That, having recognized the principle of complying with the Kyoto targets, it is the opinion of this House that the government should provide the Government of Quebec with the sum of $328 million to enable it to implement its plan to meet the Kyoto protocol targets.
Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois' position on implementing the Kyoto protocol has been known for a long time and is as follows.
First, Canada must meet its international commitments; second, a carbon exchange must be set up in Montreal, which requires strict reduction targets and a polluter-pay policy; third, the government must stop providing assistance for the oil industry; fourth, Canada must adopt a territorial approach; fifth, $328 million must be transferred to the Government of Quebec.
For a number of years, Quebec has asked the federal government for $328 million, to enable Quebec to implement the Kyoto protocol within its borders. This should have happened a long time ago. For too long, the Government of Quebec has been stalled by the federal government on this urgent, fundamental issue.
The Prime Minister and the Leader of the Official Opposition have both undermined Quebec's efforts to fight climate change. In so doing, they have raised considerable doubt as to how determined they actually are to comply with Kyoto. By imposing its policies on Quebec, the Conservative government is doing what the former Liberal government did: hampering economic development in Quebec.
What this House needs to understand is that when it comes to energy, Quebec and Canada are two nations faced with completely different challenges. Although oil is making Canada richer, it is making Quebec poorer.
Last Sunday, a former federal environment minister, Mr. Anderson, stated that the Bloc Québécois was the only party that had always consistently supported the Kyoto protocol. In fact, this fundamental issue has long been a high priority for us. We do not have to make the shift to green thinking.
During the 2000 election campaign, we were already making the fight against climate change a key issue. In the years that followed, Quebec made a huge effort to convince Canada to ratify the Kyoto protocol.
The Bloc spoke out about this issue and was successful. During the 2004 election, we made the environment, and particularly the implementation of the Kyoto protocol, a central focus of our election platform. Greenpeace even awarded us a symbolic windmill for our campaign.
Furthermore, during the course of the 2004 election, something occurred that is very rare in the annals of politics. We received the support of another party leader, the Green Party. At the time, he called on Quebeckers to vote for the Bloc.
During the last campaign, our platform focused once again on the climate change issue.
Lastly, following the election of the current Conservative government, with a Prime Minister who promised to tear up the Kyoto protocol, we lead the charge in Quebec. We launched a petition, calling for compliance with Kyoto, and gathered more than 120,000 signatures.
We obtained the support of the majority of this House in favour of a motion calling on Canada to honour its commitments. It must be understood that this issue was crucial in Quebec.
I must point out here the complicit silence of the Conservatives elected in Quebec regarding this matter. They dishonourably refused to represent the opinion of a large majority of Quebeckers.
Furthermore, I am not at all convinced of the Prime Minister's good will, since not that long ago, he was the one who called Kyoto nothing more than a socialist scheme.
If there was a scheme, it was more likely an oil and gas scheme, reaching from Houston to Calgary, via Washington. I, however, do not believe in conspiracy theories. In fact, Quebec must simply deal with the Conservatives' ideological stubbornness and the Liberals' hypocrisy.
We cannot emphasize enough how appalling the Prime Minister's actions were in this matter.
Not only did he describe the international protocol as a “socialist plot”, but when he was leader of the official opposition he also promised to revoke it at the first possible opportunity.
The Prime Minister is fond of presenting himself as a decisive leader. Tuesday he spoke of leadership and yes, there is leadership, but the problem is that he is leading in the wrong direction. He has reneged on Canada's international commitments. He put a gag on Quebec in Kenya. His Quebec political lieutenant has slammed the door in Quebec's face as far as the $328 million is concerned, and the present Minister of the Environment has said, in response to a question from the Bloc, that he still wishes to proceed on a project by project basis, on a piecemeal basis, just like his predecessor and just like the former Liberal minister.
I am, of course, referring to the present leader of the official opposition. When he was the environment minister, he too hindered Quebec in its efforts. When Quebec was trying to negotiate an agreement with him, the then Quebec Minister of the Environment, Minister Mulcair, a fervent federalist, had this to say: “the term contempt is not strong enough to describe how I was treated.” Nothing has changed since then.
It is all very well for the current Quebec Minister of the Environment, Mr. Béchard, to be pleased with his first meeting with his new federal counterpart, but all he is doing is repeating what he said after his first meeting with the old one. We all know what happened after that: this Conservative government humiliated Mr. Béchard in Nairobi.
Mr. Mulcair, who had never caved in to Ottawa, stated, and rightly so, that the federal government's focus was totally on the west and on Ontario. That is why the Bloc Québécois is demanding a Kyoto implementation plan based on a territorial approach. This is the approach which has enabled 25 sovereign states of Europe to reach agreement and make some progress within the European Union.
That approach will enable Canada to meet its commitments by allocating objectives to Quebec and to each province. Quebec will then be free to determine for itself the best way to meet its objectives. If the government wants to demonstrate its goodwill and to take that path, the first step it needs to take is to transfer $328 million to the Government of Quebec, with no strings attached and not a little at a time.
Quebeckers are committed to combating climate change. They have been making that clear for many years. Petroleum is the source of 71% of total greenhouse gas emissions in Quebec. This means that Quebec will have to radically reduce its petroleum consumption in order to help combat climate change. That is the first reason for Quebec to reduce its reliance on petroleum. It seems to me that saving the planet is an excellent reason.
The second reason is that petroleum makes Quebec poorer. This is not true for Canada. In today's petroleum economy, Canada is a major player. The Canadian economy is heavily reliant on the petroleum industry. This is so true that the fluctuations in the value of the Canadian dollar depend in large part on petroleum prices. This is largely why Canada has yet to implement the Kyoto protocol. Put simply, petroleum is making Canada richer. The opposite is true for Quebec: petroleum is making it poorer.
That is why Quebec needs to enter into an agreement based on the territorial approach. With such an agreement, Quebec will be able to take charge of implementing the Kyoto protocol within its jurisdiction, including where funding is concerned. This will require a minimum of $328 million to be transferred to the Quebec government.
When I say that petroleum makes Quebec poorer, that is not a figure of speech. For one thing, Quebec does not produce significant amounts of petroleum, natural gas or coal. In 2006, Quebec bought $13 billion worth of petroleum. This represents a $7 billion increase over three years. Over the same three years, Quebec went from a surplus to a trade deficit of $7 billion.
This means that rising oil prices sent Quebec into a trade deficit position. As you know, trade deficits slow economic growth. Every drop in the balance of trade leads to a drop in wealth in Quebec.
As well, the instability of prices and the dollar hits the manufacturing industry. The Quebec finance department estimates that a 20% increase in the price of oil results in a 0.8% drop in real GDP in the first year and 1.4% in the second. That is a huge amount.
The price of oil is supposed to remain high and very probably to go even higher in the short term. That is why I say that oil is making Quebec poor. And that is why it will make Quebec poorer in future, if the federal government persists in countering its efforts.
This is the second justification for adopting a strategy that focuses on reducing our dependence on oil, a strategy that is appropriate for Quebec.
We therefore have strong evidence: Quebec must reduce its dependence on oil, both to combat climate change and to halt the impoverishment that results from our dependence.
There is also a third reason. Quebec, like all societies, will eventually have to do without oil. Oil is a non-renewable resource that will someday be exhausted. If we embark on this path quickly, the reduction in dependence on oil will become a major economic advantage.
The time will necessarily come when oil production is no longer sufficient to meet demand. That will cause shortages and lead to skyrocketing prices. Will this happen in 20 years, or in 50 years? While we do not know the answer, everyone acknowledges that it will happen.
The industrialized world will enter the post-oil era in a few decades. This new direction will call for very far-reaching changes. In fact, it will call for a revolution—an energy revolution. Societies that saw the change coming and embarked on the new path earlier will come out of it as winners. Societies that did not prepare for it will experience a major crisis.
It is therefore entirely to Quebec's advantage to embark on the new path of the 21st century now. But Quebec will never be able to do this if Canada continues to impose its oil economy policies on it.
From 1970 to 1999, the federal government gave $66 billion in direct subsidies to the oil and gas industry, all concentrated outside Quebec. Quebeckers paid for one quarter of those subsidies. Not a single cent was given to the Quebec hydro-electric industry. And it goes on: by our calculations, the accelerated write-off allowed for the oil sands alone will have let the oil companies exempt $15 billion of their taxable profits between 2005 and 2008—$15 billion to the oil companies, when we all know that they are all living on the edge of poverty.
On Tuesday, the Prime Minister announced his intention to transform the savings made on debt servicing into income tax reductions. Should he not be taking that same approach and cutting the assistance given to the oil companies, and spending that money to combat climate change?
As for the leader of the official opposition, he is not missing a trick; he also voted in favour of Bill C-48, legislation that meant that Canada's tax laws became the most favourable for oil companies in North America. The oil companies now pay less tax in the Prime Minister's Canada than in George W. Bush's Texas. We have to do it. Enough.
The Bloc has a strategy that will enable Quebec to reduce its oil dependency. By applying this strategy, Quebec could expect to reduce its oil consumption by 32% over 10 years. In reducing the flight of capital caused by oil imports, these measures could lead to an increase in GDP of 1.5% per year in Quebec.
In addition, reduced oil dependency will improve the competitive strength of the Quebec economy. We are talking here about tremendous impacts that will make the difference between an economy with modest growth and a dynamic and flourishing economy.
Quebec's regions will also benefit from this strategy. For example, the use of forest and farm wastes to produce clean fuels, the implementation of the Quebec marine policy and coastal shipping, modernization of plants in the forestry sector, and reduction of oil-related expenditures are all measures that will benefit the economies of Quebec's regions. Finally, the positioning of Quebec as a player in sectors likely to grow quickly should also ensure continued and sustainable growth for the province.
Over the next 10 years, in meeting these objectives, Quebec will have been able to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 21.5%, which will be 10% less than 1990 levels; and that will only be the start, because Quebeckers believe in Kyoto.
For this government and the previous one, Canada’s economic future has always meant more oil. For us, it is exactly the opposite. The future of Quebec always demands less oil. Thus, the future of Quebec and the future of our planet are going in the same direction. Quebec will need all its resources to finance this strategy, but much of Quebec’s financial resources are sent here, to Ottawa.
It is also in Ottawa that crucial decisions are made with regard to research, and to marine and railway transportation. Decisions are made in Ottawa with respect to certain industrial standards, the regulation of polluting emissions and vehicle compliance, decisions on implementation of the Kyoto protocol, creation of a carbon market, for example, and decisions about business support programs, taxation and many infrastructure programs. All those decisions are made in Ottawa.
It is obvious that Quebec will not be able to achieve all these objectives without the good will of the federal government. However, within the federal framework, past experience teaches us that Quebec must be very patient before Ottawa agrees to respond to its needs and interests.
Therefore, I invite Quebeckers to take note that there would be nothing to prevent a sovereign Quebec from implementing an energy revolution that will serve our interests and those of the planet.