Alistair spoke about Business of Supply in the House

Madam Speaker, it is really a great honour to stand here and take part in this debate on behalf of the constituents of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, because the subject we are debating today is a big part of the reason I got into politics in the first place.

I see, and I think a lot of members in this House agree with me, climate change as the defining issue of the 21st century, not only in terms of the impacts we will feel as a country and as a world but in terms of what humankind's response to it will be. How we meet that challenge is going to determine, effectively, how life on this planet is going to go forward. Are we going to live in a sustainable manner? Are we going to live within our resources? Are we going to have a very altered landscape, where we have to drastically reduce how we live our day-to-day lives?

I believe the actions we take today, in the next few years, and in the next decades are going to be very telling for the generations that follow us.

I also stand here as a father of three children. I have twins who are almost six years old and a young eight-month-old. I constantly think about the world they are going to inherit. I realize that I, as a member of Parliament, occupy a very privileged position in Canadian society, because I have a voice in this chamber. I have the ability to speak out on behalf of almost 100,000 Canadians who live in my riding. That is a very privileged position.

I am constantly reminded of the great responsibility that comes with that and of the time I have in this House trying to contribute in some way to getting this country on a path towards a more sustainable future.

I think we can all agree that no other species on earth has had as much impact on this planet as humans have. We have effectively grown to straddle the globe. No part is untouched by our influence. Indeed, we are now in a unique position, for the first time in this planet's history, of actually having a determining role in its future. That has never happened in earth's history. 

With that kind of power comes great responsibility. I look at the analogy of the frog sitting in a pot of water that is slowly heated to boiling. The frog is not quite aware. I feel that is somewhat similar to what we as humans are going through. We may not see, from moment to moment, the actual effects of climate change, but we have to look at this as a pattern over years and decades, and we will start to see the changes add up.

It is incumbent upon us to take the power we have in this House and the power the government has to influence policy to act and put us on a course of action. It will cost us if we do not.

I just want to read a quote referring to what economist Sir Nicholas Stern has said:

Failing to curb the impact of climate change could damage the global economy on the scale of the Great Depression or the world wars by spawning environmental devastation that could cost 5 to 20 percent of the world's annual gross domestic product....

We have a Liberal government that likes to say that the economy and the environment go hand in hand. I just read that quote that clearly explains what is at stake if we do not act on our environment. I feel that the economy is the junior partner in this. There are economic opportunities that lie before us if we take the correct course of action. However, if we do not, it is the economy that will suffer the greatest impact, because it very much relies on us having a clean environment and being able to survive in it.

That takes me to the next part, the elephant in the room, the reason we are here today. I heard some Liberal MPs questioning why we felt the need to bring this motion forward today. It is two words: Kinder Morgan.

Despite all the Liberals' promises and platitudes on the environment, no one in 2015 saw in their election platform a promise and a commitment to purchase a 60-year-old pipeline with a checkered history. That is $4.5 billion, and that is only the beginning. That will purchase the existing assets and does not take into account the billions more dollars that may have to be spent to expand it.

Canadians still have legitimate questions about where this money is actually going to come from, what crown corporation is going to take it over, and whether our pension plan funds are going to be part of it. It makes a mockery of our climate change commitments, if we have a government that is committed to meeting the Paris targets.

The initial National Energy Board review did not consider either the upstream or downstream greenhouse gas emissions from Trans Mountain, which is odd for a pipeline that is projected to add at least 13 to 15 megatonnes per year from increased oil sands production. If we look at the downstream emissions from the pipeline, if we were to expand it, it would be an estimated 71.1 megatonnes per year.

If we look at where we are trying to get in terms of keeping global temperatures stable, we can do some analytical modelling on how much carbon dioxide we can emit into the atmosphere to meet that and give every country in the world a carbon budget.

In a day and age when it is widely acknowledged that climate change is real and is happening and that we are the source of it, expanding a pipeline and expanding oil sands production flies in the face of our commitments. We cannot, in this case, walk and chew gum at the same time. It does not work.

However, I acknowledge that we are going to continue using oil today, tomorrow, and for the foreseeable future, but what I would like to see is a transition plan so we can try to plateau and start minimizing our use.

The oil sands workers of Alberta have made a very valuable contribution to the Canadian economy, and they will continue to do so in the years ahead.

However, we need to have that conversation with the workers of Alberta. I refute the misguided claims of the Liberal Party that we are not acknowledging the workers. We very much are. The member for Edmonton Strathcona, a proud Albertan, has been standing in this House repeatedly talking about the workers of Alberta, the electricians, welders, and people who have important transferable skills and can bring them to bear in other lines of work, if only we had a national government that was putting us on the correct course of action.

If we look at Canada's national emissions, fully 50% come from oil and gas and transportation. Those are two obvious targets we need to address if we are going to have any meaningful action on climate change. 

When we look at the labour force, the Canadian Labour Congress, Unifor, and organizations like Blue Green Canada are all saying what the NDP is saying in the House. We have people who have the skills, but we need to have a national strategy. It becomes even more imperative, because there are literally trillions of dollars up for grabs if we position ourselves at this moment. If we look at the trend in the world in the 21st century and the fact that all of this money is there, we need to set ourselves on the right course of action. It does not mean investing in an old pipeline. It does not mean investing in a new one. It does mean looking after the current workers in the energy sector, retraining them, and positioning ourselves. 

We can look at all the renewable energy sources and the possibilities of tidal power, geothermal, solar, and wind. Any one of these by itself cannot meet our needs. We have to look at a decentralized energy grid, where they are all working together. We can look at the advent of electric cars. They are going to be cheaper to buy, cheaper to maintain, and cheaper to operate.

Market forces will have an effect, and people will start moving en masse. 

I will conclude by repeating what we are debating today with our motion. We want this country to be a global climate change leader. We want to build a clean energy economy. That means that we have to make those investments. We have to put workers and skills training at the heart of this transition. It means, fundamentally, that we do not spend billions of dollars on a pipeline and its expansion. That money could have been better used elsewhere. I know that many Canadians today were expecting a lot different from the Liberal government, and I was as well.  

Madam Speaker, in a short answer, no, I have not. I would like to thank my colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands for raising a few points. What she touched on is that successive federal governments have been punting their climate change commitments down the road. They keep resetting the goal posts as to what benchmark year they are going to reduce their emissions by.

The other important thing she touched on is that the longer we wait, the more expensive this transition will be. It is in our economic interest to start on this now. If we punt it off to a few decades from now or to future generations, the costs will multiply by several factors. That is simply doing a disservice to my children and to everyone's children in this country. We have to take a leadership role and start doing the hard work now, because the problem is only going to get worse, and the costs are only going to get worse as well.

Madam Speaker, if the parliamentary secretary had been listening to my speech, he would have heard that I dedicated a good two minutes to three minutes talking about the workers in Alberta and making reference to the fact that we have benefited tremendously over the years from the oil economy. I acknowledge that we are not shutting that off today, tomorrow, or in the next few years. However, what I am saying to the hon. member is that we need to have a plan. If we get to a point where the world moves ahead and Canada is left behind, that would do a disservice to those workers, because we did not do the work today.

That is my main point of contention with the current Liberal government. It is not doing enough to look ahead to forecast which way we are actually going and to put that just transition in place. It can keep repeating that this project is in the national interest. That seems to be its strategy.

However, it does not make it right. The government will not win arguments by repeating the same phrase over and over again.

Madam Speaker, a lot of the reasoning behind the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion has to do with the proponents. They are saying that they are trying to reach new markets. The current Kinder Morgan pipeline exports about 99% of its product down to refineries in California because they are already tooled to deal with diluted bitumen. Where is the evidence of all the buyers who are lining up at the door to buy the product from an expanded pipeline?

Given the government's climate change commitments, I would also like to know how on earth this expansion and the greenhouse gas increases it represents will ever square with those commitments? Does the member not agree there is a very real disconnect? Instead of investing $4.5 billion in an old pipeline, plus the billions more that will have to be spent to build the expansion, does he not agree that money could have been better spent, here and now, in investing in the economy of tomorrow?