If the government fails to produce a Kyoto plan within six weeks, the government could be taken to court by citizens or the opposition parties, said Lorraine Weinrib, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Toronto.
"There are ways of doing this that wouldn't involve expenditure," said Weinrib. "The idea that the government has no obligation under this bill, which seems to be the comment the prime minister is putting out, that's hard to understand."
Harper cannot ignore the will of Parliament, said Stewart Elgie, a professor of environmental and constitutional law at the University of Ottawa.
"A fundamental principle of democracy is that ministers are not above the law in this country. The thing about this bill is, it ends the debate about whether Canada should comply with Kyoto. Parliament has said yes.
"It's up to cabinet to decide if they want to use regulations or spending or some other combination," he said. "They do not have the option of not complying with Kyoto."
The bill's passage is good news for Canadian democracy, he added. ``It reaffirms that our elected representatives pass the laws in this country, even if the prime minister may not agree with them, and that's how a democracy is supposed to work."
Harper would be better served to stick to the economic cost angle, because he can make a stronger case appearance wise. I watched a roundtable today, and the point was made that Canadians are accepting of the fact that we can no longer meet our commitments. This emerging reality means the opposition can embarrass the government, but there is a risk of backlash if the costs look excessive.
But Harper spokesman Dimitri Soudas later said the government was open to applying the bill if the Liberals would tell them how to do it.
"If the Liberals have a plan or a way to reach six per cent below 1990 on greenhouse gas reductions they should share that information with us so we can work together on achieving it."
I see risk for all sides as this debate moves forward, but Harper should stop drawing attention on the constitution because it might prove a political loser.