Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I hope nothing will happen, but if ever there was a problem during my testimony, I feel like I am in good hands with a cardiologist sitting next to me.
Mr. Chair, distinguished members of the Standing Committee on Finance, thank you for welcoming me today. My name is Marc-André Viau, and I am the Director of Government Relations at Équiterre. That organization has several thousand members and supporters. For more than 25 years, it has been proposing concrete solutions both in Quebec and in the rest of Canada to accelerate the ecological transition.
We feel that federal fiscal policies and investments for the upcoming year must reflect the current climate emergency. We recognize the fact that the upcoming transformations are deep and complex, and that winning conditions must be created for success. So the government will have to invest in measures to foster the social acceptability of transition measures and to support the proliferation of spaces and forums for discussion, so as to create a true Canada-wide dialogue in different regions, provinces and territories of the country. Canadians must take ownership of the transition for it to happen.
Today, I will talk about issues related to transportation, agriculture, energy and employment. They are closely related to the delivery of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change and to the objectives of government ministers' mandate letters.
First, in order to reach our objectives to reduce GHG emissions, we need to accelerate the electrification of transportation in the country. Public transit reduces the use of personal vehicles, but electric public transit increases its eco-benefits. Sarah Petrevan, of Clean Energy Canada, demonstrated this eloquently in her presentation two days ago, and we support her recommendations. We feel that the implementation of a financial support program dedicated to the electrification of public transit is necessary for absorbing the additional cost of purchase and supporting equipment conversion.
When it comes to personal vehicles, the popularity of the incentive program proves that Canadians are ready to make the jump to zero-emission vehicles. Of the $300 million available when the purchase assistance program was announced in 2019, $134 million has already been spent. At this rate, the envelope of this three-year program will be spent in a few months. In response to that situation, we also support the recommendations of Clean Energy Canada.
That said, the main barriers to the adoption of zero-emission vehicles—also known as ZEVs—remain the lack of ZEVs availability on the Canadian market and access to charging stations. To accelerate the adoption of those vehicles, Équiterre is of the opinion that the implementation of a mandate on ZEVs across the country, along with the extension of the purchase incentive programs for the next three years, is the most effective way to achieve sales targets.
Second, agricultural producers are among the first to feel the increasingly significant impact of climate change. Crop losses associated with the growing risks of climate change have an impact on the GDP, on profitability, on the sustainability of rural communities, on farmers' mental health, and also on government insurance programs. The strategies to increase and maintain healthy soil are some of the most important methods to reduce the footprint of GHG emissions from agriculture and to strengthen farm resilience.
That is why public policies should highlight nature-based solutions. Considering that soil degradation cost $3.1 billion in profit loss in 2011 and resulted in a cumulative loss of $40 billion to $60 billion between 1971 and 2011, the government must present a plan to remedy the issue. Équiterre invites the federal government to support farmers who decide to reconcile that economic growth with the protection of production capacity in the medium and long term by changing their practices.
Furthermore, we believe that, in a context of efficiency and healthy management of public finances, a review of risk management programs should lead to their adaptation, so that they would encourage producers to adopt soil regeneration practices. This would be a $2-billion envelope.
Third, consistent budget decisions are essential in a period of transition to environmental and ecological choices. However, Canada continues to subsidize the production and consumption of fossil fuels. We estimate that those subsidies were $600 million for 2019. Although Canada and Argentina announced in 2018 that they were conducting a joint peer review to ensure the phasing-out of their ineffective subsidies for fossil fuels, we are still waiting for the outcome of that exercise.
So we would like the federal government to commit to completing the inventory of subsidies for the production and consumption of fossil fuels by the end of 2020, so that a schedule for the phasing-out of this public support to the sector can be established by 2022.
Finally, Équiterre is very concerned by the transition's impact on Canadian workers. We are fighting against climate change and not against workers. That distinction is too often forgotten in a polarizing discussion and too often used for political goals. It is the duty of various levels of government to protect existing employees in different economic sectors. However, as we begin a decade of transition, do we really have to continue to promise new jobs in economic sectors that present an increasingly high risk for investors?
Jobs in the fossil fuel sector are not only affected by the energy transition related to adapting to climate change, but also by the uncertainty of the Canadian oil barrel price and the automatization of jobs in that sector. In light of these circumstances, we have two choices: the status quo or the diversification of the economy and adaptation to deal with the human, social and economic costs of the changes brought on by the energy transition. It is clear that we have come to the stage of introducing a bill.
In closing, I would simply like to come back to the discussion you had yesterday after the presentation of some of my colleagues from the Climate Action Network Canada. According to you, the two parties—environmentalists and people who work in the energy sector—need to establish a dialogue. I think that my presentation goes in that direction and that this is already the case. For example, our organization is part of an alliance that brings together people from the energy sector, industry representatives and environmentalists. That alliance is called SWITCH, and its objective is to successfully transition to green economy. In other words, that dialogue is already underway. I think we need to continue to build bridges.