Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Shefford.
I would like to begin by thanking the people with whom I work in my riding office, namely Célia, Caroline, Joël and Daniel. They have all been doing an extraordinary job since the pandemic began. They are there to listen to and comfort people. They are also trying to sort out the mishmash of measures that are announced day after day, when, in the end, the measures take effect two or three weeks later.
It is not always easy to respond to our constituents. The riding of Repentigny, like all ridings, has many industries that were quickly affected by the pandemic. In Repentigny, there are a lot of SMEs. That is why fixed costs are a problem. The government has not made any improvements yet, despite all of the proposals we made.
Repentigny is a riding that has areas that are largely agricultural. There again, very little new money was distributed.
It is a riding rich in culture. It is home to major institutions such as the Théâtre Hector-Charland, the Centre d'arts Diane-Dufresne, and Aramusique, which disseminate culture. What is going on with culture right now? Some measures were announced in the last budget, but since we cannot discuss them right now, those amounts may not be protected.
I am obviously going to talk about the environment because the environmental destruction that we are currently seeing is also destroying the systems that support us and keep us alive. We are destroying these systems and life on earth, including human life. That is what is currently happening.
The environment cannot be subject to political compromise. The cause of the pandemic is debatable. However, a growing body of research is showing that the majority of infectious diseases are transmitted from animal to man and vice versa. That was the case with Ebola, avian flu, SARS and probably this new coronavirus. This is happening because we are interfering with biodiversity and natural habitats and because of unchecked urban sprawl, intensive animal husbandry and poaching. Environmentalists have long condemned these practices.
Some are also saying that we have no way of knowing what viruses will be uncovered when global warming melts the permafrost. We cannot see the forest for the trees. The impact of the immediate effects of the virus tends to eclipse the much more profound and lasting environmental problems that are not unrelated to our current crisis. Governments were quick to impose draconian measures to combat the novel coronavirus. I cannot wait to see whether, after the crisis, they will be just as quick to bring in measures to combat climate change.
We know that many biologists predict that there will be more pandemics in the future given our relationship with wildlife, the overcrowding of livestock in farms and so on. We might want to start by acknowledging that and then being proactive. This crisis is related to climate change, the collapse of biodiversity, and the rise in extreme events. The outlook is grim. Human and animal health as well as that of our ecosystems and the economy go hand in hand.
The government is forming a post-crisis and economic recovery committee. It is made up of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the Minister of Infrastructure, formerly minister of environment, and the Minister of Canadian Heritage, given his knowledge and experience in the matter. What is this? How is it that the Minister of Natural Resources is not included?
Eventually they will reach an impasse. Who will win? Who will get the final word?
The Bloc Québécois has taken the green recovery seriously. We see the environment as a holistic issue with connections to all the other issues. We have already had a few Zoom meetings about that.
Whatever happened to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development? It has stopped meeting. It is not there anymore, and not for lack of asking. The Bloc has asked for it.
It is being said that oil companies lobbied the government particularly hard in April. That is what I read in the Hill Times. Do the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and the government realize how important it is to fight climate change, or are they going to pay more attention to oil lobbyists than to science?
During the lockdown, we heard some great things and some positive news about the environment. For example, the canals in Venice ran clear; the mountains were visible in Wuhan; the Acropolis rose crystal-clear above the sea in Athens, Greece; city air was less polluted. This is all likely to be short-lived, however. Less pollution for the time being will not slow down the climate crisis. As all the experts say, a temporary reduction in emissions does not matter nearly as much as an ongoing, sustainable reduction.
What will make a difference is the recovery plan. Will we move towards a green recovery or a brown recovery? In all the newspapers, many studies and articles have been published calling for a green recovery. Apparently, in 2020, greenhouse gas emissions have dropped by 4%. However, they need to drop by 7% in order to meet the Paris targets. I am not saying we should stay confined for a year. Measures can be taken, and there are things we can do before the end of the year.
A research scientist with Environment Canada reminds us that air pollution in Canada's big cities has dropped by roughly a third since the pandemic began. It is great that we are breathing cleaner air. Health and the environment and closely linked. According to Health Canada, 14,000 Canadians die prematurely because of pollution. Globally, that translates to millions of premature deaths because of pollution.
The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, the Association québécoise des médecins pour l'environnement and the Canadian Medical Association have joined 40 million health care professionals from 90 countries in calling for public health and the environment to be at the heart of the economic recovery. Will anyone listen? I am very eager to see what the government's recovery plan is.
There is also the economy. The managing director of the World Economic Forum said:
We now have a unique opportunity to use this crisis to do things differently and build back better economies that are more sustainable, resilient and inclusive.
Here are some ideas of what we can do. We can increase the carbon tax. Yes, I said it. We can penalize long-distance imports by companies that are not good environmental stewards. We should provide support to develop compostable containers and packaging, limit the use of fossil fuels, implement energy retrofit incentive programs, improve insulation in buildings, build public transit infrastructure, share assets, and provide support for low-carbon infrastructure. There are more. This is but a short list.
It is true that the pandemic has created a crisis. Now it is time to be accountable, and that is why the Bloc Québécois will vote against this motion. We want to be able to have a more robust discussion about what will happen in the economic recovery. Will it be green or brown? I repeat, we want to have a more robust discussion on the promises that were not kept and all the environmental issues. We want to be able to move motions, draft laws and hold the government to account. The formula being discussed here will only limit our members and our interventions.
This is the 21st century. We should find a formula that lets everyone participate and advocate for issues, ask questions, get answers and introduce bills.