Madam Speaker, it is always a pleasure to debate the federal government’s climate ambitions and the Liberal Party’s commitments in Bill C-12.
We are in quite a predicament. On the one hand, the Liberals want to accelerate the debate because they have just realized that they did not give Bill C-12 enough priority in their parliamentary calendar. On the other hand, the Conservatives have tabled a motion in amendment seeking, not to modify Bill C-12, but to draw the debate out and have “the House decline to give second reading to Bill C-12”. That is something.
It is ironic that the motion to amend asks the government to “implement a plan that recognizes climate change is real”, when the Conservative Party does not even recognize climate change exists. I would like to remind members that, at their convention a few weeks ago, 54% of Conservative members rejected a motion to recognize the existence of climate change. Regardless of what the party leader said to try to rectify the situation, the members were clear and, as a result, the environmental plan they tabled a few days later has no credibility at all.
The Conservatives want the government to fight climate change “while also ensuring that economic development and job growth can flourish all across Canada”. We understand that that is the Conservatives’ greatest fear; for them, a green shift means an economy in tatters. Just last week, a Conservative member moved a motion asking that the government recognize that “replacing oil and gas with more environmentally sustainable options is not technologically or economically feasible”. That is rich. Not only is it excessive to ask the government to do something like that, it is also irresponsible to make such a statement unequivocally. I fear that people will be misled.
Quebec is living proof that polluting fuels can be replaced by clean energy and that the green shift is good for the economy. Quebec is a champion for green energy and the reason Canada enjoys an enviable position on the world stage. We have an advantage over the 50 U.S. states and the other Canadian provinces thanks to these investments, and the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry said as much recently. The green technologies developed in Quebec are already being marketed outside the country, and the benefits for Quebeckers are significant. For example, Hydro-Québec has signed agreements with New York, Vermont and Massachusetts.
There is much to reproach the government for, but it has understood one thing: we need to move forward with the development of green energy, because it is good for the planet and for the economy. We need to stop thinking about the environment and the economy as mutually exclusive, because they are actually complementary.
The Conservatives' amendment also tries to make the government admit that the members it appointed to the advisory group provided for in the bill included “climate activists whose influence, if acted upon, would lead to the destruction of the oil and gas sector, disproportionally threaten certain regions of the country and their essential industries, and weaken national unity.”
Once again, that is quite a statement. Of course, we are not surprised that the Conservative Party is defending the oil and gas sectors. Equally unsurprisingly, climate and environmental policy experts say that these two sectors are harmful to the environment. We cannot bury our heads in the sand. It would be surprising if the experts said that in order to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, we need to continue investing heavily in the oil and gas industry. That would be very surprising.
I expect that the experts are well aware that this industry is the Achilles heel of the government's climate ambitions, and that they are also aware that supporting the industry is not viable in the short, medium or long term if we want to meet our greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.
The government is certainly being ambitious with its targets, but it is becoming difficult to follow. Since the Liberal Party came to power, its greenhouse gas emission reduction target has been 30% below 2005 levels by 2030, which was the same target established by the Paris Agreement and Stephen Harper's government.
The climate plan presented last December proposed to exceed this target. With the increase in the federal carbon tax, we could now expect a 31% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The target in last Monday's budget was a 36% reduction by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. This new target was soon superseded when, on the margins of the climate summit hosted by U.S. President Joe Biden last Thursday, the Prime Minister of Canada announced a new target, or rather a range of targets.
Apparently, the target is now at least 40%, the minimum target that countries had to commit to in order to participate in the summit, but it could reach 45% if all goes well. The problem is that the $17.6 billion in green investments set out in the budget will allow us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 36%, not 40% or 45%.
Normand Mousseau, a physics professor at the Université de Montréal, says that if all of the greenhouse gas reduction measures work, in the best-case scenario, we would see a 23% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030.
In an interview on Friday, he said that based on what is happening in other countries, a carbon tax alone is not enough to meet our targets. We need to create new standards or new regulations to decarbonize certain industries.
The federal government announced several billion dollars in investments, but the amounts are not aligned with the recently announced greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.
We believe that this 40% or 45% reduction is more hot air than a real commitment. We believe that a real commitment would be ending support to the oil and gas industries. We believe that a real commitment would be announcing that we will never again finance a pipeline. We believe that a real commitment would start by incorporating the new target, whatever it is, into Bill C-12, which has not yet been done.
As the bill now reads, the minister must set a target for each milestone year, and the targets will be set one at a time, five years before the beginning of the milestone year to which they relate.
The problem is that the government refuses to include 2025 as a milestone year, because it is too soon or, more likely, because it would be unable to meet the target.
That means the first milestone year in Bill C-12 is 2030, and the target is a reduction of at least 40% in greenhouse gas emissions. I find it odd that the government is setting such a high bar for 2030 without establishing a means of measuring its progress before 2030, since that is the very purpose of the bill.
During question period last week, I asked the Minister of the Environment if the new Liberal target would be included in Bill C-12. The hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie, who appears to be acting as the new minister of the environment, answered that yes, it would be included.
Before I get too excited, I wonder whether the actual Minister of the Environment endorses this commitment and whether he will propose an amendment to his bill to fulfill it. I sincerely hope so, because it is ridiculous to have a climate act without a greenhouse gas reduction target. It is also ridiculous to say that the minister will set the target once the act is in effect, and it is still more ridiculous to say that he can change the targets as he goes along.
Bill C-12 must show Canadians that Canada is truly meeting its greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. The act must be transparent and include a real accountability and reporting mechanism, because we are talking about climate accountability.
Seeing the Prime Minister make a commitment on the international stage is encouraging. It seems promising, and it is cute to do it on Earth Day. However, we must not forget that Canada has never succeeded in meeting any of the greenhouse gas emission reduction targets it has set over the years. Kyoto, Copenhagen, Paris: the Government of Canada has failed lamentably each time.
Moreover, Canada is at the bottom of the class. It is the only G7 country where greenhouse gas emissions have increased since 2015. Why? Because it is an oil-producing country and it is incapable of stopping.
All this makes me think of the concept of “doublethink” from George Orwell's 1984. I am not saying that this government and the regime in Orwell's novel are anything alike, but the Liberals' environmental discourse is a perfect example of doublethink. According to Orwell, doublethink is the ability to hold two conflicting opinions simultaneously by suspending critical thinking. In Orwell's words, doublethink means “to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic”.
In my opinion, that perfectly describes the Liberals' strategy when it comes to climate change. The Liberals know they have to act, so they talk about a green recovery, the electrification of transportation and bioforestry. At the same time, however, they continue to subsidize the oil and gas industry heavily. They spend billions to buy an oil pipeline and even allow companies to drill for oil without environmental assessments.
The unbelievable thing is that they are convinced that they are doing the right thing, precisely because they are applying doublethink to climate change. The Liberals know that they are contradicting themselves, but they still believe in the virtue of these two diametrically opposed visions. They are not fooling anyone. Most of us actually have more confidence in Joe Biden, the new U.S. President, whose intentions are clear.
President Biden has announced that the United States will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 50% to 52% by 2030. Remember, the U.S. is also an oil-producing country. In fact, it produces more oil than Canada and has a larger population, but its target is more ambitious than ours. This is not a competition, but at least the United States has started working harder, and it even had to pressure Canada to do the same.
I sincerely hope that the Liberal government hears this message and that it is serious about its ambitions and commitments, because we are in a climate crisis. Time is running out.