House of Commons Hansard #52 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was efficiency.


Service CanadaPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members


Service CanadaPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

The Chair

In my opinion, the yeas have it.

Service CanadaPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

And five or more members having risen:

(The House divided on the amendment, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #64

Service CanadaPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the motion, as amended, carried.

It being 6:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Renewable EnergyPrivate Members' Business

May 6th, 2009 / 6:30 p.m.


Stéphane Dion Liberal Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC


That, in the opinion of the House, the government should increase its support of Canada's renewable energy sector, allow our country to participate in the worldwide effort to develop renewable energy sources and enlist Canada as a full member of the International Renewable Energy Agency.

Mr. Speaker, the International Renewable Energy Agency, IRENA, came into being on January 26, 2009. The founding conference in Bonn, Germany was attended by more than 120 government delegations from around the world. The Government of Canada sent no representative or observer.

As of today, 78 nations have signed the agency's statute. Many others have expressed their strong commitment to IRENA's goals and their intention to join in the near future. Until now, the Government of Canada has not signalled its intention.

We certainly wonder why. Why would the government snub this international agency? It makes no sense. The motion I have the honour of presenting offers the House of Commons an opportunity to commit the government to enlisting Canada as a full member of the International Renewable Energy Agency. It should be a given that Canada would be a member of this new agency. This country has always had a policy of making its mark in international forums when there is an important issue at stake.

This country is one of the pioneers that have worked to shape the most vital international institutions and that have used those institutions wisely to solve major problems.

And so the international community expects that Canada will be there, at a time when it is crucial that the world work together to deploy renewable energies and green technologies for the common good, especially since this is a field in which Canada has vast experience and one that will, moreover, provide Canada with valuable economic benefits if it takes its place on the global market.

There can no longer be any doubt: renewable energy sources like solar energy, wind energy and geothermal energy are increasingly becoming strategic assets. There are at least three reasons for this.

The first is environmental. We must promote clean energy to reduce the pollution caused by smog, acid rain and emissions of toxic substances like mercury.

We have to protect our health, our environment and our biodiversity. It is urgent that we adopt these energy sources, which do not emit greenhouse gases, if we are to address the climate change crisis.

The second reason why it is urgent that we expand our use of renewable energy comes under the heading of energy security. Non-renewable energy sources, by definition, are going to run out. They are non-renewable.

One factor is that the global demand for energy will nearly triple by the year 2050. Another is, as we are aware, that known hydrocarbon reserves that are commercially viable using today’s technologies are running out. The world is going to run short of recoverable carbon within a century and of readily accessible uranium in 40 years, and while there is no oil shortage at the moment, oil that is cheap to extract is becoming scarcer.

When a resource is expected to become scarce in the foreseeable future, then buyers and sellers anticipate supply problems and this is reflected in prices or costs.

When the global economy recovers, how high will the cost of a barrel of oil go? As high as $150, as it did last summer? Or higher?

The Saudi oil minister is predicting a disastrous shortage and skyrocketing prices. The International Monetary Fund also foresees a sharp rise in the price of crude oil.

Using renewable energy is an economic necessity. It is vital to global energy security.

The third reason why we have to speed up a massive switch to renewable energy is fairness.

At present, more than 1.6 billion human beings, nearly a third of humanity, are living without electricity.

It is no surprise that the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development has identified access to renewable and clean energy as a prerequisite for achieving the millennium development goals for poverty eradication.

The good news is that the use of renewable energy is actually booming. Wind and solar power are the fastest growing energy sources. According to the United Nations Environmental Program, global investment in renewable energy reached almost $150 billion in 2007 and is expected to increase to $600 billion by 2020. This is encouraging.

However, we will need much more within a short period of time, and the consensus is that it cannot be done without immense international co-operation.

This is why IRENA was created. IRENA is poised to become a key international institution, the role of which will be to act as an international governmental institution, focusing on the promotion of renewable energy and welcoming all UN members to join it. Its main tasks are to provide relevant policy advice and assistance to its members upon their request, improve pertinent knowledge and technology transfer and promote the development of local capacity in member states.

Right now no existing international organization can fulfill this mandate with the desired level of commitment and expertise. This is why so many important world players have welcomed the foundation of IRENA and are eager to unleash the opportunities for development and co-operation that this organization will provide. Here are a few quotes.

Dr. Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Director General of the Energy and Resources Institute, said, “IRENA is a very important development for the mitigation of greenhouse gases and sustainable development”.

Mohamed El-Ashry, chair of the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century stated, “IRENA promises to become a major driving force in advancing a rapid transition towards RE on a global scale”.

Dr. Eric Martinot, research director for the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies said:

IRENA can...provide policy guidance to governments around the world. In addition, the enormous need for technology development and education among all countries - both developed and developing - means that more coherent international efforts are absolutely necessary.

The prospect for synergy and co-operation is particularly promising with the International Energy Agency: first, because IRENA concentrates solely on renewable energy, while the International Energy Agency covers all energy sources with an emphasis on fossil and nuclear sources; and second, because IRENA is open to all United Nations members, industrialized and developing countries alike, while the International Energy Agency is limited to OECD countries.

And this brings us back to Canada’s inexplicable absence. It is now essential that the government allow this country to play its proper role, to be a leader, not a roadblock, in the speedy adoption of renewable energy around the world.

Canada cannot sit on the sidelines. Our country must be a leader in the international co-operation movement toward the much needed massive deployment of renewable energy.

What does the government have to lose by allowing Canada to be a full member of IRENA?

The more we do at home, the more we do elsewhere in the world. In terms of international aid, it is a fact that the most generous countries are also the ones most actively engaged in combating poverty at home. The same is true for renewable energy. Germany, Denmark and Spain, three leaders in renewable energy, are the ones most actively promoting IRENA. The United Arab Emirates, one of the oil-producing countries most active in promoting renewable energy, has tossed its hat into the ring as a candidate to host the headquarters of the new agency.

This kind of interest also shows the economic potential that renewable resources offer for countries that champion this cause early on. What has the Conservative government done to promote renewable energy? Considerably less than the minimum needed.

After three years of Conservative inaction, there is still no cap and trade system in Canada, which would level the playing field and make renewable energy more competitive with fossil fuels.

The Conservatives were quick to kill the plan of the previous Liberal government. They have yet to replace it with something other than idle talk and delaying tactics. Not once did the Conservative budget mention the words renewable energy.

According to the Pembina Institute, only 5% of the stimulus spending plan for the next two years is directed at clean energy. The Conservatives want to spend much, if not all, of their five year so-called clean energy fund on carbon capture and storage. The government declined to expand eco-energy, its modest program to support wind, solar, geothermal and other forms of renewable energy.

Does that explain the government's refusal to join the 78 IRENA member countries? Is the government afraid to be seen once more as an environmental and innovation laggard?

It is clear that we need to accelerate the growth of Canada's renewable energy industry and maximize the economic and environmental benefits that will result from it, especially in terms of green jobs.

Our international competitors are already engaged in meaningful economic stimulus through innovative green initiatives. President Obama's stimulus package, for example, includes plans to double the production of renewable energy in the next three years. Japan has plans to create one million additional green manufacturing jobs. Last week, China pledged to generate 100 gigawatts of electricity from wind power by 2020.

If we do not change course, Canada will fall behind.

To develop the production and use of renewable energy at home and abroad, the government should begin with two simple initiatives: in Canada, expand the eco-energy for renewable power program; and abroad, enlist Canada as a full member of IRENA.

These simple gestures would signal that the government is starting to realize the potential of Canada's renewable energy sector, the amount of green jobs and sustainable economic opportunities that are at stake and the pressing need for global co-operation in this crucial area.

It is never too late to do the right thing. I am offering the government an opportunity to do so, with the motion I have the honour of presenting. I urge all members of this House to support this motion, which calls on the government to increase its support of Canada’s renewable energy sector and allow Canada to participate as a full member of the International Renewable Energy Agency.

Renewable EnergyPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his private member's motion. It is important that we realize the importance of greening the Canadian economy, as we see other countries move forward.

It was not that long ago that Americans used to look north to Canada and were inspired by the fact that the government was pursuing its international responsibilities around the environment and climate change, and they were embarrassed of their government. Now Canadians are looking south to the Obama administration and seeing a budget and a stimulus package that is extraordinarily green, that is investing in renewable energy, in clean energy, in smart grid and all the infrastructure we need to move forward.

My question for the hon. member is around the role of government and government procurement, particularly. Government represents a big part of the Canadian economy. How can governments help lead by example in terms of what we buy, how we heat and renovate our buildings and how we consume goods and services?

Renewable EnergyPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


Stéphane Dion Liberal Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Madam Speaker, I remember the Liberal plan of the last government, which the Conservatives killed. We had a plan to cut the emission of greenhouse gases of our own government activities by a third by 2012.

We need to have a commitment. We need to have a target. Canadians need to know that the target exists, and it needs to be delivered. The government is one of the biggest employers in Canada, a leader. Every moment we decide to focus on green technologies, green solutions for our buildings and our activities, it will have a tremendous effect on the Canadian economy.

This is something that we must do. The government must have a clear target and should deliver it over the years.

Renewable EnergyPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

Langley B.C.


Mark Warawa ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member across the way for his commitment to the environment. He just shared with the House the importance of setting a target and then being committed to delivering that.

The member was the environment minister for a while and the leader of the Liberal Party. Why did the emissions go way above the target? The commitment of the previous government was 6% below 1990 levels, but the targets went 35% above that target. Emissions continued to grow.

Does he still support the job-killing carbon tax that he proposed in the last election?

Renewable EnergyPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


Stéphane Dion Liberal Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Madam Speaker, as one of the champions of the environment, why is his government coming in with this rhetoric? That does not make sense in any environmental network in the world.

We all agree that when we are committed to climate change, we take it seriously. We need to put a price on greenhouse gas emissions. As long as it is free, our atmosphere will remain like a garbage disposal. There is no way we will see emissions go down. We need to put a price on greenhouse gas emissions.

The Liberal government had a commitment to a cap and trade system. Why did the Conservatives kill the Liberal plan for that system? The regulations were done. The last thing I did, before my government left in December 2005, was to start the process to regulate emissions.

Mr. Obama just announced some weeks ago that the United States would regulate greenhouse gas emissions as a pollutant. We did it three years ago. What have the Conservatives done since then? Nothing. We are still waiting for their plan. Canada has no price on greenhouse gas emissions through a cap and trade or a carbon tax. That is why emissions are going up. They are doing nothing.

Renewable EnergyPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.


Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, the government seems to be following the old U.S. policies.

Could the member tell the government that George Bush is no longer in power? We should forget arguing about the past and move forward on a good idea and a good resolution from the member.

Renewable EnergyPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.


The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. member has only 20 seconds for his reply.

Renewable EnergyPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.


Stéphane Dion Liberal Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Madam Speaker, I feel we need to explain why we debate this. It is so obvious that Canada should be a champion of the new international organization, which may become one of the key ones of the 21st century. Why is Canada not there? Because the government seems to have a commitment for isolation in the world, which is similar to what President Bush was doing two years ago.

Renewable EnergyPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.


Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Madam Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to this motion, presented to the House by the hon. member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville.

We need to be strategic and prudent in our decisions about how to invest most effectively in the development of renewable energy both at home and abroad. The agency that the hon. member proposes we join, the International Renewable Energy Agency, or IRENA, has programs with the potential to duplicate others that Canada is already a part of.

Canada is already a major player in the international effort to develop renewable energy sources. It is a member of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership, or REEEP, which is funded by Canada and other governments such as Australia, Austria, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union.

Canada already belongs to and financially supports the Global Bioenergy Partnership, which currently has 25 international members and an additional 21 participating observer nations and organizations. Canada belongs to and supports the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate along with Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea and the United States.

It also belongs to the International Energy Agency, with 28 member countries. The IEA pursues a number of renewable and clean energy initiatives in its overall work program. Moreover, Canada participates in eight IEA implementing agreements. Specifically, they are bioenergy, ocean energy, photovoltaics, renewable technologies, solar, wind and hydropower. These provide concrete and practical examples of leveraging tight resources and advancing renewable technologies.

In addition, organizations to which Canada has been a long-standing member, such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, Energy Working Group and the United Nations Environment Programme, have also increased their activities on renewable energy.

There are a number of reasons why Canada did not join the International Renewable Energy Agency being promoted by the hon. member. The hon. member knows well that much has evolved in this field since IRENA was first proposed in 2004. There have been many initiatives and Canada is participating in those where we see value added for Canada. There is now a real risk of duplication and the overlapping of programs with IRENA being added to the long list of organizations that Canada is already active in.

Moreover, Canada supports an integrated approach to energy issues. It does not advocate creating or spinning off organizations focused on specific elements of a much larger picture as IRENA does. Canada's preferred approach is to continue our engagement with renewable energy initiatives within organizations to which we already belong. We believe in doing our part to make the integrated approach of these organizations as effective as possible, not joining new organizations with new assessed annual contributions, regional offices and secretariats. More is not always better.

We are not alone in this view. I would like to point out that key G8 partners, specifically countries such as the United States, Japan and Russia, have not joined IRENA. Significant emerging economies such as Brazil and China have not joined IRENA either. The motion before us also proposes greater investment here at home in Canada's renewable energy sector. This government has invested in renewable energy strategically in ways that leverage and optimize the effectiveness of public investments, as we have in our other priorities of importance to Canadians.

Energy is the backbone of Canada's economy. Its production has long contributed to the quality of life of Canadians and it will do so in the future. Before the current economic downturn, the energy production of our country alone approached $100 billion annually.

Canada, with its large land mass and diversified geography, has substantial renewable resources that can be used to produce energy. These resources include: moving water, biomass, wind, solar, geothermal and ocean energy. Canada is a world leader in the production and use of energy from renewable resources.

The Government of Canada's eco-energy initiatives have been very successful, especially in the area of renewable energy. The eco-energy for renewable power program is investing nearly $1.5 billion to develop clean renewable energy sources. To date, this program has committed about $934 million, representing over 2,884 megawatts of clean renewable electricity.

There is still $498 million to be allocated through eco-energy for renewable power, with numerous applications still being considered. It is our expectation that this initiative will produce 14.3 terawatt hours of new electricity from renewable sources.

To further support Canada's leadership in clean energy, budget 2009 provides $1 billion over five years to support clean technologies. This includes $150 million over five years for research, $850 million over five years for the development and demonstration of promising technologies, including large-scale carbon capture and storage projects. This support is expected to generate a total investment in clean technologies of at least $2.5 billion over the next five years.

In closing, it is clear that there is no compelling reason why Canada should join yet another international body committed to the development of renewable energies. The Government of Canada is maximizing successful investments already made among other priorities of importance to Canadians. This government is getting the job done.

Renewable EnergyPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.


Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in the House to debate Motion No. 295 from the hon. member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville on renewable energy and Canada's participation, or rather lack of it, in the International Renewable Energy Agency, or IRENA.

The motion divides into two specific points, First, that the government should increase its support of Canada’s renewable energy sector. Second, that the government should allow Canada to participate in the worldwide effort to develop renewable energy sources and enlist Canada as a full member of the International Renewable Energy Agency.

The Bloc Québécois is in favour of this motion. Indeed, any measure or initiative that would enable Quebec to reduce its oil dependency will be encouraged by the Bloc Québécois, no matter whom it comes from.

Because our nation is so greatly concerned by the issue of climate change, in large part because of our dependency on non-renewable fossil fuels.

Because the Quebec nation is highly attuned to sustainable economic development issues and committed to protecting the environment by every means possible.

And as long as Quebec is not a nation free to make its own economic and environmental choices, we must support federal measures which will provide better support to the Quebec renewable energy sector.

And as long as Quebec cannot determine all its own economic and environmental policies, we will have to suffer because of Canada's poor record in the fight against climate change, a Liberal as well as Conservative legacy.

And until we are a sovereign state that can make good use of its ecological advantage compared to the rest of Canada, we will support motions such as the one introduced by our colleague from Saint-Laurent—Cartierville.

Canada's environmental record gets worse by the day. Instead of decreasing, fossil fuel consumption is rising steadily, and production is going up as well. The Conservative government takes pride in that. We are concerned, though.

With the Liberals, we had a government that did promote the Kyoto protocol, but did absolutely nothing to comply with it. Greenhouse gas emissions rose by nearly 22% between 1990 and 2006, even though the Kyoto target was a 6% reduction compared to 1990 levels.

My colleague from Saint-Laurent—Cartierville was even the environment minister when the Liberals were in power. His record speaks for itself: fine words and good intentions, but in practical terms, we are very far from the targets Canada supported.

The current situation cannot go on indefinitely without having a serious impact not only on our energy future, but on our future, period. We need to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Quebec is part of the solution. Forty per cent of all the energy used in Quebec, which includes transportation, is electric and hydroelectric energy, which is clean and renewable. In Ontario, 40% of electricity is generated using nuclear power.

In Quebec, 0.9% of electricity is produced from coal. In Ontario, the figure is 23%.

Quebec has a vested interest in taking an active role in developing renewable energy, because we have expertise in this area and a desire to excel.

For example, when the electric car becomes the norm, Quebec will be richer, because every dollar spent on gas in Quebec is a dollar exported.

We have no interest in seeing the current situation continue.

In the end, Alberta will find itself with an economy based on the most environmentally destructive form of energy production in the world: oil sands development.

California, a market of over 30 million people, is about to ban this source of oil.

With the oil sands development in Alberta, Canada has become a major player in the oil market.

Its natural resources minister has become the head lobbyist for this industry, going so far as to threaten to retaliate against our trading partners if they ban this dirty oil from their countries. That episode says a lot about how interested the Conservative government really is in the environment.

The Bloc Québécois has suggested several ways to reduce our dependency on oil and shift the emphasis to renewable energy.

First, we need to move quickly to give Hydro-Québec some leeway by increasing the energy efficiency of homes by 18% and reducing consumption by 15% over 10 years.

Second, we should continue to abandon the use of fuel oil in homes, businesses and industries by cutting the number of homes heating with it by half over 10 years and reducing the amount industry uses by 45%.

Third, we should stop the increases in the amount of fuel used for the long distance transportation of goods by freezing the volume of trucking at its current level and relying on technological improvements to obtain a 9% reduction in the amount of fuel used for transportation of this kind.

Fourth, we should reduce the amount of fuel used to transport people by stopping the increases in the number of automobiles on the roads and encouraging a 40% increase in the use of public transit, a 20% decrease in the amount of fuel used by private vehicles, and a 30% decrease in the amount used by commercial and institutional fleets.

Fifth, we should reduce the oil content of the fuels we use. We have almost no bio-fuels, despite their potential. The amount consumed in Quebec as a whole should be reduced by 5%.

Sixth, Quebec is in the vanguard of certain energy and clean transportation technologies and we should make it an energy and clean transportation hub by increasing our investments in research and development and encouraging the emergency of technology centres.

Quebec is certainly contributing its fair share to the development of clean, renewable energies. Until we are a sovereign country, the federal government has a role to play, especially in regard to federal expenditures on research and development to meet our needs and build up a critical mass of knowledge in cutting-edge fields.

The first point raised in my colleague’s motion M-295 is that the government should increase its support for the renewable energy sector in Canada. However, the Conservatives do the opposite and confine themselves to a vision straight out of the last century by lending unwavering support to the oil and nuclear industries. In the view of this government, oil has become a clean energy because, according to its plans, we will soon be able to bury the fantastic amounts of carbon produced by the big oil companies under the ground.

This carbon capture and storage technology is basically funded by the taxpayers of Quebec and Canada. In its last budget, the government boasted it had provided more than $375 million in 2006 for the development of this technology. This taxpayer money is being sent directly to the biggest polluters on the continent.

The government’s arrogance does not stop there. On page 179 of the budget, the government says it wants to further support Canada’s leadership in clean energy by providing $1 billion over five years to support clean energy technologies. This claim is a total farce. Of the $1 billion, $650 million will go straight to funding concrete applications of big carbon capture and storage projects.

We could continue at length on the problems with the ecoENERGY program and the lack of much effort by the federal government to help reduce greenhouse gases, but we will stop there. This is a debate that is only beginning.

I want to congratulate my colleague from Saint-Laurent—Cartierville for giving us this opportunity to debate together.

Renewable EnergyPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.


Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I am fully in favour of the motion put forward by the hon. member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville.

Based on what we have heard from the government today on this motion, I have to say that the government simply does not get it. Clean energy, clean electricity is not synonymous with renewable power. It is incumbent upon the government to understand the difference and to understand why it is important to embrace renewable energy and embrace a membership in IRENA.

I can give three simple examples of where the government just does not get it. The first is the 2009 budget. The second is the 2008 fall economic update. The third is turning the corner. If we go back and turn the corner, we will understand what happened in the fall economic update and what happened in the budget. It is the same message throughout. The government's definition of clean electricity in all three documents does not include the words renewable power anywhere. The government just does not understand what it is.

The government's definition of clean energy is “clean coal”, which no government in this nation has committed to fully. However, to its credit, the Alberta government is ahead of everyone else in the country. The Conservatives do not understand what the rest of the world is embracing and we are losing our competitive edge.

I absolutely support the motion put forward by the hon. member. It is not even enough that we join IRENA. We need to step up to the plate. It is one thing for the government to say that it cannot take action on climate change because Canada will be at an economic disadvantage but it is another thing when it says that Canada will not join IRENA and give assistance to developing nations in transfer technology and help them ensure their energy supply is clean. That would be far too consistent.

The government gave a major economic hit to renewables in the budget. Sure, money was provided previously, but a lot of it was provided through the historic NDP 2005 budget. Sure, money was previously given by the government toward renewables. In fact, the program was so popular it was oversubscribed. However, the government cut that program to the quick. There is no new money for renewables. It has slammed the door in the face of a burgeoning Canadian energy sector. It does not want renewable power in Canada. It would be perfectly happy if that whole industry were to move to the United States and all the investment came from Europe. The government does not want to build our renewable industry in Canada.

What did President Obama do in the first month that he was elected? He gave a three year extension in tax credits to wind power, solar power and other revenue producers. He gave tax credits to investors in renewable energy and grants to producers who could not benefit from the tax credits. He provided $4.5 billion in loans and grants for smart grid. Why is that significant? It is because in order to bring renewable energy on stream, smart grid is needed. The U.S. simply cannot tie in to the massive grids that we support in Canada. Money was also given to energy manufacturers as an incentive for supply renewable energy.

The Prime Minister's budget and policies are completely contrary to American policies and contrary to what we are told day after day by the hon. Minister of the Environment. Every week he tells us that he has met again with the Americans in our Canada-U.S. dialogue on energy security and climate change and says that he is in harmony. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Conservative government has refused to give its support to renewables, while President Obama is embracing the renewable sector and understands what the Europeans are saying. He also understands what the International Energy Agency is saying, which the member across the floor proudly espouses. Even that agency, which premises most of its work on fossil fuels, says that it is time to shift to investing in renewables. It says that it is time to get off the fossil fuel bandwagon if countries want to remain competitive.

I do not see harmonization in our energy and climate change policies. On the contrary, we refuse to join IRENA. We refuse to take action on climate change. We refuse to invest in renewable power.

To my regret, the hon. member voted in favour of that budget. I am happy he has come forward with this motion. It is showing clearly that he thinks the government should be shifting in a different direction. We need to be altering this budget. We need to be putting money back into renewables, including support for lesser developed nations.

In March of this year, contrary to what we were told by the hon. Minister of the Environment, the United States moved forward in actually enacting legislation in support of renewables. Just this past month, the United Staets tabled the American clean energy and security act of 2009. That was put forward to the public for discussion before they tabled the bill. Imagine that. The Americans opened up to the U.S. public and asked what they thought of their innovation and proposed investment and regulatory measures in favour of renewables. That was tabled by the chair of the U.S. energy and commerce committee and the chair of the subcommittee on energy and environment. Clearly, their energy and environment agencies are coming together and embracing renewables.

The release of that act is laudable, for two reasons. One is the transparency of the process, the reaching out to Americans and asking what they think of the proposal. Is it going far enough? Are we going in the right direction with our climate change and energy policy?

Second, the Americans are taking legislative action. Not only are they endorsing the move toward investment and renewables, they are actually imposing legislative requirements and measures to incent renewables. That includes a legally binding renewable electricity standard requiring all retail electricity suppliers with annual sales over a million megawatts per hour to supply 25% of electricity from renewable sources by 2025. Would it not be nice if we saw our federal government doing the same?

These measures will provide cleaner air, reduced pollution and security of supply for the United States, which wants to get off its reliance on fossil fuels. We see leadership in the United States, the political will to legislate and to bring forward renewables.

A second legislative measure that was just announced by the United States is new regulations by the United States Environmental Protection Agency for ethanol. It is a renewable fuel standard requiring 20% reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases when they produce ethanol. What is Canada's response? It is incenting more use of ethanol but no requirement to reduce the greenhouse gases in production. Does that sound like harmonization in energy and climate change policy? It is far from the truth. It is completely contrary.

Where is the action by the government? Surely the government has been briefed on these measures. The Minister of the Environment has repeatedly advised the House that this government's policies are moving in tandem with the United States, that the Canada-U.S. dialogue is going well.

Where are the long-awaited, long-promised air pollution standards? Why the delay? Where are the long-awaited, long-promised legally binding rules for greenhouse gases? Why did the government strike this blow to the Canadian renewable energy sector just when it was burgeoning and could be competitive? Why is the government ignoring the advice of leading international agencies, including the International Energy Agency, and all of the leading agencies of the western world, most of which are embracing the International Renewable Energy Agency?

Will the government remove its blinders and seek briefings by knowledgeable, independent experts on the renewable energy sector? Will the government truly turn the corner and revise its budget and strategy on achieving cleaner electricity and addressing climate change to support this country's renewable energy sector?

With our economy suffering, including the fossil fuel industry, why is the government deserting this sector for the future? European investors are reported to be shifting their investments to the U.S. renewable sector. Our companies will lose out. Will the government step up to the plate and support competitiveness of Canada's renewable sector? Will it step forward and at least join IRENA and support the lesser developed nations of the world that are trying to move forward as well in addressing climate change?

Renewable EnergyPrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.


Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Madam Speaker, today I rise in the House in support of the private member's motion to increase support for Canada's renewable energy sector and to enlist Canada as a full member of the International Renewable Energy Agency, or IRENA.

Leading entrepreneurs, scientists and thinkers identify the greatest challenges facing humanity over the next 50 years as producing renewable energy, reprogramming genes to prevent disease, and reversing the signs of aging.

They describe sunshine as a tantalizing source of environmentally friendly power, bathing the Earth with more energy each hour than the planet's population consumes in a year, and they identify the challenge, namely capturing one part in 10,000 of the sunlight that falls on the Earth to meet 100% of our energy needs, converting it into something useful and then storing it.

Solving the clean energy challenge will change the world but it will not be met without economic and political will, as cheap, polluting technologies are often preferred over more expensive, renewable technologies, despite environmental regulations.

Humanity is, however, up to this challenge, as shown by financial and political investment, for example, in President Kennedy's tremendous vision in 1961. He said:

[T]his nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.... But in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon--if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation.

Closer to home the channel tunnel, or Chunnel, first proposed in 1802, cost $15 billion, took seven years and 13,000 workers to link England and France in 1994. The CN Tower, which dominates Toronto's skyline, was constructed over 40 months to improve telecommunications problems resulting from a construction boom in the 1960s.

Today we need new vision, or in the words of James Collins, a “big, hairy, audacious goal”, a renewable energy goal that stimulates progress and leads to continuous improvement, innovation and renewal. We need tangible targets such as Amazon's “every book, ever printed in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds.” We must economically and politically invest in renewable energy, as climate change is our most pressing environmental problem.

It is no longer a choice between saving our economy and saving our environment. Today it is a choice between prosperity and decline. It is a choice between being a principal producer and consumer in the old economy or a leader in the new economy of renewable energy.

We must remember that the country that leads the world in creating new energy sources will be the nation that leads the 21st century global economy.

Failure to limit climate change to 2°C above pre-industrial levels will make it impossible to avoid potentially irreversible changes to the Earth's ability to sustain human development. We have a five-in-six chance of maintaining the 2°C limit if worldwide greenhouse gas emissions are reduced by 80% by 2050, relative to 1990.

In light of this science, there were 17 sessions on climate change under the theme, “The Shifting Power Equation”, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this year. A total of 2,400 global leaders, including 800 CEOs, attended sessions on economics of climate change, making green pay, and the legal landscape around climate change, culminating with a plenary session entitled, “Climate Change: A Call to Action”.

Clearly, global business leaders recognize that climate change is a serious economic and social challenge and that delaying mitigation will make future action more costly. They recognize that addressing climate change requires clear and honest communication regarding the challenge we face, that rich countries should take the lead in cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and that all countries must in fact take action.

Business leaders are therefore committed to addressing climate change and are already undertaking emission reduction strategies in their companies. More important, they support the Bali Action Plan and its work program to negotiate an international climate policy framework to succeed the Kyoto protocol and are ready to work with governments to help this happen.

There are numerous opportunities to mitigate and to adapt to climate change, from carbon capture and storage to cleaner diesel, to combined heat and power, to fossil fuel switching, to hybrid vehicles, to renewable energy, to name but a few mitigation technologies.

Different countries will pursue different combinations of policies and technologies to cut emissions. Canada, with its abundant supply of biomass, water and wind, must expand with government's help its renewable energy sector and commercialization of products and technologies over the coming years.

Industry Canada reports that it supports the development and demonstration of renewable energy technologies. It also conducts research to assess the economic opportunities that renewables create for Canada, as well as investment opportunities and the domestic manufacturing capacity to support the renewable energy industry.

Unprecedented multi-stakeholder collaboration is needed to link the climate and economic agendas. We need private-public collaboration of civil society, climate scientists, environmental economists and trade experts, all working with government.

In concrete terms, Canada needs to be part of the International Renewable Energy Agency, or IRENA, the first group, including 78 countries as of January 2009, designed to ensure the fast-emerging sector has a clear voice at next year's UN climate change negotiations.

The agency's goals include working with its members to improve the policy environment for the use of renewable energy, to engage in technology transfer, and to support capacity-building for renewable energy, goals very similar to those of Industry Canada.

Germany's environment minister argues that IRENA will help to promote the emerging sector at a time when the global economic downturn has caused fear that some capital-intensive alternative energy projects may find it difficult to attract funding.

In closing, our most daunting challenges are the global economic crisis and climate change. Humanity needs a climate change solution that is scientifically credible, economically viable and equable, and Canada needs a plan that builds on its abundance of renewable energy sources with the support of IRENA.

Finally, we must heed the words of 12-year-old Severn Suzuki at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, who was fighting for her future and who challenged us to fight for all future generations. She read:

Do not forget why you are attending...who you are doing this for. We are your own children. You are deciding what kind of world we are growing up in.

Parents should be able to comfort their children by saying “Everything's going to be all right. It's not the end of the world. And we're doing the best we can.” But I don't think you can say that to us anymore.

Renewable EnergyPrivate Members' Business

7:25 p.m.


The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Resuming debate.

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development has perhaps three minutes to begin his comments and will be able to continue when the debate resumes.

Renewable EnergyPrivate Members' Business

7:25 p.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain Saskatchewan


Ed Komarnicki ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Madam Speaker, certainly, renewable energy is a large part of the Government of Canada's plan to address climate change.

We owe it to future generations to take action on climate change and to take that action now. That is why in early 2007 the Government of Canada announced its eco-energy initiatives to support the objective of reducing Canada's greenhouse gases by 20% by 2020.

At the same time, we have to balance the needs of our environment with the needs of our economy. Energy production is the backbone of Canada's economy. It has long contributed significantly to the quality of life of all Canadians.

Before the economic downturn, Canada's energy production was approximately $100 billion annually. However, the reality is that energy production and use are also the sources of most of Canada's air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

The task at hand is twofold: to clean up the production and use of fossil fuels, and to increase the use of clean energy by helping Canadians use energy more efficiently, boost renewable energy supplies and develop cleaner energy technologies.

The $3.6 billion eco-energy initiative that this government launched in 2007 provides a suite of programs designed to do just that. Our eco-energy programs are focusing on energy production, industry, business, transportation and, most importantly, homeowners. These programs have been tremendously successful, especially in the area of renewable energy.

I am pleased to have this opportunity to highlight a few examples. The eco-energy for renewable power program is investing nearly $1.5 billion to develop clean renewable energy sources, such as wind, low-impact hydro, biomass, geothermal, solar, photovoltaic and ocean energy.

To date this program has committed $934 million, representing over 2,884 megawatts of clean renewable electricity. This year we will see even greater success. There is still $498 million that will be allocated by the eco-energy for renewable power program, and many of the applications are still being reviewed.

Ultimately, this initiative will encourage the production of 14.3 terawatt hours of new electricity from renewable energy sources. That is enough electricity to power about 1 million homes.

Through our eco-energy for renewable heat program, we are supporting the uptake of renewable energy by industry, business and institutions. It is extending the use of renewable energy for space heating and hot water.

Our government is also encouraging Canadians to install renewable energy technologies in their homes by providing eco-energy grants to homeowners for the installation of solar hot water systems, ground or water source heat pumps to ensure that as homeowners they can contribute to the bigger picture of what needs to happen.

Renewable EnergyPrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.


The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

7:30 p.m.


Jean-Claude D'Amours Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise this evening to take part in the adjournment debate.

On February 11, 2009, I asked the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development a question about the crisis situation facing people applying for employment insurance.

For several months now, we have known that many Canadians are experiencing this crisis situation. They are applying for employment insurance for one reason, and one reason only: they are losing their jobs. If they had not lost their jobs, they would not need to apply for EI. They could go on working and receiving a salary in order to support their families. The reality, however, is quite the opposite.

Indeed, people are losing their jobs and have had to wait up to 55 days to receive their first cheque. Not only must the department have all the necessary information, but the employer might need more time to provide the employee with the termination papers. The individual does not receive his or her first cheque until after that. In some cases, there is a 55-day wait, but quite often, up to 75 days can go by between when the individual loses his or job and when he or she receives the first cheque. Receiving your first cheque 75 days after losing your job must be very difficult.

Every day, many Canadians tell me that it would be interesting to see the members of the Conservative government, who do not understand what it is like, go through the EI application process. Of course, MPs are not entitled to EI. But if they were to do so, they would understand the reality facing most Canadian workers every day.

With a delay of 55 days, how can anyone keep a roof over their heads? An individual, just like a family, needs a roof over his head, whether it is an apartment, a room or a house.

In rural areas, people need a means of transportation, such as a car. They also have to eat. That is the minimum for survival in this country. In winter, things get worse. They have to pay astronomical amounts to heat a residence, whether they use heating oil or electricity.

People have to wait 55 days for their first cheque. That means that many citizens have lost not only their jobs but also their accommodation and they can no longer feed themselves or their families. How do people survive? We want to boost the economy but how can these people do it if they cannot make purchases?

In reality, these people cannot keep their jobs, which are taken away from them, nor their homes, because they are evicted for lack of money. They cannot even buy food. This is not the 1930s, 1940s or 1950s, when we could go to the general store and put our purchases on account, and then pay for them when we received a cheque.

The fact is that waiting more than 55 days to receive one's first employment insurance cheque is unacceptable.

Why will this government not simply make things better so that people can continue to live with dignity and not be forced to keep begging for help from the federal government?

7:35 p.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain Saskatchewan


Ed Komarnicki ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Madam Speaker, the remarks of the member for Madawaska—Restigouche give me an opportunity to detail the many steps that our government has taken recently to help unemployed Canadians and their families during this difficult economic slowdown.

Obviously, there can be a number of reasons behind any delay, but we have taken a number of steps to mitigate delays. Losing a job is a particularly trying time for anyone. There is no question or doubt about that. Unfortunately, too many Canadians are going through that right now. That is why we have taken action to make sure that we are processing their EI claims just as fast as we can.

We recognize the increased need for processing capacity and to that end, we have acted and will continue to act to meet the needs of Canadians in this regard. To this effect, we have allocated an additional $60 million for EI processing, including hiring additional staff in order to ensure Canadians who need help are getting it as soon as possible.

Beyond this, we have taken many steps to meet the increased demand. We have hired and trained additional employees and recalled recent retirees. Call centre agents are working overtime on a voluntary basis. Hours of services have been extended and workloads are being shared to accelerate the speed of payment and to ensure Canadians in all regions receive uniform service. We are also increasing the automation of the claims process.

Through these measures, we have processed significantly more claims this year than over the same time last year, and we continue to take action to meet increasing demand.

Through our economic action plan, we have invested an unprecedented $8.3 billion in the Canada skills and transition strategy. This strategy will strengthen the benefits for Canadian workers, enhance the availability of training and keep EI premium rates frozen.

Never before has there been such a concerted effort to reach out and help Canadians. Among our many actions, we have extended the duration of EI benefits by expanding nationally a pilot project which already provided five extra weeks of EI benefits to EI claimants in areas of high unemployment. We have also increased the maximum duration of EI benefits available under the EI program from 45 to 50 weeks. Over 400,000 Canadians will benefit from these measures in the first year alone.

While we are pleased that the unprecedented stimulus measures we proposed in our economic action plan are now starting to take effect, we recognize that the challenges faced by those who have lost their jobs in this difficult time, through no fault of their own, is something that we need to help them with.

We will continue to monitor the effectiveness of these measures to make sure that the EI system is working and responding effectively to the evolving economic circumstances. We will do what we can to stay with those who need us at this time.

7:35 p.m.


Jean-Claude D'Amours Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Madam Speaker, it is now May 2009. The crisis did not start yesterday or the day before. In my riding, the crisis started over a year ago when pulp and paper mills and sawmills started closing. That is the reality that people in other parts of the country have had to deal with. We told the Conservative government about it, but it was not interested. It probably figured that it could put its head in the sand for a while, then come up for air once everything was rosy and the economy was doing just fine.

The fact is that, in September and October of last year, while the government was campaigning across the country, everyone was saying that the crisis was happening, was serious. But the Prime Minister kept saying that there was no crisis, that the worst was over and that we would get through it. The truth is that the warnings came from politicians, citizens and economists. But the Conservatives would not listen.

Who is responsible for the delays? Why did they not take action—back when the time was right and when people told them there was a crisis—to prevent families from suffering every day?

7:35 p.m.


Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Madam Speaker, we know that it is incredibly hard on families when even one member of the family loses his or her job. That is why we have taken the action that we have taken.

I am not sure what the member means, but we have helped around 400,000 people by extending EI benefits by five weeks and ensuring the duration increases from 45 to 50 weeks. Approximately 190,000 people are affected through skills upgrading and training programs. EI rates have been frozen and that alone will inject $4.5 billion of stimulus into the economy. That is a huge amount. This is taking action.

The member says he does not understand why we have not taken any action. We have taken a number of significant actions that will help people during the difficult times in which they find themselves.