|| That, given: (a) the Liberal election platform states that “government and its information should be open by default” and “data paid for by Canadians belongs to Canadians”; (b) the Department of Finance has indicated that a federally-mandated carbon tax will cause higher prices to “cascade through the economy in the form of higher prices”; (c) such regressive taxes cause low-income people to bear a larger burden as heat, gas, and groceries form a larger portion of their family budgets; and (d) the Department of Finance has produced numerous calculations of the impact of these taxes on low and middle-income families, and their effect on the gap between rich and poor; an Order of the House do issue for a copy of the Department of Finance’s documents titled “Impact of a carbon price on households' consumption costs across the income distribution” and “Estimating economic impacts from various mitigation options for greenhouse gas emissions,” and any other documents that calculate the cost of carbon taxes on Canadian workers, businesses, and families.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for .
This week we learned the story of an Ottawa-area senior who said he could no longer afford to heat his home or fuel his car, so he is giving up both. Rick Russell even put up a sign on his house declaring, “Another senior loses home due to high energy costs”, telling reporters he can only afford a home without heat or heat without a home.
He is not alone. Disabled grandmother Kathy Katula broke down into tears at the 's recent town hall meeting, demanding to know how she would pay his new carbon tax on her home heating when she is already struggling with $1,000 a month electricity bills imposed by the provincial Liberal Government of Ontario. The Prime Minister gave her a warm hug, but unfortunately not warm enough to heat her home.
These are not isolated cases. The 2016 Ontario Association of Food Banks report entitled, “Hunger Report” said, “Since 2006, hydro rates have increased at a rate of 3.5 times inflation for peak hours, and at a rate of 8 times inflation for off-peak hours.”
Sixty thousand Ontarians have had their electricity cut off for failing to pay their bills, the report noted, adding that many food bank clients struggle with electricity bills of $300 to $700 a month. The food banks themselves say they are struggling to afford the electricity for their massive refrigerator systems.
Ron Dunn, executive director of Windsor's Downtown Mission, has had people come to him and plead, “If you can help me with food, then I can pay for some of this hydro bill before it gets cut off.”
These increases are the direct result of the Liberal Green Energy Act, which forces consumers to subsidize millionaire turbine and solar investors who sell overpriced, unneeded, and unreliable electricity to the government. While millionaires have prospered, Ontario has the worst poverty record of any province in Canada since the McGuinty-Wynne Liberals took power.
Between 2003 and 2014, the poverty rate dropped by one third in British Columbia, the Prairies, Atlantic Canada, and Quebec. It did not budge in Ontario.
Over the same time period, Ontario had the largest increase in the percentage of the population earning less than half the median income. It also has the worst record for middle-income growth across the country. Ontario's auditor general calculated that the government subsidies of wind and solar power companies will cost consumers like Kathy and Rick $170 billion, making the Ontario Liberal Green Energy Act likely the single-largest wealth transfer from the poor and middle class to the super rich in Canadian history.
The national carbon tax will do to gas, groceries, and heating costs exactly what the Green Energy Act has done to electricity. A Statistics Canada official recently testified at the House of Commons human resources committee that increases in fuel, food, and other basic necessities necessarily increased the number of people living below the poverty line.
Even carbon tax supporter Nicholas Rivers admitted that the tax will raise the price of gasoline by 11 cents a litre, electricity by another 10%, and natural gas by over 15%.
Annually, it will cost $1,028 per person, or $4,100 per family of four, according to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
This month, the Fraser Institute released proof that British Columbia, which has the least damaging carbon tax in the country, will still take a $870-million net tax increase from British Columbian taxpayers. That is to say, the average family of four in British Columbia will pay $728 more in carbon taxes than they get back in offsetting tax relief. That is the least damaging carbon tax in the country.
We know that the burdens of these taxes fall disproportionately on the backs of those with the least, for a number of reasons. First, we know that Stats Canada data shows that poor households spend roughly one-third more of household income on the basic necessities that will be taxed, like gas, groceries, and heat. While wealthy households still buy these goods, they constitute a much smaller share of a wealthy household's income. Therefore, the percentage tax increase is actually higher on those who are poor, which is the very definition of a regressive tax.
Second, the carbon tax will generate billions of dollars in new revenue for the government, but who will get that money? It is those who can afford to lobby for grants, rebates, and corporate welfare under the guise, of course, of saving the environment. I turn to the rebate that people can now receive if they can afford to buy a $150,000 Tesla car. I guess Rick Russell has now had to give up his truck, but if he wants to get back any of the money he is paying in the carbon tax, he will have to find $150,000 to buy one of these fancy Teslas or Mercedes-Benz electric vehicles, and then he can get $15,000 back. In reality, those wealthy enough to lobby for these rebates will get all the money back, as is so often the case with the theory of trickle-down government. Those at the top end up with the most.
That is why I filed an access to information request to find out how much poor and middle-class taxpayers will pay under the new Liberal carbon tax. I asked for the government to provide documents such as briefing notes, analyses, projections, and emails regarding the impact of a $50-a-tonne price on carbon or a carbon tax on the Canadian economy and include any analysis on the price of carbon on the impact on the consumer price index, median incomes, low-income household incomes, the poverty rate, the employment rate, and the unemployment rate.
The response was ominous. Imposing a carbon tax will lead to costs that will “cascade through the economy” said the finance department document, referring to two tables that would tell how much households would pay, but those tables are blacked out. These tables would break down the costs of the carbon tax by income quintile for the very poor, the poor, the middle class, the upper income, and the rich. The government says it wants to reduce the gap between rich and poor. Should it not then jump at the opportunity to release data on the tax's impact on income inequality, unless it has something to hide?
Could it be that, after running an entire election campaign on the supposed promise of taking more from the rich so that it could give back to the poor, the government is doing precisely the opposite and, worse, trying to cover it up? The most basic principle of parliamentary democracy is that people must consent for the taxes that they pay, through the assembled Parliament.
The Bill of Rights of 1689, which established the parliamentary system that we know today, through the mother Parliament in Britain, had as one of its basic principles what would become no taxation without representation. “Levying money for or to the use of the Crown...without grant of Parliament...is illegal.” Simply put, government cannot tax what Parliament has not approved, but we cannot approve what we do not know, and therefore, there cannot be taxation without information.
This motion calls for the immediate release of that information. These may seem like abstract concepts, but they are real to people like Kathy Katula, Rick Russell, and others who have no money to influence government or pull its levers, two people seeking no program or wealth but merely asking for government to get off their backs and out of their pockets. They pay the bills. They have the right to see those bills. This motion would give them the chance. Anyone voting against the motion would take that right away from them.
I ask the House to vote for this motion, to bring the light of day. To pass this motion in the House of Commons is to stand for our duty to represent the common people here in the house of the commoners.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to get up and speak today.
What we are calling for today is pretty simple. As my colleague just articulated, we are asking for transparency, and I will quote from the motion itself:
|| ...the Liberal election platform states that “government and its information should be open by default”....
Therefore, if there were no reason not to provide the data, then the data would be provided by default.
The question the government is facing is why. Why are the tables blacked out and redacted from the report that we are requesting? We simply want to show the effect of the carbon tax on various income levels of individuals in our society and also on business in terms of the effect it will have on competitiveness.
In that regard, I would like to talk about some of my constituents who employ a lot of the people in the manufacturing sector within my community. I will talk about some of the meetings I have been having with constituent business owners about the rising energy costs, and what the carbon tax will mean from their own rudimentary calculations based on the percentages that the federal government has dictated to the provinces and has said that will be phased in over time.
One such company manufactures very large pieces of stainless steel product that go into large installations, such as dam gates and things that are very unusual. These are one-off projects around the world. It employs just more than 400 people in good, well-paying jobs. On the production floor it has six enormous furnaces. These furnaces heat and shape the metal to make it into the final product.
Back in the 2008 election, we had been threatened with a carbon tax by the Liberals. In that election, they campaigned that they would bring in a carbon tax. The owner of that business came to me at the time and calculated the effects of what that carbon tax would mean, and it was at basically the same rates that exist today. The way he explained it to me was—because of the amount of natural gas he uses in heating the product to shape it, which is an enormous amount of money—that if a carbon tax like this came into existence, it would mean $9,000 per employee per year in extra overhead costs.
This company happens to own two other manufacturing facilities, one in Michigan and one in Ohio. Some 400 well-paying jobs in my community are at threat over a carbon tax, if we just do the basic thinking on this and use common sense. Therefore, I am talking about the impact that this tax will have on business, and already businesses are facing the prospect of competitive rates that will start to come into effect in the United States. They will start to look at their options, because basically they have to compete on an international level.
We do not know what the effect of the carbon tax will be on the Canadian population at large and on businesses. It is absolutely wrong that we cannot get that information when it is available in writing from the finance department in terms of what it will do.
This is probably the most damning quote that, again, forms part of what we are asking for today. The Department of Finance indicated that the federally mandated carbon tax will cause higher prices to “cascade through the economy in the form of higher prices” for everything.
This means exactly what my colleague was driving at with the examples of individuals who are disproportionately affected because they are at the lower end of the income scale. There are many people right now in Ontario, and my friend said 60,000, who have had their hydro cut off by Hydro One.
Over the last week, we witnessed in the legislature of Ontario people trying to get answers to questions like why the CEO of that corporation makes $4 million a year while in the same type of corporation in Quebec the CEO makes $400,000. There is no answer to those questions, because the government does not know why.
The other part of that equation is that all the people who work at Hydro One in Ontario have been taken off the sunshine list. In other words, there is no transparency with respect to the incomes they are earning as employees. Again, it is Liberals hiding transparency. This is another huge broken promise. It is exactly what they promised Canadians they would not do during the campaign in the last election.
We found out early on that the $10-billion deficit was just thrown out the window, because they had a majority and could do whatever they wanted, so it is $30 billion. Electoral reform is the same; promise made, promise broken. We can go on about the types of promises the Liberals made and how they were broken.
I will talk a little bit about the projected effect on seniors. It would be $1,208 per person from a carbon tax. This is the statistic that was given to us by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. It estimates that it will be$1,028 per person, or $4,102 per family of four, when fully implemented in 2020. Does the government agree with this figure? Is it higher? Is it lower? Why will it not say? Why will it not release the data it has that should be open and transparent, by default, for all Canadian to see? What is being hidden? That is what we are driving at today in the motion. We are driving at being transparent, exactly what the Liberals said they would be, and now they have had a change of heart and are doing it differently.
When we look at this in every community, people will actually have to decide whether they can afford to even have an automobile or afford groceries to eat over paying their hydro bills. Another example of this was asked, again, in the legislature of Ontario. It was about an individual whose hydro bill had arrived, and he had consumed $4 worth of hydro in the period measured in the hydro bill, which is generally 30 days, yet there was a charge of $100 for all the other charges, including the global adjustment fund and the delivery charge. How was this individual charged $4 for consuming a certain amount of hydro and $100 that was not. The Wynne Liberal government will not answer that question.
We are in a crisis situation in the province I come from, a crisis situation that is real for the people who are at the lower end of the economic scale. What we are striving to do today in opposition is ask the Liberals to be transparent, to do what they said they would do and provide us with the data, because we believe that the data is being covered up and hidden by the government. We are asking today for the support of all parliamentarians to live up to that promise.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond to the question posed by the hon. member for . Our government knows that the economy and the environment go together. That is why we are committed to making investments that will lead to a cleaner, more innovative economy that will not only help us achieve our goal of reducing emissions but will create well-paying jobs for middle-class Canadians and those who are working hard to join them. We are taking concrete steps to protect our planet for our children and grandchildren.
The motion before us today references information that bears no reflection to our plan. Our government's plan to address climate change involves working with the provinces and territories to determine mechanisms and impacts in various regions of our country.
As was noted during the first ministers meeting last December, climate change is indisputable, as are the significant impacts it is having in Canada and around the world. We are already facing the social and economic cost of climate change, which poses significant risk to our environment as well as our health, security, and the future prosperity of our nation. This is why we have shown leadership by working together in close collaboration on behalf of all Canadians. We are working to develop a plan to grow our economy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and build resilience to the impact of climate change.
Our government is approaching this challenge in a prudent and flexible manner. We are committed to collaboration with provinces and territories on climate change issues. We will ensure that the provinces and territories continue to have the flexibility to design their own policies to meet their targets, including their own pollution pricing policies. Provinces are actively pursuing their own climate policy agenda and are introducing pollution pricing measures as part of their plans.
We have developed a pan-Canadian approach to pricing carbon pollution. Under the new plan, all Canadian jurisdictions will have pollution pricing mechanisms in place by 2018. To facilitate this plan, the government has set a benchmark of pricing carbon pollution at a level that will help Canada meet its greenhouse gas emissions target while providing greater certainty and predictability for Canadian businesses.
Each jurisdiction will be given a choice on how to implement carbon pricing. They can put a direct price on carbon pollution, or they can adopt a cap and trade system. We propose that in jurisdictions with a direct price on carbon pollution, the price should start at a minimum of $10 per tonne in 2018, rising by $10 a year to $50 per tonne in 2022. Jurisdictions with a cap and trade system will need to set their annual caps to achieve at least the same emission reductions that would result from a carbon price in a price-based system. Cap and trade systems will also need a 2030 emissions reduction target equal to or greater than Canada's 30% reduction target.
Each jurisdiction will also have the flexibility to keep revenues to use as they see fit, whether it means giving it back to consumers, supporting their workers or families, helping the most vulnerable, including communities in the north, or supporting businesses that innovate and create jobs for middle-class Canadians.
Take the case of British Columbia, where carbon pricing is revenue neutral. Since 2008, B.C. has proven that it is possible to reduce emissions while growing the economy and creating good-paying jobs. B.C. has the highest broad-based carbon tax in North America. Its carbon tax sets a transparent and predictable price on carbon while returning all revenues to B.C. individuals and businesses. The price signal creates a real incentive to reduce emissions across the economy.
Again, jurisdictions have the freedom to use the revenues from this source as they see fit. It is their choice. In the case of B.C., it has meant that every dollar generated by the carbon tax is returned to British Columbians through reductions in other taxes. In fact, during the period between 2008 and 2015, the net benefit to taxpayers was $1.6 billion.
It also goes without saying that because of the very flexibility that defines the pan-Canadian framework, attaching a benefit or a cost to households or individuals at large is not as straightforward as the member opposite would have us believe. In fact, it is terribly misleading.
Since each province and territory has the flexibility to design a system that works for it and to use the revenues as it sees fit, much work remains to be done in the way of further analysis and modelling in collaboration with the provinces and territories before a relevant estimate can be provided.
It is important to understand as well that the memo being debated today and much bandied about by the member for was written before the current government was in office. Its data in no way reflects our government's pan-Canadian collaboration and flexible approach. It will not help him or anybody better understand the impact of our plan. How could it? It was drafted a year before it was even hatched. Its release could cause confusion for Canadians, industries, provinces and territories, and our partners around the world about Canada's actual plan and the cost associated with it. That is not something to toy with. That is my opinion. Members opposite may feel differently.
Luckily, as the member well knows, the professional public service manages access to information in the Government of Canada and applies certain restrictions to information that is released according to the rules set out by the Access to Information and Privacy Act. The impartiality and non-political nature of this process is important and must be upheld by all members of the House. It is in Canada's best interest that we not undermine these carefully considered decisions with partisan barbs.
In summary, pricing carbon pollution will give Canada an edge in building a clean-growth economy, will make Canadian businesses more innovative and competitive, will bring new and exciting job prospects for middle-class Canadians, and will reduce the pollution that threatens our clean air and oceans as well as the health of Canadians.
Together, we will create the clean-growth economy necessary for the collective health, prosperity, and security of this generation of Canadians and the next.
The government's overall approach will be reviewed in 2022 to ensure that it is effective and to confirm future price increases. The review will account for actions by other countries.
As far as Canada is concerned, I am pleased to say that we are working from a position of strength. We are in an enviable fiscal position. Our debt-to-GDP ratio is well above the average for the G7. This means that we have the flexibility needed to implement our long-term vision of ensuring that Canada's economy works for the middle class. If the economy works for the middle class, it works for everyone.
The measures to support the middle-class is what the Canadian economy needs and what Canadians deserve. It is what Canadians wanted and what we provided and will continue to provide in the future.
On January 1, 2016, nearly 9,000 Canadians had more money in their pockets thanks to the middle-class tax cut. This measure was not only the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do for our economy.
The middle-class tax cut and the measures that go with it help make the tax system fairer to give all Canadians the opportunity to succeed.
Specifically, the government lowered the tax rate in the second personal income tax bracket from 22% to 20.5%. Single individuals who benefit from the reduced second personal income tax rate will see an average tax reduction of $330 every year, while couples will see an average tax reduction of $540 every year. Only the higher income earners, the wealthiest 1%, will pay more taxes with the introduction of the 33% personal income tax rate on individual taxable income in excess of $200,000.
Finally, the government returned the tax-free savings account, or TFSA, annual contribution limit to $5,500 from $10,000, effective January 1, 2016. Returning the TFSA annual contribution limit to $5,500 was consistent with the government's objective of making the tax system fair and helping those who need it the most.
When combined with other registered savings plans, a $5,500 TFSA annual contribution limit will enable most individuals to meet their ongoing savings needs in a tax efficient manner. Furthermore, indexation of the TFSA annual contribution limit was reinstated. Thus, the annual limit will retain its real value over time.
Another cornerstone of the government's plan to help the middle class and those working hard to join it is the Canada child benefit. The benefit will help parents better meet the needs of their children. The CCB is simpler and more generous than the old benefit system it replaced, and it is completely tax-free. In addition, it does a better job of targeting the people who most need it.
I firmly believe that the many parents who receive this assistance agree that it is greatly needed and appreciated. With the introduction of a much better-targeted Canada child benefit, about 300,000 fewer children will be living in poverty in 2017 as compared to 2014. That means that Canada's child poverty rate will drop by about 40% relative to 2014.
Since the Canada child benefit was introduced in July 2016, nine out of 10 families are now receiving more money than they did under the previous system. They are receiving an average increase in annual benefits of $2,300 in 2016-17.
Parents with children under 18 will receive a maximum annual benefit of $6,400 per child under the age of six and up to $5,400 per child between the ages of 6 and 17. Whether these additional funds are used for things like buying school supplies, covering part of the cost of registering for sports activities, helping with the family grocery bill, or buying warm coats for winter, the Canada child benefit helps parents cover the high cost of raising their children.
Finally, the Canada child benefit will be indexed to inflation starting in 2020 so that families can continue to count on this additional support for a long time, with their benefits keeping pace with rising expenses.
As on pricing carbon pollution, our government has achieved other goals through collaboration with the provinces. We have reached a historic agreement with provincial governments to enhance the Canada pension plan. This project was undertaken given our knowledge that one in four Canadian families approaching retirement, 1.1 million families, is at risk of not saving enough to maintain the family's current standard of living. The risk is highest for middle-class families. Families without workplace pension plans are at an even greater risk of under-saving for retirement. In fact, a third of these families are at risk. Saving more through an enhanced CPP will mean Canadian families are more confident about their future and about their ability to secure a dignified retirement.
Our government is particularly concerned about the situation of young Canadians. They tend to have more debt than previous generations and, in most cases, they will also live a lot longer than previous generations. They are faced with the challenge of trying to save enough money for retirement at a time when fewer of them can expect to have a job with a pension plan.
In summary, the measures that our government has taken show our commitment to helping the middle class and those working hard to join it. We have taken action to strengthen the Canada pension plan. We introduced the middle-class tax cut, which benefits nine million Canadians. We introduced the Canada child benefit, which provides additional financial assistance to nine out of ten Canadian families.
We will continue to work for Canadians in order to build a stronger and more equitable economy where all families can grow and prosper.
If it is a real, relevant, and factual debate the member for is looking for, I am hoping that we can use our time to talk about those numbers.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
It is an interesting debate this morning. I have looked at the motion, listened to the speeches and I wonder if anybody here has actually read the motion. The motion tabled by the member for is in essence a call for an order of the House that the government deliver on its duties and commitments for openness and transparency, although the ask is narrow in scope.
The member has previously raised in this place his frustrations with the government providing significantly redacted documents, documents allegedly providing analyses of the impacts of the proposed carbon tax on low and middle-income families. The documents the member seeks to have released include reports titled “Impact of a carbon price on households' consumption costs across the income distribution” and “Estimating economic impacts from various mitigation options for greenhouse gas emissions”. However, the Conservatives have also asked for any additional documents that the government may have prepared, or have in its possession, or have used public funding for to analyze the implementation and the costing of the carbon tax.
As I mentioned in my questions for some of the colleagues in this place, the motion does not call for release of any analyses documenting the cost of failing or delaying action to address climate change, including impacts associated with mitigation costs already experienced in our country. Natural Resources Canada commissioned such a report decades back, documenting climate impacts across sectors of the economy and across regions of the country. I recommend a read of that document by everyone in this place.
The motion also does not call for any measures to mitigate the costs associated with private investment and reducing greenhouse gases, such as the home energy retrofit program, installation of solar panels, and so forth.
I first wish to speak to the matter of the duty and commitment for open and transparent governance, including full disclosure of documents.
As the motion states, the Liberal Party was clear in its election platform on its commitment to restore openness and transparency in government. By way of example from its platform, it states, “Together, we can restore a sense of trust in our democracy. Greater openness and transparency are fundamental to accomplishing this”. It goes on to say, “At its heart is a simple idea: transparent government is good government. If we want Canadians to trust their government, we need a government that trusts Canadians”.
Once elected, the government issued a policy document entitled “Open and Accountable Government”. Under this policy directive issued by the , the Liberals undertake to ensure a policy of openness and transparency, and respect for the role of Parliament. It states:
|| In our system of government, Parliament is both the legislative branch and the pre-eminent institution of democratic accountability. Clear ministerial accountability to Parliament is fundamental to responsible government, and requires that Ministers provide Parliament with the information it needs to fulfill its roles of legislating, approving the appropriation of funds and holding the government to account.
That is the most important role we have on both sides of the House.
This mantra is again repeated in the mandate letters issued by the to his ministers. For example, the mandate letter to the repeats this mantra of openness and transparency. It states:
|| We have also committed to set a higher bar for openness and transparency in government. It is time to shine more light on government to ensure it remains focused on the people it serves. Government and its information should be open by default. If we want Canadians to trust their government, we need a government that trusts Canadians....Canadians do not expect us to be perfect – they expect us to be honest, open, and sincere in our efforts to serve the public interest.
Again from the Liberal Party platform, I will share some of the actions the government committed to in the election. It states:
|| We will work together to establish national emissions-reduction targets, and ensure that the provinces and territories have targeted federal funding and the flexibility to design their own policies to meet these commitments, including their own carbon pricing policies.
|| These targets must recognise the economic cost and catastrophic impact that a greater-than-two-degree increase in average global temperatures would represent, as well as the need for Canada to do its part to prevent that from happening.
That is precisely what is being asked for in this motion, which is the deliverance of the documents so all sides of the House can make a determination on whether the government is moving appropriately and cost effectively in the measures it is introducing.
In the mandate letter to the , she is then specifically mandated to ensure that any reduction targets recognize the economic cost and catastrophic impact that a greater than 2° increase would deliver.
The and the are mandated to undertake a cost estimate of delayed action. It would be nice if we could have that revealed as well. Certainly, when the Conservatives were in power, they did not reveal nor advertise the fact that even before their mandate the Department of Natural Resources had done an in-depth analysis showing considerable impacts across our country already occurring more than 15 years ago. Although the member does not request the release of information on the economic costs of mitigating that damage, failing or delaying to take action, it would be useful as well.
Where we differ with the Conservative Party on this motion is the Conservatives' persistence, first, in refusing to recognize that climate change even exists and, second, that Canada has inappropriately committed to do its part to prevent catastrophic climate change, including imposing a price on carbon. It is clear that the Conservative Party continually does not support any kind of measures to put a price on carbon, including the measures chosen to date by the Liberal Party. Third, the Conservatives refuse to accept that world leaders are taking action, including embracing a transition to a cleaner energy economy, and fourth, that credible entities, such as the International Energy Agency, have called on all nations, including Canada, to expedite this transition to investment in clean energy.
Yes, we need full disclosure of any considerations, studies, assessments, or estimates on the cost, policies, or measures for greenhouse gas reduction, including the proposed carbon tax and other measures which have not come forward yet and will be needed in order for the Liberals to deliver on the commitments made in Paris. However, the starting point must be toward delivering on our nation's commitments to reduce greenhouse gases. The Liberals committed to one thing in Paris and we have targets that came from the previous regime, which are not going to deliver on our commitments made in Paris. That should be done through a just transition.
If there is one thing we have not heard from either the Conservatives or the Liberals in this place, it is the need to start moving on action for a just transition. If we are going to move from an economy largely based on the oil and gas sector, we are going to need to support the people who work in those communities. Many workers in the oil and gas sector, including the oil sands sector, started their own organizations and are calling on the government to actually finance their retraining and deployment, not just research, on renewable energy and energy efficiency.
In closing, this motion is, frankly, all about openness and transparency and I grow tired of hearing that access to information requests are done independently. I, too, have been refused documents which, in fact, I knew were already publicly released. I call upon the government to rethink and commit to the our previous bill that called for improved access to information, including for members of this place.
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from for her excellent speech and her very thoughtful answers.
Today we are debating a motion moved by the official opposition, the Conservative Party, an oddly drafted motion that addresses a number of different themes. The wording of the motion feels like a trap. In fact, it makes a tenuous connection between a number of things that might also be the subject of entirely separate debates. The motion tackles everything from access to information and transparency to the cost of home heating and climate change. It combines all these topics and patches them together for a debate that could go pretty much anywhere.
I am going to talk about three things. First, when it comes to transparency and access to information, let me take a moment to point out the irony of the Conservative Party moving a motion calling for access to more information. When I think of the Harper years and the Conservative Party's record on providing access to information, I do not know whether to laugh or cry.
Creating the parliamentary budget officer was a good idea on the Conservatives' part. It is a good thing. It is a watchdog that audits estimates, government expenses, and the repercussions and costs of various programs and measures. However, once they created the parliamentary budget officer position, they made it so difficult for the incumbent to access figures and data that he had to use the Access to Information Act to get departmental figures.
The Conservative government was anything but transparent and open. It was the worst. In 2014, journalists told us that never in Canadian history had the Access to Information Act been in such bad shape. That matters because that is how the government is meant to be accountable to Canadians, so they know how money is being spent and whether it is really helping people.
If the government makes decisions but keeps information hidden, how can citizens of a democracy understand the pros and cons of those decisions and judge whether they are appropriate?
The Information Commissioner used to give a report card, like the ones children are given, to the defence and transport departments concerning their handling of access to information requests. They received marks ranging from D to F. However, nothing was really done about this.
The Access to Information Act states that a disclosure must be made within thirty days of the request for access. The Conservative government set a record when the defence department took 1,100 days to respond to an access request. That is the equivalent of three years. It is just slightly longer than the siege of Leningrad.
In 2013, Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault said, “I know of no other federal law that is so openly flouted by government authorities.” Today, I have to admit that I find it a little funny that the Conservatives are lecturing us about transparency and the openness of government. Now that they are in opposition, they are changing their tune. However, they are not the only ones. The Liberals have also changed their tune now that they are in power. That is also interesting.
Pat Martin, our friend and former colleague, introduced a bill to improve access to information, and the himself supported it when in opposition. However, today, now that he is in power, he is doing absolutely nothing.
The NDP has been asking for years for the Access to Information Act to be modernized so that government information is open and accessible to associations, organizations, citizens, opposition parties, and the media.
Accessing information is still extremely difficult today. Despite all of the nice words and grand promises to be a different kind of government, develop a new policy, and restore public confidence, the Liberal government remains secretive and opaque.
It is not the intent of the motion, but it is still important to mention the Liberals' by-invitation-only fundraising activities, which gave privileged access to ministers and the . That is not at all the type of politics that the Liberals promised during the campaign.
Furthermore, the Conservatives have every reason to be concerned about energy costs, because they are causing a lot of trouble for many families across the country. I understand my Ontario colleague's concern about high heating costs, which are causing a lot of trouble for many individuals and families right now.
The NDP believes that a good public power generation and distribution system is part of the solution. In Quebec, we are lucky because the cost of energy is regulated and controlled. We are also fortunate to have many rivers, which means that our energy is renewable. That is important when it comes to climate change, an issue that we are going to talk about shortly.
We must not use the trouble some provinces are having with heating and electricity costs as an excuse to tear down measures that are a critical component of our contribution to fighting climate change and global warming.
I am surprised at the Conservatives' silence on the subject of energy costs even though they were the ones who cut the program. The Liberals' silence surprises me too. Why not bring back the ecoENERGY retrofit program, which I think was a win-win-win program? My colleague talked about it earlier. Why is that program no longer available? It worked. Its benefits were threefold: it lowered heating costs for families because houses were better insulated and lost less heat through their roofs, windows, and doors; it reduced greenhouse gas emissions because it lowered energy consumption in places where people heated with gas, oil, or coal; and it created jobs because people and small businesses needed workers to replace windows and doors to better insulate houses.
We can reduce the cost of heating, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and create jobs, and yet what is the Liberal government doing? It stays silent, which is unfortunate. We in the NDP really want to hammer this home, because we think it is a good program that should be brought back.
Now I want to talk about climate change. We can see the trap set by the Conservatives, as they use pretexts like the cost of heating and so-called transparency to attack something that is necessary, that is, our contribution to what is probably the greatest challenge of our generation, the fight against global warming. Global warning will reach a tipping point and cause massive natural disasters.
Unfortunately, the Conservative government did absolutely nothing on this issue for 10 years. In fact, certain members of the Conservative cabinet and certain Conservative MPs even denied human activity's influence on global warming. That is absolutely incredible.
Former U.S. vice-president Al Gore was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and do members recall why? It was for his efforts to combat climate change and global warming. Indeed, if sea levels rise by one or two metres, it will create population movements so massive as to provoke conflicts. Some areas will be flooded, while others will become deserts.
We need to tackle all of these changes, and we want action from this Liberal government.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
It gives me great pleasure on behalf of the good people who live in the eastern Ontario riding of to participate in today's debate in support of the motion put forth by my fellow Conservative colleague from eastern Ontario, the hon. member of Parliament for .
As someone who successfully ran against Stéphane Dion's 2008 carbon tax platform, I find that this debate is a trip down memory lane. I remember very clearly the Liberal candidate who ran against me, although there have been so many I forget their names, showing up at an all-candidates' meeting with a block of firewood, claiming her party had no intention to carbon tax firewood. Her more rabid supporters even claimed that her party would never ban the burning of firewood.
I invite Canadians to read the joint statement made on June 29 by the , the previous U.S. President, and the Mexican President. In addition to pledging to bring in carbon taxes is the promise to get rid of firewood being used to heat homes in rural communities, or ban the burning of firewood.
The Liberals hid their carbon tax, a hidden agenda in the last campaign, having learned the lesson of poor Stéphane Dion, who was so recently kicked under the wheels of the broken promises bus of the Liberal Party. It is no surprise the Liberal government refuses to be open and transparent with Canadians and provide the information my colleague, the member for , has been requesting and is requesting in today's motion about carbon taxes.
In the province of Ontario, a regressive carbon tax is not something new. The carbon tax in Ontario was authored by the 's principal secretary, Gerald Butts. Taxpayers pay it every month as an item on their electricity bill. The Toronto Liberal Party calls it a “global adjustment”.
For Canadians who may be curious as to exactly what the Liberal Party is hiding from Canadians about the destructive nature of carbon taxes, I turn to Canada's national broadcaster, the CBC, and an excellent article on its website entitled, “Be afraid: The brains behind Ontario's energy disaster are now running the country”. The author then asks, “Phasing out coal, a feverish pursuit of green energy, new tax regimes—where have we all heard this before?”
Posted December 7, 2016, by Graeme Gordon, it sets out in clear language the carbon tax controversy in Ontario and what Canadians can expect with the same person in charge in Ottawa. Quoting the CBC:
|| It is uncontroversial to call Ontario's energy situation a disaster. As [the liberal Premier] has herself conceded: Ontarians are now having to choose between paying the electricity bill and buying food or paying rent.
The article then clearly points out who was responsible for the carbon tax on electricity fiasco in Ontario, the's top adviser, Gerald Butts.
|| ...it was former premier Dalton McGuinty and his Liberal team from 2003 to 2012—including his former principal secretary and “policy guru” Gerald Butts—who set Ontario onto this financially bleak, dead-end road. And now, Butts is headed on the same path, leading not the Premier, but the Prime Minister, on the way down.
|| Butts was, according to the Toronto Star, “the man they call 'the brains behind the operation” and the “policy architect of the Liberal government since 2003.”
|| Butts departed from McGuinty's government in 2008, but not before he and the Ontario Liberal team set the stage for the ill-fated Green Energy Act, in part, by signing onto dubious wind power projects and its cripplingly inefficient Renewable Energy Standard Offer Program (RESOP).
Let us be clear, as the CBC pointed out:
|| Butts himself takes—credit for initially enacting and seeing through those energy policies.
As the Toronto Star reported in 2012, “On his biography page at the WWF website, Butts cites how he was 'intimately' involved with the McGuinty government's environmental initiatives.” Another Canadian Press article made it clear that Ontario's energy policy was Butts' design, “McGuinty's plan came from his senior adviser, Gerald Butts.”
|| Butts has graduated to the halls of Parliament Hill as [the Prime Minister's] own principal secretary, leaving behind a province still paying the price, literally, for his tenure. His promise to eliminate coal, for example—a worthy gambit, if done fiscally responsibly—cost Ontario consumers an extra $37 billion between 2006 and 2014, according to an auditor general, and is expected to cost another $133 billion from 2015 to 2032.
Let us read what else the CBC had to say about Gerald Butts:
|| Now he's doubling down, via the prime minister, on his green energy gambit by promising to enact carbon pricing regimes (read: tax) on all provinces by 2018 and phasing out coal by 2030, even as our neighbour and biggest competitor [the United States] moves in the opposite direction. How team...[Butts] sees a carbon-priced Canada competing against the U.S. on an off-kilter playing field confounds most people's common sense....
|| The federal Liberals, under the stewardship of Butts, has already run a projected $30 billion deficit in its first year in office.
This comes after promising a $10 billion deficit for each of the first three years. It is a $60 billion broken promise.
|| Phasing out all coal by 2030 will have a cost that will add to that deficit. (This sounds awfully familiar, no?) Forcing carbon taxes on all Canadians by 2018 will, in theory, be a revenue generator for Canada, yet it also promises to eat up more of Canadians' paycheques, and potentially trigger businesses to flee to greener (and cheaper) pastures down south—a phenomenon that is of real and pressing concern for Ontario's government.
The CBC article finishes with the following warning for all Canadians:
|| The architects of Ontario's energy fiasco are now stationed in the PMO. The whole country should be wary of the financial disaster of that province being replicated nationwide.
What could be in the finance department's own documents that are so damaging to the Liberal Party's flagship policy of carbon taxes that the Liberals are afraid to share it with Canadians?
To get an idea of what the documents reveal, Canadians need look no further than the report of Ontario's auditor general on the new set of carbon taxes brought in by the Toronto Liberal Party under the direction of the federal Liberal Party. According to the non-partisan auditor general, cap and trade carbon taxes, which kicked in at the beginning of 2017, will cost Ontarians billions of dollars in additional heating and transportation charges. They will lead to even higher electricity rate increases than are already expected, send billions of dollars out of the Ontario economy, and vastly overstate any environmental benefits.
The AG's report adds to what other critics of carbon tax policies have been saying all along. The biggest winner from the policy will be Toronto, which will have the power to create and distribute any number of credits it wishes and use any revenue from the program to fund a suite of pet projects that will have little to no environmental benefits.
The auditor general highlighted that carbon taxes in Ontario come at a major cost for the province's households and businesses, which are already struggling from the fastest electricity rate increases anywhere in North America. Between 2017 and 2020, households and businesses will be burdened with even higher taxes. The annual direct and indirect costs to the average household will rise to $285 by 2019. Households that drive more miles will pay more. As to the impact on rural and northern households, which are already suffering from high energy costs, either the information has not been analyzed by the province or, as with the Liberal Party in Ottawa, it is not being released to consumers. Cap and trade carbon tax pricing will make electricity price hikes worse for industrial customers, also according to the auditor general.
Perhaps the province will use the billions of dollars in proceeds of its carbon credit options as a subsidy to lower hydro bills. By 2030, large industrial customers will experience a 7% increase in their electricity rate, which is directly attributable to cap and trade carbon pricing. This price hike is over and above the increases the province has already laid out in its long-term energy plan.
Contrary to the vapid talking points prepared by Gerald Butts for the , carbon taxes are bad for the economy. In Ontario, the Liberal carbon tax on electricity has eliminated more than 400,000 good, well-paying jobs in the manufacturing sector. Carbon taxes hurt the less advantaged the most. Carbon taxes lead directly to higher commodity prices, higher electricity bills, and a reduction of job opportunities.
The should throw away her silly PMO/Gerald Butts talking points and take a look at what is really happening in Europe, in Germany. German households paid a renewable surcharge of 7.2 billion euros in the latest year.
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, the member for , for leading this motion today and for all his work on behalf of taxpayers and all Canadians, but especially on behalf of the poorest and most vulnerable among us, the people who are struggling to make ends meet every day.
This Liberal carbon tax is already making things so much worse for families and for businesses across Lakeland, Alberta, and Canada. Before the Liberals unilaterally announced they would force a carbon tax on all of Canada, the finance department completed analysis on how the tax would impact everyday Canadians. Both documents were released through an access to information request, but much of that information was redacted and blacked out.
It is clear there is information contained in these reports that the Liberals do not want Canadians to see. Canadians can be forgiven for asking what the Liberals are hiding, just as when the Liberal members rejected a Conservative motion to study the impacts of the carbon tax on natural resources development in Canada in committee.
However, of course, we know why they are keeping facts from us and why they are resisting releasing this information to Canadians. It is because the Liberals do not want us to know how damaging it will be for businesses, families, communities, and the poor.
This reckless cash grab will harm small businesses. A local business owner from Lakeland runs a family-owned trucking operation near Bonnyville. At a town hall meeting, he explained that the price of everything will rise, and the cost to fuel his trucks will increase dramatically. He fears he will have to lay off up to four staff from his already-small group of employees. Trucks that are in perfect working condition will sit empty as he will not be able to afford to run them.
Like him, business owners across Alberta are warning consumers and clients that they will have to pay for this increase in operating costs, which will happen to almost all businesses across all of Canada, small, medium, and large, most of which ship and receive goods that are transported by trucks. Businesses will have no choice. They will have to figure out how to cover off these cost increases through higher prices or layoffs.
The Liberals pledged to be an open and transparent government. In fact the motto on the Liberal website is “Openness. Transparency. Fairness.” How is unilaterally forcing and then hiding the true cost of this new tax on everything open, transparent, or fair?
School boards will need to cope with millions of dollars in extra bills. Alberta school boards have requested an exemption from the tax, warning about the possibility of mass layoffs without it. The answer was that there could be a rebate in the 2017 budget from the provincial NDP, but school boards are already facing the additional burden of this new tax.
The Elk Island Catholic Schools board in Lakeland will incur an additional $82,000 in increased costs for the remaining school year, and $143,000 next year, specifically for transportation and infrastructure costs. School board trustees question the ability to budget for replacement school buses in the future. Rural and small town kids biking and walking to school is not an option.
Municipalities will also struggle with this tax. The town of St. Paul worked to keep spending as low as possible this past year, knowing the carbon tax would make it even harder to stay in the black over the coming years. The Town of Vegreville did a projection of what the carbon tax will cost based on its fuel usage, and it will increase the town costs by $36,438.19 in 2017 and up to more than $54,000 in 2018. These are significant costs for small towns, municipalities, and counties.
All Canadians will feel this pain. A Lakeland resident recently shared a bill on Facebook, which showed an extra cost of $778 on a single truckload of energy products that was delivered to his home. This is the biggest tax hike in Alberta's history. It is not environmental policy. The federal Liberals and the provincial NDP are manipulating caring for the environment, a priority shared by all Albertans, all Canadians, all parties; and it is crass and disingenuous to suggest otherwise, to justify this cash grab, falsely claiming it will earn social licence and reduce emissions.
Alberta has always actually been a leader. Alberta, in fact, was the first jurisdiction in all of North America to regulate emissions, and to apply a targeted $15 a tonne carbon levy specifically on heavy industrial emitters, and only on heavy industrial emitters, including oil sands producers. That was in 2003.
Alberta leads Canada with biofuels and off-gas capture projects in the north, and with wind and solar projects in the south.
This all started more than a decade ago. Here were are, with both provincial and federal politicians falsely claiming this new massive cost increase of everything for everyone will suddenly stop extremist and foreign funded activists and protestors, international attacks from competitors protecting their competitive bottom line to try to push Canada out of oil and gas development and get pipelines built. It is nonsense.
Federal and provincial representatives instead should tell the truth unabashedly, at every opportunity, in every situation across Canada and to the world. Alberta produces the most environmentally and socially responsible oil and gas in the world, and operates under the highest standards and the most stringent regulatory regime of any country on the planet.
The result has been innovation and energy development that has been the driving force of Canadian prosperity and government revenue for many decades, increasing the standard of living of every person in every community, benefiting every province and every region. Alberta has earned its social licence many times over, and so has all of Canada.
I notice repeated misrepresentations, especially from the Liberals and also from the NDP throughout this debate of economists and Conservatives who support carbon taxes for emissions reduction. The fact about those economists is that they almost always also promote equivalent regulatory and red tape reductions and equivalent reductions in corporate and personal taxes.
Those economists are usually proponents to shift taxation from personal and corporate taxes to consumption and carbon taxes entirely. Those same experts, like an economist who helped develop the Alberta NDP plan, also say carbon taxes have to be about $150 to $200 per tonne to be punitive enough to cause significant emissions reductions.
However, that is not what the Liberals are doing, no government in Canada is proposing that, which makes the point. This scheme is a cash grab; it is not about environmental stewardship or emissions reduction. What they are doing will be disproportionately harmful to rural, remote, northern Canadians, to agriculture and energy-based communities, and to the most vulnerable, those who can least afford it, to the unemployed, low-income Canadians, people on fixed incomes, the working poor.
The fact is neither the U.S. nor any of the other top six major oil and gas producing countries in the world are even proposing or adopting carbon taxes. They know it would be harmful for their economies and bad for their people. It is stunning that the Liberals would force Canada down this road regardless of the way it will seriously undermine our competitiveness.
Even in the case of B.C., often hailed as the best example of the carbon tax, every year since 2010, B.C. emissions have increased. There has been no significant reduction in gasoline purchases.
It is not at all the case that the options are (a) carbon tax, or (b) do nothing, as the argument is often framed. That is a false choice to justify a revenue generator that will increase everyone's cost of living, the prices of all goods and services, and will hurt the most vulnerable, the people who can least afford the higher energy costs because they are a higher portion of their income.
I oppose the carbon tax for these reasons, and because it will not do what its proponents claim.
Bad policies that undermine competitiveness, increase costs, and hamper productivity with excessive red tape will deter investment and innovation. It is private sector investment that will generate the development of alternative and renewable energies long into the future, and it is conventional oil and gas companies that are already leading that way. We should not kick them while they are down.
We should be having fact-based conversations about environmental policy and outcomes. We all strongly believe in protecting the environment and in economic development. However, we should be clear what is actually being proposed in Canada right now. The Liberals' carbon tax is not about the environment. It is not about emissions reductions. It is a cash grab and the Liberals need to tell Canadians how much it will end up costing all of us and the damage it will do.
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my hon. colleague from .
It is with great pride and privilege that I stand to speak today to something that is important for the future of Canada, for the future of our economy, for growing the economy, and as we say, for strengthening our middle class and those hoping to join it.
Putting a price on pollution is the most efficient way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reach our objectives to protect the environment, while stimulating investments in low carbon innovation and creating a sustainable, clean growth economy. The pan-Canadian approach to price inclusion will give Canadian businesses, investors, and consumers a clear predictable basis for decision-making.
Confidence that the price of pollution in Canada will continue to increase over time in a gradual and predictable manner will encourage businesses and consumers to invest in clean technology and fuel, while avoiding major disruptions. It will also encourage businesses to invest in research into low carbon technology, which will better position them to compete in a low carbon economy.
A strong, predictable and rising pollution price sends an important signal to markets, informing consumer choices and investments in infrastructure and innovation.
Some people claim that pricing pollution is not good for economic growth, but emerging evidence indicates that pricing pollution and economic growth go hand in hand. The World Bank states that “early evidence suggests that a price on pollution is not an impediment to economic growth”.
To cite just a few examples. British Columbia's direct price on carbon helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the province between 2008 and 2013 at the same time as the provincial economy grew faster than the rest of Canada. British Columbia's growing clean technology sector now brings in an estimated $1.7 billion in annual revenue. Similarly, in Sweden, GDP and industry have grown while its emissions have dropped under the world's highest direct price on pollution, which currently stands at 137 euros per tonne.
The Canadian industry and investors know that pollution pricing will foster innovation and create new job prospects, those jobs that we know the middle class needs and deserves. That is why more than 30 Canadian companies have come out strongly in support of a price on pollution by joining the World Bank's carbon pricing leadership coalition. It is why many leading corporations, including Suncor, Canadian Tire, and General Electric, account for an internal price on pollution in their investment decisions.
In our discussions with Canadian industry leaders since being elected, a common theme that emerged was that Canada's business leaders believed that pollution pricing was one of the most economically efficient ways to reduce emissions, to stimulate the market to make investments in clean innovation, and to be positioned to compete in the emerging low-carbon global economy.
TD Bank's chief environmental officer Karen Clarke-Whistler says her company “believes that a strong low-carbon economy is not only key to reducing carbon emissions but also makes good economic sense. We believe carbon pricing has the potential to play a huge role in building the low carbon economy”.
The impact of the pan-Canadian approach to pricing pollution in terms of costs on households and businesses will vary by province and territory, depending on differences in energy and fuel consumption and electricity generation mix across provinces and territories. It will also depend on the pollution pricing design approaches taken by individual provinces and territories, as well as the decisions made regarding how revenues from pricing pollution will be used.
An illustrative model conducted by Environment and Climate Change Canada estimates that the average increase in the annual cost of energy to households in Canada will be $290 when the backstop pollution price reaches $50 per tonne in 2022. This captures the increase in the fuel price, approximately 12¢ per litre of gasoline, and a modest reduction in the amount of energy used by the average family.
It is important, however, to recognize that these types of projected impacts do not take into account the significant gains in innovation, competitiveness, and economic growth that pricing pollution is likely and will generate. Also, in accounting for costs to households, it is important to account for the ways in which each jurisdiction chooses to use the revenues raised from pricing pollution. For example, Alberta's pollution pricing system includes rebates for low and middle-income households to offset the cost of the carbon pollution levy.
Six out of 10 Alberta households are expected to receive these rebates. The rebate amount for a household with two adults and two children is now as much as $540 per year. Alberta also provides small businesses a cut in the tax rate by one-third, from 3% to 2%. Further analysis on households, businesses, and sectors will become available as each province and territory establishes its pollution pricing systems.
At a macro level, significant economic impact analysis has been done to support the pan-Canadian plan to price pollution. According to modelling estimates produced for the federal, provincial, and territorial working group on carbon pricing mechanisms, the economic impacts of pricing pollution will be modest. The working group considered three scenarios: first, a price on pollution starting at $15 a tonne in 2018 and rising to $30 a tonne in 2030; second, a price starting at $30 a tonne in 2018 and rising to $40 a tonne in 2030; third, a price starting at $30 a tonne in 2018 and rising to $90 a tonne in 2030. These three scenarios were designed to broadly illustrate the impacts on the economy of pricing pollution at various levels of pricing rather than to reveal the impacts of a specific policy proposal. For each of these scenarios, the working group projected very modest reductions in the annual rate of GDP growth. Indeed, as the working group's report concludes, the projected impacts are so small that they fall within the range of forecast error for GDP projections.
Furthermore, the projected GDP growth reduction estimates provided to the working group are likely to over-estimate because the modelling tools used do not capture the full range of likely benefits from pricing pollution. What are the benefits? They include direct benefits from innovation, the development of new technologies, market opportunities, improved health from reduced emissions, and other benefits due to the avoided costs of climate change. For more details, please see the economic analysis of the pan-Canadian framework published by the government on December 9, 2016, which is available on the Government of Canada's website. External modelling analyses, including two studies published in 2016 by EnviroEconomics and a 2016 study by Clean Prosperity, support the conclusion of the working group on carbon pricing mechanisms that pricing pollution at levels comparable to the illustrated scenarios assessed at the 2022 federal benchmark price of $50 per tonne would not have a significant negative impact on GDP in Canada.
The impacts of a changing climate are already being felt and the costs of inaction are much bigger than the costs of addressing climate change. The national round table on the environment and the economy concluded that the costs of climate change could represent approximately $5 billion per year by 2020 in Canada and, depending on the levels of continued global emissions growth, could rise to a range of $21 billion to $43 billion per year by 2050, or even higher under more extreme scenarios. The Insurance Bureau of Canada recently cited estimates from the parliamentary budget office related to the financial costs of natural disasters driven in part by climate change. Between 1970 and 1994, the federal government paid out an average of $54 million each year from its disaster fund, adjusted to 2014 dollars. By contrast, the parliamentary budget office estimated that weather events connected to climate change over the next five years will cost the federal government $900 million annually. That is $900 million that could be spent on social programs, skills training, and education. We must address climate change.
The Government of Canada is committed to continue to work with provincial, territorial, and indigenous governments to ensure clean growth and address climate change. By acting now and acting together, we will build a better Canada for our children and our grandchildren.
Madam Speaker, pricing pollution is the most efficient way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reach our objective to protect the environment and create a clean growth economy. For this reason, it is a foundational pillar of Canada's action on climate change.
The Government of Canada has demonstrated national leadership and has worked in partnership with provinces and territories to establish a pan-Canadian approach to pricing pollution. It is a core element of the pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change released by Canada's first ministers on December 9, 2016. Under this framework, pricing pollution will apply to a broad set of emission sources throughout Canada, with increasing stringency over time in order to reduce GHG emissions at lowest cost to business and consumers, and to support innovation and clean growth.
As affirmed in the pan-Canadian framework, provinces and territories have flexibility to design their own pollution pricing policies adapted to their specific circumstances. Provinces and territories can put a direct price on carbon pollution, either through a direct price on pollution, like in British Columbia, or in implementing a hybrid system along the lines used in the Alberta model, or they can adopt a cap-and-trade system.
A federal pollution pricing backstop will apply in provinces and territories that do not have a pollution pricing system in place that meets that benchmark in 2018. Pollution pricing revenues will remain in the jurisdiction of origin, and each jurisdiction can use those revenues according to its needs. This gives provinces and territories the flexibility to decide how to reinvest pollution pricing revenue in their economies to support their workers and their families, and to minimize the impact on vulnerable groups.
Pollution pricing systems create an incentive for households and businesses to reduce their consumption of carbon intensive goods and fuels and to choose lower carbon alternatives. For example, households could choose to reduce fuel consumption by either using public transit more often or by replacing their vehicle with a more fuel efficient vehicle.
The cost of pollution pricing to households will vary by province and territory, depending in part on differences in energy and fuel consumption, and the electricity generation mix across provinces and territories. The cost to households will also depend on the design of pollution pricing policies introduced by each jurisdiction as well as the decisions they make as to how to use the revenues from pollution pricing.
An illustrative modelling scenario conducted by Environment and Climate Change Canada estimates that the average increase in the cost of energy to households across Canada would be $290 per year when the backstop pollution price reaches $50 per tonne in 2022. This captures the increase in the fuel price, approximately 12¢ per litre, and a modest reduction in the amount of energy used by the average family. Further analyses on the economic impacts of pollution pricing, including analyses of impacts on households and businesses, will become available as each province and territory clarifies the precise design of its pollution pricing system, including how it will utilize its revenues and as experience is gained.
It is important to recognize that the goods and services purchased by low-income people are usually not more carbon intensive than those purchased by higher-income earners. Accordingly, a direct price on pollution does not exhibit a greater burden on low-income families. However, because low-income earners spend a greater share of their income, they may be disproportionately impacted by any price on consumption unless specific measures are taken to compensate them.
There are a number of ways to protect low-income Canadians and vulnerable communities from price increases associated with pollution pricing. Revenue generated from pricing pollution can be used in a variety of ways. Under the pan-Canadian approach to pricing pollution, all revenues raised, as we have stated, will remain in the province or territory of origin.
This gives provinces and territories maximum flexibility to decide how to reinvest the revenue from pollution pricing in their own economies and work to support their workers and their families, and to minimize the impact on other vulnerable groups. Provinces and territories can choose to use pollution pricing revenues to compensate low-income and middle-income families for higher energy costs, for example, while still maintaining an incentive to reduce energy use and thereby helping to reduce emissions.
For example, British Columbia provides a tax credit for low-income families and has made its direct price on carbon revenue-neutral by reducing income taxes for British Columbians and for businesses operating in the province.
Alberta's pollution pricing system includes rebates for low- and middle-income households to offset the cost of the carbon levy charged on fuels used for transportation and heating. The Government of Alberta has estimated that six out of 10 households will receive a rebate to compensate them for the cost of the carbon levy. For example, the full rebate amount for a household with two adults and two children will be $540 annually in 2018, when Alberta's carbon levy reaches $30 per tonne of carbon dioxide. This will exceed Alberta's estimate of the total annual cost of the levy for a household with two adults and two children, which is $508 for 2018. Alberta has stated that it will provide the full rebate amount for couples and families earning less than $95,000 per year and for singles earning less than $47,500 per year.
The approach chosen by the Province of Ontario is to include, in its climate action plan, investments that low-income individuals and households stand to benefit from. Ontario plans to spend $380 million to $500 million on social housing retrofits, starting in 2017-18, to improve comfort for residents and to save money for social housing providers to use to make other improvements.
Ontario also plans to consider options for legislative and regulatory changes that would lessen the impact of pollution pricing on all tenants who rent their housing to make sure that pollution pricing is not passed on to tenants who are unable to make changes to reduce energy use.
In addition, Ontario plans to invest $45 million to $75 million in post-secondary training and innovation to ensure that the province has the capacity to build, maintain, and repair low-carbon buildings. This will include training for first nation and Métis peoples. Low-carbon jobs and training partnerships will be established among post-secondary institutions and indigenous communities.
The Government of Canada is committed to working with all provincial, territorial, and indigenous partners in ensuring that vulnerable groups, including indigenous peoples and low-income Canadians, are protected from any significant price increases resulting from pollution pricing.
Our climate is already changing, and Canadians are already feeling the effects. In the past, in some dream world, pollution was treated as an externality that people did not have to pay for and that the market did not have to worry about it. In fact, economists are telling us that it is time to internalize that so-called externality, make the price of pollution part of the market price of goods and services, and then let markets and governments take care of it. This is the approach taken by Patrick Brown, for example, who is the leader of the Conservative Party in Ontario.
The changes have already begun. Extreme weather, in the form of droughts and floods, is increasing in frequency. North of 60°, the average annual temperature has tripled, compared to the global average, since the middle of the last century. Snow, sea ice, glaciers, and permafrost are all in rapid decline.
We must address climate change now for the well-being of our people, our communities, and our economy and most of all, as a parent, for our children and grandchildren. We can no longer afford to not take action.
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
I want to turn this back into what we started with this morning, which is an opposition day motion that is not an indictment or an endorsement of the plan to price carbon, as the Liberals say, or as we like to say, to tax it, because a tax is a tax is a tax. One cannot hide it any other way.
This is a motion that deals with openness and transparency, the very foundation on which the Liberal government ran in the last election. The member for asked for information with respect to the pricing of the planned carbon tax the Liberals are looking to implement. There was some information that came back, but the information on the cost was, in fact, redacted. I chuckled in disbelief on the day the member for Carleton received that information, seeing that it was actually whited out.
The finance department and the government know what the cost is. They know what the impact is to Canadians, but they are simply not sharing that information. That flies in the face of their holding their hands over their hearts and speaking to Canadians during an election campaign about a Canada where better was possible, where they were going to be more transparent, more open, and more accountable.
For the fun of it, I actually went back to the Liberal platform. They said:
|| Together, we can restore a sense of trust in our democracy. Greater openness and transparency are fundamental to accomplishing this....
|| A Liberal government will implement all of these proposals, and go even further with new initiatives that expand Canadians' access to information.
They expand access to information only when it suits them, and it does not speak to the truth of this issue. The truth is that the carbon tax the Liberals are looking to implement across the country is going to cost Canadians.
In question period yesterday, I asked a question. It related to the Barrie chapter of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons. They had a seminar this weekend, and the basis of the seminar was heat or eat. That is how dire the situation has become for seniors in our country, particularly with respect to energy prices in Ontario. When seniors are celebrating their golden years of retirement after contributing so much to Canada and our economy, it is awfully disheartening when the prospect of a carbon tax is going to fall on them and they are going to have to pay even more to heat their homes, even more for energy, and more for everything else, quite frankly.
In my riding of Barrie—Innisfail, there is a seniors community called Sandycove Acres. It is a 3,600 strong seniors community. Oftentimes at night, one can drive through that community and see the lights turned off, because for many of those seniors in that community, the reality is that they are making a choice between heating and eating. I know that the member for knows that area well. They are good people who have worked very hard their whole lives. There are many veterans as well who live in that community. There are many first responders. They are having extreme difficulty paying their high energy costs right now in Ontario, so to add a carbon tax on top of that is just unimaginable.
I said earlier that I do not want to make this an indictment or an endorsement of a carbon tax. When I was a city councillor, I did my part. I made decisions to invest to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Whether it was to spend $11 million on LED lights or to invest in LEED certified buildings, there were things we could do.
We understand, as Conservatives, that, as the Liberals often say, the economy and the environment go hand in hand. However, they should not contradict each other. There are many things we can do. While I was not part of the previous government, I know that a lot of things were done.
I look at some of the stories. Jim Fraser, who has a small bungalow in Collingwood, Ontario, recently opened his hydro bill. It was $700. Dave Purdon, of Muskoka Meats, got a hydro bill of $1,700. He had to slash his prices on his inventory by 50% to pay his hydro bill.
When we talk about adding a carbon tax on top of that, how are these small and medium-sized businesses going to function?
Here is another one involving a butcher shop owned by a friend of mine, Lawrence Vindum. Lawrence lives in the riding of . He had to remove large freezers from his business because he could not afford his hydro bill anymore. He was quoted in the paper as saying he had chest pains when he opened up his bills. We can talk about the stress of that.
One thing we do know in the information that the member for received is that the proposed carbon tax as stated in the Ministry of Finance report will have a cascading effect on our economy.
Economist Trevor Tombe provides some estimates on the cost of carbon pricing in Canada and he did this in Maclean's magazine in October 2016. He said that the direct cost to Canadians annually will be roughly between $1,250 and $2,500. Those direct costs to homeowners include gasoline, home heating, and electricity. There are indirect costs as well to households that include natural gas increases, food production and distribution, public transportation, shelter costs, services, and clothing. He also said that further costs to household increases when revenues from carbon pricing are not channelled back to households. Some provincial governments just cannot help themselves.
We have heard the argument all day that it will be up to provincial governments to decide. When we have a situation like Ontario where it is billions of dollars in debt, any revenue that is generated is going toward paying or servicing that debt. Let us not fool ourselves here. It is not going to go back to residents, homeowners, or businesses.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation had to go to information that was provided to the UN to figure out just how much it would cost Canadians with respect to carbon taxes.
The member for said this morning that we are representation by population. We are the ones who represent our residents and if we cannot get the information from the government, how can we go back to our constituents, my residents of Barrie—Innisfil, residents of , residents of Saskatoon, and tell them how much this is going to cost if the government will not release that information?
I gave some examples of some of the businesses that are struggling in the current environment. They will have to absorb the impacts of the carbon tax. How do they absorb those impacts? They will pass them on to consumers. Already struggling seniors, already struggling middle-class families and those working hard to join it, will have to pay for the Liberal carbon tax. Again, we do not know what they are going to have to pay because the government will not release that information.
That is the basis of what today's debate is all about. The government should release the information. Why not release it? Why redact it? Why black it out? It is because the government is not happy with the information. That is the answer to the question. The Liberals know that Canadians will not be happy with the information.
With respect to the impact on businesses, I have a business in my riding called LEI Electronics Inc. It is run by Lionel Lalonde partnered with Mark Sachkiw. The company does some great things when it comes to creating carbon-neutral or zero-carbon products. It has an alkaline battery that is carbon neutral, which it sells around the world. I had these gentlemen at a round table and they also wrote me a letter dated February 23 in which they talk about companies that are carbon-neutral certified. Think of the ridiculousness of this. They are carbon-neutral certified and yet they will be subject to a Liberal carbon tax. These gentlemen are doing everything they can, every bit of investment that they make in their company goes toward creating carbon neutrality. They are going to have to pay for this.
Finally, the cost of Gerald Butts, Kathleen Wynne, Catherine McKenna, and Justin Trudeau green energy taxes will be about $1,000 to every senior at the age of 65. Seniors will have to make decisions every day to be healthy or to be warm, or to have a full tummy, or to visit their grandchildren who live far away.
I am receiving a tremendous amount of email correspondence about this carbon tax. I will say this. If I cannot answer the questions because I do not have the information, how will the Liberals answer those questions for their constituents?
Madam Speaker, a lot of what we have heard today is about the Liberal government's profession of the benefits of a carbon tax, but what we are really talking about is transparency, openness, and being forthright with Canadians.
We heard it earlier today, but one of the fundamental cornerstones of our democracy is no taxation without representation. However, another big part of that is no taxation without information. Canadians know that the federal Liberal carbon tax grab is going to hurt and we want the government to show how much it is going to hurt. That is what is being asked here today. The information is there as, apparently, it has done the analysis, but is unwilling to share it.
We have been hit with this roadblock over and over again over the last six or eight months. For example, in the natural resources committee, my colleague from put forward a motion asking the Liberal government to move forward with an emergency study and analysis of the impact the carbon tax will have on the oil and gas sector. The Liberal members of the committee voted against that motion. Again, what this comes down to is if the carbon tax is going to be such a job-creation revelation and wonderful benefit to Canada, why are the Liberals being so coy with that data that would back that up? I would say that if this is going to be of such benefit and is really what Canadians want, then show me, prove it to me. However, throughout this entire process and why we brought this motion forward today, they are unwilling and unable to do that.
I want to tell members about something that really surprised me, which is that Canadians are really starting to realize that they are going to pay the carbon tax. My colleagues across the floor have talked about this being revenue neutral and that it will not impact anyone. That is absolutely not the case. First, they are shoving this off on the provinces to make those decisions, so there is no guarantee on the federal side that it will ensure this is revenue neutral. It has already been proven in B.C., Alberta, and Ontario that this is not revenue neutral. This is impacting the most vulnerable.
In January, when I was home during the constituency break, I joined some friends of mine and had the opportunity to play hockey. I walked into the Cardel arena in the south end of the city and there was a huge sign that said it was no longer turning on the heaters in the arena due to the carbon tax. My wife and kids came to watch hockey and had to wear their toques and mitts. It is not the worst experience of their lives, but it just goes to show the impact that this trickling down is going to have.
We heard in another Liberal colleague's speech today that although rec centres in Ontario are having a very difficult time making ends meet, the government has provided this Canada child benefit. Sure it has, but that will now be eaten up by the carbon tax because the child fitness and arts tax credits have been taken away. Any other money that rec centres may possibly have will now go to higher registration fees, utility fees, and program costs, because they will be passing those costs on to Canadians. To say this is revenue neutral in any way, shape, or form is just not the case. This is going to impact Canadians in every aspect of their lives.
Let me go back to what we are talking about here today. We know the Liberal government has conducted some analysis and my colleague from has asked for two Finance Canada documents, entitled, “Impact of a carbon price on households' consumption costs across the income distribution” and “Estimating economic impacts from various mitigation options for greenhouse gas emissions”. These were released under the Access to Information Act, but key information in those tables was redacted, blacked out. I find that to be incredibly unfair to Canadians.
We can call it a price on pollution, mechanisms, or a price on carbon, but it is a tax. This is a tax grab by the Liberals. I wish they would be very clear on it, but they will not be clear on what they are calling it or the impacts it is going to have on Canadians.
If the Liberals were confident that this was not going to have a detrimental impact on Canadians, especially rural and low-income Canadians, they would release the information in those data tables. However, they will not do it, despite the fact that this breaks it down to every quintile and despite the impact it will have on every Canadian, the very poor, middle class, wealthy, and very wealthy.
This is nothing but a wealth transfer from those who have the very least to those who have the ability to lobby the federal and provincial governments to ensure they get those rebates, whether for their Liberal friends or whatnot. This will not be beneficial to Canadians, and that is very clear.
We also heard some of my Liberal colleagues say today that countries and jurisdictions around the world were embracing a carbon tax. I would like to point out one very interesting fact the Liberals left out.
The carbon tax has not generated jobs. Our jobs report came out from Statistics Canada in Alberta for December. One hundred thousand Albertans are still out of work. This is despite the fact that oil prices have started to tick back up over that $50 a barrel, which shows me that the job losses in Alberta are not necessarily tied to commodity prices. Certainly that is part of it, but that is not all of it. Ninety-eight thousand Albertans are out of work. This is despite Alberta bringing in a carbon tax that is supposed to give us all this social licence.
The one province that has shown some strength to say that it will not go down this road is Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan's unemployment rate has decreased by 3.6%. The one province that does not have a carbon tax has seen its unemployment rates go down. The reason for that is it is still competitive. What we see in Alberta right now, with 100,000 Albertans out of work, is that the carbon tax is forcing investment elsewhere. Investors are taking their dollars to Saskatchewan, to the United States, and to other jurisdictions where they do not have these obstacles to go through, where there is some certainty on their investment, their return on that investment, and their ability to be successful.
Alberta right now, with a $30 a tonne carbon tax and now a federal carbon tax being put on top of that and GST being charged on that carbon tax, is showing investors that it is not a good place to do business. That is going to be the same for Canada.
Again, we talked about jurisdictions that embraced a carbon tax. The United States, Australia, and France have abandoned plans of a carbon tax. The United States, our biggest competitor, is not going down this path. That is going to make our industries, energy, mining, forestry, and agriculture, globally uncompetitive. We have seen more than $50 billion of investment leave Alberta already. I do not have numbers on what that would be across Canada. However, once the federal carbon tax comes into play next year, we will see additional investment dollars go somewhere else. They are going to go where they have the least obstacles and they are going to be taking those dollars and the jobs that go with them, likely south to the United States where there is a much friendlier regime of investment in the energy sector, manufacturing, and perhaps even agriculture. We are going to see that trickle-down effect.
What this comes down to is transparency. We are asking the Liberal government to be honest with Canadians. They want to know what the impact of the carbon tax will be. Will it be something Canadians can be successful with, or will it be something that will force them to continue to close businesses and to take their kids out of sports and recreational programs? It took the taxpayers federation to do the homework for the Liberal government. It said that it would cost an average family of four more than $4,000 a year. That is absolutely unacceptable.
It comes down to no taxation without representation, but also no taxation without information. This is going to hurt. We want to know how much it is going to hurt.
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
We are committed to building a strong, diverse, and competitive Canadian economy. Current global dynamics favour transitioning to a low-carbon economy. The market for effective, clean technologies is growing rapidly, and the cost of renewable energy continues to drop exponentially.
It was good news when the Paris agreement was adopted in December 2015. This was a historic event that sent the international community the clear message that we need to take action against climate change. Canada can be proud of the role it played on the international stage to advance the adoption of the Paris agreement. We committed to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.
We now have a realistic plan to meet that goal while building our resilience against the effects of a changing climate and while continuing to grow our economy. The pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change is an ambitious and comprehensive plan that was developed in close co-operation with the provinces, the territories, and indigenous peoples. It takes into account the input of many experts and stakeholders, as well as Canadians' priorities.
The pan-Canadian framework is built on four pillars: pricing carbon pollution; complementary actions to reduce emissions; adaptation and climate resilience; and supporting clean technologies, innovation, and jobs. Action taken based on these pillars will help drive economic growth and create jobs while ensuring innovation, creating investment opportunities, and reducing potential climate risks.
Pricing carbon pollution is one pillar of the pan-Canadian framework, because economists agree that it is the most cost-effective way to reduce climate change and carbon pollution. Based on the flexible approach we plan to take, jurisdictions across Canada can invest their carbon pricing revenues as they see fit, whether by reducing other taxes, helping their businesses and households, or investing in new innovative technologies.
The pan-Canadian framework also includes complementary actions to reduce emissions. These actions will reduce emissions while growing the economy by cutting costs for Canadians, creating new markets for low-carbon goods and services, and helping businesses use cleaner and more efficient technologies that give them a leg up on international competitors.
For example, we are working with the provinces and territories to find ways to build more energy-efficient buildings. Canada's construction industry is worth $161 billion and employs well over a million people. My brother is a contractor, actually.
The new building codes will foster innovation and help Canadian companies develop more efficient construction techniques and technologies. Investing in modernization to improve energy efficiency is a fantastic way to create jobs. Such investments benefit communities, create local jobs, and shrink energy costs. When our buildings use less energy, people save more money.
Helping businesses consume energy more efficiently is another priority. Federal, provincial, and territorial governments agreed to work together under the pan-Canadian framework to help industries save energy and money. One way to do that is to help them adopt energy management systems.
The federal government has already invested in infrastructure, clean technology, and mitigation measures through the low carbon economy fund to support business growth and job creation.
According to the Minister of Finance, initial infrastructure investments in budget 2016 will bump GDP up by 0.2% in 2016-17 and 0.4% in 2017-18. The pan-Canadian framework will help create jobs and stimulate short-term economic growth by investing in energy efficiency and infrastructure projects.
Canada's climate change action plan will make the most of short-term economic growth opportunities and look ahead to the future.
By taking action now, we are paving the road to success. We have to maintain our long-term competitiveness in a global low-carbon economy and thereby build a better future for our children and grandchildren. We are the first generation to feel the effects of climate change and we are the last generation that can slow down climate change.
There is growing evidence that the effects of climate change caused by global emissions have real and mounting economic implications. Insurance claims following extreme weather events in Canada ran at $373 million annually from 1983 to 2004, but have risen to $1.2 billion annually in the past decade.
The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy estimates that the economic impacts of climate change in Canada might reach $5 billion annually by 2020 and between $21 billion and $43 billion annually by 2050. That is why we must take action now.
We have the opportunity to make sound investments that will not only reduce the risks associated with climate change but also help Canadians save money. For example, the Red River Floodway was built in 1968 for $63 million. A total of $627 million was invested to expand that floodway, which has saved the City of Winnipeg over $40 billion in flood disaster relief since 1968.
Our approach to climate change is based on risk management and knowing which opportunities to pursue.
There is already a global market of over $5,800 billion for low-carbon goods and services, and the value of that market should continue to increase by 3% a year. Canada is already home to more than 750 clean technology businesses. Many of them are SMEs, and some of them will grow into large corporations and major employers.
The industry already employs more Canadians than the forestry industry, the pharmaceutical industry, and the medical device manufacturing industry. The measures taken as part of the pan-Canadian framework will create the right conditions to ensure the prosperity of innovative Canadian businesses and drive job creation now and in the future.
We have the opportunity to take action on climate change, while developing a strong, innovative, and resilient Canadian economy. Thanks to the pan-Canadian framework, we will seize this opportunity. As we implement this plan, we will monitor our progress and report on it in a transparent manner to continue proving that what is good for the environment is also good for the economy.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the motion of the member for today.
I do have to say it is unfortunate to witness the Conservative members continuing alarmist attacks on pricing carbon pollution. It takes me back many years. It takes me back to 15 years ago, when I was British Columbia's environment minister and that was the argument of the day.
As we know, British Columbia's experience after having implemented a price on pollution 10 years ago is that, in most of the years since, emissions have dropped while the economy has grown; in fact, grown faster than anywhere else in the country.
I do encourage the members opposite to notice that the world has moved on from these kinds of arguments and that even many members of the business community and industry support the opportunity that pricing carbon creates for innovating and growing our clean energy economy.
I would like them to notice that the international community has moved on and has come together to commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to ensure that warming stays below 2° centigrade, and hopefully 1.5° centigrade.
Moreover, in the current Liberal government's pan-Canadian framework, it will be up to the provinces and territories themselves to decide what tool to use to ensure that greenhouse gas emissions are reduced, and as to the funds that are raised through whatever mechanism they use, it will be up to the provinces and territories to determine how they are returned to their public.
I will use my opportunity to speak to this motion to discuss its aspect around open and transparent government. That is one of the key themes of the motion, and it is one of the key themes of this government. That vision comes from the top.
In his mandate letter to the , the stressed the importance of these values for Canadians. He said:
|| We have also committed to set a higher bar for openness and transparency in government. It is time to shine more light on government to ensure it remains focused on the people it serves. Government and its information should be open by default.
All of the cabinet ministers got that same message in their mandate letters.
The fact that Canadians, members of Parliament, citizens, and the media can see these letters and hold the government to account is the proof in the pudding of our commitment. It sets the tone for a more modern, open approach to government.
In fact, our guiding principle is that government information belongs to the people it serves and should be open by default. Open by default means publicly releasing government data and information to Canadians, except in limited situations, which we all understand are for reasons such as privacy, confidentiality, and security. It also means ensuring, wherever feasible, that requesters receive information in modern and easy to use formats.
Let me be clear. We are facing a cultural shift in this government's way of doing business. We are talking about reversing the onus.
Instead of asking individuals to justify why they should have the information, the onus is increasingly on the government to provide it except if there are privacy, confidentiality, or security reasons not to.
Rather than wait for Canadians to go looking for the information they want, we make that information easier to find by making our operations more open and transparent.
Access to information is a good example of that.
Last May, we waived all fees for these requests for information, apart from the $5 filing fee. These fees were waived to enhance Canadians' access to government information.
We intend to introduce legislation that will bring forward other important improvements to the act. It is our hope that the House will pass this legislation. Then, after our first round of commitments has been enacted, the President of the Treasury Board will begin the proposed first full mandatory five-year review of the act in 2018.
The access to information review is a major component of our third biennial plan for open government.
This plan was released last July after extensive in-person and online consultations. It is part of our international relationship with the Open Government Partnership and its 75 members.
The President of the Treasury Board announced that Canada will take a leadership role to improve transparency and open government worldwide. In December, he announced that Canada would adopt the international Open Data Charter, and Canada is a candidate for a seat on the Open Government Partnership steering committee.
These are key parts of our international commitment to openness and transparency, and they will support strategic partnerships with governments and civil society organizations here and around the world. The shared global principles expressed in the Open Data Charter reflect our ongoing commitment to ensure government data is open by default.
For example, we are expanding and enhancing the government's open data and access to it. The government has a massive store of raw data that can transform how public servants make decisions, how people interact with government, and how organizations innovate.
We believe it is essential to make as much information as possible available to the public, charities, and so on. We have made a lot of progress, as people can see when they visit open.canada.ca.
We will do even more. We will increase the diversity, timeliness, and quality of this data. In addition, we have committed to streamlining requests for government information from citizens, including their own personal information. To that end, we will be creating a simple central website where Canadians can submit such requests to any federal institution.
It is hard to fully grasp just how much an open government could improve the world. That is why Canada has committed to providing open data training to governments and civil society groups in developing countries, for example.
That is why in last year's budget we doubled existing resources for open government initiatives. Beyond our new open government plan and its 22 commitments we are also fostering more open debate and more free votes in Parliament. We are working to reform the budgets and estimates processes to help parliamentarians hold the government to account. In fact, we are also inviting our subject matter experts in government, including scientists, to speak publicly about their work.
In closing, let me emphasize that open and transparent government puts government data in the hands of citizens as a vital resource in a digital world. It helps ensure the integrity of our public institution and strengthens trust in democracy. It stimulates innovation. It stimulates public engagement. We will continue to champion it for Canadians.
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the wonderful member for .
I am pleased to rise to discuss today's motion which calls upon the Liberals to end their carbon tax cover-up and release the Department of Finance's documents on the impact of carbon pricing on households and estimating the economic impacts from various carbon taxes.
This issue is particularly important to me as I represent constituents who have been hard hit by continued tax grabs and high unemployment. My constituents are hurting. Forcing them to pay more for gasoline, heat, and power is not what they need. They need tax relief.
With so many issues, the Liberal government says, “Just trust us. This is the right thing to do.” Whether it is huge deficits, the Liberal Phoenix fiasco, which is celebrating its first anniversary this week, sole-sourcing the Super Hornet jets, or promises to govern ethically and transparently, the government has shown repeatedly it cannot be trusted, and so with any policy, it is fair for us to ask on behalf of our constituents for the information mentioned in the motion.
That we have to devote an opposition day motion to this issue speaks to the lengths the government will go to cover up the impact of its tax hikes. It refuses to disclose these documents because the facts do not fit with its political narrative. This is unacceptable to Canadians who deserve to know exactly what they can expect to pay in higher taxes.
I want to quote someone here:
|| ...Canadians need to have faith in their government's honesty and willingness to listen. That is why we committed to set a higher bar for openness and transparency in Ottawa. Governments and its information must be open by default. Simply put, it is time to shine more light on government to make sure it remains focused on the people it was created to serve.
That was said by our current , and for once, I actually agree with what he says, although I do not agree with what he is doing.
Information should be open by default. The should, by default, release the information of the impact of the carbon tax.
Members on this side of the House are concerned about the impact of the Liberal carbon tax because estimates indicate that families could expect to pay up to $2,500 extra every year in new taxes. Families can expect to pay up to 15% more on their natural gas bill, up to 10% more on their power bill, and an extra 11.5¢ per litre for gasoline.
Governments will tax elastic behaviour that has been deemed as bad as a means of eliminating that behaviour, but here is the problem: Heating our homes, turning on our lights, having hot water, and buying groceries are not optional. It seems a little ridiculous that I have to say this, but Canada is cold. Our climate is not conducive to using just less heat, and Canadians do not have the option of turning it off. In winter, Canada is dark. Canadians do not have the choice to decide whether to turn their lights off. The Liberals think that heating our homes is a choice to be taxed, but it is not a choice and all of us as Canadians end up paying higher taxes. The government gets richer and Canadians just get poorer.
The continues to justify this flawed idea by saying that this corporation or that corporation supports a carbon tax. Some do, as they can simply download the price of the tax onto consumers.
I am sure the government has written a manual they call, “how to help the middle class and those working to join it”. Someone on that side of the House did a really lousy job of editing it because they have left in chapters titled, “how to make them pay higher prices” and “how to make them pay higher taxes”.
It follows logically that businesses will shift the burden of the carbon tax. They have a bottom line to meet. They have numbers that have to be hit. The government does not care because it will still get its tax revenue and get an endorsement from groups which do not hold the burden of the Liberal tax. For members opposite, it is practically a win-win, but there is a loser in this equation. It is those Canadians I mentioned earlier who are being forced to pay thousands more in taxes. That is the extent of the warning, that it could be thousands of dollars, because the government cannot even be open and transparent about the numbers used by its own department.
I have to ask, just how bad are the numbers that the Liberals are trying to hide from us? If they will not be open with the facts, and they even vote down the tabling of the blacked-out report the member for has tried repeatedly to table, how can Canadians learn how much they will be forced to pay?
Reporting on the blacked-out finance department report that the member for obtained, David Akin of the National Post said that the author is “crystal clear on this point: Pricing carbon, be it through a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system, will hit consumers in the pocketbook.”
The author of the finance department report states:
|| These higher costs would then cascade through the economy in the form of higher prices, thus leading all firms and consumers to pay more for goods and services with higher carbon content.
It is in the 's mandate letter to engage meaningfully with the opposition. Yet, when the member for asked the repeatedly to just release the unredacted report, the minister simply gives us talking points.
In January, I sent around a survey to my constituents with a simple question, "Do you support a carbon tax?" This is what people on the ground are saying, and the Liberals should listen. Keep in mind that my constituents have already been hit with a carbon tax, so they know of what they speak.
One of my constituents said, “I don't believe the Liberals know how much this tax will affect the average family, or those on a senior's pension.” We think they do know, but they just will not release the information.
Another said, “I am a single mom, trying to educate and raise 2 kids on my own. Added taxes are not exactly what I am looking for.” She is probably looking for tax relief, but the Liberals have already cut out her sports tax credit, her education tax credit, and clawed back her TFSA. Where is her help?
Another said, “I am barely hanging onto my job because of cutbacks. I have become the working poor but I am still a taxpayer. Stop this tax please.” That is the forgotten aspect of this conversation. The repeatedly references the praise of businesses and corporations for the carbon tax, but where is the praise from Canadians on this issue? This constituent is barely hanging onto his job, but at least some corporations are on board.
Another wrote in to say, “I struggle to pay my bills as it is—especially in the winter when gas consumption is highest.” This gets to the heart of the problem the Liberals will not address. Rather than openly provide information that they have about the impact of this tax, the Liberals accuse members on this side of the House of burying our heads in the sand and being deniers, because calling us names is easier than facing the hard truth: This tax will not help.
The Liberal carbon tax will hurt families, because it taxes things that Canadians have no choice but to buy. Rural Canadians cannot just take the bus instead of driving their cars. Not every Canadian is a millionaire who can buy a Tesla with a taxpayer subsidy courtesy of the 's friend Kathleen Wynne. And no Canadian can just turn off the heat.
It is not just individuals who will be forced to pay higher taxes. Places of worship, charities, food banks, organizations that help our communities cannot just pass along the tax. We have a jobs crisis in Alberta right now that the government has systematically refused to address. Food bank usage is up 60% this year, and the Liberals want the food bank to pay higher taxes. I am curious about what the government thinks. I wonder if it thinks that the food bank can simply raise prices to customers.
Policies should promote good behaviour. I personally think that food banks are excellent organizations with a meaningful purpose. I would not tax them more. What would I do? Members on this side of the House advocate evidence-based policies that can have a meaningful impact.
In 2012, it was the Conservative government that established regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the coal-fired electricity sector. We were the first country to ban the construction of traditional coal units under these guidelines. Our previous Conservative government also pursued a responsible sector-by-sector approach to regulate methane emissions in alignment with the United States, because we know that joint initiatives in alignment with our North American allies will lead to significant environmental improvements.
We also know that while Canadians can have a meaningful impact in the world, we will never solve the problem of excessive greenhouse gas emissions without buy-in from the world's biggest polluters. Lost in Liberal spin is the simple fact that our previous government was the first Canadian government in history to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
We are not going to solve the problem by punishing everyday Canadians for living every day. I will not advocate policies that punish a constituent because he or she needs to drive a great distance to work. I will not advocate policies that punish my constituents for daring to heat their homes in the winter.
The government should practise what it preaches. The Department of Finance should be open and transparent. It should release the documents it has showing the cost of carbon taxes on Canadian workers, businesses, and families.
I want to read from the 's mandate letter:
|| It is important that we acknowledge mistakes when we make them.
Well, the should admit his mistake in covering up the costs of the carbon tax and tell us the truth. Canadian workers, businesses, and families, above all, deserve to know.
Madam Speaker, recently I was out in my constituency when a woman rushed up to me with an air of urgency. She asked me if I was a member of Parliament, and then came the follow-up. She asked plaintively, “Is there any help out there for a family that can't pay the hydro bill”? Welcome to the middle class experience in Ontario.
So deep is the financial desperation of ordinary families that they are, like that woman, willing to swallow their pride and admit for the first time in their lives that they cannot make it on their own. Energy prices have pushed them to the very edge of economic survival. It is into this environment that the and Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne have charged with their carbon tax to push these desperate, vulnerable families over the edge.
The story I told is just the most recent of many experiences I have had. Families have cried while telling me stories of what it is like to live after their hydro has been cut off or how they have had to shut their small businesses because energy costs have made it pointless to continue.
Consider how the dominoes fall. A dry cleaner/laundry is compelled to raise its prices a bit due to increased hydro rates. A customer already feeling the squeeze from higher hydro and gas bills on the family budget now has a new tax on gasoline that increases his commuting cost by 5% in a single day. He makes a decision. He will wash his shirts at home. After all, they are the no-iron kind, and he can get away with that. He figures that he will save enough each month to make up for this new carbon tax and the most recent rise in his hydro and home heating. A few other people come to the same conclusion. Suddenly, the cleaner finds that the three customers a day who represent his marginal revenue, his profit margin, are not showing up anymore. The cleaner cannot go on running his business without making money. The business closes. This is the new economic cycle in Liberal Ontario.
The new carbon tax championed by the Liberals is a tax that consumes what little is left for hard-pressed families at the margins. How crazy is the system the advisers, Gerald Butts and Katie Telford, pioneered with Kathleen Wynne in Ontario?
The point of the carbon tax, we are told, is to discourage energy consumption. Guess what? Ontarians are actually keen on helping. They have made great strides and have, indeed, reduced their energy consumption by 25% per capita over the past 10 years. How are they rewarded for this reduction in their hydro consumption? Well, last year Ontario actually raised hydro rates, because we saved too much energy. Believe it or not, since conservation reduced energy consumption, hydro rates had to go up to make up for the reduced revenue, because less electricity was sold to consumers.
This is the logic of Liberal energy policy. Raise the cost to consumers so they use less. Consumers use less as a result, but revenue goes down, so the cost to consumers needs to be raised to make up the shortfall. This is the Liberal approach to energy. That is the Liberal approach to taxes and deficits too. Raise taxes, get less revenue, run deficits, decide taxes have to be raised again. Before we know it, we have a carbon tax.
It is not surprising that this is also the Liberals' approach to the carbon tax. They have already built it in for the future. The 5¢ per litre increase my constituents experienced on January 1 on their gasoline is just the first step in the phase-in of the carbon tax. It is already scheduled to go up another 2.5 times when implementation is complete, or about 13¢ per litre in my neighbourhood.
The Liberals say that it will not cost my constituents a thing, because it will be revenue neutral. The Liberals say that because they will spend the tax dollars on things like subsidizing Tesla automobiles. Again, I am not kidding. This is how they define revenue neutrality. It is not a joke. It is for real. The Liberals are proudly subsidizing Tesla automobiles, which cost somewhere between $130,000 and $200,000 or more, with a gift of $15,000 each. It is a big feature. Members just need to go to the Tesla website and they will see it. The Liberals are boasting about this big subsidy. Each of those $15,000 subsidies comes from my hard-pressed constituents paying for it on gas that they can ill afford.
If members have not seen a Tesla and they do not know what one is like, I can tell them where to find them. In Toronto, they just have to go to Rosedale or Post Road. That is where the millionaires have those cars. My poor constituents gassing up in Keswick at the Canadian Tire do not have those Teslas, but they are busy paying for them with every dollar they spend at the pump, funnelling that money down to the millionaires in Toronto. That is what the Liberals call revenue neutrality. That is how this carbon tax is working.
My constituents in York—Simcoe are exactly the kind of people who get hit the most by the carbon tax, people in the middle class and those struggling to get there. They just want the government to get out of the way and give them the freedom to do so. They live in Keswick, because that is how far out they need to go to afford a home. They need a car or a truck for the long commute to their jobs in Toronto or to work self-employed in the trades, and that is also usually a long drive to the south.
They have seen their hydro costs double under the Liberals, even as they have reduced electricity consumption by 25%, and now their gasoline and natural gas costs, already much higher than the average, are escalating ever higher because of a Liberal idea and determination that taxing them more is a good thing for society. That is right. It is because Kathleen Wynne and the believe it is intrinsically a good idea for them to pay even more for their daily commute and more to heat their homes. It is very difficult to grasp that, but think about it. The Liberals have instituted a carbon tax with the deliberate and conscious intent of forcing those hard-pressed families of York—Simcoe to pay an arbitrary tax increase on their heat and on their gasoline to get to work because it is good for those families.
I sometimes talk about the danger of a few smart people who, because they have educations and sit in important jobs, fall into the trap of believing that they know what is best for everyone. That is the process behind this carbon tax. A few smart people, the , Kathleen Wynne, and Gerald Butts, decided that they know what is best for the residents of York—Simcoe. They know how the residents of York—Simcoe should live their lives. Part of that attitude is that those smart people decided that York—Simcoe residents will be better off if they are forced to pay a new tax they can ill afford.
Why can they ill afford these costs? It is simple. Consider those residents of Georgina, the largest municipality in York—Simcoe. The median income in Georgina is $32,414, and the median household income is $63,579. Both are just under the comparable figures for Ontario. These folks are the middle class, and the carbon tax is hitting them hard. The proportion of the family budget they spend to commute to work is higher than it is for most because of the distance of the commute and because they do not have public transit alternatives. There is no subway there. There is no GO train. Their heating costs are higher than those of folks in the Toronto condo towers. The gasoline commuting costs take up a big share of the budget, so they are specifically targeted, more than most, by this Ontario and federal Liberal carbon tax. It hits these middle-class Canadians far more than it hits the wealthy, for whom such commuting costs and heating costs are a tiny part of the household budget.
This brings us to the point of this motion before the House. Middle-class Canadians are being hurt by this carbon tax far more than the wealthy. It is simple. Heating and gasoline costs are a larger share of their household budgets. The rich can afford expensive housing close to their workplaces in Toronto and can enjoy short commutes. Raising a family on a household income of $63,000 means that housing is more modest and is at the periphery of the greater Toronto area. They are trading to achieve housing affordability at the cost of time and the cost of a lengthy commute. The Liberal carbon tax targets exactly those people, the severely middle class. They know that it is hurting them.
The government has an obligation to those it is asking to pay this tax to tell them exactly how much they are asking them to pay. Tell them the truth. Own up to how much it is asking them to pay. That is the point of this resolution.
The Liberal government has asked these people and has decided that it is good for them to pay this tax. The most basic, decent, and simple thing for an honest group of those very smart people in towers in Ottawa to do would be to own up and be truthful about how much it is going to be and how much each Canadian will be asked to pay as a result. They will know how policy is being made and that someone is telling them the truth, which they already feel painfully when they are trying to balance that budget at the end of every month and finding it harder and harder to make ends meet.