House of Commons Hansard #106 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebec.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Kyoto Protocol
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the member's speech, which came essentially from the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. That is not the only kind of speech we expect from the member opposite. He does not have to convince us of the existence of climate change. We, on this side of the House, have long understood that climate change is important and that it is linked to human activity.

We want to know if the member intends to support the motion brought forward by the Bloc Québécois calling for a $328 million transfer to the province of Quebec for the implementation of its plan to fight climate change. Quebec is prepared to finance 72% of the work. We are asking the federal government to make an effort, to stop giving tax incentives to the oil and gas industry, and to give the $328 million to Quebec, which truly wishes to fight climate change.

Can he answer our question?

Opposition Motion—Kyoto Protocol
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Luc Harvey Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I always take great pleasure in answering questions.

That being said, we are talking about tax incentives for the oil industry. Perhaps my colleague has never worked in the private sector. Depreciation always has to be taken into account in any investment we make. Hundreds of billions of dollars have been invested and, as is the case in any other industry, depreciation has to be taken into account. I do not see why there would be a difference between depreciation in the oil industry, in the forest industry or in any other industry. This is the most basic business rule.

Opposition Motion—Kyoto Protocol
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will ask him a simple question. That way he will stay on topic when answering.

Is he prepared to vote for the Bloc Québécois motion that calls on the federal government to provide $328 million enabling Quebec to implement its plan for meeting Kyoto protocol targets for greenhouse gas reductions? Yes or no?

That is straightforward. I have asked a simple question and I hope he will not go off on a tangent.

Opposition Motion—Kyoto Protocol
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Luc Harvey Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, with regard to the Kyoto protocol measures, my Bloc Québécois colleague on the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development knows quite well that we heard from almost 30 witnesses and not 80%, not 90%, but 100% formally confirmed that Kyoto protocol targets cannot be met within the prescribed timeframes. My colleague was there and will be able to confirm this.

Opposition Motion—Kyoto Protocol
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will make the question even simpler. Will he vote for or against the Bloc Québécois motion?

Opposition Motion—Kyoto Protocol
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Luc Harvey Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, how my friends amuse me. We are talking about solving the fiscal imbalance in the next budget. It may be better to curb our zeal. If the matter was so urgent, why did our Bloc Québécois colleague vote against having additional meetings for the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development? Why did he vote to send Bill C-288 to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development? Was it an attempt to waste the government's time on the report on Bill C-30 that was to be tabled? Why did he invite a ton of witnesses? Again, was it to delay Bill C-30? My Bloc Québécois friends and colleagues make me laugh when they puff themselves up and turn on the dramatics because when it comes time to take action, they slam on the brakes.

Opposition Motion—Kyoto Protocol
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Brome—Missisquoi.

I am pleased to take part in this important debate on the environment. It is a wide-ranging subject, but with this motion, we have decided to focus on Quebec's specific request. The Government of Quebec has long been calling on the federal government to provide it with $328 million so that it can meet its Kyoto protocol targets.

To remind hon. members exactly what we are talking about, I will read the motion, because we were treated to 20 minutes of rather academic speeches. I could see that you were very interested in what was said, Mr. Speaker. I felt that, for two government members, they did not outline any very concrete measures, although they did tell us that climate change was very important. We already know this, but I would have expected them to answer the question that was just asked—are they going to vote for or against the motion?—especially since they are government members from Quebec. Will they vote for this motion to give the Government of Quebec the $328 million it is owed, to help it implement its plan to comply with Kyoto? The motion reads as follows:

That, having recognized the principle of complying with the Kyoto targets, it is the opinion of this House that the government should provide the Government of Quebec with the sum of $328 million to enable it to implement its plan to meet the Kyoto Protocol targets.

This motion is crucial to Quebec, which already has its own green plan, as hon. members know, but which lacks that sum of $328 million that will allow it to reach its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 6% below 1990 levels.

I come from the Bois-Francs area, which has long been known as a cradle for sustainable development. It is the birthplace of Normand Maurice, who is the father of recycling and recovery. This region is where the Lemaire family is from; they set up the Industries Cascades. As you can see, I am acutely aware that I am representing a region and a population that have long understood the importance of the environment and, likewise, sustainable development.

As elsewhere in Quebec, the people in my region support the fight against climate change. I want to remind hon. members that a survey conducted just a few days ago, at the end of January, for The Globe and Mail and CTV, showed that nearly 80% of Quebeckers find that the government must make the necessary efforts to meet the Kyoto protocol targets. I imagine that the predecessors of the Conservative government who responded to the survey were not part of this 80%, but, in fact, a majority of Quebeckers understand the situation and want governments to take action.

While it has become fashionable to claim to want to protect the environment, I would like to remind hon. members of the work done by the Bloc Québécois, its environment critic in particular, the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, who I commend. While listening to him earlier, I realized how effective his educational work is. His explanations and actions spell out the situation quite clearly and show us why the Government of Quebec is making this request. He drives a hybrid car. I think it is important to point out that he may not put the pedal to the metal, but he can drive at a respectable enough speed while saving fuel and protecting the environment at the same time. Far from slamming on the brakes, my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie has done a tremendous amount of work in this House. Without him, we would be far from where we are today on a number of bills and measures. I wish to acknowledge the work he has done here.

I was a candidate in 2000 and, even then, the Bloc Québécois electoral platform emphasized the need to implement measures for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Again today, the Bloc Québécois is proposing tough greenhouse gas emission standards for vehicles, discounts on the purchase of ecological vehicles, significant financial support for development of renewable energy sources—especially wind power—and an end to the tax system that favours the oil companies. The Conservative member from the Quebec region who spoke earlier seemed to be quite offended that we are calling for abolition of a tax system that favours the oil companies, as though those people could not survive these days. It is a little bit like saying that perhaps we should be helping the banks and giving them subsidies. It is the same principle. We also are proposing funding for organizations that contribute to the achievement of the Kyoto protocol targets.

That is what the Bloc Québécois is calling for in its platform. We are where we are today because of my colleague, the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, who has worked for so long, and obviously the whole Bloc Québécois team and its members, meeting in convention, who have recognized for a long time how important the environment is for all of us.

Once again today, I am proud to carry the colours of a party that so ardently defends the need to take real measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to achieve the Kyoto protocol targets through concrete actions, as I have said, such as putting forward this motion.

It is not enough to put on a green scarf at a leadership convention to suddenly become a great defender of the environment, as the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada did. We all remember that image. We said that all of a sudden he was a “green” man. His scarf was green, but as for the rest, we must look at the actions that have been taken.

It was under his stewardship, while he was Minister of the Environment, that greenhouse gas emissions in Canada increased by 24%. I am talking about the time since 1993 because, earlier, my colleague spoke of an increase of 27% since 1990. It seems to me that to date, since the Liberals came to power, we have had a 24% increase in greenhouse gas emissions while the Kyoto target, as I recall, was a reduction of 6%. It is a disaster, a monumental failure. Yes, you can put on a green scarf. That might protect you against the cold; but that does not make you a great defender of the environment. The voluntary approach of the Liberals is a failure.

What is there to say about the Conservative government? Elected just over a year ago, it presented its five priorities—as we all recall—but the environment was not one of them.

As agriculture critic, I often speak with farmers about all the things that are going on in the House of Commons. I tell them often that this government has five priorities. The priorities of the entire population of Quebec people and the entire population of Canada are not necessarily the priorities of the Conservative government. It talks of law and order, and of all manner of things, but not of agriculture or the environment. In campaigning for election, I often tell the people of my riding “Your priorities are my priorities, and I will transmit those priorities on your behalf to the House of Commons.” I cannot understand how a government can be so insensitive as not to grasp that the priorities of the population must be its priorities, because its members represent the population. They were sent here for a reason: to represent the population.

As has been said, with reference to the supporting survey, the public has long been prepared and long been aware of how important it is to deal with climate change. That, however, was not a priority for the government in place, the self-proclaimed “new government”. The new aspect was that the environment is not a priority. If something like that were a new product on the market, I can tell you that it would not exactly be flying off the store shelves.

As a result of the polls just referred to, of public opinion, of the work of the Bloc Québécois and the work of the other opposition parties—also needing to be mentioned—the Prime Minister has just added the environment to his priorities. High time too, considering this government was sworn in a little over a year ago. All of a sudden, they are saying the environment is a priority. I do not know how sincere this is. It is a bit suspect, particularly when it comes to actions actually taken to make the environment a true priority.

We still need to act, as other industrial countries have done. Germany and the United Kingdom come to mind. My hon. colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie is certainly in a better position than I am to talk about what is happening elsewhere, for example in Europe. I do know, however, even if I am less of an expert than he is in this area, that some industrialized countries have been able to meet the Kyoto targets after signing the protocol. So why not us? Often, one compares oneself to console oneself, but here in Canada, that is not at all the case. Political will is needed, to truly invest in the fight against climate change. That is what must be done. That is what certain countries have done.

Economically speaking, the recent report prepared by Nicholas Stern, the former World Bank chief economist, recommends that every country should immediately invest up to 1% of its GDP in the fight against climate change in order to avoid future economic losses that could exceed $7,000 billion world-wide. It is hard to even imagine such a figure. That is a sum 20 times higher than the cost needed to reverse the trends. So, let us reverse the trends, because that will cost a lot less than sitting here with our arms crossed and both feet on the brakes, as suggested earlier by a Conservative colleague, referring to us.

I think he was merely projecting. It is the Conservative government, rather, that is slamming on the brakes when it comes to the environment.

Why can other countries do it, but not ours? Yet, Canada ratified the Kyoto protocol in 2002. As I was saying, both the Liberals and the Conservatives have failed. Their inaction is shaming us on the international stage. Quebec has a plan. It needs $328 million more, which the Liberals and Conservatives refuse to give.

Quebec wants to implement a plan that suits its situation. If the federal government is serious about its desire to reduce greenhouse gases, the Bloc Québécois calls on the government to take a simple but effective action: vote in favour of this motion and give $328 million to the Quebec government.

Opposition Motion—Kyoto Protocol
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for Richmond—Arthabaska for his speech, both as an MP and also as Bloc Québécois agriculture and agri-food critic.

I have a few examples of how farmers are also prepared to take part in programs to fight climate change. We have approximately 44,000 farmers in Quebec. I know that, since 1990, they have used their own money to implement environmental protection programs . Since 2003, 11,000 of these 44,000 farmers have supported a greenhouse gas reduction program. This proves that all sectors of Quebec society are prepared to commit to the fight against climate change.

My second example is that of Cascades, which is in my colleague's riding. This company—together with the Desjardins movement, business people and the mayor of Montreal—sent a clear message to the federal government that it wants the Kyoto protocol targets to be met.

My question for my colleague is as follows: is it not obvious—as we are told daily by business—that fighting climate change and protecting the environment do not run counter to significant economic development in Quebec?

Can he tell us if he believes that environmental protection represents a constraint on economic development or, on the contrary, does it provide economic opportunities for Quebec's development? I believe this is important.

Opposition Motion—Kyoto Protocol
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague just summed up the situation very well. In Québec, we have trailblazers like the Cascades company and farmers. They realized non-sustainable development was not an option. Indeed, our society needs to develop, but we cannot use our resources needlessly just to make a profit. True enough, you can make money with a short- term vision. But as my colleague said, we realized in the agricultural industry that if you exhaust the land, if you use up all your products and everything from which you earn a living, it will some day come to an end, for generations to come.

We must take care of the environment. Farmers being on the land and working on the land are probably the first ones who realized it was important to preserve all we have, not only for environmental but also for economic reasons.

Obviously, not everybody in the business community resorts to reckless development, quite the contrary. And Cascades is a fine example.

Opposition Motion—Kyoto Protocol
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Luc Harvey Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I read lately that China is considering the construction of 2,300 new coal-fired power plants, that is one new plant every 10 days. Carbon emissions would increase not by megatonnes, but by teratonnes.

One of the hon. member’s colleagues is whispering an answer to him, because he might not be able to find one by himself.

So, China is planning some 2,300 new power plants. China has ratified the Kyoto protocol, which my friends in the Bloc raise as a flag all the time. But China is going to release teratonnes of CO2, something which will cancel out all the Canadian efforts in no time.

But this gentleman is nonetheless suggesting -—and repeating—that the Kyoto protocol is the only way to improve our environment.

How does he explain that? How are we supposed to counteract these Chinese CO2 emissions that will have an impact in Canada and Quebec?

Opposition Motion—Kyoto Protocol
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, if I understand correctly the twisted logic of the member who just asked a question, since other countries do not care for the environment and do not respect the Kyoto protocol and decided not to sign on, we should stay put, slam on the brakes and just say that China will send us its pollution anyway. As the member tried to say jokingly, there is no use in raising the Kyoto flag.

On the contrary, it is important for us to act. I have always seen that, in international negotiations, money talks. Because China is now a member of the WTO, it is important for us to make it understand that trading has a price in terms of environment protection and workers' rights. These are things that we must learn and we must convince our trading partners that they should too. Moreover, in our own country and in Quebec also, we must respect the Kyoto protocol to set an example. We should not say that nothing can be done just because some countries are polluters.

Opposition Motion—Kyoto Protocol
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to remind my colleagues from Louis-Hébert and from Beauport—Limoilou that they ought perhaps to start by reading the wording of the motion. Even if my colleagues have repeated the motion, they still appear to be speaking about something else. Yet this motion is what we want to talk about today. We want to know whether respecting the objectives of the Kyoto protocol will include the $328 million that Quebec needs to implement that protocol. We are not asking whether or not they are in favour of the Kyoto protocol. We want the agreement respected, and we want the $328 million transferred to Quebec. That is the point.

Of course, one could go back in time and say that the Liberals are as blameworthy as the Conservatives in this situation. The nation of Quebec has made different choices than the rest of Canada, and these choices must be respected. They were made a very long time ago. We consider Quebec to be the nation that has always promoted the Kyoto protocol, right from the get go.

Now I will respond to the member for Louis-Hébert and his recent comments on China. Let us recall how the Kyoto protocol was reached. In order to come into effect, it needed to be ratified by 55 countries, or ones representing 55% of total greenhouse gas emissions according to 1990 levels.

There are, therefore, four categories of country as far as Kyoto protocol commitments are concerned. There are the ones that have done nothing, like the U.S. and Australia which have signed but never ratified. We will come back to the reasons for that later. Then there are those that have ratified and made commitments to reduce, like Canada, Germany, Japan, Europe and so on. Lastly, there are the countries that have ratified—I do mean to say ratified—but that are not required to take any measures for the first period only, from 2008 to 2010. These are China, India and Brazil, which have also ratified the Kyoto protocol and will make a commitment to it.

The power plants will not have been built by 2010 anyway. China will definitely be seeking and finding new technologies in order to avoid greenhouse gas emissions, because it is going to respect the agreements it has signed.

As I said, it was very hard for Canada to accept this Kyoto protocol agreement. Luckily Quebec has always been the nation to exert pressure on Canada. Otherwise we are convinced that we would not even be this far yet. But all the industrialized countries have implemented it.

In February 2003, Tony Blair said it was clear that Kyoto is not radical enough. Those were his words. And the Conservatives admire what England does. Its objective is a 60% reduction by 2050, but unlike the Conservatives, England began to take action as soon as this announcement was made. Consequently it will have to take significant measures in the areas of transportation, industry and building.

In 2004 Tony Blair returned to the charge, saying that reductions would be stepped up, that they were going further. That led to the elimination of non-sustainable policies. All the policies adopted by the government thought to be non-sustainable, inconsistent with sustainable development, were going to be eliminated starting in 2004.

The Prime Minister prefers to align himself with Bush rather than Quebec or Blair. In the summer of 2005, Bush won a very important vote to stop a decisive law, and he went on listening to the anti-Kyoto lobbyists. Bush sought support for his pro-oil designs. So we can see where the Prime Minister’s influence came from in 2006. In fact he was influenced by Mr. Bush in 2005.

The scientific uncertainty has not been an issue for a long time now. This is no longer something that people can use. We often hear the Conservatives say that it is not known for sure whether scientists agree on the subject. The detractors always use this argument, saying that we do not know exactly how long it will be before global temperatures rise. That is true, but only the detractors use this argument. One thing is certain, and it is that climate change has begun. Whether we are talking about global warming of 2o, 3o or 4o does not matter. What matters is knowing that climate change will affect civilization, our way of living, and much more than terrorism. Quebeckers are convinced of this.

By dithering, the government is slowing us down. The hypothesis that warmer temperatures will bring benefits is a myth. That is what we heard, though, a while ago, from the members on the other side of the House. By going from 550 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere to 700 ppm of CO2, the changes will be there in any case. Our way of living and our civilization will be affected. That is what Quebec believes.

The oil lobby is the great promoter of this myth, and it influences the Prime Minister and his cabinet. That influences even the Quebec members who are willing to vote with the rest of Canada in favour of oil development. This is where it becomes obvious that the Quebec Conservatives do not have any power. They only appear to be in power. In reality, they just vote the way the cabinet tells them. They do not vote how the vast majority of Quebeckers want them to. Quebeckers want the Kyoto protocol implemented. Even the federalist Liberal government in Quebec wants it. The Conservatives, though, will vote against it. Is that what being in power means for Quebec Conservatives? If so, it is pretty bad.

The oil industry started criticizing the Kyoto protocol in April 1998. The first Kyoto protocol agreement was signed in 1997. That was when oil industry lobbyists put their first ad in the New York Times. Millions of dollars were invested and new research institutes, such as the George C. Marshall Institute, the Cato Institute, the Friends of Science and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, sprang up and hired scientists to disparage Kyoto. Their influence was felt in Canada. Other scientists were trained here in Canada to persuade people that oil is very important for life on this planet. The Standing Committee on Natural Resources still welcomes these lobbyists, who say that oil is synonymous with Canada’s survival and greenhouse gases do not matter.

These institutes found scientists who were heavily paid to become detractors. They succeeded, because the Conservatives see in them a plot against Kyoto. The Liberals too did not transfer the necessary funds to Quebec. So they are kind of similar.

Last spring on May 3, 2006, the Washington Post rejoiced over the cuts Canada was making to its programs to reduce greenhouse gases, claiming that Canada was getting the message of the oil industry lobby and was going over the heads of its people. That is why we lost a year. Quebec lost a year in the implementation of its program because the $328 million did not flow. One year with nothing new in Quebec. One year without more energy efficiency. One year without promoting clean energy. One year in which Quebec had to be pulling back on the reins. The Bush lobby and the oil lobby lost Quebec a year. Will this government now be responsible to Quebec?

Opposition Motion—Kyoto Protocol
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his speech on the opposition motion of the Bloc Québécois.

I know that the hon. member sits on the Standing Committee on Natural Resources. I would like him to explain to us how the development of the oil sands in Canada can directly contradict the commitments Canada made in Kyoto to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 6%.

I would like him to explain to us how Canada can encourage the oil sands industry by giving it tax presents, while saying out of the other side of its mouth on the international stage, as in Nairobi, that it intends to comply with the objectives of the Kyoto protocol. In his view, is there a contradiction between development of the oil sands and compliance with the Kyoto protocol?

Opposition Motion—Kyoto Protocol
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for his excellent question.

Indeed, people—even academics—have met with us to argue that the oil sands are something extraordinary for the Canadian economy. I am sure they were not talking about the Quebec economy, because it is something negative in Quebec. As they see it, the economy should take precedence over everything else, even the health of the planet. For them it was the most important thing in the world.

Certain people are in the process of forever ruining the land in Alberta. We are trying to see how it might be possible to plant again on this land, but we do not know how it can be done. Over the last three years, one third of the increase in greenhouse gases has been due to the oil sands. Where are we at? We are at one million gallons per day. We were not supposed to be reaching that level until 2015. We are at one million gallons per day. And the government is now entertaining the idea of going up to 5 million gallons per day. Imagine. Greenhouse gases will increase fivefold.

However, it is possible to capture greenhouse gases, or CO2. Research is ongoing at the moment, and certain companies have told us that they are ready. However, the companies do not want to invest in this. They want the government to invest. We think it unfair that Quebeckers should pay 25% of their income tax to capture the greenhouse gases of the very rich western oil companies that are making phenomenal profits.

We know it, and it was said last week. We are talking about billions of dollars in profits. Even if from now until 2010 it would cost only $7.5 billion to capture all the CO2, they want the government to pay. We hope that the government will find some backbone and say that the polluter has to pay, and the party doing the paying will have to be the oil companies.

Opposition Motion—Kyoto Protocol
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to congratulate my colleague from Brome—Missisquoi on his remarks, and to go back to the proposal before the House today. An important part of Canada, which is the Quebec nation, intends to abide by the Kyoto protocol. My colleague has very well explained the predicament this government is in. It is looking for all sorts of excuses to avoid respecting an agreement that has been signed by our government.

But the Quebec government, which represents Quebeckers, is ready to implement the Kyoto protocol, provided it gets the share of funding that should come from the federal government. This is the substance of what we are suggesting.

What does the hon. member think of the fact that the Canadian government is refusing to give this money, something which would be a gesture of good faith to make Canada work and help one of its component parts set a fine example for other provinces to follow?