House of Commons Hansard #36 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was energy.

Topics

Energy Efficiency Act
Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, I have a very simple question for my hon. colleague. Does she not think the government ought to do a much better job to engage the public in the use of the tax credit system for initiatives that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions? How we construct our buildings can massively reduce the consumption of greenhouse gases, 70% or more of what they found in Europe and in the Far East.

The government put in a credit system for changes to people's homes. Does she not think that a wise move would be for the government to apply that credit more specifically for initiatives that could involve the change of window panes, or insulation or the use other alternative sources, such as solar, geothermal or wind to power their homes?

Energy Efficiency Act
Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, the member's suggestion is a good one and it should be followed. We should revise our national building code to ensure that future buildings are built to the highest possible standards. Those amendments are long overdue and there should not be any choice. People should not be offered a so-called cheaper alternative.

In the jurisdiction I come from, when electricity generation was deregulated, all the costs were downloaded to the people. We think we are saving in the short run, but in the long run we are paying more.

I was very disappointed that the budget bill gave money to people so they could have the freedom to build decks or renovate their basements. Instead that stimulus package should have been directed solely at helping people to retrofit their homes. That way perhaps more money could be available to more people for energy savings.

Energy Efficiency Act
Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, what would she do to mandate more energy efficiency in the automobile sector and in the airplane and other transportation sectors?

Energy Efficiency Act
Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, similar to the fact that the building codes should be revised, it is regrettable that the government missed the deadline, which I understand was last December, to bring forward the new fuel efficiency standards for vehicles. Now is the time to set the stage so Canada has a bigger piece of the market. It is absolutely critical that we bring forward these standards not just for vehicles, but for rail, buses, airlines and so forth.

We absolutely need to be setting the course and directing, not just sitting back and waiting for the market forces. Clearly the market forces have not worked. There should be no further incentives to any of these industries unless they agree to comply with these standards. I know that was tried with the automobile sector under the voluntary agreement, but it does not seem to have succeeded in bringing more fuel efficient vehicles.

The only answer is we need the federal government to enact a law that will direct that new course.

Energy Efficiency Act
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Madam Speaker, when we look at the issues of energy efficiency and we recall Bill C-30 from the previous Parliament, the so-called clean air act which contained some of these provisions, we can also recall the government talked about how it wanted to have a made in Canada plan. That was its position when it took government. Now it seems it is no longer interested in that. It has dropped that kind of phrasing. Now what it looks like is it is waiting and we are going to have a made in the U.S.A. plan.

Could she comment on what the government is doing in this regard?

Energy Efficiency Act
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, the hon. member is absolutely right. Unfortunately, we are no longer even looking at a made-in-USA/copied-by-Canada plan in response to greenhouse gas emissions. We are looking at even less than that when we look at the minimal energy efficient provisions that have come forward today in this bill. We are not even copying the United States of America any more. We are even taking a minimalist approach at the provisions that it is bringing forward.

I think it is absolutely incumbent upon the Government of Canada to set the stage. Right now, as I understand, in Bonn, the governments around the world are talking about what they are going to bring forward to Copenhagen at the end of the year. I would strongly recommend that the House consider approving Bill C-311 when it comes up for a vote on Wednesday. That would provide at least a made-in-Canada target for the next 40 years.

Energy Efficiency Act
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure today to speak to Bill S-3. This bill would enable the government to regulate products that use energy, as we have heard before, and my party is going to support it in order to move it forward.

Elements of this bill came out of the former Bill C-30, which had the misnomer being called the clean air act, which did a little for the reduction of pollution but missed the central challenge of our times in terms of the environment, and that is how to deal with global warming. The government has essentially been missing in action on this global challenge, which is going to require all countries to move forward.

We heard from the previous speaker about what is happening this year. We are at a fork in the road because later on this year in Copenhagen world leaders will meet to wrestle with and develop a mechanism to effectively reduce greenhouse gases against the backdrop of some new scientific data which, at the very least, should be keeping those tasked with this challenge awake at night.

It should keep all of us awake at night because when we compare the evidence from two years ago, sea levels are rising at twice the speed of what was anticipated. That is shocking. We have seen how the Arctic ice cap, the Antarctic ice cap and glaciers are shrinking at a rate that is absolutely unprecedented. Part of the reason is that global warming is actually causing rifts and crevices within the glaciers, which is causing water to seep through and big chunks to fall off. These areas which reflect sun back into the atmosphere are being removed and it is contributing to the problem in terms of global warming.

It is part of a nasty feedback loop that ties into something I will talk about a little later with respect to the warming of the oceans, but it also has an impact upon how the currents work in the north Atlantic. If that current system changes, we are going to have a catastrophic feedback loop that we have no idea how to address. This is a much more serious problem than scientists even thought.

At the end of the day, we are going to have to put a price on carbon. There is no two ways about that. There is no better system. We are going to have to put a price on carbon. We will have to find a way to develop a carbon trading system so the private sector can trade credits. This will enable us to bring down emissions.

We also have to deal with supporting initiatives that work. We need to encourage the use of solar power, geothermal power and wind power. Many of the technological challenges that have existed around wave and tidal power have been overcome, and I might say proudly that many of those have been overcome by Canadian scientists who have been working very hard to do it. That is an inexhaustible source of energy.

We can also look at some new technologies in terms of rotating buildings. There are new initiatives in the UAE and other countries where buildings can rotate to follow the sun and absorb energy, thereby reducing the amount of energy that is required to heat buildings.

The other issue, which is a new change on an old idea, is electric cars. There have been some new discoveries in electric cars. Lithium phosphate batteries are able to store enough energy but also release the energy quickly. Previously, we never had an effective battery that was able to store energy as well as release it quickly, which is what electric cars require. I would suggest the government invest in and encourage scientists working in these areas. A full court press must be done to support these initiatives.

Unfortunately, what has happened, quite shockingly I might add, is that in the last budget the government actually cut moneys to some key monitoring areas for global warming. Canada was a leader in terms of building a network across the world to address climate change. Unfortunately, as a leader in this, these groups are going to have those moneys eviscerated by the government. That would be a tragedy for our country and for the world.

At the end of the day, we also have to look at how we can educate the public to use inputs that are going to dramatically reduce their use of fossil-based fuels. It is interesting that we can dramatically reduce our utilization of fossil fuels by how we build our buildings. We can reduce the use of fossil fuels by 70% or more if we change how we build our buildings. The member who spoke last gave the very good suggestion that we should work toward a national building code that will set standards on how buildings can be built. That is one of the most effective ways to reduce our consumption of greenhouse gases.

A couple of years ago, Scientific American really did a fabulous job. It devoted a month to climate change. In that, it showcased a number of very effective solutions that have been done around the world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and deal with climate change. One of the great articles in that journal was about how we can change the way we build our buildings.

In my last speech, I also spoke about the issue of forests. We know that deforestation is occurring at an unprecedented rate. As our population grows exponentially, our demand for products is also growing, so we are seeing an unprecedented level of deforestation. Madam Speaker, you and I know that our world cannot exist without forests. Forests have a value when they are cut down. Yet, suppose those forests had a value as they stand. In fact, they do because forests are, in effect, public utilities. They function as public utilities because they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen through photosynthesis. That has a value.

If we put a price on carbon at $10 a tonne and we know that a hectare of jungle in the Congo River Basin or Amazonia can absorb about 200 tonnes of carbon a year, that is $2000 a year per hectare. Previously, when Kyoto was put together, countries with large tropical forests like Malaysia, Indonesia and Brazil were leery of this and did not want to pursue it because they thought it might mitigate and affect their development. However, they have come around because they recognize that those moneys can be used for the development of the country in a sustainable way. In the case of Indonesia, that could be a net benefit of about $2 billion.

The catch in all this is that the people who live around and near these forests have to benefit. Where these programs have been tried, the failure, as it is in many development projects, is that the moneys do not get down to the people who need it the most. That is the central failure. The people who need to benefit, who are frequently the poorest people in the world, do not benefit from this. We need to enable ourselves to have a system with accountability to make sure that the people around those areas get a value for that forest and therefore do not cut it down.

If we do not do that, the system is doomed for failure. Putting a value on our forests, which are the lungs of the planet, is an intelligent way to preserve them. Our country has massive resources in terms of forests and we need to do a much better job of managing those forests. As I said earlier, we have rules and regulations that are governed by the provinces in terms of forestry code practices. However, speaking for my riding of Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca and from having worked up north in B.C., we have found that in many cases those forestry practices are simply not adhered to because the companies doing it know that there is no effective enforcement mechanism.

We are seeing forests cut down right to the edge of rivers and where salmon-bearing streams occur. As a result, we are seeing that it is partially responsible for a massive depletion of our salmon stocks on the west coast. This is not an inevitable situation. This does not have to occur. If we are smart about how we develop and enforce our forestry practices, it will go a long way to ensuring that we have stable fisheries on the west coast as well as a forest that will be there in the future.

Biofuels are the coal of the renewable energy sector. Biofuels, in particular corn ethanol, is a disaster. Corn ethanol is the coal of the biofuel industry. We are subsidizing land to be wiped out and reseeded with corn which has a downstream effect that has been opposed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the World Food Programme and others. By taking land and planting corn for biofuels, the energy that goes into processing that corn is much larger than what we get out of it. In other words, we are burning more fossil fuels to get a unit of energy out of corn. Also, we are removing areas that were previously acting as major carbon sinks and replanting with corn.

This is a lose-lose-lose proposition. I would strongly encourage the government to wrap its head around this. Corn biofuels are bad. It needs to stop subsidizing corn biofuels and start looking at alternative energies that actually work, such as solar, wind, tidal power, wave power with geo-thermal.

Some biofuels might work in terms of the detritus from forestry practices, and a few others, but, for heaven's sake, to take land and encourage the planting of corn to warp, twist and distort the system, that is actually causing incredible damage.

Another interesting thing that has happened concerns carbon scrubbers. We now know that there are proposals and developments that enable us to actually scrub the air of carbon dioxide, transferring that into a situation where the carbon is being pulled out of the atmosphere. I would submit that is something we need to consider and need to look at and I would encourage the government to do this.

Something the Liberal Party railed against In the previous budget was the government's failure to support research and development. We know that research and development will be the cornerstone of our country's ability to be competitive in the changing economy that will come out of the economic tsunami that has rolled across our planet and destroyed so many people's finances, so many countries' economies and has hurt so many people here in Canada and around the world.

The government must stop its antipathy toward science and research and understand clearly that research and development is one of the key cornerstones of the future of our country. The failure to invest in this will cause huge economic damage to our people and our country and it will result in the egress of a loss of some of our best and brightest minds.

Back in the late 1990s the then Liberal government saw this as a priority. After the deficits were slayed, the then government of Jean Chrétien put moneys into research and development dramatically. As a result of that, we were able to attract some of the best and brightest scientists from around the world. We have started to actually get to the forefront of science and research in many fields, whether it is medicine, physics, chemistry, proteomics or genomics.

In our neck of the woods, adaptive optics is being done at the Hertzberg Institute of Astrophysics. In fact, we are the third leader in the world in astronomy

What is happening now, whether it is in the Hertzberg Institute of Astrophysics, in Genome Canada, the Canadian Institute for Health Research or NSERC, the sudden cut of moneys by the government at a time when an economic stimulus demands that it invests in research and development, will negatively and profoundly affect the ability of our country to be economically competitive in the future.

What the government is doing is harming the future of our children and of our grandchildren and we cannot allow that to occur.

I know that my party, the Liberal Party, has told the government, loud and clear, to get smart and understand the importance of research and development and understand that it is a cornerstone of our economy. We cannot divorce publicly funded research and development from the future of our economy or our nation. It is critically important.

It also speaks to the critical importance of the government to invest in scientific research and climate change. We know there is a great deal of skepticism on the other side that this is even occurring. We know the government thinks this is simply a natural ebb and flow of temperature changes over time. However, that ignores 99% of the scientists who have made a clear, compelling and provocative argument to say that this is not simply the normal variance of temperature over time, that this is a fact. Unless the government deals with this now and works with other countries, the future of our nation and our world will be compromised. It is a very serious problem because we are dealing with the extinction of a lot of species. I do not want to be alarmist about it but we are one of those species. It is critically important that the government do this.

The government also needs to look at best practices. One of the singular failures that we have seen, for some strange reason, is the inability of the government to say that it does not need to necessarily reinvent the wheel, but as a first step we should look at best practices within our country and around the world. We should draw them together to ensure those best practices are moved out from the bench, from theory, from small practices and into a much larger acceptance and involvement by a greater number of people. This can and has to be done and it is simple to do.

Why not create a centre for best practices at the Canadian Institutes for Health Research and all of the different scientific areas, whether it is NSERC, CIHR or SSHRC? We can take best practices in all those areas and do a good job of trying to share them with others in our country and with those around the world.

When the world comes to Copenhagen at the end of this year, Canada will be sitting there but we cannot be a second rate player in this. We cannot sit on the sidelines and simply see where this goes. What is required, before the world comes to Copenhagen, is that we start to develop and begin to lead. We develop a coalition of the willing, and there is no reason the government cannot do that.

We know that President Obama is trying. I believe 10% of the $783 billion stimulus package is devoted to climate change. The Americans are trying to find ways to bring down the utilization of fossil fuels and utilize new tools and new technologies to address that. The president also knows that there will be a global demand for this.

We all know that China and India are producing increasing amounts of greenhouse gases. We also know that as their demand increases, and it will increase geometrically, the impact upon our environment will be huge.

The previous president of the United States and our current Prime Minister have made the fallacious argument that these countries need to grasp onto this themselves and come to the table or we will not play ball. That is not leadership. What the government could do is sit down and engage both of these countries. At the end of the day, they will be impacted by global change just like everybody else. That is not something any government wants to do.

With the diaspora that we have here and have come from Asia, why do we not utilize those folks here and engage both China and India in a way that few other countries can?

We have an opportunity to cease the day and engage other countries. We can use best practices and tackle this beast called climate change once and for all. Failure to do that is not an option.

Energy Efficiency Act
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair Outremont, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to the speech of my colleague from the Liberal Party and I took notes on what he had to say about leading, about bringing together other parties, about showing best practices and about taking a major role in Copenhagen.

The first question that comes to mind is whether the Liberal Party will continue in that trend that it has already stated by voting, as it has in the past, for the important climate change bill being introduced by my colleague from Thunder Bay which provides for the most stringent reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

The Liberals have already voted for that bill once before and yet in the past couple of days we have had disquieting indications from some Liberal members that they have been looking for some way to duck from their responsibilities.

Hansard has what my colleague from the Liberal Party just said and Canadians who heard him have what he just said, but I would like to give him the opportunity to tell us that the Liberals will actually pass this litmus test, because when one of his colleagues, his young new colleague from Montreal, spoke recently in the Thunder Bay area he was less than clear that the Liberals' support for the bill would continue.

Energy Efficiency Act
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, I will try to allay any kind of disquieting comments that my colleague thinks are coming from us. The last thing we want to be is disquieting.

I will be happy to look at the bill. I must confess that I have not read the bill but I will look at it and I will consult with my colleagues. I am confident that we will come up with the best position possible to ensure we are doing the right for our public and for our country.

Energy Efficiency Act
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, the member talked about the cuts in scientists and research. I know he was not referring to the cutting of the scientists in the three major granting councils, which everyone knows has the hugest amount of money for research. However, because he talked about the effect on the north, I want to specify one area in particular where climate change is having a much bigger effect than anywhere else. It is with the elimination of the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences. This foundation funds, I think, 24 other research centres with hundreds of scientists. It is our only major centre to study droughts and their effects in western Canada, violent storms in the Arctic and the effects of weather in the Arctic. The government cancelled this major research and the violent results coming out of climate change is just totally nonsensical. I wonder if the member agrees.

Energy Efficiency Act
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, I am glad my colleague from Yukon raised this because it does have a massive effect on where he is from. This is something the government needs to change right away. This has been a huge, unmitigated disaster for the government to cut moneys to this group, this global network that deals with climate change. It cannot be reconstructed overnight. It has taken a long time to put that together.

Professor Andrew Weaver from the University of Victoria, who is part of the Nobel prize winning international panel for climate change, has spoken out loudly and clearly about this, as have other scientists. This is a train wreck that the government can stop. It can stop it by investing and funding this group, which is doing an excellent job. The member for Yukon knows this, particularly coming from the north, where the melting of the permafrost is releasing methane into the air. Methane is 25 times a more powerful greenhouse gas agent than carbon dioxide. As that methane goes up in a powerful way, a feedback loop continues causing us to approach a critical time in the history of our planet, and that we cannot allow to happen.

Energy Efficiency Act
Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Madam Speaker, during the speech of my hon. colleague from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, something was disquieting when he talked about Antarctica and what was happening there. My colleague from Saskatoon—Humboldt spoke out and said that Antarctica was actually increasing in size, in other words, the ice was growing.

We have all seen the evidence on television, in movies and elsewhere about the Larsen ice shelf collapsing and so forth. It seems to me that all the evidence is that it has been shrinking and that the ice has been decreasing. We are talking here about ice that is created, not in a year but over thousands of years. The Larsen ice shelf would have been created by snow falling year after year for thousands of years and being compressed gradually into ice. How he could possibly think that this was the case is beyond me.

Second, it appears that he did not get the memo, because this kind of climate change denier language is the language the Conservatives are not supposed to use any more. He did not get the memo from the Prime Minister's Office telling him not to talk along these lines these days and not to keep being the kind of climate change deniers that they have been and that they obviously still are.

I would be interested in my colleague's comments on what we saw here.

Energy Efficiency Act
Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, if the government believes for a second that the Antarctic ice shelf is growing, then that is along the lines of believing that dinosaurs roamed the earth 7,000 years ago, because it is not happening.

What is happening, as my colleague said, is that the Antarctic ice shelf has contracted considerably. Not only has the Larsen ice shelf hived off and disappeared, but in huge chunks. I would encourage anybody to look at satellite pictures of the Antarctic ice shelf. Look at the pictures of Greenland. Look at how it has shrunk, and look at the rate at which the shrinkage has occurred. In that shrinkage of the ice caps, the decrease of the white space is resulting in an exacerbation because reflective capacity has gone.

This is a disaster, and we are certainly willing to educate the government and work with it to deal with this issue in an intelligent way.

Energy Efficiency Act
Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, I always appreciate the comments of the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fucain the House, but he used the term disquieting, and according to the Oxford Dictionary, “disquieting” means to be troubled.

I am very troubled because despite the fact that we have had a number of Liberals intervene in the House, quite rightly condemning the Conservatives for their complete lack of action on the environmental file and a budget that attacked the very fundamentals of environmental protection in the country, Liberals rubber-stamped the budget. Liberals have been rubber-stamping every action that the government has taken for three years.

My question for the hon. member is this: Is it not disquieting for Canadians, is it not troubling for Canadians that Liberals rubber-stamp everything the Conservatives do, when quite frankly they admit that the Conservative plan for the environment is not good for the environment and not good for Canadians?

Energy Efficiency Act
Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, this comes from a member whose party leader said that he was not going to support the budget, before he even saw it. That is irresponsible.

We were faced with a very difficult decision. In Bill C-10 and in the budget there were some good things that the Liberals fought for. They fought for the credit through the EDC. They fought for a stimulus package. They fought for moneys through infrastructure. They fought for some changes to EI but not enough.

Then the government plugged in these other things that we found despicable. The government did not give us an option. It said we could change the bill but the bill would not pass and we would have an election.

We did not think that was in the best interest of our country. We did not think it was responsible for the nation to be deprived of the stimulus package and these other changes that we fought for. Therefore, we allowed the stimulus package to go through, but we will change the odious parts of this bill when we become government, which will be very soon.