Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to rise to speak to this motion. I am going to say many things that my colleagues from Alberta should hear because it is very important for them to be reminded where this idea of a carbon tax or carbon levy came from.
I am a proud Albertan for many reasons and counted among them is the fact that my province was the first Canadian jurisdiction, in fact the first jurisdiction in North America, to impose a levy on carbon emissions. Our colleagues in the Conservative Party, minus the Progressive Conservative aspect of it, seem to want to forget about that. In fact, my guess would be that not a single one of them mentioned that fact during the debate in this place on the carbon tax. In 2007, Premier Stelmach's Progressive Conservative Government of Alberta became the first in Canada, a North America jurisdiction, to legislate greenhouse gas emissions reductions. The specified gas emitters regulation imposed a carbon levy on large industrial emitters.
This came about because of the remarkable institution in Alberta called the Clean Air Strategic Alliance. It is a mechanism that I have long recommended should be duplicated at the federal level. It is a tripartite organization shared jointly by someone senior in industry, maybe a TransAlta, Suncor, or Syncrude vice-president, and by a deputy of energy or environment, and a senior environmentalist. It also includes indigenous peoples and farmers. On behalf of the Alberta government it takes on what should be done to reduce air emissions in our province. The alliance took on the coal-fired power industry and significantly reduced those emissions. It also took on the major emitters of greenhouse gases and as a result, the government very wisely issued these regulations.
Those regulations have since been replaced and I will talk about that in a minute, but under those regulations, an industry could choose to either reduce its emissions substantially or contribute to a research fund. That research fund was headed up by the former head of Syncrude Canada. It is considered a great model for investment in cleaner technology. A lot of the money went to try to clean up the fossil fuel industry, which some people might question, but it indeed does also need to clean up. A lot of that money also went into things like geothermal energy, renewable energy, using alternative energy in the fossil fuel industry, and reducing the energy used by the fossil fuel industry. It was remarkable.
We really need to honour Alberta for that because Alberta did that first. I find it really stunning in this place that every Conservative keeps standing up and ranting about the very measure that my Government of Alberta put in place.
A decade later, along came the government of Rachel Notley who put in place a very impressive climate action portfolio. She announced a new regime that includes the carbon competitiveness incentive regulations. Those have been in place since January of this year. They apply to facilities like the oil sands, cement plants, fertilizer producers that produce more than 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2003 or thereafter. The Notley government also imposed a cap on oil sands carbon emissions and it was great news for me because I volunteered for seven years to finally deal with the emissions from the coal-fired power sector.
Again, I am very proud of Alberta because it has moved forward. The federal government is still talking about it and the federal government acts as if it has done it, but in fact, it has done nothing to change the Harper era coal-fired power regulations.
All the Harper government did was to say that by 2050 the coal-fired power industry either has to shut down or deal with carbon emissions. That was the big push for carbon capture sequestration. Guess what? It is really expensive and with the big push for that, in the end, the industry did not want to pay for it and the public is not happy about subsidizing it. At the big international conferences there are people trying to sell this, but it just did not work in Alberta.
The reason this industry was not shut down earlier in Alberta was that the government refused to look at the health impacts of that sector. I tried really hard to get the federal and provincial governments to speak to it. I eventually had to intervene on my own with a lifelong friend who is a family doctor and who had documented in the Lake Wabamun area, where most of the coal-fired power industry is, the higher rates of multiple sclerosis and other diseases related to neurological disease. As a result of his and my intervening, and our having brought in an American expert from the eastern coast, the government finally put in place the only mercury control regulations in this country for coal-fired power.
Bit by bit, the Government of Alberta was doing good work. Along came the Rachel Notley government and Dr. Joe Vipond, who is a Calgary physician. He started gathering information from the Canadian Medical Association to determine an absolutely huge number of serious illnesses and deaths related to coal-fired power in my province. As a result of that data and as a result of costing those injuries, health impacts, and deaths, a lot of the issues having to do with asthma, lung disease, and heart disease, the government decided that it would move forward the date for the shutdown of coal power in Alberta. Therefore, by 2030 the coal power industry will be gone in Alberta.
Those are great measures by the Government of Alberta, which were initially started by Premier Stelmach, a Progressive Conservative. These regulations replace the specified gas emitters regulation.
I want to share with members the voice of one of my neighbours, who is a remarkable man. He travels around the world and advises China and Bhutan; he goes everywhere. He is an environmental economist. Mark Anielski has reminded us that the health care costs associated with climate change are “in the order of $300 million per year, along with other impacts of pollution”, and it is what he dubs an “unfunded liability”. He estimates this overall liability is worth “about $13.7 billion if you value carbon at $50 a ton which is what Shell and other companies shadow price carbon at”. He added, “This is in the spirit of taxing the bads and not the goods” and “everyone requires a share of responsibility...paying for that liability. But the tax really is an incentive to change our behaviour to be more efficient.”
I heard my colleague from Calgary rant about what the gas tax will do to address and stop the floods and terrible fires that have blighted British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. That is not the point. The point is we need to reduce the burning of fossil fuels so that we do not have more catastrophic floods and fires. We have been fortunate in Canada because we are not seeing the brunt of it that the rest of the world is already seeing. We need to understand that putting in place a carbon tax is meant as a preventive measure, not an after-the-fact enforcement measure. It is meant to trigger a different behaviour.
The Alberta regime is forecasting $5.8 billion over a three-year period from the carbon levy on large industrial emitters. We need to also recognize that the regimes put in place in each province are going to be different. My province is blessed with, although some people say it is cursed with, major emitters. We have the major oil and gas sector. What that means is if we impose a tax, we are going to generate a lot of revenue. We also have been blessed with having a good number of people earning a good income that is higher than in a lot of places in the country. Therefore, we are going to garner a higher tax revenue. However, most of that tax will be from the purchase and burning of fossil fuels in our homes, in small businesses, and our vehicles.
What will happen with that revenue? Unlike what British Columbia originally did, where it simply returned that tax money, I am glad that Alberta has taken a different direction. My understanding is that under the new B.C. government, it has also shifted over what it is doing with that revenue.
Two-thirds of that revenue is going to be reinvested in the Alberta economy: $1.3 billion in green infrastructure and $300 million in phasing out coal power. The government, in its wisdom, decided to buy out some of the coal industry because, foolishly, previous governments had allowed the coal power industry to expand at a moment in time when we should have known it was going to be phasing out. It has agreed to pay out some of those operations and the power purchase agreements. There will be $600 million going to energy efficiency for homes and businesses, and $1 billion will be going to support the coal communities that have housed the workers who have worked in the coal mines and the coal-fired power plants. That is a good initiative. It will also go into renewable energy investments, and innovation and technology.
I would add here that the Rachel Notley government has also put $50 million toward the retraining of workers in the coal-fired power and mining industries, and persuaded the federal government finally to extend EI. Where is the money from the federal government to match that? We hear a lot of talk, and there is yet another advisory committee.
We hear pleas from members of the Conservative Party about what the carbon tax is going to do for them. What Canadians are looking for is what is being done to help communities and workers who feel they are suffering directly because of the shift to a clean energy economy.
One-third is going to helping households, businesses, and communities directly. Some $500 million is going to small business tax cuts. Some $1.5 billion is going to low- and middle-income households. There is $1.5 billion in assistance for indigenous communities. It would be nice if the federal government would match that. The effect will be that the average natural gas bill is to rise by approximately $5 a month, and that is before the 2018 rebates. The majority of the gas bill costs remain in delivery, administration, and fixed costs because of the Ralph Klein deregulated system, which the Notley government is also trying to deal with. Two-thirds of Albertans are to receive a rebate.
The projected costs are actually posted on the Alberta website. Any members in this place who are concerned about their constituents can go to the Alberta government website and find out what the carbon tax will be.
As long as Alberta's carbon tax remains in place, we in Alberta will not be subject to the federal tax regime. The government has been very clear on that. Of course, all provinces and territories have the option to implement their own choice of cost regime: cap and trade, carbon tax, or anything else that they can invent.
However, a tax alone will not cut it. Broader federal action is needed if we are to deliver on our Paris commitments. Who said that? Many, including the federal commissioner of the environment and sustainable development, who continues to raise concerns that we are failing to deliver on our commitments in meeting our greenhouse gas reduction targets. Deeper actions are needed, including on climate adaptation. That was in a very recent report by the commissioner. Of course, the government thanked the commissioner for the report, but where is the action?
I have great admiration for the Pembina Institute. The institute and others have said that the political will still appears to be high in the Liberal government. At least they voice support for it, but so is the greenhouse gas inventory high, and it is rising. The government cannot keep adjusting the timelines forward. Now it is saying it cannot possibly meet the 2020 target, so let us try for the 2030 target. The commissioner has spoken out loudly against that. She said that the government has to stop just moving the targets forward and it has to start taking action. Of course, we are already not going to meet the 2020 Copenhagen accord target. Apparently, we are also slated to fail to deliver on our Paris commitments for 2030. That is less than 15 years away. That means we have to be taking a lot of action right now.
Close to 50% of emissions come from two sectors: oil and gas and transportation. We should also take care in the conversion from coal to gas. Burning fossil fuels will remain a health threat. There should be clear timelines for shifting to renewables. I am deeply concerned, and most Canadians are probably not aware that the standards the government is about to impose for a coal plant shifting to gas are not as strict as they are for building a new gas-fired plant. That is unforgivable. That is unforgivable for regions like mine in the Lake Wabamun-Genesee area that is almost the entirety of the supply of electricity in my province. Switching to gas is still going to provide a lot of pollution and we will have a lot of health impacts, and therefore a lot of costs to the public coffers.
The reductions in the building sector have also remained stagnant. We need to move forward on changes to the national building code so that new housing stock is energy efficient. All federal dollars for indigenous housing, schools, and facilities should require energy efficiency standards for sustainability and major cost savings to the communities.
We absolutely need the federal government to deliver the promised dollars to get isolated northern communities off diesel. We can look at the budgets over the last three years that the Liberals have put forward, and I have memorized page 149 and 150 of the 2017-18 budget. All I saw were zeroes for moving reliance of rural and remote communities off diesel: budget 2016-17, zero dollars; 2017-18, zero dollars; and 2018-19, nearly $40 million.
We know how many first nations communities there are, and we know what the costs will be in some of those isolated communities, particularly in the high north. Come on, get with it. Let us move that spending forward.
Supposedly the nation-to-nation relationship is the most important, and we recognize that those communities are struggling. We hear story after story of first nations that are fed up with waiting for government to help them, and they are moving forward themselves with groups like Iron & Earth.
For example, Iron & Earth is partnering with first nations in a community in the Maskwacis in Alberta teaching the local indigenous people how to install solar, and then installing solar. Why are we not doing that right across our country? I do not understand what the delay is.
We talked about skills development in the New Democrats opposition day. In the pan-Canadian program, supposedly for all the jurisdictions to work together to address climate change, what is missing? It is investment in skills development. Even when we put those questions to the government the other day, the answer back is always exactly the same: “Well, we're supporting clean technology”. However, who is going to work for the clean technology firms?
There should be massive amounts of money flowing right now into every technical school in Canada. I sat down the other day in my constituency and started listing all the technical schools across this country that deliver renewable energy training. It is unbelievable. It is almost every community college. Certainly the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in my city has a fantastic program, but it is oversubscribed. Young people are dying to learn these skills. Who is dying to learn it the most? It is our boilermakers, steelworkers, and electricians. They are begging to get into this field. They are saying that they may still work in the fossil fuel industry, but they want to transition over. There is no reason why, when there is a downturn in the oil and gas sector, they could not slide over and work in the renewable sector.
Kudos to Iron & Earth, which started as a small group of men and women who worked in the oil sands. It has now spread right across the country. There is testimony after testimony. I encourage members to go to the Iron & Earth website and look at the testimonials from men and women working in those sectors, and how badly they want to get into this sector.
We heard all the promises from the Conservatives when they were in power. They were in power for 10 years, and they never issued those promised oil and gas regulations. So much for their actions on climate change. They never joined IRENA. Finally, three years later, kudos to the Liberals for finally discovering this international agency for renewable energy and joining it. However, I do not know what they can bring to it. I think they need to start investing and showing that we are actually taking action.
I will close with my former colleague, Paul Dewar, who is kick-starting an initiative next week for youth. I have been working closely with a fabulous group called the 3% Project. Two young people have travelled right across the country visiting just about every high school and every university, including in this city. Their objective of 3% is to reach one million young people in Canada. They want them to learn about the need for action on climate change and sustainability, and to take on a project. It is absolutely inspiring. I encourage everyone to look into 3% Project. That is our future, and I know that they believe we should take action and will not listen to the naysaying from this motion, which we will clearly vote against.