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Canada's Clean Air Act

In mid-October 2006, Environment Minister Rona Ambrose introduced a Clean Air Act for Canada, legislation that would give Ottawa "new and stronger powers to do the things we need to do to protect the health of Canadians and our environment," Ambrose told a news conference. She noted that Canada would be the first federal government to introduce mandatory regulations on all industry sectors across Canada to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gases. Prime Minister Stephen Harper said that Canadians are becoming increasingly concerned about air quality and its effect on their health, pointing out smog in particular. On October 19, 2006, Ambrose revealed the actual details of the plan which would include reducing the greenhouse emissions to about 45 to 65% of the 2003 levels but for the year 2050. There are plans for regulations on vehicle fuel consumption for 2011 as well as targets for ozone and smog levels for 2025. Federal Health Minister Tony Clement lauded the bill, saying that smog leads to thousands of deaths each year.

The bill seeks to cut emissions from 2003 levels by 45 to 65 per cent by 2050. In the meantime, the government will set so-called "intensity targets'' which would obligate industry to reduce the amount of energy used per unit of production, without implementing a set restriction on emissions. Industrial polluters would have until at least 2010 before they would face regulations and the government is giving itself until 2020 to set national emissions-cutting targets for the pollutants that cause smog. The proposed law makes no reference to the Kyoto Protocol although Canada remains a party to the treaty.

The effectiveness of the Conservatives' proposed Clean Air Act received a rocky reception from opposition MPs and environmentalists, who were quick to dismiss the bill as a "hot air plan." Jack Layton of the New Democratic Party stated that the act does little to prevent climate change and that more must be done. John Godfrey, the Liberal Party's environment critic, said that Canada already has the Environmental Protection Act, which covers everything from smog to greenhouse gases. The Sierra Club blasted the vehicle emissions plan as too little too late: "The proposed federal regulations presented today by the Harper government line up with the outdated and weak standards of the Bush Administration, not the stringent standards of the state of California,'' the group said in a news release. After threatening to make this into an election issue the Conservative Party agreed to rework the act with the opposition parties.

Canada's Clean Air Act

The Clean Air Act will redefine a number of substances, which were previously labelled as toxic, as "air pollutants."