Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I join in the debate around something as important as climate change and our international agreements, and the promise that Canada made to actually abide by the signature we put on paper.
Before getting into the merits or demerits of this particular bill, I think for Canadians watching it is important to set the context of what has happened to the climate change file and what has happened in this country with respect to pollution over the last number of years.
As the Liberals were leaving office there was report after report condemning the actions of Canada in black and white. While the promises had been made by the previous Liberal government to do something about climate change, the numbers were in stark contrast to that promise. While there was a commitment to go 6% below our 1990 levels of greenhouse gas pollution, we have in fact risen 10%, 20%, 25% above those numbers.
The reason this has happened is not for a lack of promises and not for a lack of fanfare. The previous Liberal government was excellent at making announcements. It often had very beautiful crafted posters as a backdrop. It spent inordinate amounts of money on brochures and glossy pamphlets that I am sure ended up in landfills across this country. However, what it could not deliver on and what it could not accomplish was the basic ability to start to change the way Canadians do business and the way that Canadians conduct their economy and their lives.
When we boil the issue of climate change down and the issue of Kyoto down to its bare elements, most often we are talking about the use of energy. We are talking about the production of energy, whether it comes from so-called greener sources, new technologies or we are talking about energies that come from carbon-based sources which this country relies on quite heavily.
It varies from province to province and jurisdiction to jurisdiction. It is an important note to Canadians that those provinces that took up the call early on, that took strong and bold initiatives, and I would take British Columbia as an example where I reside, there was a strong and important investment in green energy many decades ago.
It is also important to note that these investments were made by both what we call Conservative and New Democrat governments throughout the province's history to ensure that the energy supply in British Columbia was consistent, stable and did not contribute to the planet's pollution.
Those investments allowed British Columbia to continue to grow and prosper while not contributing to the overall warming of the planet which finally we have established, from all parties in all corners of the House, a confirmed belief in what is known as anthropogenic climate change, that is climate change caused by human activity. This is a reality and it is a problem.
I hearken back to when many of my colleagues from the environment committee were at the committee the day that the forestry sector came before us during the Kyoto hearings and clearly made the connection between both the forest fires which had gone to unprecedented levels in British Columbia in particular and the pine beetle infestation which started in British Columbia and has now gone across the Rockies. These elements were directly linked to what was happening to our climate.
My riding is in northwestern British Columbia and it starts from the coast and moves into the interior. We are quite accustomed to cold winters, particularly in the interior portion of the riding. There are consistently cold winters and stretches of winter that go 30° below and 35° below. This is what would have offset the pine beetle infestation. It is a naturally occurring organism that would have died off if winters had been normal. However, we have been without one of these normal winters for so long that the pine beetle has been allowed to bloom, grow and start to cover areas of the forest that many people in the world would find hard to comprehend.
We have to look at the current government's initiatives and intentions when talking about climate change and importantly talking about the way that we produce and use our energy. I recall very clearly the member for Red Deer who last year, in a very similar debate to this one, talked about the Conservatives' climate change plan. I asked him directly when there was an opportunity: Does the Conservative Party of Canada have a climate change plan?
The New Democrats had taken an important stand more than a year and a half ago. It is two years now. We said that we were going to spend some time and our own money on developing a plan and we would cost it out. We were going to take it to the economists, the environmental groups, and work through what a plan would actually look like for Canada to implement and achieve our Kyoto targets. We laid that out for all to see, a challenge to the then Liberal government to react and actually do something rather than just continue to make those glossy brochures and lovely posters, and also a challenge to the other parties in the House to get serious about this.
I remember the member for Red Deer's answer. I know he is extremely committed to the environment and the issue of waste in particular. He said that yes in fact the Conservative Party of Canada had a plan for climate change.
Well, it has been a year and a half or more. We are waiting and we are still waiting. We know that there is a green plan coming. It is important to understand that every day, every week and every month is lost without a plan, and without things that Canadians can actually look to in the true sense of leadership.
Canadians, when polled across the country, are ready to do something about this issue. They are making the choices every day for a better environment, but there has been an absolute lack of leadership on this file at the federal government level in particular.
The provinces have started to react, Quebec in particular and Manitoba. They have said that if the feds are not going to show up, at least they will. This is very similar to what we have seen in the United States where the presidency of George Bush has decided to not follow into the Kyoto regime, or any regime really, when it comes to climate change. Some states that have seen this as a significant issue have gone out and taken the lead.
While this is sometimes necessary, it is a bit unfortunate because the amount of taxation, money collected by the federal government, and the amount of legislative powers that the government has clearly puts us in the driver's seat if we choose to take that leadership role and that has not happened.
We hear recent announcements of the federal government preparing to offer up more than a billion dollars of Canadian taxpayers' money for a pipeline across our north to feed natural gas. Before the Conservatives get too excited and frothing at the mouth about this concept, let us take it from an energy perspective for a moment.
The concept is to take liquefied natural gas from some other far region of the world, liquefy it, put it into tankers, ship it across, put in another pipeline, and then ship that down. Natural gas, for everyone watching and as people know it, is one of our cleanest burning carbon-based fuels. It would then be put into the tar sands where it takes a barrel and a half to three barrels depending on the use of energy to produce one single barrel of oil, which then gets put into another pipe and then sent down to the United States.
Somehow this equation is a good so-called investment of tax dollars. It is bizarre. At the same the companies are now making substantial profits. Even when oil is at $40 a barrel, $50 a barrel or $60 a barrel, they are doing quite well.
This government follows in the footsteps of the previous government insisting on handing over a cheque from Canadian taxpayers of $1.5 billion every year into some of the companies that are enjoying record profits. As one company executive in Calgary a few weeks ago noted, they were obscene.
I have seen those profits and that is all well and good, they are making their money, but I cannot understand for the life of me, and many Canadians get confused by this, why we would also support them with taxpayer dollars while they are doing okay, while they are doing not just okay, they are doing spectacularly well?
Why would we have a corporate welfare cheque cut year in, year out, for companies that are doing fine? We have lots of ideas for the government where true investment can happen, the type of investment Canadians are looking for when it comes to the energy file.
Companies that exist within the tar sands have talked about making them carbon neutral within 20 years. We know the technology is coming forward in this country and in other countries. Rather than be a laggard, rather than simply follow in the wake of other jurisdictions when they take a leadership role in this, there is a real opportunity for Canada to make bold initiatives and plans. We can actually enact those plans and not be handcuffed as the previous government was by being unable to square circles or show a vision and leadership for which Canadians are looking.
When we look to other jurisdictions that have been able to maintain their economies, the Scandinavian countries clearly stand out. Some of the strongest economies in the free world have been able to both achieve significant reductions in their greenhouse gas output while achieving some of the best performing economies anywhere on the planet.
The economy versus the environment debate is as dead as the dinosaurs. We simply cannot refer to it anymore in any serious way.
When Canadians are asked whether they would rather pick up a car at the lot that costs them $50 to fill up or one that costs them $10, clearly, particularly Canadians, who do not have a lot of money to throw around, are going to take the option, if it is presented to them in a reasonable way, to allow them to fill up with a little bit less and have money for other things in their lives.
Energy has become such an absolute essential for Canadians that home heating costs, and we have watched the spike in prices, particularly hurt those households that are in the most vulnerable of categories. We can create the economy. The bill goes a small way toward forcing the government to actually abide by international agreements.
I know Mr. Harper said in his speech on September 11 that we are a country that always accepted its responsibilities--