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Great Lakes Article:

Tories vow lakes cleanup
By Allan Woods
Toronto Star
Published October 18, 2007

OTTAWA–The Conservative government will kick in money to clean up the Great Lakes, and resuscitate elements of the old Clean Air Act dealing with standards for renewable fuel sources and improved air quality, Environment Minister John Baird says.

Baird said in an interview it would be a "big priority" in the new session of Parliament to address the environmental hazards in the Great Lakes and others such as Lake Simcoe.

"Lake Simcoe is a huge issue in Ontario," said Baird, who is also Harper's Ontario lieutenant. Lake Simcoe is contaminated with urban and rural phosphorus sources.

The government was criticized yesterday for promising to bring back only the parts of the Clean Air Act that have support from all four parties.

Opposition MPs said there was "less than 5 to 10 per cent" of the bill that the Tories supported when it was overhauled by MPs in a special parliamentary committee last spring.

Liberal MP David McGuinty (Ottawa South) said the only section of the bill the Tories backed was amendments to the Energy Efficiency Act that would bring in tougher efficiency standards within four years and ensure more robust rules around the labelling of products that consume energy.

NDP MP Nathan Cullen (Skeena-Bulkley Valley) said the promise was "virtually meaningless" and "less than a token effort."

But Baird said he wants to bring in "specific legislation" dealing with biofuels and air quality.

In terms of air quality, the Clean Air Act gave the government the power to designate environmentally troubled areas as "sensitive" so they could get special attention and, if possible, place restrictions on local industrial polluters.

The legislation also set out standards for renewable fuels like ethanol and biodiesel.

The bill died when Prime Minister Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament.

Baird would not commit to bringing back a section of the act that obliges the government to set fuel efficiency standards in line with the leading North American standard – a section that caused great concern among automakers.

Rather, Canada will continue to "move together" with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to ensure any new fuel rules reduce pollution and that Ontario's automotive sector remains competitive.

Baird said the throne speech statement that Canada could not meet its targets under the Kyoto protocol by the 2012 deadline was a "fact," not a ploy to force an election.


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