Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to engage in the debate on this topic today.
Certainly I do not pretend in any way to be a scientist. I am simply a layman, as I think are the vast majority of members and Canadians. I approach the topic from the position of a layman. From that position, there are some glaring holes in the whole argument perhaps on both sides of the issue.
I do not apologize for representing a riding that supplies 15% of Canada's fossil fuel energy. I am proud to do that. My riding plays a vital part in producing Canada's GDP and keeping the lights on and homes warm in Canada. Industries in my riding are doing some amazing things in an effort to reduce emissions. I approach the whole issue from that perspective.
So many agendas appear to be at play on the issue of climate change and the greenhouse effect that a layman has no idea who to believe and who not to believe.
The whole thing started some time ago at the conference in Rio in which Canada took part. Canada's delegation to Rio, as I understand it, was headed by Canada's environmental representative to the United Nations, Maurice Strong, a well-known figure. The member for Davenport is shaking his head and I may be mistaken. However, that particular individual has been very vocal on the issue. I apologize if I am in error and he did not lead the delegation, but he certainly was part of it and he certainly has had a lot to say about it.
It is my understanding that after promoting the need to reduce CO
emissions and emissions generally and to transfer huge amounts of wealth to the underdeveloped world to allow it to catch up with the technologies available in the developed world, that same individual is now involved in an Asian power corporation conglomerate. It is engaged in creating a huge electricity generating development in China with the use of very polluting high sulphur soft coal.
Those contradictions lead me to wonder about the legitimacy of this whole issue. The list goes on and on.
Certainly the commitment Canada made in Rio was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels. The government did not even begin to meet that commitment and it has moved on now to Kyoto where our commitment is in fact 6% below 1990 levels. This will put us about 25% above 1990 levels by the time we are to make that commitment and introduce those changes. We have a huge distance to go. In my opinion the chances of our meeting that commitment are very unlikely.
When we look at the requirement to do that, most Canadians think that industry has a problem and in particular fossil fuel industries have this problem they have to solve. However, the reality is that only one-third of the problem has to be solved by industries, including the fossil fuel industries. One-third of it has to be solved through changes in the transportation system. One-third of it has to be solved by the consumers, Canadians driving their cars, heating their homes and all the other things they do.
Unfortunately it reduces the government's credibility on the issue. Heading into Kyoto there was a lot of discussion in the House and in political circles all over Canada about how we might meet our commitment. Prior to the trip to Kyoto I attended a federal provincial conference of energy and environment ministers in Regina where the provinces in good faith engaged in a discussion of the commitment we would make in Kyoto.
Canada was the only country in the G-8 that did not have a public position before going to Kyoto. That aside, the provinces in good faith sat in a discussion and agreed we should do what we could to invoke the precautionary principle. They hammered out an agreement which was never made public by either level of government. However we were told there was an agreement.
The Canadian delegation then went to Kyoto and far exceeded the agreement reached in Regina. It broke faith with the agreement that had been made with the provinces. It betrayed the confidence of the provinces. It got caught up in the euphoria of saving the planet and far exceeded what the provinces thought we could achieve.
That was just the beginning of the government's loss of credibility on the issue. Here we are in 2002, five years later, and the government has yet to produce a credible or verifiable plan to implement Kyoto. Such a plan would need to take into consideration the costs of Kyoto and what we are capable of doing. It would need to commit Canada to becoming an expanded supplier of energy to our neighbour the United States.
Even before the whole energy crisis and the George Bush energy plan the provinces had legitimate concerns about our ability to reach the Kyoto targets. After hearing George Bush's plea for a stable and more reliable source of energy the federal Liberal government jumped at the opportunity to commit Canada to be the supplier. The Prime Minister went to Washington and encouraged Americans to invest in Alberta's tar sands. He said there was enough potential there to meet the U.S. demand for energy so it would not have to depend on unstable Mideast sources.
At the same time the Prime Minister told Canadians and the House he intended to ratify Kyoto. There seemed to be no question in his mind he would do so.
His ministers are all over the map. The Minister of Natural Resources says he would not sign a contract in his private life unless he knew the cost of the contract. He says committing to sign something when the cost is not known is an unacceptable and dangerous business practice. I agree completely.
However the minister seems confident the government will come up with a credible business plan to meet the Kyoto protocol. In response to a question I had in the House the environment minister produced a report yesterday by the federal provincial group studying the costs of Kyoto and how we might achieve our targets. I got a copy immediately after he had tabled it. I studied it and was amazed. If it is the environment minister's idea of a credible plan it is frightening.
I read the report as a layman. In the report the group acknowledged the costs of meeting the Kyoto commitment would be substantive. The report deducted the costs of the ice storm in Ontario and Quebec and the drought on the prairies, thereby mitigating the costs of the Kyoto agreement. In some instances it said it would be a profitable commitment.
A couple of weeks ago I attended a conference on climate change at the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa. A number of environmental groups spoke and made presentations. It was acknowledged that when the Kyoto commitment of 6% below 1990 levels was input into computer systems there was no discernible effect on the environment. According to the computer models the effects of climate change we are now seeing would continue under the Kyoto commitment.
If that is the case and it is recognized by the experts, how in the world could a working group studying the issue suggest that if we met our commitment the costs of the ice storm and the drought on the prairies could be deducted because they would no longer happen under Kyoto? The computer model says they would continue to happen as frequently as they do today because Kyoto would have no discernible effect on the environment.
As a layman it raises all kinds of red flags for me. I have a problem with the credibility of the minister in producing the report. It frightens me that it is the minister's idea of a credible cost benefit analysis Canadians can use when examining the whole Kyoto issue and deciding whether we should make the commitment.
There has been discussion in the House that this is a foolish position that would not do the climate any good. However the scientists presented the position. It is not something our party dreamed up.
The discussion goes on against a backdrop of nine years of the government making promises and commitments, telling us things that did not turn out, and citing costs that were unrealistic. I know some members will take offence but I cannot help bringing up the issue of gun registration, the old chestnut of our party.
When the Liberal government brought in gun registration it said our party was fearmongering. It said we were incorrect because it would make our streets safe and all the rest. It said the registry would only cost $85 million. We are now in excess of $700 million and the guns still are not registered.
Why would Canadians and laymen like myself believe the government when it produces the kinds of figures in this report? It says we are fearmongering. It says the costs would be nowhere near that high. The government's history of credibility on the issues is sadly lacking. It truly worries me.
The Prime Minister and several of his ministers have repeatedly told western Canada not to worry because it would not be another national energy program. They say they would not consider a carbon tax because it would be out of the question. They say they made that mistake once and would not make it again.
As the government is making these commitments government bureaucrats are speculating publicly about the need to put carbon caps on industry. They say the only way to do it is to put a cap on industry. Then industries could produce so many tonnes of CO
and if they went above the cap they would either have to reduce the emissions or buy credits to cover them.
Carbon caps amount to a carbon tax. We can couch it in all kinds of terms and use smoke, mirrors and rhetoric to hide it. However it is a carbon tax by another name. In 1997 the former natural resources minister promised no unreasonable share of the burden would be placed on any region or sector in Canada. He said many times that there would be no carbon tax.
Given the history of the country and the influence Quebec has had on government policy, when we hear the representatives of the Bloc Quebecois shouting in the House that we should immediately implement Kyoto we have to wonder about their agenda. Quebec produces huge amounts of hydroelectricity and non-emitting sources of energy. It would be eligible for substantial credit for sale to parts of the country that could not meet the commitment. As an Albertan I am suspicious of the agenda being followed there.
In the House in February the Prime Minister said:
Mr. Speaker, that is why we hold meetings between the federal and provincial ministers, in order to have all the facts on the table. The objective of this government, however, is to ratify the Kyoto protocol when we have obtained satisfaction.
Satisfaction for who? All kinds of people might find satisfaction for different reasons. The Prime Minister makes statements about federal provincial consultations and at the end of the sentence says he intends to ratify. Why in the world do we hold consultations in the first place if the intention is to ratify regardless of what the consultations produce?
Since the Prime Minister's remarks in February some ministers have backed away from that position. The natural resources minister did not quite say it but he suggested the government would probably not ratify unless it could come to a consensus. That is a more acceptable and reasonable business practice. I hope the Prime Minister will adopt it. However I am suspicious.
I will spend a minute on the whole issue of the science. I am a layman. I am not a scientist and would not pretend to be. However there are issues around the science.
The government has a history of getting into trouble. The hon. member for Davenport and other members in the House well remember what happened regarding the issue of manganese in gasoline. In the House and in committee we were presented with bogus science on the issue. The government chose to go ahead and ban the manganese additive in gasoline. The issue ended up in court under the free trade agreement. The government lost because the science was not reliable. The government and the taxpayers of Canada paid $20 million to the Ethyl Corporation because of that foolishness. I have a sense we are facing the same thing here.
The science that supports Kyoto is based on computer modelling. I do not know how reliable the computer models are but I have doubts. Environment Canada suggested if we inputted Canadian weather data from the last 50 years into the same computers they could not replicate what happened with the weather. Why would we blindly believe the same computer models could predict what would happen down the road?
I have no doubt whatsoever that climate change is happening. Only a fool would not admit the climate of the globe is changing. That is accepted. However is it a natural process or is it man made? Questions are raised when we look at the drought on the prairies in the 1930s and how oil was formed in the Arctic millions of years ago.