Madam Speaker, I thank all my hon. colleagues for their keen interest in ensuring we have quorum. I want to particularly thank the hon. member for Whitby, who I know had to interrupt a very important meeting on climate finance.
I want to recognize that one of the pieces of this fall economic statement will be much improved when we move ahead with climate finance reforms. I particularly want to mention that, from the other place, we will eventually, I hope, be seeing Bill S-243, which would ensure that the climate and the financial sector line up and align with climate goals.
I will go back to what I was saying before. When we look at the situation in which we find ourselves, Canadians do need help in the short term. The source for that help must be going after the excess profits of large sectors, such as the fossil fuels sector, the financial sector, the banking and insurance sectors, and the grocery store chains, if it can be established that those are indeed excess profits, as has been alleged so very effectively by colleagues in the New Democratic Party.
We do know that there are things we can do to weather storms by taking care of each other. Looking at this financial update, it is very notable.
I believe this is the first time I have read a document prepared by Finance Canada that does not treat the climate crisis as an environmental issue that we must spend money on.
For the first time, in this fall economic statement, in the government's explanation of the current problems, crises and challenges, it is clear that the climate crisis is not just one of the problems, it is one of the causes of our economic situation.
For the first time, in reading this fall economic statement, it appears that, increasingly, Finance Canada recognizes a threat to our economic health, and a cause of the instability globally that we face, is the climate crisis. References in this fall economic statement are not just for having a fund, but I am pleased to see investment tax credits to more clean-tech development. I will flag that small modular reactors should not be on that list, but rather for solar, wind, low-flow hydro, geothermal and other technologies that allow us to avoid waste of energy, all of this is really good stuff, but that is not what I am talking about.
I am talking about where Finance Canada notes that the disruption of supply chains are caused, at least in part, by climate crisis events, such as the disruption of supply chains when goods could not get to market when the water was so low in the Mississippi River that Canadian bitumen could not reach refineries in the U.S. There were interruptions to supply chains created by things such as atmospheric rivers that wiped out the roads to the Lower Mainland of Vancouver, and we are still paying.
This fall economic statement points to the costs that will continue to be experienced, and the need to help Atlantic Canada and eastern Quebec, which have ongoing costs and need help to recover from hurricane Fiona. We still have billions of dollars from last year's fall economic statement to help British Columbia recover. After that set of atmospheric river events we had last fall, members should recall that every single land connection route to Vancouver, the largest city in western Canada, was disabled for a period of time, and that had an effect on supply chains.
Supply chains are affected by the climate crisis, and so too are the large economic events created by the climate crisis. In real terms, droughts in other countries around the world drive up food prices for what Canadians pay in the stores. The climate crisis is not a separate environmental issue that requires spending, but it has actually become, and has begun to be seen in Finance Canada, as part of the fabric of the economic situation in which we find ourselves.
I will go further. I said earlier that this is not our classic demand-driven inflation. Largely, what we are experiencing now is a supply-driven increase in costs because of Putin's invasion of Ukraine and the climate crisis events, which are, in real terms, making things cost more. When things really cost more, the tools we have in monetary policy and the Bank of Canada raising the rates will not have the same salutary effect as when we were dealing with an inflation crisis in the early seventies and then prime minister Pierre Trudeau brought in emergency wage and price controls. That is not what we are experiencing now. We have real cost increases because of a real war and because of a climate emergency. The costs and prices are uneven and all over the map.
Therefore, when we look at the threats to our economy of the climate emergency, we have to realize we need to do much more. This is clear from the way this document is prepared, whether or not it is being said out loud yet in Finance Canada. I have never read a document from Finance Canada, ever, that had so many references to the multiple ways in which the climate crisis is impacting our economy, all of them negative.
I look to one point, though, and I think we are ignoring an opportunity we need to seize. The hon. Minister of Finance's introductory remarks point to a moment back in 1903 when then prime minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier told the House we could not wait and it was the time for action. He was referring to the challenge of building a transcontinental railway. For the moment, I will skip over the cost in human lives and the impact of seizing indigenous lands in building that railway, but let us just say right now that we have a similar challenge, and we are ignoring it: How do we link our electricity grids together?
The essence is a 100% carbon-free, not carbon-neutral but carbon-free, electricity grid, with electricity moving through it from, for example, solar power. Alberta will be the big winner in solar power. Cheaper electricity can be produced by solar in Alberta than anywhere else in the country. There is our existing hydro in B.C., and I wish to goodness we were not talking about Site C, but we can do much more with renewable energy across Canada, and the storage system we mostly need is that our grid should work. It should work east to west and north to south.
We are not talking about that in this fall economic statement. We are not really addressing it anywhere, because we run up against the perennial problem of federation. We cannot ship beer across Canada, and we cannot ship electricity. We cannot get electricity from Manitoba Hydro across from eastern Manitoba to western Ontario, because we do not have interties, and that area, I happen to know well, is important boreal forest. We should have interties, but that is indigenous land. If we honour UNDRIP, which we must, it requires free, prior and informed consent before we even start drawing lines on the map for the electricity grid.
We know there are private sector entrepreneurs already who see the way they can get electricity from Hydro-Québec to Nunavut. We have to think big, and we have to recognize that, just as in 1903 the challenge was building a trans-Canadian railway, we need, as a modern industrialized country, to have a trans-Canadian electricity grid, because the grid is the battery.
I will just give one short example. In Europe, with separate nation states within the European Union, they actually coordinate and work better together than our provinces and territories work with the federal government. It is appalling, but true. Denmark produces so much excess wind energy that it sells its excess wind energy to Norway. Norway buys the cheap, green wind energy from Denmark, and if Norway does not need the energy that day, it pumps that energy up into existing reservoirs, which is called pump storage and is one of the technologies mentioned here. It stays there until Norway needs it. They open up the sluices; the water follows gravity and it drives the turbines, and then, when the cheap wind energy comes over from Denmark they pump it back up.
It is elegant. It is simple. It is an international exchange of electricity that we cannot do in Canada because we do not have the interties, and it is a big project. It needs to be mentioned and it needs to be thought through.
I will close on these points. This increase in costs that Canadians are feeling is not from our normal inflation. It is not demand-driven. It is not normal inflation in the sense that it is not demand-driven primarily, although it is partly. It is largely being driven by a war in Ukraine.
We Canadians support Ukraine. We believe that President Zelenskyy's bravery and that of the Ukrainian people must be reflected in our solidarity with them. However, in that solidarity, we must do much, much more to achieve peace and push for it. This is relevant to the fall economic statement because so much of the increased prices we are experiencing here are because of Putin's brutal, illegal, immoral war on Ukraine.
We must use every lever as a soft power to push for peace talks and push for ceasefires. It is not good enough to say “We stand with Ukraine” and “Slava Ukraini”. We have to do more for peace because we are a country that can do that. We may have to say to our NATO allies that if belonging to NATO means we really cannot help Ukraine, maybe we do not belong in NATO. If NATO cannot work for peace and work for nuclear disarmament, maybe it is time to ask our NATO allies this: What good is an alliance that cannot protect Ukraine because of nuclear weapons inside NATO and inside Russia that threaten us all?
We have to face the real costs that are going up. We have to face multiple crises at the same time to avoid a global food crisis and avoid a global water crisis. We must do more in this country as global leaders on climate change.
That means stopping the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and converting that Crown corporation into other uses that are actually beneficial for Canadians, such as building resiliency across this country and building the infrastructure we need. We do not need the Trans Mountain expansion. In the words of António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, it represents “moral and economic madness”. So too does expanding the drilling off the coast of Newfoundland in Bay du Nord. So too does continuing fracking across Canada while pretending that Canadian liquefied natural gas is somehow better than coal.
We must face the economic reality, the reality of the war and the reality of climate change. We must face all these realities.
We can actually avoid the worst of climate change by changing course quickly. We can follow the indicators that the Minister of Finance has given us in this budget and say that by spring 2023, let the budget stand for Canada laying down the marker that we move according to science. Let us move off fossil fuels, protect the workers in that sector and make sure that Canadians are in a house that can stand the coming storms.