(updated @ 8:20pm)
Jack Layton held a press conference today and followed this up with an interview on Politics with Don Newman. In both instances Layton talked about the work the NDP are doing through the environmental committee to deliver a real environmental and climate change program. He also said that he would like to see the bill come before the House sometime in February, prior to a budget being presented. While Newman questioned the likeliness of this happening, Layton replied that he believes if the opposition parties push for it to happen then it will.
This is something the Liberals need to get behind. Dion has already stated that he won't bring down the House over Afghanistan, which is probably wise. However, bringing down the House over the budget after it has been presented to the public (and most likely contains lots of 'gifts') is a risky move. Bringing down the House over the environment prior to the budget is both the perfect issue and time.
If the NDP, who gives the impression their spear-heading the whole process, are as serious about the environment as they say they are then what will be proposed will be incompatible with the agenda and the coming budget of the Conservatives. A new bill, with real teeth, will most likely include new (or restored) federal funding and grants for research and retrofitting programs (i.e. Energuide). There should be a real commitment to meeting Canada's Kyoto targets and will involve demands on and changes to policy regarding industry. However, since it's doubtful that the Conservatives even believe there is an environmental problem in the first place, that they disagree with and withdrew from Kyoto, and that the new bill will reverse cuts that the Conservatives made, there should be no way the Conservatives will agree with the bill. And in that case, this could be the issue that brings down the government.
All three opposition parties have pledged to fight for the environment. However, it's the Liberals that are currently making the biggest impression with Canadians (and the Green Party) in that area. While Layton is obviously trying to get himself back in the game with his comments today, he is really just going to boost the fortunes of the Liberals. It remains to see how committed the NDP really are to the environment. Not that there is any reason to not believe them but with their poll numbers I can't imagine they're looking to get into an election any time soon. But that may be where we're headed if they follow through with their environmental pledge and get the Liberals and Bloc to push it through the House prior to the budget.
Pushing it through early will probably lead to one of two scenarios:
- All the opposition parties back the plan but the Conservatives do not and make it an issue of confidence. Thus the House will fall. Or;
- The Conservatives do not back the bill nor make it an issue of confidence. However, since all the opposition parties back it they then have grounds to bring the Conservatives down.
However, all this depends on the strength of the bill and strength of the commitment of the opposition parties to this issue (and the Conservatives pulling a quick one). If the opposition comes through and the bill is the real thing then this could be good for the Liberals. They definitely need to get behind the bill and it's introduction into the House prior to the budget.