Alistair MacGregor spoke about Business of Supply in the House
June 18th, 2019 - 5:05pm
Mr. Speaker, the member for Red Deer—Mountain View and I served on the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food.
One of the big challenges we have is to not only reduce our emissions to get to net zero, but to also do something about the carbon that is currently in our atmosphere. The member will know, as do I, that I do not think we have given due recognition to the work that farming does to sequester carbon in our soil. We are both aware of some amazing research that shows that well-managed agriculture practices can sequester up to 50 tonnes of carbon per year in a hectare of well-managed soil.
Therefore, in an effort to maybe turn the temperature down, because we both have such great respect for our agricultural community, I invite the member to talk about the hard work our farmers are doing and the ways in which we can encourage them to do an amazing job in sequestering carbon. I think that will be a big part of the puzzle going forward into the future.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House in this final week of the 42nd Parliament on behalf of the constituents in Cowichan—Malahat—Langford to speak to the Conservatives' final opposition day motion which reads as
That, given that the carbon tax will not reduce emissions at its current rate and it is already making life more expensive for Canadians, the House call on the government to repeal the carbon tax and replace it with a real environment plan.
I have some problems with the way the motion is worded and I will go over them. Number one, the motion asks us to basically take a major step of repealing a carbon tax and then putting our faith in a so-called real environment plan. With respect to my Conservative colleagues, if they had wanted us to put more substantive thought into the motion, perhaps they could have timed the release of their environment plan for today so that instead of waiting until tomorrow when debate on the motion will be well and truly finished, we would actually have something substantive to compare a carbon tax to and to see if it is actually going to achieve our goal of reducing Canada's emissions.
That is my first main criticism. If we are going to make the House debate a motion where something is going to be repealed that is already in existence and replace it with something else, it would be nice to know what that something else is.
A large amount of debate on the carbon tax has to do with the price and there are a few things I would like to say to address that. First of all, with respect to my Conservative colleagues, I think they are having a fairly visceral reaction to a carbon tax because it seems to be a policy that was introduced by a Liberal government and that is a problem. There seems to be sometimes a knee-jerk reaction from the official opposition to anything that the Liberals do. We want to examine these policies for the merits to see if they are actually going to do things. I think the basic premise of the argument over the costs of the carbon tax is based on an assumption that we can fight climate change without incurring costs.
Any politician who tells us that they can address this problem without costs to ourselves, to the government, to society as a whole, I am sorry, but they are simply not being truthful. This is going to require a major effort on all fronts. Furthermore, when we look at the proposed costs of a carbon tax, we know at $20 per tonne it is going to equal 4¢ per litre. By the time it goes up to $50 per tonne, which I believe is in three years, it would cost up to 11¢ per litre, so to put that in perspective, that means in three years we will be adding about $7 in cost to fill up of our gas tank. That is what we are arguing over and that is not even in effect now. That is in three years' time.
The reason why I want to underline the cost part of it is this. While we are quibbling about the cost of a carbon tax now, which most experts around the world acknowledge is far too low to have any meaningful action, I want to put that in the context of just what the costs of unmitigated climate change are going to be and how those are going to affect future tax revenues.
If we think that the climate change now is costly, just look what the costs will be when we hit 2°C, 3°C or 4°C of warming and we are already seeing the effects. In my home province of British Columbia, our budget for forest fire fighting is going to be completely blown out of the water. That is the long-term trend.
In my community of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, I live in a rainforest and in March we had 30% of our normal rainfall. The lakes and rivers were at 30% of where they should have been. In future years that is going to require is a hefty dose of infrastructure money to build a new weir so we can hold more lake supply back to make sure that the river flows at an adequate rate.
These have very real costs.
This is not even speaking about the extension of the droughts we are going to have in many different parts of Canada, the flooding, the mitigation and adaptation measures we are going to have to employ.
Some of the most expensive real estate in the country is located in Vancouver, which is a flood plain.
Before I continue, I am splitting my time with the hon. member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke.
The Vancouver International Airport is located on the flood plain of the Fraser River. What happens in future years when we have a flooding Fraser River meeting increased sea levels and we have to suddenly build all of that dike infrastructure to keep the waters at bay?
This is going to be a pattern that repeats itself again and again and again.
I just really want to underline that fact that while we are quibbling about the costs in the present day, we are actually not doing justice to the issue for future generations and future Parliaments and the costs that those governments are going to have to deal with.
Furthermore, this effort that we are going to have to mount to properly address climate change is going to have to be on a scale of what our country did to fight the Great Depression and World War II. Let us use World War II as an example, because I keep on hearing the argument that Canada's efforts are not really going to amount to much. It has to be sort of a worldwide solution. There is some truth to that.
The fact of the matter is that in World War II, our relative contributions to the wartime effort were quite small vis-à-vis other countries, but did Canada shirk its duties? Did we say that by ourselves we are not going to win the war so we may as well pull back our effort? No, we did not. We mobilized a wartime economy. We put people to work. We got our factories up and running. We increased our armed forces and we sent people off to make sure that the effort was won. We did not shirk our duties. That is precisely the type of mobilization that we as a country are going to need to employ to properly address this problem. I want to use that as a historical context.
We as a country have been able to punch above our weight and we have the ability to do so again.
The other thing is that I want to touch on Trans Mountain and the climate emergency motion that was debated yesterday. We just received news that the Liberal government has approved the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and that absolutely undercuts anything they said yesterday with regard to their support for a climate emergency because climate leaders do not build pipelines. The expansion of that pipeline means that the proponents, namely the Government of Canada because it owns the pipeline, are planning for it to be in operation for another 10, 20 or 30 years. Does that mean by the year 2050, with all of the evidence of climate change, we still want to be exporting diluted bitumen at three times the amount we currently are? Is that where we really want to invest our billions of dollars? No, we do not want to do that.
Think of what we could be kick-starting in the renewable energy economy in the future with that kind of money, if we made those kinds of investments and got rid of the oil and gas subsidies that we shamefully still continue to pay out year after year. The government can say all the right words but, looking at the details, it is sadly lacking.
I am very proud of the work that my party has done over the years. Going back to 2006 when Jack Layton brought in his Climate Change Accountability Act , we had Megan Leslie in 2009 talking about a green new deal and, of course the member for Edmonton Strathcona, who has been an environmental lawyer for decades, has brought in a bill to enshrine environmental rights into law. This is the legacy of our party.
We are a party that has proposed an oil and gas ombudsman to look at the price of gas at the pump so that consumers can actually know when oil and gas companies are gouging them. These price fluctuations are not the result of a carbon tax. They are the result of oil companies controlling the supply from the refinery to the pump and they are making billions of dollars of profit off our backs. If we had an ombudsman, we could have Canadian consumers looking up those prices and getting the certainty that they deserve.
Finally, I will just end on this. I am extremely proud of the proposal that we have put forward in our “Power to Change” document because we are not going to tackle this problem with a carbon tax alone. It is going to make a multi-faceted effort where we retrofit homes, and where we help that transition for people who are employed in oil and gas to get those skills so they can so they can transfer to the new renewable energy economy of the future.
It is going to take a Herculean effort, where everyone works together, puts aside partisanship and realizes that this problem is far above us all. We all need to work together to properly address it.
Mr. Speaker, the first thing I would say to the member's question is that I think his argument is based on a premise that people are not going to change, that we are going to be reliant on gas and oil for heating our homes and driving our vehicles well into the foreseeable future.
If we help people make a transition to lower carbon forms of energy, we are going to help them reduce costs. Absolutely, there are some people who are struggling to make ends meet. However, if we look at the last 20 and 30 years of successive Conservative and Liberal governments, they have not exactly helped the issue, when we have waited all this time to put in place programs like a national pharmacare program and helping families with child care. These are real, tangible benefits that would save people money in their day-to-day costs.
If we want to talk about effective mechanisms to help the least fortunate in our society, we have had many opportunities to do that over the previous decades. I am sad to say it, but we are probably going to have to wait for our New Democratic government to do that, because relying on the Conservatives and the Liberals has not produced those results yet.
Mr. Speaker, I have identified that fund to successive ministers of fisheries and oceans over the last three years. I am still waiting.
Absolutely, I would love it if that money started flowing to my riding, because we have an actual real and tangible need for it. I raised it with the former minister of fisheries and oceans and with the current Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard. Their departmental officials and everyone on the ground agrees that this money is needed.
However, three years later, my community is still waiting. I hope I can employ the hon. member's assistance in maybe speaking with the current minister to get that money flowing, because my community has a dire need for it.