Interventions in the House of Commons
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View Randall Garrison Profile
Mr. Speaker, here we are on one of the last sitting days of this Parliament, and it is passing strange that the Liberals appear to be going for a very strange record.
In the last Parliament, I took a photo of myself standing next to a pile of bills on which the Conservative government had introduced time allocation. It was nearly half a metre tall. If we stacked up the bills that the Liberal government has used time allocation on, the pile would be of similar size. Even though the Liberals have not quite reached the 100 record for time allocation that the Conservatives established, they have used some kind of time allocation or closure on a greater percentage of their bills than the Harper government ever did.
Lately, we have had closure motions like this one. One of those motions restricted debate to a government speaker only, with no questions allowed. One of them occurred after four minutes of debate. This one occurs after less than two hours of debate.
Could the Minister of Justice tell us if the Liberals are going for a new record? I always like it when Conservatives and Liberals compete to be the worst.
View Randall Garrison Profile
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak against this Conservative motion. I will give Conservatives credit for one thing, though: they have made their position on climate change clear. We know with this motion that they are going to oppose one of the most effective ways of dealing with climate change, and that is by putting a price on carbon.
We also know, because we saw them do it, that they voted twice against motions to declare a climate emergency. That makes their position even clearer. They voted against the NDP motion and the government motion on climate change. They simply do not accept the urgency of the situation we are in. The fact that they have yet to announce any climate plans of their own really illustrates their failure to grasp the urgency of our situation.
This is surprising, as well as disappointing, because even business groups are now acknowledging that the costs of failing to act on climate change will be enormous. Earlier this year, the Insurance Bureau of Canada cited climate change as the primary factor in increasing insurance costs and noted that in 2018, severe weather caused $1.9 billion in insured damages in Canada.
Today a working group, chaired by the Insurance Bureau of Canada and Public Safety Canada, put out a report on how we might deal with the financial risks of the more frequent and severe flooding we are now seeing. It is not about how we can avoid those costs; it is about who is going to pay those costs. How are we going to take the risks off ordinary Canadians for things that are far out of their control?
For me personally, climate change is an issue that I have been engaged in for more than 30 years. In 1989, I was working for a small indigenous-led NGO based in Victoria, at that time called the South Pacific Peoples' Foundation and now called Pacific Peoples' Partnership. At the urging of our Pacific Island partners, we organized a public education program, including a tour of B.C. high schools, warning of the threat of global warming to coral reefs and the habitability of the Pacific Islands. Unfortunately, that warning is now becoming a reality with the sad news that in just two years, between 2016 and 2018, one-half of the coral that makes up Australia's Great Barrier Reef died. Coral reefs are dying all across the Pacific Ocean.
It is not the stereotype that Pacific Islanders will have to learn how to swim. What is happening is that the coral reefs, which are a main source of food supply, the main protection of the coasts against storm surges and a main protector of the freshwater lenses that human habitation depends on in the islands, are being destroyed by climate change here and now.
A second warning on climate change came from Australia this week with the release of a policy paper from an independent think tank called Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration, in Melbourne. This report is entitled “Existential Climate-Related Security Risk”. The report concludes that “Climate change now represents a near to mid-term existential threat to human civilization.” The authors note that current Paris Agreement targets are insufficient, and as they stand, would lock in global warming of at least 3°C if we achieve the Paris targets. The authors cite the conclusions of numerous reports that at a 3°C increase in temperatures around the world, governments will be overwhelmed by the scale of the changes and challenges they will have to face. These include the spread of new pandemic diseases, heat beyond human survivability in many regions, massive disruption of agriculture and food systems, flooding of coastal areas, where literally hundreds of millions of people live, and the disappearance of freshwater resources, all resulting in enormous human migrations.
There is a danger that focusing on these doomsday scenarios will cause many to reject them as far-fetched, despite the fact that these are no longer probabilities. They represent the real risk of the catastrophe we are facing. There is also the danger that the sheer scope of the challenge will cause many to despair of any action at all. To me, this motion in front of us today actually falls into one, if not both, of those categories.
Therefore, I will be voting against this motion, because it is really a head-in-the-sand reaction to the very real challenges we face and because focusing on the costs of carbon pricing ignores the far larger costs of failing to act. Those costs are here, and those costs are now.
New Democrats are voting against this motion because we do support putting a price on carbon. We say yes to a carbon tax, not one paid by individuals alone, as the Liberals have designed, but a carbon price that also applies to the big polluters. We would like to see an end to the Liberal carbon tax exemptions for their corporate friends.
Putting a price on carbon is of course an important tool in the fight against climate change, but it is only one tool in what needs to be a comprehensive package of measures. There is no question that no single measure will be sufficient to meet the scale of the challenges of this climate emergency. That is why New Democrats put forward our plan, a plan called Power to Change—A New Deal for Climate Action and Good Jobs.
The Liberals and their policy depend almost exclusively on one tool, just the carbon tax. This will not get us anywhere near where we need to be. The NDP has a comprehensive plan that recognizes that we are all in this together and that success in meeting the challenge of climate change will only be achieved if we leave no one behind. If we ignore the question of workers and their jobs, if we ignore the circumstances of seniors, we will not get the buy-in we need to succeed.
The goal of our plan is clear: to do what we must to keep global temperature rise below 1.5°. In other words, we will have science-based targets, not just arbitrary percentages of reductions. This is the same approach I put forward when Esquimalt council adopted my motion for science-based targets in 2010: measure our progress and adjust our target reductions as necessary to achieve the results we need.
We know now that this means a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to 38% below 2005 levels by 2030. We know it means a reduction of at least 50% by 2050 if we are to reach a net-zero carbon economy, the one that is necessary to halt further rises in temperature.
Some have criticized our plan for being vague on targets for 2050, but I would say that the key to our plan is that our targets for 2050 are at least 40% to 50%. We are committed to whatever reductions science decrees are necessary to avoid catastrophe.
The NDP plan also calls for an independent climate accountability office, much like an auditor general in terms of our finance matters. This office would measure our progress and advise on the targets we need to meet to avoid the catastrophe that we really do face.
Unfortunately, the Liberals have kept the greenhouse gas reduction targets set by Harper, calling for a 30% reduction by 2030, targets that are clearly now inadequate. Even worse, the measures put in place by the Liberals will miss the reduction target for 2030 by 79 million tonnes, and if not adjusted, would only get us to the goal of a 30% reduction in another 100 years, yet the Liberals voted against our climate emergency motion, which called for a legislated requirement to act and a series of specific measures to adopt. Instead, yesterday we voted on their motion, which mandates little but hand-wringing. It says that we have an emergency; it mandates no action.
We have choices before us. We can put our heads in the sand. We can wait for someone else to act, arguing that Canada's share of emissions is too small for our efforts to make a difference, ignoring that we are among the world's highest per capita emitters of greenhouse gases, or we can make different choices.
We can end subsidies to fossil fuel industries right now, amounting to about $3 billion annually. We can avoid wasting money on buying and building projects like the Trans Mountain pipeline, which the Liberal government announced, just before I started speaking, it has approved once again.
The NDP has a real plan to create jobs in all communities across the country, jobs in renewable energy, in home retrofits and in restoration of what we would call the great environmental negative legacies left behind by the oil industry. Many of those jobs will use the same skills that workers in the oil industry already use. They will be good jobs, good family-supporting jobs, in every community.
It is time for the Conservatives to get on board and present their plan. It is time to stop pretending that climate change does not already come with a large price tag, which will only increase as time goes on. It is time to tell us what choices they would make about how we meet the challenge of mitigating climate change and avoiding climate disaster.
The Liberal action is both feeble and contradictory. Only New Democrats have put forward a clear plan to move forward together to meet the challenge of climate change.
View Randall Garrison Profile
Mr. Speaker, I was the first elected official anywhere in the country to move a motion against what was then the Kinder Morgan pipeline. I remain firmly opposed to it. There is no economic argument for this project, it has no consent from indigenous people and it puts under threat most of the local economy in my riding, which is based on ecotourism, fishing and the very clean shores we have that are a mecca for tourism.
This project would be nothing but a disaster were it to be built. However, the Prime Minister, in the short time I was able to see of his statement, said nothing other than a vague promise that there would be shovels in the ground. I do not know how he is going to build this pipeline with massive local opposition and without the consent of first nations.
View Randall Garrison Profile
Mr. Speaker, once again the member for Winnipeg North has proven himself the king of specious arguments. When we said no subsidies to the fossil fuel industries, that is not about cutting off northern communities. It is about helping them make the transition to renewable energy, which will cut down their costs, make life affordable for them and take a major polluter out of their local economy. It is a totally specious argument.
He asks if I would say these things to unions. I will tell the House what steelworkers said about our climate plan. They said it is the only plan that puts workers at the heart of the struggle against climate change. That is what the steelworkers said.
He asks me about LNG. I will tell him what we said. The B.C. government has approved a project. There is nothing federal about that project at this point. What we have said is that it is not the future. We will not support future projects. We will not support building a future on fossil fuels. If that is too complicated for the member, I am sorry.
View Randall Garrison Profile
Mr. Speaker, I look to the example of the T'Sou-ke First Nation in my riding, which held a visioning exercise about where it wanted to go as a community in the future, which was led by its elders. It is now self-sufficient in renewable energy. It now has an oyster lease that produces a million oysters for food security. Members sat down and worked together as a community. They have created more jobs now in my riding than they have members of their first nation. With vision and working together, we can achieve an economy and an environment that work for all of us.
View Randall Garrison Profile
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-457, An Act to amend the Employment Equity Act.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to introduce a private member's bill entitled “An Act to Amend the Employment Equity Act”. The Employment Equity Act was designed to ensure that we achieve equality in employment in the federal public service and among large employers in the private sector that come under federal jurisdiction, yet employment in the federal jurisdiction still fails to represent the diversity of Canada.
As it stands, the act applies to only four groups: women, aboriginal people, persons with disabilities and visible minorities. Members of my community, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirited Canadians, are left out of the act. My private member's bill would correct that omission.
Adding LGBTQ2 Canadians to the Employment Equity Act would force employers to address this inequality and come up with concrete plans to remove barriers to equal employment for all.
View Randall Garrison Profile
Mr. Speaker, last year brought a deteriorating human rights situation for Tibetans, which included further suppression of Tibetan language rights, surveillance programs and renewed attempts to silence protests through intimidation and arbitrary arrests. Last week, while visiting Tibet, the U.S. ambassador to China expressed concerns about religious freedom and limits on international access to Tibet. He called on China to begin substantive talks with the Dalai Lama on the status of Tibet. Will the current government join in this renewed call for China to open dialogue with the Dalai Lama or will we just stand by as these injustices mount?
View Randall Garrison Profile
Madam Speaker, I thank the members for giving me the opportunity to stand to talk about why we did not support the government's report on peace operations.
There were two major reasons. One is that the government has stuck to its idea that we are going to leave Mali early, before our replacements are there for the very important peacekeeping mission we are doing there. This is a symbol of how we believe that the report fails to address that the government is not living up to the commitments it made on international peacekeeping at the conference in Vancouver.
The second reason is that the overall report fails to emphasize the importance of UN peacekeeping missions and making UN peacekeeping missions the priority for Canadians, because UN missions focus on the peace process, are civilian led and have the best record of success in restoring peace and stability.
View Randall Garrison Profile
Mr. Speaker, I have to say, once again, that I always enjoy debates that turn on the Liberals and the Conservatives talking about who has the worst record on a very important crisis that is before us, like climate change.
I listened with interest to the speech of the hon. member for Wellington—Halton Hills, but what I do not find is any mention of what the Conservatives would actually do about climate change. We can fault the Liberal motion for having nothing of substance in it, but I have not seen any substance from the Conservative side, either. I am going to join in the debate in that same spirit, saying that both are equally absent when it comes to the real measures we need to fight climate change.
View Randall Garrison Profile
Mr. Speaker, today marks the 15th annual International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. This day calls for an end to the discrimination, hate and violence that still face our communities.
In Canada, discrimination still makes life challenging and unsafe for LGBTQ2 Canadians, especially when discrimination is compounded by racism, colonialism and economic inequality. We know that trans and gender diverse people still face barriers in obtaining equal access to health services, including gender confirmation surgery, gender affirming identity documents and equal access to housing and employment. More than 70 countries still enforce homophobic and transphobic criminal sanctions, and seven have the death penalty. Many more countries remain unsafe for us.
Once again, New Democrats call on the government to create a path to safety for those LGBTQ2 refugees who have no choice but to flee their homes. Let us make sure they can find a path to safety here in Canada.
View Randall Garrison Profile
Mr. Speaker, it is clear now that there are two keys to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic: everyone knowing their status, and those who are HIV positive having access to treatment. However, many Canadians still lack access to both testing and treatment.
Following up on a question that I asked the Prime Minister last December, and in view of the imminent Health Canada approval of new home testing kits and point-of-care kits, will the government commit today to a well-funded federal program to make those new testing options available to every Canadian, including those in rural, remote and indigenous communities?
View Randall Garrison Profile
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Salaberry—Suroît.
I am very pleased today to rise to debate a motion calling for a climate emergency declaration by Canada. It is very important to declare a climate emergency. That is a call for all of us to work together with urgency to meet the biggest challenge this country has faced since World War II and perhaps the biggest challenge in human history. I will be supporting the government motion and I will try not to engage in a polemic about who was first.
An NDP motion was followed quickly by the government motion. That is a good idea. Unfortunately, the new Green member has chosen to engage in a polemic before he has even come to the House, somehow taking credit for what is going on here. I welcome him to join us and I welcome a similar motion from the Green Party. We have to work together in the country to meet the challenges of climate change.
Since the Conservatives just moved an amendment, I want to address that amendment very quickly.
The member for Abbotsford says that we should wait for the Conservatives' plan, I am a little worried about their plan, given their amendment today. Let me point out three things their amendment would do.
First, it would eliminate climate emergency from the motion. It would take away the most important thing about the debate going on in the House now, which is the recognition that we have very few years left to act before climate change becomes irreversible and its impacts make this planet uninhabitable.
Second, it says that human action has an impact on climate. Here we are, back to the Conservatives denying the source of climate change. We know it is human activity. We know we are causing the rise in temperatures and the great variations in our climate. Therefore, because we are causing it, we can do something about it.
The third thing the proposed Conservative amendment does is blame everybody else. Its emphasis is on global action. Yes, of course, global action is required. Action by all of us is required to meet those challenges. However, the Conservative amendment places all of the emphasis on other people and what other people are doing.
I hope the whole world will react as one in the attack on climate change. That does not excuse us from ensuring we meet our responsibilities in the House and through our government.
A lot of things have been thrown around about who was first, who has the longest record and who has the strongest record. I want to put on the record that I know there are members in at least two of the parties here, three if we count unofficial parties, who have long and strong records on the environment. There have been some false things said lately in my riding about my environment record, so I want to talk just for a minute about this.
As a student, on the first Earth Day in 1970, I joined with my fellow students to block traffic during rush hour, and I learned a very powerful lesson that day. We made a lot of people angry and we made no change. I learned at that time that it is much better to build the coalitions we need to bring about the required changes.
The second time I got involved in climate change was when I got a job working for an organization called Pacific Peoples' Partnership. It is an indigenous-led organization that builds links between indigenous people in Canada and the Pacific Islands. I became the executive director in 1989. Pacific Islanders brought two issues to our attention in 1989, 30 years ago. One was the great Pacific garbage patch, the plastic patch in the Pacific Ocean. At that time, it was, horrifyingly, as big as Vancouver Island, and I will come back to that in a minute.
The second issue it wanted us to raise in Canada was global warming, as it was called then, as a threat to the habitability of the Pacific Islands, not requiring them to get swimming lessons, as it is often trivialized, but threats to the coral reefs, which protect the ecosystems of those islands. We are now seeing a huge die-off of coral reefs around the world, and increased storm surges. All of the Pacific Islands depend on a lens of fresh water that sits underneath the islands. With the storm surges, they were fearing increasing invasion of those lenses by salt water, which would make the islands uninhabitable.
That was, as I said, 30 years ago when I started working on the issue of climate change. We organized a tour of high schools and I published a series of articles, warning about the impacts of what we were then calling global warming.
I was elected to Esquimalt council in 2010. When we had the first emergency measures meeting, I asked what we had for oil spills, because we have long and beautiful coast in Esquimalt, and the answer was “nothing”. I was the first elected official in the country to move a motion against what was then the Kinder Morgan pipeline.
The second thing I was able to do on council was get Esquimalt to become one of the first municipalities in the entire country to adopt science-based greenhouse gas reduction targets. People asked at the time what that meant. It meant to me, and it still means in Esquimalt's policy, that we have to adjust those targets to what is necessary to keep the warming to 1.5°C or below. It was not simply saying that this is what we have to do; it was saying that we have to do this much and keep our eye on the ball and maybe do more as time goes on.
When I was doing a tour of high schools 30 years ago, I did not really imagine that, first, I would ever become an MP, but more important, that I would be standing here in this chamber when the great Pacific garbage patch was now not just bigger than Vancouver Island but bigger than B.C. and Alberta combined. I did not imagine that I would be standing here, when climate change is now clearly a threat to our very survival, and we would still be so far from any effective action to meet these challenges.
That is where I am disappointed with the government motion. As I said, I am happy to support it, because anything that brings us together to fight climate change is a good idea. However, I could not have imagined that this is what I would be standing here talking about, when reports show that we will soon have more plastic in the oceans than fish and when reports show that Canada will not meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets set in Paris, a reduction of 25% below 2005 levels by 2030, and that it will not meet those targets for 200 years with the current policies that are in place.
I am going to be supporting the government motion, despite what I would call omissions. One of the first of those, to me, is that there is no mention of reconciliation. On a side note, I have heard Liberals talking about our motion and saying that eliminating fossil fuel subsidies means cutting off power in remote indigenous communities. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have said that a climate change plan has to prioritize reconciliation, and that means dealing with those first nation communities that are the most affected by climate change: in the attack on traditional activities; in the flooding we have seen taking place; and in their dependence on diesel fuel, which makes life very unaffordable.
We have the example in my own riding of the T'Sou-ke Nation, which has become energy self-sufficient using solar power and now sells power back to the grid. That is what it means to prioritize reconciliation in a climate change plan to help first nations become self-sufficient on a renewable-energy basis that creates good jobs in their communities.
There is no mention of workers or jobs in the government's motion. I firmly believe that we cannot get the collective action we need on climate change if we have policies that leave certain parts of Canada, certain communities and certain kinds of workers behind. We know that the technology now exists for a transition to a net zero-carbon energy economy very quickly, and that will create good, family-supporting jobs in every community in this country.
We in the NDP have put forward some of our planks. One of those is an energy retrofit program to retrofit the entire building and housing stock in this country. That would create good jobs in every community and jobs that would use some of those same skills that people who work in the oil-based energy industry already have. A good example is geothermal. Geothermal energy uses almost the same skills, in terms of engineering, welding and all those other kinds of things, that are already used in the oil patch.
I want to conclude by saying once again that I believe that it is important to declare a climate emergency, because we are simply running out of time to change. It is no longer a question of the distant future. We have seen the massive forest fires around the country. We have seen the massive flooding. We are already in the midst of what is called the second great extinction. We are about to lose one million species of plants and animals. That will destroy the web of life that our very existence depends upon.
Many Canadians have already taken individual action to reduce their carbon footprints, but personal action alone will not meet these challenges. We must come together in urgent and major collective action to address the threat of climate change. We need a declaration of a climate emergency and plans to attack that emergency very, very quickly.
View Randall Garrison Profile
Mr. Speaker, I had the privilege of visiting the member for Avalon's riding in the past, and it is truly almost as beautiful as my own. We have the same kind of coastal environment, so we are seeing the same kinds of impacts in the communities in my riding. He points out that the cost of inaction is actually higher than the cost of acting, which is why we have to come together to get busy on climate change.
The second thing I want to thank him for is once again drawing attention to the attitude betrayed in the Conservative amendment, which is that somehow we will wait for everyone else before we get busy getting our own house in order. I share his concern. While others must act, we must act now.
View Randall Garrison Profile
Mr. Speaker, in her statement, my neighbour just did exactly what I was saying the Green Party was doing, which was trying to say that the motions on climate emergency were connected to the by-election. It really makes no difference to me whether they were or they were not. I happen to know that we have been working on this for a long time, and I have certainly been an advocate of declaring a climate emergency for a very long time.
What is wrong with the Paris targets? Apart from not meeting them, they are not strong enough. They are not enough to keep us below the 1.5°C level. As the NDP motion proposes, we need some very tough targets, rules to make sure that we meet those targets and accountability for failing to meet those targets. That is what is missing from the government motion.
View Randall Garrison Profile
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present petitions containing the signatures of literally hundreds of British Columbians, who urge the Government of Canada to commit to acknowledging that eye heath and vision care are a growing public health issue, particularly among Canada's most vulnerable populations, children, seniors, indigenous people and those with diabetes. They want the government to do this through establishing a national framework for action to promote eye health and vision care.
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