Mr. Speaker, when the government brought the biofuels bill to committee, it received very little to no scrutiny whatsoever. I believe motions were brought forward that the debate should be limited, if at all. For a bill that will impact Canadian farmers and Canadian food prices and now with the increasingly a global concern on what has happened with commodity shares and prices around the world, there is an important element and a lack of transparency in what the government is attempting to do.
We have to understand, and it is fundamental, the government is choosing to use policy and taxpayer dollars to push a certain solution from its perspective. Any solution proposed to the complicated issue of climate change, we all know, needs to be given some thorough scrutiny. It needs to be addressed, analyzed and understood for what it is or is not.
With the bill, the government is essentially asking for a blank cheque from Parliament and Canadians to go forward and spend money on biofuels, be it corn, ethanol or others, without the scrutiny of Parliament and without the scrutiny of the Canadian people. There are many issues to choose from on which Canadians have lost faith with the government, but if any issue represents it best, it is the issue of the environment.
When we ask Canadians do they trust the Conservative Party, the Prime Minister and his so-called Minister of the Environment to deal with the environmental challenges we face, the overall answer is no. Whether it was specific climate change legislation that did little or nothing to affect the tar sands in northern Alberta or whether it was announcements like we heard this weekend, which get at only a small fraction of the problem and the government pretends it has solved the whole thing, Canadians are right and justified in feeling skeptical about the proposals that come forward from the government. It has a track record. In two and a half years, we have had little to no legislation to deal with the environment. I am my party's environment critic and I know. We have waited for legislation to come forward. We have waited and pushed initiatives with the government. We have said that this issue is too important to lay at the feet of the political spin doctors. This has to be dealt with by Parliament in a conscientious and sincere way. Instead, we have seen this thing being used as a ping-pong ball, back and forth.
I can remember the environment minister saying that all he had to do was be a bit better than the former environment minister, now leader of the Liberal Party, or to perhaps inoculate the debate politically. These are not exactly high aspirations for a government when dealing with one of the most important issues to Canadians. All considerations are political. All considerations are partisan. This has to stop. We have to find ways that Parliament can work together, and the NDP has proposed, on several occasions and on several different issues, ways to do that.
The process was used for the bill is important. Clearly, it is identified as climate change legislation. It is identified as a potential solution to the debate, and biofuels have a role in the debate on climate change. Biofuels are evolving and changing as we speak. The information we are learning about them and the global awareness of the issue is increasing. I believe Canadians are onside and want to encourage governments to join with them in partnership, to join with them to find these solutions.
Let us look at the way the government has handled the bill. First, it takes an environment bill and moves it over to the agriculture committee, similar to its immigration bill that was shuffled to the finance committee. At some point, people have to ask what exactly is the government trying to hide when it does not use the obvious and logical choice for sending these bills to the places that matter, where the groups that are involved, the advocates and the members of Parliament who are most familiar with the issue can deal with it instead of this shell game that goes on back and forth.
The connection between using certain food products in fuel is one that needs to be debated and discussed. That is obvious. The analysis has to be done. We need to have a full and proper understanding of what it means. In that connection, it is important for us to establish what the actual assessment is by government, what the effect will be on our economy and what the effect will be on the producers who raise food for our tables, on both sides, not just the grain producers but, on the other side of the equation, those who purchase grain to raise livestock.
When we ask the government to do simple greenhouse gas assessments, if this is supposed to be some sort of panacea or big part solution, we will spend a lot of money on this.
The government is proposing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on this, billions in fact. That is no small thing. That is money collected from hard-working Canadians and given to the government in some form of trust, although it is a trust that is being eroded, to get to the solutions that are necessary.
One would think that a government, a party like the Conservatives that pretended to run on accountability and transparency, particularly when it comes to tax dollars, would welcome the open invitation from New Democrats to have a fiscal analysis, to have a greenhouse gas analysis of what their bill actually proposes.
Instead, the government has said absolutely not. It will not analyze this thing on environmental terms, on financial terms, or on the impact to the market. It will throw this in and see what happens later. That just seems irresponsible at a fundamental level.
Take this in comparison to the bill that we finally got out of the environment committee, a climate change bill proposed by the leader of the New Democrats, which was filibustered for six weeks by the government: day in and day out, hour after hour of talking out the clock just to avoid the bill having a free and fair democratic vote.
At the end of the day, the piece in the bill the Conservatives filibustered, which is interesting, the piece they delayed, was the piece on transparency and accountability. It was a clause written into the bill to say that the government must come forward to Canadians, present its plans in an open and transparent way, and also be held accountable for any of the actions in spending that it did over the previous five years, going back on a forward looking plan.
This is something that has been lacking, whether it was Liberal administrations or this Conservative one. Canadians are lacking and losing faith in their government's ability to deal with the environment. They simply want us to find the solutions, use common sense and not pick political favourites on our path to those solutions but to use what every Canadian household does when spending a dollar. It is one choice or another. Do we get the kids a new soccer ball or do we put more money on the mortgage? Do we buy a little bit more expensive food or do we use something else? Those are assessments Canadians make every day. It is a natural thing. Every business makes those assessments, understanding the risk versus the benefit.
Yet, an enormous expenditure of Canadian tax dollars on this issue is changing week by week. This issue, eight, nine, ten months ago, was in a very different place as we have seen the market start to respond to the huge subsidies, particularly coming from the U.S., but also being modified in Europe. It is becoming one of the contributing factors to what is happening on the global food shortage.
Clearly, with strong condemnation from leaders and advocates of the international community for the government, one would think that it would welcome the opportunity that the New Democrats are offering, which is to say: “Give this a better look”. Maybe, when the bill was drafted, there were different circumstances. Maybe markets were responding in a different way.
However, let us get this right because if we get it wrong, if we continue to get it wrong, if the Conservatives and Liberals continue to vote for things that do not pan out in the end, Canadians are throwing up their hands in a more consistent basis and saying, “Maybe there is not a role for government in this”, and that is a true shame.
Industry has said to us time and again, even the oil and gas sector, the highest polluting sector of the country, “Just give us the fair and competent rules by which we can live by, address and to which we can adapt”, as opposed to this wavering target, this moving target of an ambition.
At one point the Conservatives talked about ambitious targets that meant nothing. They have to realize that at the end of the day, there are so many millions and millions at play. I see the environment minister encouraging me to send this to the environment committee. I think that is a wonderful idea. I would encourage him to join me in this. After six weeks of his filibustering of a real climate change piece of legislation, one would think that he would not come into the House with the hubris to say that New Democrats are doing anything but advocating for real and serious environmental change.
When it comes to the end of the game, the minister will be remembered as somebody who either did something or delayed and played games. It is coming to the end of the day when Canadians are counting on the government and Parliament and will be asking, “Did we do the right thing? Are we getting the right thing done?”
We must use our collective intelligence to promote solutions in which we can be confident. The amendment speaks to that. It should be encouraged by all parties. The bill should be given further consideration and understanding to know its true implications.