Mr. Speaker, this morning I will be splitting my time with the member for Winnipeg South Centre.
Everyone agrees that we must take up the challenge of dealing with climate change. It is morally and practically the right thing to do.
As Minister of Health and as an Albertan, I believe action is necessary. There is little dispute about the fact that greenhouse gases are changing the global climate. We now understand that there will be a broad range of direct and indirect impacts on our health and well-being.
However, deciding how we will take up this challenge raises a number of issues critical to our national interest, prosperity and well-being. One cannot discuss climate change without also addressing matters as fundamental as our long term environmental sustainability, our economic well-being and the functioning of our federation.
Unfortunately, I believe climate change and its very real and serious consequences have become sidelined in the minds of many Canadians and in its place we have a politically charged, rhetorical debate around the Kyoto protocol and its specific targets for Canada, targets that can only be met with substantial sacrifice and a determined effort on the part of all Canadians.
Let me be frank this morning. I wish the process that has led us to this vote on ratification could have been different. However, now the most important issue becomes how we as a country develop and implement a plan to meet our commitments.
Our pledge to all Canadians must be to work with all our partners on an implementation plan that promotes our economic competitiveness and is fair to all regions and sectors.
There are certain key principles that must inform our plan and its implementation.
First, we must do nothing that will undermine or limit our potential economic growth and prosperity. There must be no caps on growth and there must be no caps on the growth of any sector of our economy.
Second, no region or province can be expected to bear a disproportionate share of the costs, direct or indirect, of meeting our commitments. This is a national challenge, a national project. The public benefits will be shared nationally and so must be the burdens.
Third, our implementation plan must provide the certainty needed by business to ensure continued investment and economic growth. I am particularly interested in those sectors known as the large emitters. These are energy intensive industries that are key to the economic prosperity of our country.
They include the oil and gas industry, the electricity industry and the mining and manufacturing industries. These sectors are dealt with specifically in the government's climate change plan and are the only sectors in the Canadian economy from which specific greenhouse gas emission reductions, not more than 55 megatonnes, are required.
Canada can only make its contribution to the global problem of climate change from a position of economic strength. Therefore we know that we must provide the certainty needed by the large industrial emitters who will be the engine of our continuing economic prosperity.
These companies operate in an environment of great economic uncertainty. Within this environment their hallmark is their ability to make multibillion dollar investments that can span decades. They have been instrumental in building our country. For them, Kyoto adds a new complexity. For them, Kyoto adds a new kind of uncertainty, an uncertainty not yet well understood. These sectors already have made important contributions to greenhouse gas emission reductions through investments in and the application of world leading technologies.
They will continue to do so, but we must be clear about what we are asking of them. With respect to Kyoto risk, we owe them as much certainty as possible so they can explain their Kyoto obligations clearly to their shareholders and their investors. They are not yet in a position to do so.
I and others have been working to provide the details necessary for the large industrial emitters to be able to plan for their obligations under the Kyoto protocol. We are making progress in: defining achievable reduction targets; agreeing to flexible compliance options; addressing price risk; and setting out the longer term policy certainty necessary for long term investment.
More remains to be done and I am committed to seeing this process through.
The government understands the need for long term certainty. When I was the Minister of Natural Resources we implemented the recommendations of the oil sands task force. We recognized the long term nature of the major investments oil sands development required and we put in place the fiscal and policy certainty necessary to allow these investments to be made. As a result, this sector has enjoyed unprecedented growth to the benefit of Albertans and all Canadians.
My fourth and final principle is one about which I feel very deeply. We must build a strong collaborative partnership to meet the challenge of global warming, a partnership in which we must all be involved and be included.
To date, this process has been criticized by many as lacking in this spirit of partnership. On matters of national interest, we have an obligation to listen to each other, to hear each other and then show the flexibility and the understanding that has guided the development of our nation in the past and which now, more than ever, are required as we turn to face together the challenge of climate change.
Those are the principles that I believe we must follow. They capture, in my view, preconditions for implementation. They are also principles that I am confident will be applied. However, if those principles were not to be applied, then my choice would be a simple one. My first commitment is to Albertans. I know that the government will not turn its back on Alberta, nor will it turn its back on the energy sector, which means prosperity for all Canadians.
In conclusion, I will support the resolution before this House. In combating climate change, we are fulfilling that most basic responsibility of us all: to leave our world in a better condition than that in which we found it. However we would do that very cause a disservice if our means are ones that erode public confidence or undermine our long term interests. We must combat climate change but we must do so in the right way.