Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak to this bill to amend the Energy Efficiency Act.
It is interesting to follow the parliamentary secretary after his remarks and his responses to questions with a couple of fundamental facts for Canadians to understand. First, this bill is actually being sponsored by the leader of the government in the Senate, but of course the critic there is hon. Grant Mitchell, a Liberal senator who has been driving this through the Senate for some time now.
It is a bill that will make, as the parliamentary secretary has said, a number of changes to the existing Energy Efficiency Act here in Canada. It will, in effect, broaden the scope of the government's ability to regulate consumer products that use energy, which in and of itself is a good thing.
The fundamental challenge, the theme I am going to come back to, about this bill and the amendments to the Energy Efficiency Act is that they are now being presented completely and utterly in isolation. They are presented in isolation of a climate change plan for the country. They are presented in isolation from fiscal structures in the country that may or may not be driving energy efficiency because we all know that energy efficiency and a carbon constrained future, with the reduction of greenhouse gases, is a major and massive competitive factor that Canada is now pursuing.
We are in a globally highly sought after race which many jurisdictions want to win, and that is the race to better and higher energy efficiency standards for our production processes, for the services we render, and for the way in which the government procures its goods and services.
There is yet another missing link in this package. How do these energy efficiency measures connect with a comprehensive innovative strategy for the future of Canada? How do they connect to the existing fiscal measures that are in place? How do they connect to the government's overall program expenditures? How do they connect to the government's own procurement system, having watched the green procurement regime of the previous government disappear under this government?
How is it connected to the government's own energy efficient audit system for Canadian homeowners which has been seriously undermined and weakened? How does it connect to the government's new short-term funding for the building of decks and patios to try to stimulate the economy? How does it connect to the standards by which stimulus money is being invested in Canadian society? What is the matrix here that the government is bringing to bear on billions of dollars of necessary stimulus spending? How do these connect?
It is all so passing strange that the government has been mounting for months, now a campaign, the publicity and communications campaign, to tell Canadians that it is a red tape buster or, in the case of energy efficiency and climate change, a green tape buster. The Minister of Transport, for example, regularly talks about being the accountability guy, the efficiency guy.
Why is it, surreptitiously, that just last Friday afternoon the Government of Canada, the Conservatives, tabled an outrageous document which lists hundreds of exceptions for environmental assessment provisions in this country claiming that these have to be removed, these standards for environmental assessment have to be removed because, of course, they will impede, the government suggests, stimulus investment in the Canadian economy.
How do we square this? On the one hand, we have one document that says we have to do away with environmental assessment, and yet now we have a new series of amendments to the Energy Efficiency Act which say that businesses are going to have to abide by a whole new suite of energy efficiency standards.
Is not this suite of energy efficiency amendments yet more red tape being tabled by the Conservative Party, or really is the Conservative Party being disingenuous, being deliberately misleading with the Canadian people about whether environmental assessment is in fact an impediment to getting important stimulus investment out the door?
However, it is worse than that. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities told us there already exists over $13 billion of so-called shovel-ready projects that have been environmentally assessed. So why is it that the government is speaking out of both sides of its mouth? Which story are Canadians supposed to believe?
I think what we are seeing here is the end result of three and a half years of non-stop lurching by the Conservative Party when it comes to energy efficiency and the climate change crisis. It is jumping literally from ice floe to ice floe as the Arctic thaws at breakneck speed.
There is no climate change plan in this country. There is no more Turning the Corner plan. Everything has evaporated into thin air. Instead of actually stopping the nonsense, stopping the lurching from one communications campaign to another over the past three and a half years on the climate change crisis, the government is introducing these minor but important changes to the Energy Efficiency Act and expecting Canadians to believe these amendments constitute a climate change plan. They do not.
There is absolutely no doubt now; it is conclusive. Canada has abandoned the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, although the government does not have the guts to stand up and say it.
It is the only international treaty in existence on the planet today to deal with atmospheric carrying capacity and the climate change crisis. There is no other. For any government that unilaterally changes the baseline year, for example, from 1990 to 2006, which is also part of the government's communications campaign, the universe only started in 2006. In terms of everything that came before, such as Prime Minister Mulroney's work, Mr. Stanfield's work, Mr. Trudeau's work, the work of successive governments, in the communications campaign none of that existed before.
Therefore, in 2006, the government came and unilaterally changed the terms of conditions of our climate change obligations, and instead of coming clean and telling the world, the international community and Canadians, that it was abandoning the only international agreement there is, it bobbed, weaved, lurched and did what it did best. It communicated with shock and awe. It tried to stop the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act by sending a minister into a committee of the other place, making a fool of himself by actually putting up fictitious numbers and then getting caught. Like the schoolchild who gets caught cheating on the exam, the minister was really reminiscent of a child who has an answer for everything except for the fact that he got cheating on the exam.
Therefore, we have a situation now where this is completely incoherent. It attaches to nothing. Eleven independent groups have examined the government's previous Turning the Corner environmental climate change plan. Each and every single group that has examined the government's plan has said it is not real. It cannot possibly achieve the targets that the government says it will achieve.
Is that why, for example, we have heard no talk of this Turning the Corner plan in months since the last election campaign?
Is that why the only thing the Government of Canada can put in the window on climate change is a so-called dialogue with the United States, a dialogue I described as a dialogue of the deaf?
Canada is now apparently entering dialogue and negotiation with the United States on an appropriate so-called continental climate change response, but we have no plan.
Who in their right mind, in any organization—and I defy the Conservatives to name one organization in any sector of Canadian society, business, non-governmental, civil society, government, anywhere—would purport to be entering into negotiations with a sovereign state like the United States that excels at negotiations, and have no plan?
I think the only group that is purporting to foist this on the Canadian people is the Conservative Party of Canada. How can one enter into negotiations without a plan? One cannot.
We now have a situation where these amendments to the Energy Efficiency Act are being put in the window as window dressing, just like the government's environmental enforcement provisions in another act, in order to masquerade or to cover the fact that there is no climate change plan for this country, over and over again. I do not know what it is going to take.
Even the government cloaking itself in the flag of Obama is not working, because Canadians know they should not be taking their climate change strategy and their plan out of Washington. We should not be taking the design for a cap and trade system out of Washington. We should not be taking the price of a tonne of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases in carbon dioxide equivalent measurement out of Washington.
We should not be abandoning the more than 174 countries of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and wait for Washington. We should not be waiting for 535 congressmen and congresswomen in Washington who have the extremely difficult task of delivering up a cap and trade system and a renewable energy system to President Obama.
This bill to amend the Energy Efficiency Act does not a climate change plan make. It is a simple series of obvious amendments to deal with the fact that the government has no plan.
One of the important provisions of the bill, I will say, is this: It will require that the minister compare Canada's energy efficiency standards to those of the United States and Mexico and report to Parliament here every three years. That is important because of the preponderance of white goods that are now being manufactured in a continental perspective in Mexico.
That is important. It does increase the scope and flexibility of the authority the government can bring for more effective regulation to govern energy consumption. That is a good thing.
We have had this debate. It was at the Canada's Clean Air Act hearings, the hearings of the special legislative committee. We spent hours, for months, sitting until midnight, working and working harder yet again to achieve a proper outcome for the country.
What was the end result? The Prime Minister took his soccer ball and went home with it. He prorogued Parliament. He did not like the outcome of the work of parliamentarians. He was not prepared to abide by the majority wishes of this House and took his ball and went home with it.
We have now been set back at least three and a half years, probably five years, in dealing with the climate change crisis. Once again, Energy Efficiency Act amendments do not a climate change plan make.
Why is the government unable to tell us how the knee bone connects to the thigh bone, or the hip bone connects to the thigh bone? It is incapable of telling us because it has not done its homework.
When it came into power in 2006, it set loose a series of ministers who were two- and three-men wrecking crews. They disassembled the climate change programming that was in place. They cut over $5 billion from climate change programming.
Here are some of the ironic aspects of those changes.
Just a month ago, the Prime Minister's own National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy said that we need a commercial energy efficiency investment program. In 2006, the government killed a program called the commercial building retrofit program because it was brought in by a former government. How could it possibly be good if it was not aligned to the speak-think of the Conservative Party?
The wind power production incentive, the WPPI, as it was called, brought in and providing good fiscal stimulus for our transition to a carbon-constrained future, is gone. The government did not like it. It did not belong to the Conservatives. It could not be Conservative speak-think. The Conservatives could not sell it as theirs. Everything that came before was bad.
The renewable power production incentive, important for solar panels, wave technology, tidal energy sources, biomass and other potentials, is effectively gone. It does not exist anymore.
There is yet another one. All Canadians can see the government's silly ads on television right now about tax credits and picking which one applies to oneself, as if that makes a climate change policy. Forewarned by the official opposition and its own officials at Environment Canada and Finance Canada, the government of tax credits brought in a tax-deductible transit pass.
Just a month ago, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development chided the government, or worse than chided, I think, took the government to serious task about the fact that it claimed it would reduce tens of thousands of tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. It cost $637 million, and in the words of the commissioner, had no effect on reducing greenhouse gases. Worse, it had no effect on driving up ridership in our public transit systems. Instead of taking the $637 million and investing it as it should have in the capital needs, the infrastructure needs of public transit systems across this country, it chose to use yet another tax credit to try to convince Canadians it was the right thing to do.
It is no wonder that our allies and countries with whom we have been doing business for 50 years on energy and environmental issues are scratching their heads and wondering in disbelief what has happened to the country of Canada when it comes to environment, energy and economic opportunities.
The government brought in a $1.5 billion ecotrust. Canadians remember that one. It was during the last Parliament.
We had the Minister of the Environment at the committee and we asked him to tell us why the government put $1.5 billion into a trust fund. He said provinces were drawing it down and it was being used for greenhouse gas emission reductions. We asked him if he could illustrate just one project where the money was spent. The minister could not. We then asked him how many tonnes of greenhouse gases have been reduced as a result of that fund, or what metrics were forced on the provinces, what standards he told the provinces they ought to abide by in spending the money. It turns out that there are no metrics or standards.
It is no surprise that this bill on amending the Energy Efficiency Act cannot be seen in isolation. It is being presented in isolation, but it cannot be seen in isolation. It is no surprise that it does not connect to programmatic spending or fiscal stimuli. It does not connect at all to our climate change plan because we do not have one.
Now we are drifting and waiting for Washington. I think it is a shameful thing for Canada to abandon its sovereignty in preparing a climate change strategy for this country such that we can be good international citizens and come to the negotiating table in Copenhagen with clean hands, something that will be very important as we seek the cooperation of the world to achieve an implementable climate change agreement for 2012 and beyond.