House of Commons Hansard #116 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was environment.

Topics

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
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4 p.m.

NDP

Francine Raynault Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his remarks. There is a lot of talk about the environment, which is a hot button issue.

We know that the Liberals signed and ratified the Kyoto protocol. But why did the Liberal Party not do anything to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

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4 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, in truth, we did reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We also introduced a bill in the House to this effect, but it was defeated by the government.

I think that my colleague from Etobicoke North, an expert in the field, will answer that question.

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4 p.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, my distinguished colleague did not have time to talk about the effects of the closure of libraries and archives, and the lack of access to libraries and archives.

I would ask my colleague to speak briefly about the impact that this loss of knowledge and history will have.

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4 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, it will be very damaging in terms of both the teaching and appreciation of history. However, this is not just about history; we are also talking about getting rid of all the sources of information and every source that has to do with history, science and knowledge. Both members and the public need this information. The public is affected by this decision.

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4 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government thinks it is promoting oil internationally, the tar sands, yet it has taken such a retrograde attack on anybody who asks questions. It is so militant about dismantling the process.

Does my hon. colleague not think good luck to poor Enbridge trying to sell its products internationally, when it has to explain that it is coming from a country that has stripped environmental standards down to third world conditions, that in the end what the government has created is a situation where it will be considered an environmental pariah on the international stage because of its continual militant attacks on basic public process, basic public participation, and vilification of anyone who speaks out, that at the end of the day the last thing big oil wants is to have friends like that?

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4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, what is disconcerting is not only the overall approach with respect to environmental protection, or the absence regarding environmental protection, but the prospective chilling effect that the critiques of critics have on the overall discussion of this issue as a whole.

We saw the same thing with regard to Bill C-10. We see the same thing with regard to Bill C-26.

There is a pattern here in which those who criticize the government, if it is in matters of criminal justice, are said to be on the side of the criminals and not on the side of the victims, or on the side of the child pornographers and not on the side of those who seek to protect children.

This kind of indictment, and it is not even by innuendo but indeed indictment, by chilling debate, by silencing dissent, does credit neither to the substance of the legislation, which should be allowed to be debated on the merits, and there is no more compelling concern in that regard than that which relates to the environment, nor to the democratic process itself, which should allow for all forms of discussion, debate, dissent, critique and the like.

We are missing this, not only in this debate but on other bills as well.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
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4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is a profoundly sad time for Canada. The government is gutting 50 years of environmental oversight and threatening the health and safety of Canadians, our communities, our economy and our livelihoods.

We need to be very clear that when the government came to power it inherited a legacy of balanced budgets but soon plunged us into deficit before the recession ever hit. It is absolutely negligent and shameful that the government would gut environmental safeguards to fast track development rather than promote sustainable development, development that meets the needs of today without compromising those of the future.

The government did not campaign in the last election on gutting environmental protection. Canadians should, therefore, rise up, have their voices heard and stop the Prime Minister's destruction of laws that protect the environment and the health and safety of Canadians. In fact, Maurice Strong, a prominent Canadian who spearheaded the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, just this week urged people who are concerned about the future of the environment to do an end run around the federal government. He urged grassroots groups to mobilize and make full use of social media, saying that there was still some time to bring the pressure of people power.

Instead of understanding the gravity of the situation and standing up for the environment, the Conservative government returns to tired talking points and trying to score political points by attacking the former Liberal leader, saying that the Liberals took no action on climate change, when it knows that is absolutely false. The Liberals implemented project green, which would have taken us 80% of the way to meeting our Kyoto targets. The Conservatives killed project green, reduced our greenhouse gas emissions target by an astonishing 90%, walked away from Kyoto, having just repealed the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act and continue to ignore the fact that failing to take action on climate change will cost Canadians $21 billion to $43 billion annually by 2050.

Maurice Strong says that the government may be totally negative when it comes to being a constructive force in mitigating climate change. For example, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment continues to rail against Kyoto. Is she aware, however, that her own minister has, for the second time, said that Kyoto was a good idea in its time? He first said it to The Huffington Post and has now said it to the BBC.

Norway's former prime minister, former chair of the World Commission on Environment and Development and former director general of the World Health Organization, Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, recently said that Canada was moving backward on the issue of climate change and warned Canada not to be naive on the issue. She recently told delegates in Canada that despite the weaknesses of the Kyoto protocol, the world could not afford to push it aside without an alternative, as emissions are continually rising. When questioned about the link between human activity and climate change, she said, “Politicians and others that question the science, that’s not the right thing to do. We have to base ourselves on evidence”.

While the Conservative government claims a balanced approach to protecting the environment and promoting economic growth, when has the parliamentary secretary or the minister actually ever stood up for the environment? Was it through cuts to Environment Canada, cuts to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency or cuts to ozone monitoring? The list of cuts goes on and on.

Canadians should not be fooled by mere snippets of environmental protection but should in fact pay attention to the government's reducing budgets at Environment Canada and other investments on environmental protection and research by hundreds of millions of dollars while maintaining several tax incentives for the oil and gas sector that the Minister of Finance's department recommended eliminating in a secret memo.

After we vote against this kitchen sink budget, a budget that devotes 150 pages of a 400-page budget to environmental gutting, the Conservative government will stand up and say that the opposition voted against some good things for the environment. However, the government gives us absolutely no choice, as we simply cannot vote for the wholesale destruction of environmental legislation and 50 years of safeguards.

If the parliamentary secretary, the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Natural Resources really believe that Bill C-38, the kitchen sink bill, is good for the environment, they should have the courage to hive off the sections on environmental protection and send them to the relevant committees for clause by clause study under public scrutiny, and end their affront to democracy.

I have a list of cuts to Environment Canada and just some of the changes on the environment to be found in Bill C-38. There are cuts of 200 positions at Environment Canada. Last summer the government announced cuts of 700 positions and a 43% cut to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. There are cuts to research and monitoring initiatives, air pollution, industrial emissions, water quality, waste water and partnerships for a greener economy, cuts of $3.8 million for emergency disaster response, and consolidating the unit that responds to oil spill emergencies in central Canada, namely Gatineau and Montreal, far from where emergencies, including those involving diluted bitumen, might occur on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts and along the proposed route of the northern gateway pipeline project.

The government has repealed the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act. It has repealed the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, which allows the federal government to avoid environmental reviews of many potentially harmful projects and to do less comprehensive reviews where they still occur.

Canada's environment commissioner says that the changes are among the most significant policy development in 30 or 40 years and that there will be a significant narrowing of public participation.

While the Minister of Natural Resources complains:

...our inefficient, duplicative and unpredictable regulatory system is an impediment. It is complex, slow-moving and wasteful. It subjects major projects to unpredictable and potentially endless delays.

Premier Jean Charest says:

In Quebec, we've very well mastered the ability of doing joint assessments. ... I have learned, through my experiences, that trying to short circuit to reduce the process will only make it longer, and it is better to have a rigorous, solid process. It gives a better outcome, and for those who are promoting projects, it will give them more predictability than if not.

There are more changes: the weakening of several environmental laws, including species at risk and water; the near-elimination of fish habitat in the Fisheries Act, putting species from coast to coast to coast at increased risk of habitat flaws and population decline; the authority of the federal cabinet to approve new pipeline projects above the National Energy Board; and the elimination of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, the independent think tank with a direct mandate from Parliament. The minister has never said what will replace it. The head of NRT does not know either, as what it does is unique. As well, we see the silencing of government critics through changes to the Canada Revenue Agency and the attempts to seize control of the university research agenda.

The government should be able to stand on its own merits. It should be able to withstand criticism. Instead of making its arguments, it is just looking to eliminate dissent.

For decades, Canadians have depended on the federal government to safeguard our families and nature from pollution, toxic contamination and other environmental problems through a safety net of environmental laws. This bill shreds this environmental safety net to fast-track development at the expense of all Canadians.

Instead, the government could have implemented my Motions Nos. 322, 323 and 325, which focused on Canada's commitment to sustainable development, recognizing that it was not a choice between saving the economy and the environment and, therefore, working with the provinces, territories and stakeholders to develop a green economy strategy and a national sustainable energy strategy to build the jobs of the future for our communities and for Canada.

When we compromise the air, water, soil and a variety of life, we steal from the endless future to serve the fleeting present.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
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4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I fundamentally disagree with all of the member's speech this afternoon, but I did enjoy listening to her dissertation on what she believes may happen and to the fearmongering that goes with it.

Assuming that the member for Etobicoke North believes in balanced budgets, what would the member and her party do to balance the budget? Would there be any cuts that she would recommend be made to the Government of Canada?

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4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am always evidenced-based, fact-based. This was a well-researched piece of work.

I will present the evidence for the hon. member. The environment is not a Conservative priority. In 2008, the climate change performance index ranked Canada 56th of 57 countries in terms of tackling emissions. In 2009, the Conference Board of Canada ranked Canada 15th of 17 wealthy industrial nations on environmental performance. In 2010, SFU ranked Canada 24th of 25 OECD nations on environmental performance. Most recently, the environmental performance index ranked Canada 102nd out of 132 countries on climate change. In 2006, the Prime Minister remarked, “Canada's environmental performance is, by most measures, the worst in the developed world. We have big problems”.

This budget should have taken action to protect the environment, not gut it.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
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4:15 p.m.

NDP

Anne-Marie Day Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for her charming speech.

When we talk about sustainable development, we are talking about development that we will be leaving to future generations. I have one daughter who is 26 years old and another who is 21. It is our young people who will be here tomorrow and who will look after our country's future.

When we talk about the environment, we are talking about the security of these young people. When we talk about oil development, about big businesses that exploit and export everything abroad without considering the cost to the environment, we are putting future generations in debt.

Yes, the budget is balanced, but by bringing down a balanced budget, the government is putting future generations in debt. They are the ones who will have to clean up the environmental mess we are making today. What does the member think of that?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
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4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I absolutely agree with the hon. member. Climate change is our most pressing environmental issue. It requires moral responsibility and intergenerational responsibility. The government does not appreciate that. While it says that it is financially accountable, if it does not take action on climate change today, the costs annually by 2050 will be $21 billion to $43 billion for our children.

I just returned from Bangladesh, which has a population of 160 million. It is twice the size of New Brunswick and it produces less greenhouse gases than Manhattan. With the one-metre sea level rise, that will affect 20% of its land mass and affect 20 million people.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
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4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, an area in my riding of Kingston and the Islands is contaminated with heavy metal from about 100 years ago. It is pretty much unusable. We cannot touch the land. We cannot disturb the soil.

This is an economic burden on my riding of Kingston and the Islands today. It is a tax, really. Is that not an example of how lax environmental regulations from 100 years ago have an effect for decades afterwards on the local economy?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
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4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is absolutely correct. What scares me most about this budget is that it will not affect a few years; the gutting of environmental legislation will affect our country for decades to come.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
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4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Scarborough-Southwest, Public Transit; the hon. member for Manicouagan, Aboriginal Affairs; the hon. member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Fisheries and Oceans.

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May 3rd, 2012 / 4:20 p.m.

Delta—Richmond East
B.C.

Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Burlington.

I am proud to rise today in support of our Conservative government's 2011 budget plan. This plan is a cornerstone of our continuing unwavering commitment to provide Canadians with a stable economic road map within a thoughtful, comprehensive economic action plan.

The budget showcases a long-term prosperity vision for Canada through reasonable, pragmatic measures designed to maintain our enviable economic record and demonstrate our faith in the vibrant Canadian spirit, forged out of hard work, faith, common enterprise, ingenuity and compassion.

What is our focus? What is our agenda? Our focus, our agenda, is a stable stewardship of our economy to maintain and increase our prospects for success in the short term, in the medium term and in the long term. It is to foster a future Canada that works efficiently for us now and for our children and grandchildren, a Canada that is welcoming and productive and allows all Canadians the opportunity to live full and rewarding lives, a Canada that is prosperous enough that we can continue to support those of us in need and those around the world who need a hand up.

All of these noble ambitions require a foundational economic and financial strength for which our economic action plan sets a solid framework.

We cannot foretell all that is ahead of us. We cannot foretell, most assuredly, the actions and consequences of the decisions of other countries with whom we are interdependent in a global economic balance, but we can do our part and more within our sovereign borders to ensure that we are in a position to weather the storms that may come. We can ensure that we are flexible enough to deal with contingencies in an intelligent and caring manner and solid enough to plan ahead, so that a prosperous future does not have to include taking Draconian overnight steps because we have no choice but to raise taxes and overburden Canadian families and businesses.

It supports a future built on bold ambition that has at its core the certain belief that Canadians are capable of all things: of worthy endeavour in the arts and in business, of global competitiveness, of innovation that will amaze us and save lives, of all the stuff that dreams are made of.

We will improve Canada's labour market through employment programs and skills training for young Canadians, older workers, Canadians with disabilities and first nations; building a fast and flexible economic immigration system that responds to labour market demands; improving the employment insurance program; and better integrating high-quality researchers in the labour market. We will boost economic growth and job creation through supporting and fostering innovation, investment, education and skills.

How will we do this? Among the many initiatives outlined in the budget, I would like to highlight a few.

We will invest over $1 billion to support science and technology and we will provide $500 million to encourage innovative start-up companies.

Our government will ensure responsible resource development by streamlining the review process, something provincial and territorial governments and industry have been requesting for a long time. This streamlining will ensure reasonable timelines and clarity around the process requirements without compromising, and in fact strengthening, environmental oversight and while meeting strong federal standards.

We will expand free trade, which our Prime Minister and cabinet have been hard at work promoting.

The hiring credit for small business will be extended, something that will particularly help many in my riding.

The budget will provide $150 million over two years for the new community infrastructure improvement fund, $5.2 billion over 11 years to renew the Canadian Coast Guard, a vital resource in our coastal communities, and $275 million over three years to support first nations education and schools.

Specific programs will be aimed at attracting skilled immigrants to match our country's economic needs.

Our government will change our old age security delivery to ensure that younger workers today will also have this social program available when they are older, and we will phase in a proactive enrolment regime for both OAS and GIS, which will be warmly welcomed by the elderly and their caregivers.

We are also promoting more active lifestyles for all ages and enhancing the victims fund to continue our quest to better acknowledge the voices of victims in our federal justice and corrections system.

To my mind, the great news from this 2011 budget is that we will achieve all of these improvements without raising taxes and without slashing transfers to health, education or support for seniors.

In fact, we Conservatives have cut taxes over 140 times since forming government. From cutting tax rates and increasing tax credits to making our tax reporting system more reasonable and supporting families with both able-bodied and disabled members, we have provided savings for a typical Canadian family of over $3,100 per year.

Due in part to our government's low-tax approach, a stark contrast to the NDP and Liberals' higher-tax programs and philosophies, and the amazing fact, verified by the International Monetary Fund, that our net debt to GDP ratio remains the lowest in the G7, Forbes magazine has ranked Canada number one in the world—let me repeat that: number one in the world—for businesses to grow and create jobs.

Canadians do not need the federal government to hold their hands every step of the way, as we are a nation forged on resiliency and a desire for freedom, but Canadians do need us to clear a path. If that path can be well defined and well lit, all the better, but the fact that such a pathway exists is all that some Canadians need to move forward.

We need to show ourselves as partners of Canadian enterprise and achievement, not as an extra burden. Everyone must contribute, of course, but confidence to achieve and to have the ability to help others whose time has not yet come often requires the incentive that a prudent, caring government can provide.

This is such a budget. This is such a time. This is Canada's century. We are being noticed as never before around the world. We are being recognized as never before as leaders out of the despair and confusion of runaway debt. We are the true north, strong and free, and I am proud to be a part of it, proud of who we are and who we intend to be.