After a speech centred on the Cons' failures in office (most notably surrounding Bill C-30), Jack Layton was offered a clear invitation to slam the Libs' management of the environment and performance in opposition. Rather than taking the bait, though, here's what Jack Layton had to say instead:
Mr. Dean Del Mastro (Peterborough, CPC):On the other hand, there's the Libs' environment critic David McGuinty, who was the Libs' main voice in dealing with the motion. And for McGuinty, no invitation was needed to start a round of gratuitous smears toward the NDP:
I just wanted to ask this member, who has been around this House longer than I have, if he feels that the previous government acted proactively on behalf of the environment? Does he see anything in the Leader of the Opposition that indicates to him that the action that he desires would be carried forth by the Leader of the Opposition?
The Leader of the Opposition last night tried to pass a motion of non-confidence in the NDP. What does he see from this leader that indicates to him that there would be proactive action on behalf of the Liberal Party?
Hon. Jack Layton:
Mr. Speaker, I choose not to really offer observations on the conduct of other leaders.
I just simply wanted to say that I thought there was a moment of hope in this chamber when we were able to secure agreement from all parties on the issue of climate change to send a piece of legislation to a special committee.
In fact, it was done in a way, using the procedures of the House, that allowed all parties to bring forward their best ideas, to remove those elements of the climate change legislation that would not work, and to replace them with a plan that represented the best thinking of this House.
This does not happen very often, I think members would agree. But when it does happen, it should be celebrated. And not only that, it should be respected...
If there was one issue that Canadians would tell us they want us to work together to address, it would be the climate change crisis and that is exactly what was done by this House. But the attitude of the government is totally disrespectful to this House of Commons.
That is why we have been forced to place a motion of non-confidence on this issue, specific to this particular action by the government, or inaction as it would more appropriately be called.
Before I get into the substance of some of the issues raised in the motion, I do want to make a few general comments about the nature of the motion and some of the motivating factors behind this motion.So, let's ask the question: based on the above choices of focus on a subject which both the NDP and the Libs recognize to be a core issue facing the country, which opposition party is actually focused on holding the Cons to account, and which is once again too busy jockeying for position against its opposition rivals to keep the Cons under the microscope?
First, I would like to remind the House that the official opposition of any political stripe does possess, in the case of a minority government, a certain amount of power. That power culminates, I believe, in the exercising of a decision which would take down a minority government and cause an election. It is a power which, I believe, has to be exercised responsibly, judiciously, and one that cannot be taken lightly.
It is fair to say that this motion is more than tinged in partisanship. The leader of the NDP made comments this morning that were somewhat troubling to me and to the official opposition. He made comments, for example, around the notion, in my view, that the NDP is prepared to put this motion in a confidence form because it is unwilling to cooperate with the Bloc Québécois and the Liberal Party of Canada in taking the time necessary to expose for Canadians just what has been happening with this minority government. [Ed. note: This is about as accurate as it sounds. About the closest one could find would be Layton's admonition that there was "no time for more mistakes" on climate change.]
Why is it wrong for the NDP to play partisan politics with this motion? It is wrong because it is important for Canadians to get to know more about the character, the nature, the values, and the approaches taken by this Prime Minister and his reformed Conservative Party.
So, with respect to the politics of this motion, that is all I really wanted to say, except that it is unfortunate that the NDP, by couching this important climate change debate on a motion of confidence, is really aiding and abetting the government in its attempts to hide from plain public view what has been happening on a number of key fronts...
With respect to the motion, the NDP may say that it cares about climate change, but it is the reason we have a Conservative government today. [Ed. note: What reason could there possibly be to doubt the Libs' conventional wisdom on that?] Its members brought down the Liberal government right when the world came to Canada for the 2005 Montreal climate change conference, despite all of the leader of the NDP's rhetoric. He is accountable to the Canadian people for that decision. He will ultimately be accountable for these kinds of partisan moves.