House of Commons Hansard #60 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was organs.

Topics

(Bill C-307. On the Order: Private Members' Business:)

October 3, 2011—Second reading of Bill C-307, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (pregnant or nursing employees)—The member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie.

Suspension of Sitting
Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie is not present to move the order as announced in today's notice paper. Accordingly, the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

The House is suspended until 12 p.m.

(The sitting of the House was suspended at 11:07 a.m.)

(The House resumed at 12 p.m.)

Opposition Motion--Climate Change
Business of Supply
Government Orders

Noon

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

moved:

That this House urge the government to: (a) play a leadership role in tackling global climate change and ensuring Canadian jobs aren’t lost as the rest of the world moves towards a new sustainable energy economy; (b) work in a leadership role at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Durban towards a binding climate change treaty with the goal of limiting average global temperature increases to 2°C; (c) recognize the real, science-based threat of global climate change, as well as respect and adhere to its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol and the Copenhagen Accord; and (d) take immediate action to lower net carbon emissions in Canada and increase Canadian trade with our major partners in a new sustainable energy economy.

Opposition Motion--Climate Change
Business of Supply
Government Orders

Noon

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Since today is the final allotted day for the supply period ending December 10, 2011, the House will go through the usual procedures to consider and dispose of the supply bill.

In view of recent practices, do hon. members agree that the bill be distributed now?

Opposition Motion--Climate Change
Business of Supply
Government Orders

Noon

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Opposition Motion--Climate Change
Business of Supply
Government Orders

Noon

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to share my time with the member for Terrebonne—Blainville.

I am very honoured to stand here today and debate this NDP motion on climate change and what is happening in Durban. I am proud to be here with my colleagues in the House who are clear supporters of internationally binding agreements when it comes to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and actually taking action on climate.

In question period afew weeks ago, the Minister of Natural Resources stood and responded to one of my questions. He said:

Mr. Speaker, the NDP members keep talking about the environment.

I would like to thank the minister for that observation. He is absolutely correct. We do stand up for the environment. I am proud to be here today once again standing up and talking about the environment in the House with an NDP opposition day motion that encourages the Canadian government to take a leadership role in tackling global climate change and ensuring that Canadian jobs are not lost as the rest of the world moves on toward a sustainable energy economy.

The minister pointed out that the NDP is always standing up for the environment because in his mind that cannot be done while we are also standing up for the Canadian economy. However, I believe that the environment and the economy absolutely go hand in hand, and we can work on both together.

I think the Conservative government lacks the creativity and vision to create an economic strategy that goes beyond the fossil fuel industry. This lack of creative vision and this attitude cuts short Canada's future economic possibilities and has led to a government that actually advocates and celebrates ecological destruction. We have heard its members applaud it here in the House.

We in the NDP think that our economic future is also our ecological future. We want to think about the economy for the next 20 or 30 years and recognize that there is more potential for innovation and job creation in a transition to a green economy. That is the end goal.

Before I was elected, I had the opportunity to work with a group of stakeholders on designing ratepayer-funded energy efficiency plans for the province. We were in a situation where the Nova Scotia power utility realized that it was cheaper to invest aggressively in energy efficiency than it was to continue on our path of increased energy use. This was a move that was good for the environment, but it was also really good for the utility's bottom line.

When we were designing these programs, we realized we needed a line item in the budget for training, because we knew that jobs would be created as a result of these programs and we knew that there was not the capacity in the community to actually fill these roles. Therefore, there was a specific line for training to create new jobs in energy efficiency, whether in auditing or doing home retrofits.

These are good-paying jobs that we cannot ship offshore. They are jobs that are not located in one city or one region. They are jobs that are in every community across Canada, and we are missing out on that with our failure to take action on climate change. We can see how the economy and the environment do go hand in hand if we just think strategically and creatively.

The Minister of the Environment has said that Canada will not agree to any international climate commitments unless big emitters such as India and China also follow suit. On the face of it, this sounds like a compelling argument. Of course we all want China and India to come on board, absolutely, and other rapidly industrializing countries should all be included in this international effort. However, I believe that the Conservatives only use this line to confuse and to create more deadlock and delay.

It is noteworthy that this minister calls China to task for not committing to a climate plan, but at the same time threatens the United States with the idea that we will sell our bitumen to China if the U.S. will not expand Keystone. What he is saying is China is a bad country for being a major emitter, but it is a good enough country for us to sell our raw products to. I think we cannot have it both ways.

The government's intentions here are transparent. It is trying to throw a monkey wrench into the good faith negotiations of other countries that want to take action on climate. We all know that if we really want these countries to come on board, the best way to do that is to lead, show good faith and take action domestically.

What the Conservatives are not telling Canadians about China is interesting. China is already aggressively investing in clean energy technology in a way that our own country is not. By failing to invest here in Canada, we are missing out on these economic opportunities. We see the government actively attempting to deadlock negotiations in the international community.

Canada is being left behind because of our failure to take action on the environment. The European commission has recommended a carbon penalty on our oil. The U.S. has ordered an environmental review of Keystone that takes into account climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. These are some of our strongest trading partners.

Canada is being punished because while other countries are moving ahead on climate, we are doing nothing. We have no plan on how to develop the oil sands. The oil sands are a precious natural resource, a resource we can use to leverage a larger transition to a green economy.

We need to go beyond thinking about the short-term and having that colony mentality, looking for the empire that will save us when we export our raw natural resources. We need to look to the next 20 to 30 years and think about our long-term energy future.

The Conservatives have absolutely no plan to make oil sands development consistent with the GHG or greenhouse gas reductions that we need to make through either technological investments or a diversification of strategy for our energy economy and for the economy of Alberta.

We need to diversify our energy economy. We need to invest equally in wind, solar and tidal energies. We need to think about how Canadian natural resources can benefit Canadians first. We need to invest aggressively in energy efficiency. We need an environment minister who understands that he is the Minister of the Environment and we need a Minister of Natural Resources who understands that he needs to advocate for all of our natural resources, not just one.

We have some mixed media reports coming out of Durban today, just an hour or so ago. Some reports say the minister has announced that Canada will formally withdraw from Kyoto and other reports say that is not in fact what he said, that what he said was that we are not going to recommit to Kyoto 2 or Kyoto plus, the next stage.

I just came from a meeting with the South African high commissioner where she laid out so eloquently what is happening on the world stage around Kyoto and Canada's involvement, Canada's active sabotaging of these international agreements.

It was eloquent and moving, and it made me quite sad to hear her first-hand account of what it is that Canada is doing and how we are failing on the national stage. She said that the worse thing that could happen in Durban is that Kyoto fails to exist, and with Canada passively sitting by and not doing anything, and with reports that Canada is actually pulling out, it just makes things worse.

She talked about how it would have been better for members and parties to the Kyoto protocol to drag their feet and maybe not even quite live up to the expectations than to have people pulling out altogether.

She talked about the equity involved internationally and how this is not something we can leave to developing countries or countries in the global south. They are not historic emitters. Countries like Canada are, so we need fair and equal but differentiated targets when it comes to countries around the world entering into these agreements if we are to have any success at all.

I am proud to have brought this motion forward today. I am saddened to see Canada's international reputation on this issue, but I am hopeful that the Conservatives are listening to this today and that they will take heed because there is always time to do the right thing.

Opposition Motion--Climate Change
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I am glad my colleague mentioned one thing that is key to this entire debate, and that is real action on climate change and Canada's actual leadership, being a leader in climate change mitigation and climate change strategy.

As someone who has worked with clean energy technologies for numerous years, I find it deeply disappointing that my colleague is not recognizing Canada's role in being a leader in developing clean energy technologies which are shared around the world.

When we talk about action, we should be talking about things like the billions and billions of dollars that our country has invested both industrially and through governments to support clean energy technologies. We are a leader in this areas.

It is very disappointing that the hon. member denigrates our country's reputation by listening to things that are not action focused and only rhetoric.

My question to her is this. After our government has spent billions of dollars on clean energy tech, after we have reduced our greenhouse gas emissions, after we are known internationally as a leader, three-quarters of our electricity production is produced by forces that do not produce greenhouse gas emissions. What is real action in her mind that will not damage our economy?

Opposition Motion--Climate Change
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for her question, but I would like to correct her. We have not reduced our greenhouse gas emissions. They have, in fact, gone up.

I do not think that the Minister of the Environment needs any more help denigrating Canada's good name from me. There is a full page ad in The Globe and Mail from South African leaders stating that, in the past, Canada was a leader that came to South Africa and dealt with apartheid. However, in 2011, Canada comes to South Africa and actually tries to disrupt the negotiations that are happening on climate change. I hope the Conservatives are not taking something like that lightly. It was an incredible move for them to point out to us what we are doing.

When it comes to the investments that the Conservatives say they are putting into green technologies, it is a shell game. We are not meeting our greenhouse gas emission reductions. The Commissioner of the Environment has said as much. It is all smoke and mirrors with the them.

Opposition Motion--Climate Change
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to point out that while the government allocated $9.2 billion in funds, it actually reduced its greenhouse gas emission targets by 90%.

I want to point out what is at stake.

Climate change means more extreme weather and impacts on people. It was a year of extremes in the United States as well as in southern Canada with 14 separate weather events which caused losses of $1 billion or more each. Extreme drought affected parts of the southern United States. The drought region made an exceptional summer for Texas, with a mean temperature 3°C above the long-term average and the highest temperature recorded for any state. This had impacts on agriculture, water, wildfires and dust storms. In a marked contrast, January to October was the wettest period in the northeast of the U.S. and the province of Quebec.

Climate change means more extreme events and more impacts on people.

Opposition Motion--Climate Change
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, my colleague pointed out some important information that I was not able to cover in my speech. Also, she is right to point out that we have reduced our greenhouse gas emission goals by 90%, but we are not going to meet them.

The member also talked about extreme weather. I have a friend, Sheila Zurbrigg, who is a professor at the medical school in Dalhousie University. She does the history of famine, which is a very interesting topic. She started to look at projections of what climate change would do to our planet when it comes to famine. When she talks about it, one can see in her eyes how urgent it is. She talks about an entirely new paradigm for this planet when it comes to famine because of the extreme weather. She knows how urgent it is. If they could hear the passion in her voice, the Conservatives would start to understand as well.

Opposition Motion--Climate Change
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Charmaine Borg Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in this House to represent young Canadians, who seem to have been forgotten by this government. I am proud to talk about issues that are close to my heart and to the hearts of my constituents. These issues are already affecting our communities and are threatening our future.

For over 30 years, hundreds of publications have been highlighting the various consequences of our ancestors' choices. For over 30 years, an international movement has been organized around the idea of improving our living conditions to give future generations the gift of a balanced and healthy environment. A number of national and international initiatives have been presented, approved and ratified by previous governments, which has enabled Canada to build a reputation as an international environmental leader.

Our reputation has really been tested since this Conservative government was elected. The government has repeatedly denied and refused to listen to the facts, studies and truths about climate change. I am appalled that a self-proclaimed responsible government is endangering its own children's future by denying well-documented scientific facts.

Many international experts agree on a number of facts that are evident when we look at the effects that have been directly experienced by Canadians. In Canada, temperatures have already increased by 1.3oC over the past 60 years. This has led to increased flooding in Quebec, for example, and the costs associated with these tragedies keep increasing as well. Something else that can affect the whole country is the transformation of seasonal landscapes. Heavy equipment operators, who transport large loads and equipment to support the economy in Canada's north, have noted that they are able to use ice roads for much shorter periods. Thousands of Canadians depend on these roads to receive essential commodities. A young Inuit man even went to Durban to talk about the consequences of climate change. These effects are threatening Canadians' lives. This many effects cannot be a lie.

The many disasters that have been happening outside Canada also attest to the consequences of climate change: the devastating fires in Russia, major floods in Thailand, increasingly extreme droughts in Africa, increasingly violent hurricanes in coastal regions, and the melting glaciers in Greenland, which will speed up the rise in global temperatures and the rise of sea levels. Concrete examples from around the globe support what scientists are saying. When we do not see these things with our own eyes, it is easy to ignore the facts or try to explain them all individually, without connecting the dots between them.

More and more Canadians need to use their cars, because the absence of a national transit strategy or green alternatives that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions is only making matters worse.

These data are not being invented by political lobby groups. More and more independent experts have condemned this government's failure to act and its laissez-faire attitude. Not only did the Conservatives fire Environment Canada experts who could have produced excellent scientific data specific to our needs, but they also like to ignore all science when it does not serve their purposes. That is what happened with Bill C-10, which is completely irresponsible. To young people, climate change is clearly not just a political theory, but rather a reality they need to face immediately in order to reduce the negative impact it will have on their future.

The Conservatives have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that they have failed when it comes to environmental vision and leadership. What is surprising, however, is that they are not taking advantage of this opportunity for Canada to become a global leader in green power production, given that climate change affects everyone. This economic vision would guarantee a future for our businesses and for Canadians, since we would be able to meet the rising global demand while creating thousands of well-paid jobs.

Unfortunately, with the end of government subsidies for programs like eco-energy after just one year, the small and medium businesses are the ones taking a direct hit. Many of my constituents will not have the opportunity to benefit from those subsidies. However, the biggest failure is that Canada has been alienating itself from its economic allies for the past few years. The hope for international co-operation, in which Canada would lead by example, is fading after the many fossil awards we have been winning these past few years.

My constituents have sent me hundreds of reply cards from my householders indicating how important the environment and international leadership are to them. They deplore Canada's new reputation, which does not reflect their many efforts and numerous accomplishments. They simply do not understand why individuals can be prepared to take action but the government is not willing to support them. The people of Terrebonne, Blainville and Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines are worried about the state of our environment.

In each of those towns that I proudly represent, we can easily find agencies, businesses and citizens' groups that struggle daily to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but more than anything, we find people who have taken their future into their own hands in order to ensure a better future for their children.

I would like to highlight the work of Compost Ste-Anne, a not-for-profit organization that helps the Town of Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines reduce its waste while creating jobs. That organization is celebrating its 10th anniversary today.

Young people are also showing leadership by becoming more informed and understanding the impact of their actions. Students from the Collège Saint-Sacrement are contributing to the environmental initiative in my region by setting up a sorting centre at their school. This summer, the young people from Terrebonne formed an environmental patrol that went door to door to inform families about how to protect their environment, how to recycle and how to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Even businesses in my region understand that a healthy environment is essential to a vibrant economy. That is why Tricentris obtained LEED certification.

The environment is such an important issue in my riding that people from one neighbourhood in Blainville fought to stop trees from being cut down in a wetland because they understand that our ecosystem needs those trees.

I have mentioned just a few of my constituents' initiatives. These people are committed to saving our planet because they realize there is a significant problem. The young patrollers and the Saint-Sacrement environmental committee know that we must take action now or our generation will inherit a massive problem. None of these people understand why their government is not on board with these initiatives. On the contrary, the government has decided to ignore the problems and to work against initiatives taken by the people.

Young people are increasingly cynical about politics, but I am proud to see that those in my riding realize that they can take their future into their own hands. I believe that it is my duty to support them during my term of office.

That is why I am pleased to represent the NDP, which has the courage to put forward bold environmental solutions to secure our economic future and offer Canadians an even more promising path: a path that recognizes the responsibility of the people's representatives towards youth and future generations; a path that recognizes the need to act now in order to lessen the economic and environmental burden that will be placed on my generation and those to come; a path that ensures that industry and the private sector work together to ensure a transition towards a clean environment and a green economy that is not dependent on fossil fuels.

In short, the Conservatives' lack of vision and responsibility is punitive for our children. The government is acting like an absent parent who does not take his or her responsibilities seriously. It is time to restore hope to future generations.

We need practical, science-based, fair, ambitious and binding legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We will not reach our targets with good faith and promises about taking action in the future, which is what this government is doing. It is time to revive the climate change accountability bill.

We need carbon emission regulations that will provide economic motivation for reductions to ensure that we can reach the targets to which we have made committed international commitments.

We need money to make this transition to a greener economy. It can be done if we make major emitters pay higher taxes and stop subsidizing the oil sector, the richest sector in Canada.

We must remain ahead of the game in order to take advantage of the considerable economic benefits resulting from the inevitable transition to a green economy. In the next 50 years, the oil sands resources will be depleted. We must build sustainable industries that will create more and more jobs across Canada. We must make long-term investments in programs such as the eco-energy initiative in order to motivate Canadians to decrease their energy consumption.

We must take action that reaches beyond policies and laws—not like the Liberals, who gave us the Kyoto protocol but, in the long term, failed to honour the commitments they made in that regard.

Finally, we must work together. We must recognize that we have an international responsibility since our choices influence other nations. We are all in this fight together. Young Canadians are growing up in a country that is currently seen by the world as a pariah because of the Liberals' broken promises and this government's complete lack of action.

It is time to act courageously. It is time to help Canadians regain their pride in their country. It is time this government recognized that science is right, that excellent solutions exist and that action will drive the economy and provide more sustainable jobs for future generations.

Opposition Motion--Climate Change
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, once again, let us talk about action.

My colleague opposite spoke about a legacy for our children. This weekend, in the NDP leadership debates, the candidates spoke about a carbon tax. Once again, the NDP has brought forth an economic policy that was not costed and not thought through with regard to long-term economic legitimacy or a legacy for our children.

One of my colleagues opposite also spoke earlier about clean energy tech investments being a shell game. Let us look at the tangible actions that have come out of our investments in clean energy tech. I would like my colleague opposite to answer the question, how is this a shell game? How are investments in R and D that reduced by 39% the per barrel GHG emissions for oil produced in our oil sands between 1990 and 2008 a shell game? How is R and D in geothermal heat, which is a lower-emission alternative to natural gas, a shell game? How is water treatment with respect to fresh water and enhancement of water recycling systems a shell game?

At the end of the day, our country is a leader in clean energy tech and in environmental stewardship. Please explain this.

Opposition Motion--Climate Change
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Charmaine Borg Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her question. This government insists that we must choose between the economy and the environment. However, it does not have to be a choice. We can combine the two things. We can invest in green energy. We are not currently doing so. We do not necessarily have to choose one or the other. We do not have to decide whether to invest in the economy or in the environment. In my opinion, the two go hand in hand.

Opposition Motion--Climate Change
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, the legacy the government will leave is potentially a $21 billion to $43 billion adaptation debt by 2050, annually.

Severe drought developed in parts of east Africa in late 2010 and continued through most of 2011. The most severely affected area encompassed parts of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. The humanitarian impacts of the drought were severe, especially in Somalia. They included significant famine and large-scale displacement of population.

The UN estimated that 13 million people required humanitarian aid. A camp in Kenya had 400,000 people, most of whom were from Somalia. Our office helped bring a true hero, Dr. Hawa Abdi, to Canada to tell her story about the hospital she built on the land and the over 100,000 refugees she cares for daily.

In Africa, climate change means the difference between life and death.

The government has an opportunity to help prevent drought by taking action on climate change.