an election that no one wants but the naïve and diehard far-right lemmings.