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Stephen Harper and the Climate Change Chamber of Secrets

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Recently, I watched a Harry Potter movie with my grandsons, Nolan and Quinn. Lord Voldemort, the archenemy in this wildly successful book and film series, is referred to by a number of ominous monikers, the worst being "He Who Must Not Be Named."

The Harper government has taken that moniker to heart when it comes to its archenemy; the subject of climate change. This phrase will never pass the lips of the Prime Minister, his Environment Minister, or any other member of his caucus.

I was reminded of Lord Voldemort last week, when the Environment Committee tabled its Report on the Great Lakes Watershed. The Conservative side went to great lengths to rule out of order and eliminate the phrase climate change from the recommendations.

The seventy-page report actually contains the phrase "climate change" 18 times, but the Conservatives wanted no mention of it in the recommendations to the government. The Harperites are so deathly afraid of the phrase that, despite numerous mentions of how climate change is exacerbating existing problems in the Great Lakes, they argued rather implausibly that climate change was beyond the scope of the study.

Remarkably, the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Environment can spend months hearing from witnesses, reading articles and putting together a report on the dismal condition of the Great Lakes watershed, and yet fail to come up with one recommendation that mentions the "Issue That Must Not Be Named."

Climate change has emerged as the single most important issue of our time, and it is nothing short of baffling that this government has chosen to bury its head in the sand and hope it goes away. Not only has the Harper government ignored the issue, but they have also gone to great lengths to suppress further research and any meaningful remedial or mitigating action.

Spending by Environment Canada on climate change and clean air programming has plummeted. The 2014-15 Report on Plans and Priorities allocates a mere $95 million, and funding will drop to under $36 million by 2017. This means that 325 full-time workers -- well over 50 per cent of the workforce dedicated to climate change and clean air -- will find themselves unemployed. The Minister is hoping to recover the money in subsequent rounds of estimates.

Since last fall, my fellow opposition critics and I have asked Minister Aglukkaq no less than 25 direct questions regarding government action on climate change, and each time we have received nearly identical non-answers.

There are only so many times one can hear that this government is taking "real action" while also claiming credit for the work of provincial governments in phasing out harmful coal-fired power plants.

There are only so many times one can hear the mantra that "thanks to (us), carbon emissions will go down close to 130 megatonnes from what they would have been under the Liberals."

Someone needs to get the Minister a new cue card.

Now, from time to time, I have heard Parliament compared to Hogwarts, but even a wizard could not engage in this kind of retroactive fortune-telling.

Prime Minister Chretien ratified the Kyoto Protocol and put Canada on-course for a 6 per cent reduction in total greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2012. What did Prime Minister Harper do when the Conservatives took power in 2006? He abandoned Kyoto and Canadian GHG emissions rose to an all-time high of 747 megatonnes during his first year in office.

This is the way that the Harper government operates: bust everything, slap on a coat of paint and claim "real action." He destroys our fiscal framework, runs eight deficits in a row, and then claims that we have the best fiscal record in the G8.

To add insult to injury, Mr. Harper then "balances" the budget on the backs of Environment Canada and the brave men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces. He blows unprecedented levels of GHGs into our atmosphere, and when the provinces phase out coal, he takes credit for reducing emissions. When the U.S. forces reductions in motor vehicle emissions, Mr. Harper has the audacity to claim credit for that as well.

Is it any wonder that the Centre for Global Development ranks Canada dead last among the world's wealthiest countries for environmental protection?

According to the latest report by the Climate Action Network, "as in the previous year, Canada still shows no intention of moving forward with climate policy and therefore remains the worst performer of all industrialized countries."

Yet, Minister Aglukkaq says that "Canada is taking a leadership role in international climate change efforts by focusing on delivering significant environmental and economic benefits for all Canadians."

I can only presume that she must be living in some kind parallel universe, like Hogsmeade.

When Stephen Harper took office in 2006, he promised that we would not recognize Canada when he was done with it. He is on-track to keep that promise. For the sake of my grandchildren and all of us Muggles, I hope that Canadians prove him wrong in 2015.

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