Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good afternoon, ladies and gentleman, it's a pleasure for me to speak to you today to express my support, and to provide context for the greenhouse gas pollution pricing act, part 5 of Bill C-74.
This legislation, the backbone for the federal government's approach to climate change, will complement the measures already taken by Canada's provinces. It will allow provinces without carbon pricing systems to benefit from the federal architecture to impose a carbon price, and will allow them to receive revenue collected from it. This combination of federal policy with provincial-level flexibility recognizes the diversity of provincial economies, yet allows for federal leadership on climate change, which is so important.
This bill guarantees that carbon prices will apply on nearly all emissions from energy used in Canada, from the cars on the 401 and the 417, to the largest industrial facilities in Canada. The bill provides for the federal price to be applied in provinces without sufficiently stringent carbon pricing policy.
Assuming no changes in provincial policy, implementation of this bill would likely exempt the provinces of B.C., Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, and most likely Manitoba. These provinces, home to 90% of Canada's population and responsible for 83% of Canada's emissions, would be potentially subject to this legislation were their domestic climate change policies to be significantly weakened.
Why have a carbon a price? Simply put, carbon price leverages the power of the market to enable emission reductions at the lowest possible cost. It does not rely on governments to determine who should emit, or what technology they should use to do so. It relies on individuals to make decisions where they are best suited to do so.
The carbon pricing plan proposed in this bill, just like current policies in B.C., Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec, puts the price on carbon emissions from most sources, not just large industrial facilities. The broader the price is on carbon, the lower the price will be to meet any given target, or the greater the emission reductions will be from any given carbon price.
Of course, as we know, carbon emissions in Canada are not just a big industry issue and certainly not just an oil and gas issue.
Do carbon prices work? That's probably a question you're hearing a lot on this committee, and the answer is simply, yes. We have plenty of evidence from B.C.'s carbon tax, which has been in place since 2008, that carbon prices do reduce emissions below where they would otherwise be. If you want to look up some work on this, work by Nic Rivers at the University of Ottawa, among others, has shown this conclusively.
This doesn't mean they're magic. They will not always lead to emissions being lower than they have historically been, especially when macroeconomic growth is rapid, something we've seen in Alberta for years, or when technological change is slow. However, let me assure you, and put on the record, that demand curves slope downwards despite frequent claims to the contrary.
When emissions have a price, we'll use fewer of them.
If you think of innovation and technological change as the solution to climate change, a carbon price is your best policy choice. When asked how governments can spur innovation and green tech, Syracuse University's David Popp provided five rules for government in a report published by the C.D. Howe Institute. The first of these is carbon price, carbon price, carbon price, because in his words, "Supporting technology development means not only investing in new technologies but also creating demand for clean technologies throughout the economy.” That happens organically with a carbon price. A carbon price is also a useful alternative to governments picking winners with regulations and subsidies.
Therefore, why not just have a big federal policy? Why not just have a one-size-fits-all federal plan in this regard? I think that would be a poor decision because our provincial economies are very different—I've done a lot of work in Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec—as our emissions profiles are very different, as are the means to reduce emissions. I have a couple of examples. If you look at some of our provinces, we still generate a lot of our electricity from fossil fuel sources, whereas in other provinces, electricity is already zero carbon. That in and of itself provides different opportunities.
If you look at my home province of Alberta, about a quarter of our GDP comes from sectors which are described as emissions intensive and trade exposed. It means they're vulnerable to possible emissions leakage, so Alberta designed a program to mitigate that. If you tried to pick the same policy to work for Ontario that worked in Alberta, you'd find that the policy didn't fit very well.
Finally, of course, is the use of revenues. You can see different choices made across the country to meet provincial goals.
Therefore, I think the federal government has chosen wisely here, not only providing the provinces with the means to select their own policies but also to determine the uses of revenue from these federally imposed carbon prices.
Here again, I think this is an area where provinces are going to have different priorities and different ideal uses of revenues. Trevor Tombe recently put forward a proposal for Ontario that would see, without altering the income distribution, a carbon tax used to expand the sales tax credit by 80% and to eliminate the health care premium.
Obviously in Alberta and B.C., we've chosen more progressive policies, which have made the bottom 40% to 50% of households better off with the carbon tax than they were without.
I think these choices are better made provincially than federally.
Just to wrap up, I do have a couple of concerns with this legislation. I am concerned a little bit with the discretion provided to the Governor in Council to apply measures to provinces.
Clause 189 indicates that the cabinet may take into account any factor it considers appropriate, including the stringency of carbon pricing mechanisms, to determine whether a province should be covered. Here I'd like to see a cleaner definition of “stringency”; and conveniently, a price on carbon gives you that. A test judged by that standard would prevent an outcome where cabinet sees fit to apply to one province a price on carbon far higher than it would allow to be applied in others.
I am also concerned a bit with clause 188, which determines the distribution of revenues from the carbon tax to specified provinces. I think what we want to make sure of here is that the implications are clear that the revenues collected in these bills will be distributed to the provinces independent of other transfer decisions of the federal government.
Overall, though, it's my pleasure to be here with you today to express my support for this bill.
Thank you for your attention and for setting time aside for me. I will be happy to answer your questions.