Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the illustrious member for Langley—Aldergrove.
I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to the Liberal government's first Speech from the Throne. This is my first time rising in this new Parliament as the member for the newly configured riding of Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa. I am also the official opposition critic for wildlife conservation and Parks Canada.
First, I would like to thank the voters of Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa for placing their trust in me yet again, and to take a moment to congratulate my fellow members of Parliament, both new and re-elected, on their victories in the last federal election.
As the official opposition, Canadians expect us to hold the government to account and ensure that we present an alternative vision to the Liberals' agenda. That is why much of what I heard in Friday's throne speech concerned me greatly.
First, there was no mention about how to create a climate for investment and economic growth. I expected this, since the Liberals and their fellow travellers on the left, the NDP, focus on spending as much money as they can while never advancing or promoting policies that will actually create wealth.
I would remind them that a focus on creating wealth is a necessary prerequisite to spending. However, I hold little hope in this regard. Deficits will balloon under the government, while investment will wither on the vine as businesses and wealth creators are increasingly punished for creating jobs. The new payroll tax, in the guise of a changed CPP, is a perfect example.
Second, as a member of Parliament for a large agricultural and natural resources-based constituency, I was amazed and very disappointed by the complete lack of any reference in the throne speech to agriculture and rural Canada. Agriculture generates over $100 billion for the Canadian economy, and Canada's natural resources industries, largely based in rural Canada, are the backbone of the Canadian economy. Well, that is until the Liberals finish off the natural resources sector with punitive taxation and a regulatory regime designed to endlessly delay any new natural resource development anywhere in Canada.
In fact, rural communities appear to have been largely forgotten. The Liberals have made specific promises regarding public transit, for example. Of course, public transit is important in large urban centres, but it is largely non-existent in my riding.
How do the Liberals plan on compensating our communities? We do not have public transit where I live and where I represent, but we do have infrastructure needs. Will the Liberals match the investments in urban transit with rural infrastructure projects?
The Canadian natural resources sector is suffering, as are those natural resource-dependent communities in rural Canada. Crude oil is below $40. With the proposed carbon tax and onerous regulatory regime layered on top of low prices, it is clear that the Liberals and their fellow travellers in the NDP have basically declared war on Canada's energy sector and our natural resources industries.
I find this appalling because when it comes right down to it, the energy business is basically a people business. Let me explain. Canada's natural resources sector employs over $1.8 million Canadians, and the energy sector supports about 300,000 jobs alone. In the winter of 2009-10, like many of my constituents, I worked in the Alberta oil sands conducting environmental monitoring. In that capacity, I met Canadians from every province who were supporting themselves and their families by working in the oil sands. I met senior couples saving for a dignified retirement, young people saving for their first home, and moms and dads putting away money for their children's education.
Apart from the fact that Canada's oil sands operate under a strict regime of environmental compliance and real excellence, it is the people and employees, supported by the oil sands, who are the real driving force behind this vital industry. It is Canadians from all across Canada who will be affected by the Liberals deliberate strategy to shrink the oil sands.
How much of the expected $570 billion that was earmarked for new investments will now not be spent? How many manufacturers in Ontario and Quebec will not get equipment orders? How many vehicles will not be purchased by energy workers? How many homes will stay unsold? How many people from high unemployment areas who formerly commuted to the oil sands will now be forced to stay home collecting employment insurance? How many vital public services will now be starved for funds?
I had the honour in the last Parliament to be a member of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, and the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. Both fit well with my experience as a fisheries biologist and my careers in natural resources and conservation. In those capacities, I have developed a singular focus on the delivery of real and measurable environmental results for every public dollar spent.
That was the policy of our government, and I am very proud of our record in delivering real and measurable environmental results from our programs.
Under our watch, most measurable environmental indicators showed marked improvements. Sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions declined. On our watch, the UN, in 2010, declared that Canada ranked number two in terms of the quality of our water when compared with other industrialized nations.
Our government set aside an area for national parks that is twice the size of the province of New Brunswick. We cleaned up hundreds of contaminated sites, introduced major fisheries habitat conservation programs, improved wetland conservation, and initiated major work to improve water quality in Lake Winnipeg and the Great Lakes.
I would point out to the House that within their first month in office, the Liberals have made eight funding announcements, costing Canadians almost $2.85 billion. None of that money is going to be spent in Canada, and none of those funds were approved by Parliament or even announced when Parliament was sitting. Most will be spent on international climate change projects.
The question I keep asking, both with this $2.85 billion as well as with other points in my speech, is what do Canadians get for these funds? Government spending is all about priorities, and pressing environmental investments need to be made right here in Canada. For example, Lake Erie is being seriously affected by nutrient inputs, primarily from the United States. In fact, all of the Great Lakes, where 40% of Canadians live by the way, are experiencing eutrophication from an ever-increasing number of non-point sources.
These are the kinds of environmental issues that Canadians expect governments to work on, yet the Liberal government's priority is to send almost 400 delegates to Paris, more than the U.S., Britain, and Australia combined. Generating real and measurable environmental results is what Canadians expect but will certainly not get from the Liberal government.
By the way, it was truly astonishing that the first act by our new Minister of Environment and Climate Change was to allow Montreal to dump eight billion litres of raw sewage into the St. Lawrence, one of Canada's most iconic waterways. This was in direct violation of section 36 of the Fisheries Act. So much for the Liberals' vaunted concern for the environment.
In the throne speech, the Liberal government promised to introduce a carbon tax, thus increasing cost to industry, further depressing energy investments, and increasing direct energy costs to Canadians. There are two groups of Canadians who will be directly affected by this carbon tax, namely low-income and rural Canadians, the kind of people I represent. If it were not so serious, I would find it laughable that the Liberals claim to care so much about low-income Canadians. They are doing their best to put at risk the incomes of poor people and those who live in remote rural regions.
I would note that both low-income people and rural people spend a higher proportion of their incomes on energy than other Canadians. It is my expectation that any carbon pricing be revenue neutral and have a mechanism to offset the negative impacts of such a tax on low-income and rural people.
Furthermore, it is obvious that the federal Liberal government wants to take us down the same energy path as its friends in Ontario. How is that working out? Ontario's Auditor General, Bonnie Lysyk, recently valuated the Ontario Liberal's vaunted green energy strategy. She noted that Ontario electricity ratepayers have had to pay billions for these decisions. Between 2006 and 2014, this cost consumers an additional $37 billion in Ontario, and will cost ratepayers another $133 billion by 2032.
In the Toronto Star recently, of all places, there was an article by Thomas Walkom entitled “Ontario's green energy botch-up a lesson for those fighting climate change”. This article talked about Ontario's approach of massively subsidizing the production of electricity from solar and wind and biomass, resulting in a massive overproduction of power from Ontario that has to literally pay other jurisdictions to take its power. Interestingly, Ontario's annual average energy surplus between 2009 and 2014 was equal to the total power generation of my province of Manitoba, one of the major hydro producers in this country.
Furthermore, by dumping excess power on the market, Ontario has depressed energy prices for all producers. As Walkom notes, “Canadians are willing to pay a price now to save the future. But these same Canadians will rebel if they believe the governments inducing them to pay carbon taxes are incompetent, venal or both”. What we see in Ontario is the likely outcome of the energy policies of the federal government.
I would like a quick word on the firearm's issue. I was chair of the Conservative hunting and angling caucus, and my critic portfolio includes protecting the rights of law-abiding firearms owners. The Liberals have declared their intention to attack law-abiding firearms owners once again. The Liberals are soft on crime and tough on law-abiding firearms owners. Talk about reverting to type. Again, we see them wanting to repeal Bill C-42, the Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act, which ensured public safety was protected while at the same time protecting the rights of law-abiding firearms owners.
In conclusion, I have stressed just a few of the questions that Canadians have been raising in regard to the Liberal agenda.