Mr. Speaker, the economy and the environment go hand in hand. We say it often enough, and it is certainly true.
Until now, the global pursuit of economic growth has too often come at the cost of the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the soil where we grow our food. Today, we better understand that if we are to leave behind a better future for our children and our grandchildren, we must not only be sound economic managers, but also stewards of our environment.
Our government has a long-term economic plan. We are doing what optimistic and ambitious countries do. We are investing in our people, in our communities, and in our economy. It is a plan that is showing early signs of progress. Unemployment is down, jobs are being created at a rate not seen in over a decade, yet there is still much work to be done.
We want to grow our economy sustainably and well into the future. That means making sure that the benefits and the growth are shared by the middle class and those working hard to join it. It means making sure that everyone pays their fair share. It means making sure that the economic growth we create does not leave us without clean air to breathe, clean water to drink or good food to eat.
Luckily we do not have to choose between the economy and the environment. In fact, more and more we are realizing the potential in flipping this relationship on its head. where environmental sustainability drives our economy forward.
That is why as Minister of Finance, I am fully committed to creating the conditions for Canada to thrive in a low-carbon economy. Climate change is not just a challenge; it is an opportunity. However, to seize the opportunity, we need to be strategic. We need to be thinking about the long term. That means working with provinces and territories through the pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change, to take coordinated action to move Canada toward a low-carbon economy.
Pollution is not free. As of now, most of the world agrees that the most effective and efficient means of addressing this issue is carbon pricing. This sends an important signal to the market, and it promotes the reduction of energy consumption as a result of conservation measures and energy efficiency, by allowing the use of alternative fuels and technological advances. This is why a central pillar of our pan-Canadian framework is the adoption, in all the regions of Canada, of a carbon pricing mechanism by the year 2018. The exact design has to be determined by each provincial government, based on what works best for their own province.
The government proposes that in jurisdictions with a direct carbon tax, the price should start at a minimum of $10 per tonne in 2018, rising by $10 each year to $50 per tonne in 2022. Jurisdictions with a cap and trade system, like Ontario and Quebec, will need to set their annual caps to achieve at least the same amount of emissions reductions that would result in the 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.
By contrast, British Columbia chose a revenue neutral carbon tax. It was the first. That was nine years ago. Today, B.C. has one of the strongest provincial economies in the country. The sky has not fallen in B.C. Carbon pricing has not gridlocked its industry. Nor has it destroyed its competitiveness. British Columbia's approach sets a transparent and predictable carbon tax while returning all revenue to B.C. individuals and businesses.
The price signal creates a real incentive to reduce emissions across the economy. In fact, during the period of 2008-2015, the net benefit to taxpayers in British Columbia was $1.6 billion. This is why I have so little time for the criticisms regarding our plan to fight climate change and be leaders in the low carbon economy, and I know we will hear many of those arguments here today. However, we need to remember that these critiques are based on ideology, not facts. The facts are clear and they support our evidence-based approach.
By establishing carbon pricing, for the first time, we receive incentives based on the market, which are necessary for encouraging more environmental activities and low-carbon innovation. For those who wish to receive an example in real time of the strong market for this kind of thing, I need only mention the $500 U.S. green bond issued by Export Development Canada, its third and largest to date.
The products of this green bond will support the portfolio of green assets of Export Development Canada, including loans made to companies who are active in the fields of preservation, protection, or remediation of air, water, and soil, the creation of renewable energy, and the mitigation of climate change.
Therefore, the demand is clear, and we certainly have a solution. It is time we seized this opportunity.
We seize that opportunity by fostering innovation. We have to find new, innovative and efficient way of producing energy, generating electricity, and powering our businesses, homes and cars. Our government has a fundamental role to play here.
Around the world, countries are now investing in clean energy more than in fossil fuels. Companies are choosing non-polluting options as they produce and sell their products. They are making their operations more efficient. They are putting bold ideas into action, creating new jobs and opportunities in the process.
Global demand for these clean technologies is on the rise. Employment in our clean technology sector could increase to 76,000 over the next five years. There is an opportunity for Canada to get a bigger share of the rapidly growing global market for clean energy and innovative solutions to reduce pollution, and to position Canada as a world leader in a low carbon global economy.
Developments over the past decades have led to innovations in non-polluting technologies, such as wind, solar and geothermal energy production. In 2015, over $300 billion was invested globally in renewable power. That is almost double the amount invested in traditional sources. China alone is forecast to spend close to $350 billion on non-polluting electricity by 2020.
Clean energy is growing faster than ever. Since 2000, the amount of global electricity produced by solar power doubled seven times. Wind power doubled four times.
In the United States, as reported by its department of energy, more people were employed in solar power last year than in generating electricity through coal, gas and oil energy combined. Just under 374,000 people were employed in solar energy, while coal, gas and oil powered generation combined had a workforce of slightly more than 187,000 people. The boom in the country's solar workforce can be attributed to construction work associated with expanding generation capacity.
The gulf in employment is growing, with net generation from coal falling 53% over the last decade. During the same period, electricity generation from natural gas increased 33%, while solar expanded 5,000%.
Some countries, such as Costa Rica, are rapidly advancing toward consuming energy produced entirely from renewable sources. Very soon, solar roof shingles will power our homes with energy. More and more cars, buses, and trains will run on electricity. Electricity is also supplied to coastal communities through underwater rotary turbines that operate with rising and falling tides, such as those in the Minas Basin and the Bay of Fundy, which are currently in operation.
Canada has the talent and ingenuity to lead the world, tackle the world's challenges, and turn them into middle-class jobs and sustainable economic growth. Canada is already home to more than 800 clean technology companies, led by innovative entrepreneurs developing technologies like advanced batteries for use in electric vehicles, and employing more Canadians than any other key sectors like forestry or pharmaceuticals.
The clean technology industry in Canada employs about 55,000 people, including a large and increasing number of young Canadians. Take, for example, CRB Innovations, based in Sherbrooke, Quebec, that uses plants to make jet fuel that produces less pollution. Look at Siemens that started Canada's first wind turbine plant in Tillsonburg, Ontario, and now employs about 300 people. This is what we mean when we talk about the jobs of the future.
This is only the beginning. Creating solutions that reduce pollution, from batteries for electric cars to capturing carbon pollution from factories, could add thousands of jobs in the next few years. We need top-notch scientists, skilled workers, and trail-blazing entrepreneurs with new ideas to create and bring products to market. There will be new construction and manufacturing jobs as we make our buildings more efficient and modernize our electricity system.
Canada's industries will thrive as they find better and cleaner ways of working. Millions of Canadians will reap the rewards, not just of the jobs and opportunity innovation brings but of the cleaner, stronger, more resilient environment.
As Minister of Finance, I am fully committed to putting Canada in the best position to capitalize on the clean growth opportunity. That is why budget 2017 put Canada's skilled, talented, and creative people at the heart of a more innovative future economy, one that would create middle-class jobs today and tomorrow. We have made big bets on key sectors of our economy, where we have succeeded in the past and where we know we can lead in the future. Clean tech and clean resources are at the top of the list, along with agrifood, digital industries, health biosciences, and advanced manufacturing.
Through budget 2017, we continue to make investments in research and development, as well as in businesses seeking to bring these new ideas to the market. We are working with stakeholders and partners to develop a comprehensive clean technology strategy. This strategy would identify innovation opportunities, set ambitious growth targets, pinpoint sector-specific challenges and bottlenecks to innovation, and help innovators achieve their targets.
Our plan will include an international business development strategy to help Canadian clean energy companies to become world leaders and take advantage of the opportunities in the expanding global marketplace.
We are also developing a clean technology data strategy to promote innovation, develop knowledge in the private sector and stakeholder communities, and help the government make informed decisions in the future.
Lastly, we will establish a clean growth hub, which will be part of Innovation Canada's single-window service, with the goal of improving federal program coordination, enabling tracking and reporting on clean technology results across government, and helping stakeholders access international markets.
Supporting clean technologies will help position Canada to take advantage of opportunities in the new global economy by diversifying our economy and opening access to new markets.
For clean tech firms to really take off, they need access to capital and financing. That is why budget 2017 proposes to make available nearly $1.4 billion in new financing through the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada. This includes $380 million in equity financing to support clean technology firms, $570 million in working capital to support clean technology firms, and approximately $450 million in additional project finance for high capital intensive clean technology firms.
We are also taking steps to incentivize clean tech innovation in Canada's vital natural resources sector. Budget 2017 will invest $200 million over four years in Natural Resources Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada to support clean technology research, development, and demonstration and the adoption of clean technology in Canada's natural resource sectors.
In addition, the government will lead by example, demonstrating leadership and showing that these technologies work and change things, by using them in its own operations. For example, by 2025, all electricity used in Public Services and Procurement Canada facilities will come from clean energy sources.
Around the world, leaders from government and businesses are united in their desire to work together on one of the great challenges of our time. The Paris agreement, negotiated by 195 countries, sent an important signal to the market. In fact, according to the International Finance Corporation, it has opened up $23 trillion in clean innovation opportunities for climate-smart investments in emerging markets between now and 2030.
Canada remains steadfast in our commitment to work with all our global partners to address climate change and to promote clean growth. It is the right thing to do for future generations and will create good jobs as we grow a clean economy. That is why Canada will continue to take leadership on climate change. In September, we will co-host a ministerial meeting with China and the European Union in Canada to move forward on the Paris agreement in clean growth, and as host of next year's G7 meetings, members can be sure that climate change and clean energy will be top of mind.
We understand the huge economic opportunity of clean growth. We want to leave a cleaner and healthier planet to our children and grandchildren.
In the wake of floods, droughts, forest fires, and the melting Arctic ice, Canadians are seeing the very real effects of climate change in our country, and they understand the need to take action in order to leave a sustainable world to future generations.
We will continue to take advantage of the $23-trillion clean growth opportunity. Businesses in Canada and around the world are investing in clean innovation, from renewable energy to zero-emission vehicles to energy-saving technologies. They understand that tackling climate change is not only the right thing to do but is good for business. Together with provinces and cities, we will create the clean-growth economy necessary for the collective health, prosperity, and security of this generation of Canadians and the next. It is about creating opportunity and building confidence in the middle class by finding new, sustainable ways to drive our economy forward, never losing sight of the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by doing something that is unusual for me in this place, and that is to congratulate the government. I want to congratulate the government for acknowledging that the debate about its carbon tax is a fiscal one and not an environmental question. The is here today representing the government on this question, and not the . That is because the government views the carbon tax not as an environmental policy, but as an opportunity to grow the coffers of governments by taking more money out of the pockets of everyday people.
For hundreds of years, our system of government has been based on the principle of no taxation without representation. Although many confuse this principle as being an American one, it actually has its origins in the Magna Carta of over 800 years ago, in the year 1215. Subjects of the crown said they were not prepared to pay any tariff or levy without their collective approval, through what would become the parliament, that is, a gathering of the common people. Hence, we have the term House of Commons.
The principle flowing from the Magna Carta and the meeting at Runnymede when King John signed it, is that for the crown to have the legal authority to extract a levy, a tax, or a fee from the population, it must have the approval of the population through their assembled members of what we now call and know as being parliament.
However, not only is there no taxation without representation, there is no taxation without information. Unfortunately, the government has provided precious little information about the cost of its carbon tax. Normally, matters of taxation are quite clear to anyone who is prepared to sharpen their pencil or pull out the calculator. Most Canadians do their taxes at the end of the year and they can determine how much they are paying in income tax. On a daily basis, they can take their bill from a night at the movies or at a restaurant and see what they paid in harmonized sales taxes or other consumption taxes.
Carbon taxes are insidious in a very special way. The cost of a carbon tax is embedded deep inside literally thousands of products that Canadians buy every single day. For example, a basket of fruit that is transported by a truck, was also transported by a train, and before that a ship. A carbon tax on all of the fossil fuels necessary to bring that basket of fruit to the grocery store, where a single mother buys it for her children, increases the cost of that fruit. Unfortunately, when that single mother goes to the cash register and pays that bill, she does not know what share of it is going to the government through carbon tax. Therefore, as an elector, as a common person, she cannot ultimately hold the crown accountable for what it is charging her to nourish her children with the vitamin C from that basket of fruit. She can hold the government accountable for the cost of the harmonized sales tax, because when she purchases various goods and services, she can look at the receipt and it will tell her what she paid. If she thinks it is too much, she can tell her local member of Parliament, and if he or she fails to act accordingly, she can vote against that member of Parliament in the forthcoming election.
No such accountability exists with the carbon tax. I endeavoured to create such accountability by filing numerous Order Paper questions and access to information requests, demanding that the government reveal the following information:
Documents such as briefing notes, analyses, projections, and emails regarding the impact of a $50-a-tonne price on carbon or carbon tax on the Canadian economy. Please include any analysis on how a price on carbon will impact the Consumer Price Index, median incomes, low-income household incomes, the poverty rate, the employment rate, and the unemployment rate.
Originally the government responded that it had no such data. It just did not exist. That was its original response to my Order Paper question. However, we later obtained documents showing that the government did in fact have the data. It had been calculated and it was in the possession of the department.
The government said secondarily that it was wrong, that it did have the information, but it would not tell us what it said. It released documents that were roughly 70% blacked out. For example, I have here a memo that was written on October 20, the day after the Liberal Party won the October 19 election, which says:
Imposing a price on carbon...either through a tax or a cap-and-trade system, would raise the cost of fossil fuels and energy. These...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. This would create distributional effects since the share of goods and services with high-carbon content may vary with households' income.
That is a quote from the document.
To simplify the overly complicated terminology here, “distributional effects” is an economics term for how the tax will shift income between rich and poor households. It would be effects on the gap between rich and poor, the poverty rate, and the income of the middle class.
I go back to quoting from the same document:
This [document] focuses on the potential impact of a carbon price on a households' consumption expenditures across the income distribution. Key findings are: [blacked out].
The key findings are blacked out and none of the information is included.
Now again, this memo advertises that the government will reveal the potential impact of a carbon price on a household's consumption expenditures across the income distribution. That word “distribution” is very important for those of us who are concerned about poverty. Distribution is used as a term by economists to describe how much money the very poor, the poor, the middle class, the affluent, and the rich have in this country. This document would tell us what impact the carbon tax would have on that distribution. How would it affect the very poor, the poor, the middle class, the affluent, and the rich? The House of Commons does not know. The does. He has this briefing, and, in his possession, that briefing is not blacked out.
Let me tell the House what else the has. He has a continuation of the backgrounder, which says:
A good predictor of the expected distributional effect of a price on carbon is to look at how the carbon intensity of a typical consumption basket varies across earnings groups.... This intensity is the result of the direct consumption of carbon intensive goods—like gasoline, natural gas and heating oil—and the indirect result from consuming goods with a high carbon [input]....
Let us return to common language, as we are in the House of the common people. Let us start again: “A good predictor of the expected distributional effect of a price on carbon”. Simply put, how will a carbon tax affect the gap between rich and poor? A look at the carbon intensity of a typical consumption basket varies across earnings groups. What does that mean in plainer language?
It means that people with less money typically rely on things that have lots of carbon inputs in them, more so than do rich households, at least as a share of their income. That is because rich households can afford to spend more on luxuries rather than on basic survival. Poor households, it is proven, spend a third more of their household budget on things that the tax will apply to, like heating their home, turning on the lights, and feeding their families. If people are rich, they still have to do those things, it is just that those expenses represent a much smaller share of their household budget. Therefore, in percentage terms, the rich households are paying much less than the poorer households pay in carbon taxes.
If the members across the way disagree with my analysis, why do they not just remove all of the black ink on these documents and reveal what they say? It stands to reason, given the documented evidence from Statistics Canada, that the data contained here will show that poor families would be disproportionately hammered by this new tax because it is a larger share of their budget that would be taxed. In other words, as a percentage of income, a poor household would actually pay more than a rich household. That is the economic definition of regressive, from a government that tells us every day how progressive it is.
The Liberals also campaigned on transparency. Let us see if they lived up to that promise. In the September 11, 2015 documents, which calculated the impact of a carbon tax. I am going to quote what it says:
In the context of departmental work on the medium-term planning and transition advice on climate change, the memo provides the model based long run economic impacts of various policy scenarios to meet Canada's commitment to reduce greenhouse gas...emissions.
I would continue the sentence, but it is blacked out. It continues:
Environment Canada is in the process of updating their emissions projections and our analysis will be revised once these updated projections are available.
These are supposed to demonstrate what impact the carbon price will have on the emissions of greenhouse gases. Again, all the numbers are blacked out, so we do not even know if this expensive and damaging tax is going to have any successful impact on reducing greenhouse gases, which is the purported purpose of the tax. It goes on:
The estimated economic impacts from [greenhouse gas] mitigation scenarios are based on a computational general equilibrium...model of the world economy. The analysis shows that estimated economic costs (and the resulting carbon price) [will] vary greatly across the chosen mitigation policy.
How high does the tax have to be before it changes people's behaviour to be more conducive to the battle against climate change? Again, we do not know the answer to that question because it too is blacked out. I could go on and on. I have page after page here before me indicating that the government has data that it will not release because it does not want Canadians to know either the effectiveness of its policy or the cost that Canadians will have to bear in order to live under that policy.
I was very optimistic when I saw the stand in the House of Commons today to speak, that he would reveal the contents of these documents, given that they are housed within his own department and that it is his department that has blacked out those contents. However, no, he did not reveal any of that. Instead, he rambled on about all the spending and programs and government interference that his and the 's administration are imposing under the ostensible pretext of battling climate change. If this were really about protecting the environment, then the government would ensure that every extra dollar in so-called carbon pricing that Canadians pay would be returned to them through lower income taxes or lower consumption taxes. The Liberals claim that these are revenue-neutral policies, but how can we possibly know that when they will not reveal what the tax will cost to begin with?
In every province the carbon tax has been imposed, there has been a net increase in government revenue. In other words, taxpayers have less so governments can have more. This is true even in British Columbia, which has the least damaging carbon tax regime. Recently, the Fraser Institute calculated that in British Columbia taxpayers will be net losers by about $500 to $700 as a result of the carbon tax. In other words, even as the government claims that it is reducing income taxes to compensate people for the higher cost of fossil fuel-based products, the taxpayer is actually a loser and the government, of course as is always the case, is the winner. Hence the need for transparency. Hence the need for Canadian taxpayers to have the ability to look at these documents and find out what in fact it will cost them.
Why is it that a carbon tax is so insidious? The answer is that its costs and impact are hidden. They are deeply embedded in literally thousands of products and it is mathematically impossible on a per unit basis to know what we are actually paying because the tax touches a product so many times as it moves through the supply chain. If a child asks his mother for a bicycle and she buys him one, the tires may have petroleum products in them and therefore the tax will have applied to the tires on that bicycle. There may be other plastics in the making of the bicycle. All of those plastics will have paid a carbon tax. The bicycle may have been transported by rail. Of course, our train lines burn fossil fuels to move products from one market to another. That bicycle is taxed as it travels gently along the railroad track.
I know how much the government and members across the way love bicycles. Many of them in municipal government have spent fortunes on bike lanes. We know how much they love bicycles, but that poor little child is now paying through his mother a carbon tax, probably many carbon taxes, just on the acquisition of that little harmless bicycle that he looks forward to riding down bike lanes in downtown Toronto and in downtown Ottawa.
That is the essence of an insidious tax: everything is hidden. Therefore, the reason we need government to be transparent about its own calculations is so that families know what they are paying. I say to my friends who support carbon taxes, surely if they believed this was not a net burden for taxpayers, if they were designing a revenue-neutral tax, surely if that were true, they would be delighted to release this data. In fact, it would be a great political benefit because they could walk up and down the streets and say this tax actually does not cost anything because it is revenue neutral, but the Liberals are hiding something. Why? What is the reason for hiding these costs?
I submit that the reason is the same reason that the provincial Liberals went to such great lengths to hide the costs of their so-called Green Energy Act. About eight years ago, the Government of Ontario passed this monstrosity of a bill that created something called the feed-in tariff, which saw the government pay 90¢ for a kilowatt hour of electricity produced by solar even though the market price of electricity in Ontario was 2.5¢. The idea was that this would save the environment and it was going to create all kinds of green jobs. That is what we were told.
We heard a very similar speech on that subject from the , that there really would not be any extra costs to Ontarians because the resulting growth in green solar jobs would be so powerful that we would all be so rich that we would not even notice a change in our power bills. Therefore, this policy was rolled out and very few people spoke out against it. In fact, in Ottawa, the only major media personality who caught on to what was happening was the legendary Lowell Green from Ottawa. Mainstream media did not care and did not address it. The average person thought that because the government said that it would not cost any more, it sounded fine to them.
There is no magic trick here. When we pay 90¢ for something that is worth 2.5¢, that cost goes somewhere. Where did it end up? It was on the electricity bills of Ontarians, which have doubled since the passage of the so-called Green Energy Act. The result, according to the Ontario Association of Food Banks, has been that 60,000 people have had to go to a food bank in order to feed themselves because they could not pay their power bills. The Windsor food bank said it literally had people come in with their power bills and say, “If you can pay my food bill, then I can pay my power bill.”
The distributional effects of that, for those on the Liberal side who are so concerned about the gap between the rich and poor, were that some people became very rich. Let us make no mistake. Those insiders who were able to lock in the contracts to receive thousands of per cent's worth of price markups in order to sell wind and solar power to the electrical grid have made an absolute fortune. They, their children, their grandchildren, and their great, great, great, great grandchildren will be able to retire on the money that they have made off of this scam. Who cannot make money when they are selling something worth 2.5¢ for 90¢, with a government regulator that is forcing people to pay those prices? Who could not make money under those circumstances? As long as one has the connections to land the contracts, it is a pretty easy way to make money. That is the way that people get rich, when the government gets big.
In a free market, one gets rich by having the best product. In a government-run economy, one gets rich by having the best lobbyist. If one had a good lobbyist and was prepared to pay that lobbyist $500,000 or $600,000, the return on investment in Ontario was spectacular, because that $500,000 or $600,000 used to buy influence returned hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts to sell overpriced electricity into Ontario's grid.
What did this do for the environment? The Liberals will argue that, yes, people got poor, they ended up in the food banks, the gap between the rich and poor worsened, and that Ontario has the highest poverty rate of any province in Canada, after having had the fourth lowest under Mike Harris, but that they did it for the environment. They will say that all of those devastating economic impacts occurred and people suffered, but that it had to be done for the environment. What is the impact on the environment?
Right now, I am looking at the website of the organization that actually manages Ontario's electricity grid. It is called the IESO. It provides a breakdown of the sources of electricity that power our grid in Ontario. The amount of power we get from solar is 1%, the percentage of the power on our grid in Ontario that comes from wind is 6%, and from biofuels it is 1%, for a combined total of 8%. All of these literally tens of billions of dollars of subsidies mean that less than 8% of Ontario's electricity comes from the sources that were most subsidized. The irony of course is that clean, emissions-free electricity could have been bought from Quebec, which generates it for a couple of cents per kilowatt hour, or Manitoba, or nuclear production could have been expanded, which of course has no greenhouse gas emissions, and they could have paid 2¢, 3¢, 5¢, or 6¢ per kilowatt hour. Instead they paid 90¢.
What is the combined cost of this policy? According to an auditor general report in 2014, Ontarians, in the first eight years of the Green Energy Act, have overpaid for electricity by about $26 billion. The cost going forward for another 30 years is another $137 billion.
I have to say it hurts to say that, because I was part of a government that suffered a serious political controversy over a $90,000 expense claim that was repaid. These guys do not deal in $90,000. They go big. We are talking about hundreds of billions of dollars of wealth transfers, and after $28 billion of subsidies so far for these wealthy, so-called green energy entrepreneurs, we get 8% of our electricity from the sources that are subsidized. It is so much expense for so little benefit. All the more reason to have transparency in how all of these green taxes and green levies are administered on Canadian households, yet we have had nothing in the way of transparency from the government. The Liberals have been secretive and closed. In fact I am curious how many greenhouse gases were emitted to produce the black ink that was required in order to cover up the information about the cost of the carbon tax in these documents that came out through access to information.
If it does not make us laugh, it makes us cry. I have a tomato farmer in my riding, SunTech tomatoes. If we want to talk about a green energy company, it is SunTech tomatoes. It has learned how to make a profit growing tomatoes in Canada in the winter. For a government that talks about innovation, that is innovation. SunTech does not call itself an innovative supercluster, so maybe it does not have all the right terminology to get a grant from the government, but it is very innovative. It does not just talk innovation; it practises it.
I went to visit SunTech tomatoes, the little miracles of Manotick. I encourage all members to go there. They are fantastic tomatoes. However, it is more expensive to buy SunTech tomatoes in Ottawa than it is to buy Mexican tomatoes in Ottawa, even though a Mexican tomato is responsible for emissions of more greenhouse gases. After all, it has to be transported all the way across the continent, but of course Mexico does not pay carbon taxes, so even though eating a Mexican tomato in Ottawa causes more greenhouse gases than eating an Ottawa tomato in Ottawa, it is more expensive, due to Liberal carbon taxes, to eat the Ottawa tomato in Ottawa. Does that make any sense to members?
If already their heads are spinning, they are about to spin some more because I have some more information that will blow members away.
In order to help its plants grow, SunTech tomatoes actually releases CO2 into its greenhouse, because plants feed on CO2. The carbon tax applies to that CO2, even though its not released into the atmosphere. It is consumed by the plant. I have some more news. There is a 3-D printer that is capable of sucking greenhouse gases out of the air and turning it into a solid building product. They are called trees. Sun Tech tomatoes uses the very same technology to make tomatoes. It pulls CO2 right out of the air and turns it into an edible product. It is a 3-D printer.
I am trying to speak in the futuristic language that will get Liberals tingling over there and feeling excited because they want all of these innovative superclusters that will change the world. Here is an idea. If we want innovation, if we want a more dynamic futuristic economy, stop taxing the people who innovate and create that dynamic economy.
The problem with the Liberals is they think nothing good can happen except through them. Therefore, all good must travel through Liberal hands. Now, if a few Liberals get really rich along the way, all the better, but they are incapable of allowing prosperity to occur because of free people using their God-given gifts and talents to create good stuff. The last thing that the Liberal government wants to see is people being independent and producing positive outcomes on their own, because then they would not need the government.
One example in my riding is The WoodSource, which has a beautiful business right on Mitch Owens Road. It is a recycling and innovation business that has been taking down old barns and using the barn board to decorate coffee shops, libraries, and high-end restaurants, literally turning what some people think is trash into treasure. Abandoned barns that were filled with pigeons and mice now adorn the walls of fancy restaurants.
The WoodSource is taking something that was worthless and giving it great worth. It has had investment from a Belgian company. I did not know this, but across Europe there is demand for Canadian barnwood because it has such rich character and such incredible stories of the loggers, farmers, and pioneers who built those barns through post-and-beam. Those barns literally stood for 200 years, and now people want to have them inside their homes and coffee shops.
This business decided it was going to build a bigger shed to employ more people and provide more lumber across the Ottawa Valley. It took six years and $600,000 worth of paperwork to get it approved. Fifty years ago, a shed of exactly the same dimensions was built, and it took one page of paperwork stamped by an engineer for it to be approved. It was approved in one week.
My friends across the way say that is reckless and dangerous. I have news for them: the building is still standing today.
This entrepreneur went to talk to the local Liberal minister responsible for all the paperwork and burden he had borne in order to build this shed. It was $600,000, enough to hire 10 people at $60,000 a year. He said that he had made him do all this paperwork just to build a shed, and it had taken seven years when he could have been creating many jobs. What did the Liberal minister tell him? He told him to talk to his staff, that they could get him a grant to help him pay the cost to his business. He did not want a grant. He earns his own money. He said, “Why don't you just let me keep the money I earned?”
The reality is that if the government did that, then there would be no need for the Liberal minister. He would be unimportant. He would be airbrushed out of the selfie. To have a government that burdens this business, only to then come forward and offer it taxpayers' money as compensation, is part of the egoism of Liberal government that requires politicians be involved in everything.
As an example, the island airport expansion in Toronto is an opportunity to land more flights in downtown Toronto, which means less traffic from Pearson airport and fewer emissions, as people no longer need to be stuck in traffic idling their cars as they travel from a distant airport to a downtown business centre, and of course that would have led Porter Airlines to buy more jets from Bombardier, right?
The government says that the island airport cannot be expanded. It knows this will do damage to Bombardier because Bombardier will lose sales, but there is no reason to worry: it will give Bombardier a taxpayer-funded subsidy to cover the costs of all the damage wrought by the government in the first place.
The logic that leads the Liberals to block this privately funded infrastructure project at the Billy Bishop airport is the same logic that my friends at The WoodSource experienced when they spent over half a million dollars on paperwork to build a shed that only 50 years ago could be built with one page of approval, which is that the government and its cousins at provincial and municipal levels want to be involved in every aspect of human life. They want everything that people do to be approved by government and for people to bear the burden of administration and cost in every enterprise they undertake.
It is as Ronald Reagan said: the Liberal believes that if something moves, tax it, and if it keeps moving, regulate it, and when it finally stops moving, subsidize it. That is the Liberal approach. We see it played over and over again, but these policies are parasitic. They take, but they do not give. They consume, but they do not produce, and eventually the government runs out of other people's money. That is the trajectory on which the government is set right now.
For those reasons, Conservatives oppose the Liberal carbon tax, and I propose the following amendment. I move:
That the motion be amended by adding the following:
in particular, the interest of taking a realistic and achievable approach, as the previous government did, and finding the appropriate balance between protecting the environment and growing the economy in a way that does not increase the overall tax burden on Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague, the member for .
As I said previously in my question for the , completely baffling is the decision of the government to retable essentially the same motion that was tabled here last fall, which was passed with the support of our party. What is disappointing is the Liberals have come forward with the exact same motion, sadly, missing the amendments we had recommended, which was that they revise their targets to enable them to deliver on their promise in Paris, to at least hold the climate change to a maximum of 2o, let alone their further promise of 1.5o.
I think there is an understanding now, particularly since the United States has said it will pull out the agreement. As one of the members pointed out, it will take four years for that to happen and many people in the world may hope we have a different administration in the United States by then, an administration that previously committed to delivering on the Paris agreement. It is very disappointing.
We look forward to the speeches by the and the . Daily we hear their mantra in here, which is to balance environmental protection with economic development, and that this is the path they will take to address climate change. We are looking forward to hearing the details of how they might be doing that.
Why would we be particularly interested in that? While the government has said that it is determined in every decision it makes on our energy future to balance environmental protection with economic development, it has been very good on one side of that balance by moving expeditiously to approve LNG plants, pipelines, and basically back away from a more intensive review of oil sands operations.
We recently received the report from UNESCO where it investigated the impacts of the oil sands and the Site C dam on a world heritage site in northern Alberta. UNESCO has directed that our nation will lose that world heritage site designation unless the government steps up to the plate and starts doing its job and better regulating the impact of the oil sands on the whole Peace-Athabasca Delta. It has called for a second review assessment of the Site C dam because the federal government, before giving the okay for Site C, did not consider the potential transboundary impacts into Alberta on the world heritage site. Why is that significant? Even during the review of Site C, intervenors came forward and said that building dams on this scale were massively expensive. Also, there did not appear to be the demand for that scale of a project, a demand that was realistically forecast to probably be delivered through geothermal, solar and wind. That was dispensed with.
The government is saying the right things, but we are deeply concerned that it is not necessarily moving in that direction.
Also, the government is still sticking with Stephen Harper's targets. It is a complete mystery not just to those of us in our party, but to all of those who are deeply dedicated to a transition to cleaner energy. The non-governmental organizations, the institutes, the scientists, and the people in the solar, wind, and geothermal sector are troubled. If we are to deliver on those commitments in Paris, then we have to come to the reality that we have to dig even much deeper to reduce.
That means the government has to move on another promise as well, which is to more rapidly get rid of the perverse incentives for the fossil fuel sector. We are not just saying that. The Auditor General has chastised the government for not moving more expeditiously. Now, of course, the previous Conservative government also committed to other nations that it would move expeditiously to remove those perverse incentives. It did not. This government has admitted today, through the finance minister, that it has taken one small measure. The Auditor General is saying it is not good enough.
We like the fact that the government is espousing the policy that it wants to move toward a cleaner energy economy. The Liberals agree with us that we are facing a serious challenge in the planet. We share their concern with the United States saying that it is going to pull out. However, I should not say the United States, but the President of the United States has said that. We are delighted to hear, as I am sure many in the country are, that many of the U.S. states, I think more than 80 mayors of U.S. towns, and many in major industries, including the fossil fuel industry, have said that they will continue down the path of divesting from fossil fuels and moving toward a cleaner economy. However, that means we have to step up our pace.
The government has announced again that it will have a big shindig with China and Europe here in the fall. However, what additional can Canada do to fill that gap? The United States of America, as I understand, contributes 25% of the greenhouse gases on this planet. The Canadian government has only committed to reduce part of the emissions that we emit, not even the emissions that are necessary to meet the Paris target. Therefore, one would think that the and other ministers of the government would have come forward today and told us what additional, deeper, faster initiatives the Liberals have committed to meet the promise they have made to the planet. It is concerning.
In April of this year, Environment Canada reported that the greenhouse gas emissions in the country were continuing to rise and that the government's 2030 target would not be met. In fact, if we progressed with using the initiatives the government had committed to, we would be almost 200 megatonnes over even that minimal target made by the Harper government. We are glad the government is saying the right things, but what we are disappointed in is where are the hard, concrete initiatives to move in that direction?
We are deeply troubled despite all this talk of the Liberals' deep commitment to assist families to reduce their energy use and to help Canadians get into the cleaner energy economy. Indeed, it is the booming economy in the world these days. I look at at pages 149 and 150 of their budget daily because people ask me questions about this. They want to know exactly what the government is doing to commit to move us forward expeditiously. People are stunned to see that in both columns of initiatives that have been listed by the Liberals, including the support for the pan-Canadian initiative of the provinces and territories, by and large, zero dollars actually have been committed.
As I mentioned previously, the sooner we invest the better, because it will simply become more expensive. Either the carbon tax will have to rise more expeditiously or we will have to invest more money in parallel measures. Therefore, it is deeply troubling that the government says one thing, but it is not releasing the concrete measures to move forward as expeditiously as the Liberals are pretending.
Why in heavens did the government not bring back the eco-energy retrofit program? It is completely baffling. The Liberals go on and on about the carbon tax as the most effective measure to move forward and address the rise in greenhouse gases in Canada. However, review after review, including by people who are very supportive of the direction the government is going, have said that the carbon tax alone will not do it, that the government needs to be expediting parallel measures.
One of those measures is the eco-energy retrofit. If Canadians in their homes and in small businesses are to have a carbon tax imposed on them, particularly in the jurisdictions where the Liberals say they will have to impose a federal tax, then one way to potentially sell that and get buy-in is to say they will help them reduce their energy use. It is baffling. Also, there is the national building code. We need to expedite that. Article after article about this says that we need to be fast-tracking a more modern national building code. How much of the building stock is going to be built again and then go through the process of having to retrofit? It would be welcomed if the government moved forward on these two measures.
We have heard the recently go on and on about the government looking forward to collaborating with its European neighbours. I would encourage the government to look at the United Kingdom, which has established, by law, binding targets and an independent commission that audits and advises it on how well it is delivering on its targets every five years. This is the kind of measure that we tabled previously, and we would like to see the government adopt it to ensure transparency and accountability.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to continue the debate on reiterating our support for the Paris Accord. I would like to thank my colleague from , who gave an excellent speech and is very familiar with the issue.
Of course, we reiterate our support for the Paris Agreement. It is strange that the Liberal government has decided to use today's motion to do something that has already been done, rather than take further action and adopt a plan or stronger legislation to fight against climate change.
The NDP has been at the forefront of this issue for a long time, and it has called for strong and robust legislation that responds to needs related to climate change. Jack Layton, who was once my boss, worked very hard on this issue. He tabled a bill on the government's responsibility regarding climate change, because signing an agreement is not enough. We also have responsibilities. Year after year, the government has to be accountable and must take concrete action, but the Liberal government does none of that, although it is very important.
In 2010, when the Liberals were in opposition along with the NDP, this bill received a majority vote from the opposition parties, because the Conservative government was the minority at the time. We had led this very strong bill, which constituted a much more ambitious framework than that of Stephen Harper and the Conservatives, which was unambitious but was still adopted by the Liberals. Unfortunately, the senators, who are unelected, killed Jack Layton's bill, which was intended to strengthen the fight against climate change. It is very disappointing.
Today, we are talking about Mr. Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris accord, but I remember that when I arrived in the House, in 2011, the government withdrew from the Kyoto protocol. We must not forget that. It was absolutely deplorable. Some people say we should follow the Conservatives’ lead, but I have my doubts.
Let us say what needs to be said about the Liberals. They went to Paris and signed an important accord to limit temperature increases to 1.5°C, which is very important. Then they came back to Canada and said that in order to achieve that, they were going to keep the Conservatives’ pitiful plan. It does not work. Obviously, there were people who said that we could not go on like that. We need to take real action in order to move forward on this.
For the moment, to move forward, the Liberals have put a price on carbon. I would like to say that this is a very good initiative. Everyone that is serious about fighting climate change, including every scientist and environmentalist, says this has to be the first thing we do. On that subject, the Conservative Party alone in the House does not seem to understand this, except for a certain Conservative member who was a candidate in his party’s leadership race. This is extremely important. I hope that everyone will realize that this is a good measure and we have to move forward.
However, while a price on carbon is a step in the right direction, it is not sufficient. We have to have a comprehensive plan, and in that regard, the Liberals have only failures to show. They were supposed to invest $1 billion a year, starting in 2016, to implement the pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change, but ultimately, they did nothing.
We were waiting for action in the 2017 budget, but what was announced in 2017? Nothing. What is going on, we wonder? There is also nothing in 2018. They will start investing when the next election comes around.
This is unfortunately very disappointing. We have to act; everyone says that today. I recall very clearly the report of the round table on the environment and the economy. The only federal institution that combined economy and environment said that when it came to climate change, not acting would result in losses of $5 billion per year by 2020, and eventually $43 billion by 2050. Investing $1 billion per year is not that much when we consider that it may be costing as much as $5 billion per year at present. Unfortunately, the Liberals have put nothing in place to combat that. Once again, the round table on the environment and the economy, the only non-partisan institution that put the economy and the environment together, was abolished by the Conservatives, and that is a sad track record, if I can come back to that.
What needs to be done now? What should the Liberals do? They should read the recommendations from the Green Budget Coalition, a coalition of scientists and environmentalists who researched and developed a balanced budget that sets out commitments the government should make and how those actions will save money.
For example, as members pointed out, we have to invest in all kinds of measures. Fine, but which ones? The parliamentary budget officer mentioned this, and the Green Budget Coalition recommended that the Government of Canada bring in a law with a timeline established in budget 2017 to eliminate all preferential tax treatment for the fossil fuel industry. The , who spoke earlier, did not follow those recommendations. Bottom line, no more subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, which currently gets about $1.5 billion per year.
Certain governments received fossil awards at international climate change conferences. The message is that they should turn away from fossil fuels and toward fair energy policy and decarbonization.
There is another important recommendation, an essential recommendation. In 2012, I moved a motion on the federal government's plan on energy efficiency, which my colleague talked about earlier. The current Liberal government has not presented any plan to improve energy efficiency. This is very disappointing.
Here is what our plan states, and I quote:
To support energy efficiency, the Green Budget Coalition recommends that the Government of Canada provide $400 million per year for the next five years to re-establish an energy efficiency home retrofit program, similar to the ecoENERGY Retrofit program...
I had proposed a program similar to the eco-energy program. Unfortunately, the Conservative government did not support it, and the Liberals did not bring it back, as they should have.
This brings me to move the following motion, seconded by the member for :
That the amendment be amended by deleting all the words after the word “realistic and achievable approach”, and substituting the following: “and by finding the right balance between environmental protection and economic growth, and that the House ask the government to commit to new science-based targets that will achieve Canada's commitment under the Accord, and to specific measures and funding to achieve these reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.”