Madam Speaker, I am pleased to say that my Conservative colleagues and I support the Paris agreement and approve of the government's choice to adopt the previous government's emission targets as its own. I am glad to see that the government adopted the standards of the previous government, which led to a 1% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions over a period of 35% growth in GDP, as my hon. friend from St. Albert—Edmonton has pointed out.
This was also a period when Canada's contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions dropped substantially, a legacy of which all Canadians can be proud. We also approve of continued protection of our forests, farms, and wetlands. These are measures that help keep Canada a world leader in carbon sequestration.
However, my colleagues and I cannot support the Liberals' plan to run roughshod over the provinces and impose a job-killing carbon tax, which would raise the cost of living for all Canadians and hurt the most vulnerable members of Canadian society the most. Canada can do several things to minimize our contribution to global climate change while growing the economy. However, first I must ground the discussion in some facts.
Ours is a continent-wide country, which requires vast transportation networks for goods and people. We are blessed with abundant natural resources, which require transportation infrastructure to reach other markets. Most of Canada experiences cold winters, which require affordable heating.
Second, carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas associated with climate change. However, carbon dioxide is also essential to all carbon-based life on earth, so it should not be mischaracterized as pollution. We should not hold our breath in hopes of a completely carbon dioxide-free economy.
Since Canada's geography and highly developed economy necessitates significant energy consumption, and since a carbon dioxide-free existence is not possible, the question is: How can we produce and consume energy most efficiently and with the smallest effect on climate change? We can start by acknowledging that the global economy is interconnected. We must look at the entire life cycle of energy that we produce and consume. We must consider that global demand for energy sources will likely continue to increase for the foreseeable future. Countries like China, Japan, India, Malaysia, and others will acquire energy supplies from one source or another, and fossil fuels are fungible commodities. If these countries do not buy Canadian energy products because we fail to build pipelines or because we regulate our resources back into the ground, then they will simply buy from countries with weak or non-existent environmental and human rights standards. Indeed, countries like Iran, Russia, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela would benefit the most if we fail to bring energy products to international markets.
If Canada is serious about reducing global emissions, we should build pipelines to get our natural gas to developing countries to meet their current energy needs. We could work with them to develop new sources of energy to meet growing demand for the future. If we do not, other countries may simply build greenhouse gas intensive coal plants for electrical generation instead. If the government is serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it should stop talking and get to work repealing barriers to the kinds of innovation that allow a measured transition to a lower carbon economy.
That said, however ideal a future of renewable energy may be, answering the call of extremism for a carbon-free economy immediately would be an economic disaster. Canada's prosperity and high standard of living depend on reliable, abundant, and affordable energy. Increasing the cost of energy would have a drastic effect on businesses and families. That effect is well known to the people of Ontario. Just last week, I read a news article about a couple in L'Orignal, Ontario, whose electricity bill has tripled since 2012. Despite having a well-insulated home, keeping the thermostat at a chilly 15o C in the winter, and despite only heating select portions of the house to reduce costs, these seniors pay almost as much for power as they do in rent. In a country with such abundant reserves of energy as Canada, it is outrageous that an ill-considered government policy should drive seniors into energy poverty. In a developed country, we must not let a warm home, access to refrigeration, the ability to cook, and to see after dark become luxuries that only the wealthy can afford.
The current government likes to speak about how much it is helping seniors, yet now it is talking about introducing a carbon tax that will raise the cost of living. It seems hypocritical to boast of improving the lot of seniors with more income while implementing policies which drive up costs. Expenses are just as important as revenue and personal finance, government finance, and especially the finances of people on fixed incomes.
Albertans are also struggling and do not want a carbon tax. When asked by The Local Parliament Project during the 2015 election, over 60% of those with an opinion opposed such a tax. I do not need a poll to know that my constituents oppose job-killing taxes like a carbon tax. When I speak to the constituents of Calgary Rocky Ridge, they described the hardships caused by massive losses in the energy industry. They describe their fear that Alberta's carbon tax threatens years of decline and contraction in our energy sector. They also wonder why Canadian energy companies in Canada are investing in Texas when more than 100,000 Albertan energy workers are unemployed.
My constituents know the answer, which is that the government is scaring investors away from Canada though mixed messages and confusing rhetoric about the so-called green economy. The government is threatening to cripple Canada's energy sector through national carbon taxes. It is running roughshod over the provinces with its style of heavy-handed executive federalism, despite constant rhetoric about consultations and consensus. A good and responsible government must take the effects of its statements and policy plans on Canadian families into account. Fellow Canadians working in the energy sector and its spin-off industries need work today, work tomorrow, and they will continue to need work during any transition period.
In addition, I reject the government's assertion that an economically ruinous carbon tax is a so-called market solution to industrial emissions. There is nothing free market about adding a tax to everything. A market system is when supply and demand set optimal prices naturally. Taxes on carbon dioxide inject dead-weight loss and distortion into the market, destroying value, and making everything more expensive. Likewise, cap-and-trade schemes are not free market based, since they create a new commodity out of thick air and force people to buy it starting at mandated prices.
One can call the trade of carbon credits a market, yet it is merely an exchange of legal fictions to avoid legal fines. Drastically increasing the price of energy could plunge Canadians into the type of poverty the developed world has not seen in decades.
Just as innovation led humans from burning forests to burning coal for heat, from burning whale oil to burning kerosene for light, from using high-emission horses to high-efficiency cars for transportation, real free market solutions to environmental challenges mean government getting out of the way of inventors and allowing them to create the cleaner, more efficient, and more sustainable technologies we need. When alternatives to fossil fuels become more efficient and affordable than fossil fuels are, the market will move us to a post-fossil fuel economy.
If the government is serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it should focus less on selfies with the global glitterati and burn less jet fuel travelling to exciting locations where three bureaucrats can claim over $12,000 in meal expenses. Instead, it should encourage Canadian entrepreneurs and inventors to create made-in-Canada solutions by cutting red tape and taxes. It should respect the jurisdiction of provinces while avoiding some of the mistakes that have been made at the provincial level of pursuing green dreams while ignoring economic reality. It should create the conditions to bring the price of clean energy solutions down, not plunge Canadians into energy poverty by driving existing energy prices up. These measures may not be glamorous, they may not present many photo opportunities and grandstands, they may not earn approval from movie stars, but these are the solutions that Canadians need.
Canadians deserve a made-in-Canada approach to the concerns of climate change. We need measurable, reasonable, and attainable targets for emissions reduction that take Canada's unique strengths and challenges into account. We need real co-operation between the federal, provincial, and territorial governments. Therefore, unless this motion is amended to prevent encroachment on provincial and territorial jurisdictions, unless it rules out increasing the tax burden on Canadians, and unless it addresses the thousands of unemployed energy workers in my riding while restoring confidence for job-creating investments, I cannot support it.