Mr. Speaker, I thought all along that the member for Winnipeg North just liked to debate so he could hear himself. However, I digress.
I am pleased to speak today to the Conservative Party of Canada's opposition motion on the topic of climate change and the environment. I will be sharing my time with the member for Perth—Wellington.
I want to say that only the Liberal government could talk about the environment for four years, break its promise to meet the Paris accord on climate change and end up taxing Canadians to cover up its incompetence, overspending and environmental management.
As I get into my presentation, for those who know me and my background, I have always strived to put forward ideas and solutions to the many issues facing my constituency and our nation. While I am not as good as giving one-liners or the pithy comments of social media that seem to attract the most attention, in my own way I have tried to reach out and build consensus to get things done.
Today, I want to apply that attitude to the larger issue of the environment, conservation and climate change. Like many members in the chamber, I represent a constituency that is geographically large. All across Westman, farms and communities dot the prairie landscape, as they have for many generations. Almost half of the people I represent live outside the city of Brandon in the 20-plus municipalities located in the riding.
These are some of the most hard-working, down to earth and determined people we will meet anywhere in this great country of ours. Living in rural Canada has its unique challenges. With those challenges also comes a way of life like none other. Our connection to the land, air and water is strong, because our livelihoods quite literally depend on it.
As someone who farmed for most of my life, I firmly believe that if we take care of the land, it will take care of us. My father raised my brother and me on those words, and I have lived by them. I want to immediately dispel any notion that farmers or rural folks who oppose the carbon tax do not care about the environment. They do care. They care about it immensely. They just have a serious issue about being forced to pay a new tax imposed on provinces that will disproportionately impact rural people.
Let us put ourselves in their boots for a moment. Many families must drive long distances to get to work. Many seniors have to drive into Brandon to go to either the doctor or the optician. Parents have to drive their kids to various towns for sports or choir practice.
Let us never forget students at Brandon University and Assiniboine Community College who still live on the farm or in their rural community and make the daily commute to the city to attend classes. These are not optional things that people can just decide not to do or do less. There are no subways or bus routes for their purposes. Trust me; if people did not have to drive in our blustery winters, they would not.
From the very beginning, I believe the government has mishandled the rollout of the carbon tax.
First and foremost, many Canadians, particularly many of the people I represent, have trepidations about the federal government's priorities at the best of times. Saying the federal government is about to impose a new tax but not to worry because people will not feel the pinch, while at the same time it will combat climate change, is not the best way to get buy-in from those who have skepticism.
Second, when we tried in vain to get the financial data out of the Minister of Finance, it was so heavily blacked out that it was meaningless.
Third, when the Province of Manitoba put forward a plan that would have reduced carbon emissions, the federal government rejected it. Officials were told that no matter how many tonnes of CO2 their plan would reduce, it had to include a $50 a tonne carbon tax.
My province tried to work in good faith with the federal government and was told to go pound sand. No wonder it has decided to launch its own court case. If that is the way federalism now works in this country, it is not hard to understand why premiers are concerned about the Liberal government's other initiatives, such as Bill C-48 and Bill C-69.
It also troubles me that, in Canadian politics, the litmus test on one's commitment to the environment is now centred on supporting a $50 a tonne carbon tax. While that may be the case in some circles, I can assure MPs that everyday Canadians do not use this lens when talking with their family and friends. It is not that my Conservative colleagues or people who oppose the carbon tax do not care about the changing climate; it is that we do not believe the carbon tax is the best way of addressing it.
Tomorrow, our leader will outline the vision and present an alternative to what is being imposed by the current federal government. Due to the already challenging political discourse on this issue, I can only imagine the over-the-top language being drafted now in response. I want to urge the Liberals to hold off on issuing their canned response before the speech has even been given. The Liberals have been waiting ever so patiently, so I fully expect that they will be paying close attention. I want the government to recognize that there are more ways to deal with climate change than applying a tax on the fuel that families put in their minivans.
I want the Liberals to recognize that applying a carbon tax on the energy used to drive farmers' grain only adds further cost to the industry that is already facing challenging commodity prices and markets that slam shut. I want them to start listening to farmers who have ideas that can reduce and sequester carbon without applying a new tax. The agricultural industry has made great strides in environmental management that benefit society, virtually by its own innovation at its own cost. There are proven models out there that have had tangible and meaningful results.
I have always been a proponent, as examples, of implementing an alternative land use services program and the expansion of wetland restoration programs. For those who have not listened to the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, I can assure them his message about eating more beef and how it is good for the environment is grounded in empirical science.
Over the years as a farm leader, an MLA and now an MP, I have dealt with many issues that impact our environment. Back home, people do not apply a litmus test to determine our commitment to an issue. We focus on bringing people together to work on solutions. Perhaps one day those values will rub off on all of us in this chamber when we must wade through our differences.
I want to give just one example from which we can learn. Manitoba has been prone to floods for as long as history has been recorded. Being at the bottom of the basin, we have had to deal with spring runoff and localized flooding that has impacted communities for generations. It was a Progressive Conservative premier, Duff Roblin, who implemented a series of public works projects that protected communities in the Assiniboine and Red River basins, and particularly impacted the flooding that would have occurred in the city of Winnipeg in 1997. Since then, there have been significant enhancements to flood protection up and down the Souris, Red and Assiniboine rivers. I want to say that this issue in Manitoba is non-partisan.
Our previous federal Conservative and provincial NDP governments both invested in projects that protected the city of Brandon and the towns of Melita, Reston, Souris, Deloraine, Elkhorn and Wawanesa. We also expanded the Red River Floodway, which was completed under budget.
It was after the most recent flood that many people in the Assiniboine River basin decided that we needed to work together. Under the leadership of Allan Preston and Wanda McFadyen, they spearheaded an initiative that brought the governments of Saskatchewan, Manitoba and North Dakota under one organization, alongside municipalities, farmers and conservation districts. We all live within the same watershed, and we had to stop working in silos.
We know a one-size-fits-all approach to water management does not work, and that is why a one-size-fits-all approach will not work with a carbon tax. That is why it was so frustrating to see how the federal government tossed aside the climate change plan put forward by Manitoba. Without a change in attitude, more and more Canadians will look at the rigid position taken by some in the government and tune out. We also know that climate change is a global problem that requires global solutions. The current approach does not reflect that reality.
I firmly believe that Canada is well positioned to provide these solutions. Tomorrow we will start outlining our alternative to the carbon tax and begin the conversation on what will replace it. I encourage my Liberal colleagues, particularly those who represent rural areas, to join me in supporting this motion. I ask them to please stand up for their constituents, repeal the carbon tax and replace it with a real environmental plan.