House of Commons Hansard #49 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was infrastructure.


Second ReadingBudget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 1.Government Orders

5:25 p.m.


Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is nice to know that the member's background is in the YMCA and the Boys and Girls Club. I would like those in the House to know that the YMCA is the largest provider of child care spaces and services in Canada, so I obviously like the YMCA.

That is a very good question and New Democrats got asked about that. In my comments, I talked about the opportunity to make real change, to make the tax system more progressive rather than regressive. The corporate tax rate in Canada is at its lowest point ever since the year 2000. It is one of the lowest in the G7 countries. We had an opportunity to increase the corporate tax rate slightly in order to increase the government's revenue. I believe the government has an issue around increasing revenue, but that money would be available to fund programs like a national child care program, which is essential for a government that wants equality for women.

Second ReadingBudget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 1.Government Orders

5:25 p.m.


Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, like my colleague, I am very concerned about the Liberals falling into bad ways with what we can only describe as an undemocratic omnibus bill. The fact that it is 179 pages long and addresses a significant number of ministries and statutes concerns New Democrats very much.

My question is twofold. First, I absolutely understand that child care is an investment. For every $1 that is invested, $1.79 goes back into the economy, so it is a smart investment. I am sorry that it has not seen the light of day with the current government.

Second, I am very concerned about how veterans are being treated. Bill C-12 has been incorporated into this budget bill and it deserves our full attention. It is a bill that addresses the needs of our veterans with regard to their pensions. It needs to be separate and I wonder if my colleague could comment on that.

Second ReadingBudget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 1.Government Orders

5:25 p.m.


Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Mr. Speaker, my colleague, the speaker prior to me, had asked for consent, through a motion, to separate out this bill so that some of the bigger, more complicated pieces could be referred to committee for study. Included in that, of course, were the issues surrounding veterans, and I fully support that.

This is my first time in Parliament, obviously. I was looking forward to more democracy and an opportunity to discuss and feel that democracy at the committee level, so I was disappointed that so much was included in the bill and that we are getting shortchanged as far as being able to really look at what is contained in this bill at the committee level, where parties are able to work together democratically to improve bills.

Second ReadingBudget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 1.Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, if I may, I will just start off by expressing my prayers and best wishes to Fort McMurray, a community that is indeed in need today, and to do what the Prime Minister indicated earlier this morning, which is to tell the residents of that area that across Canada there is a very caring and compassionate mood, from all Canadians.

The federal government is going to be there for the community, not only for today but into the future, whether that is dealing with infrastructure, employment insurance-related issues, or the many other issues on which the federal government can be of assistance. I know, and I am confident that the government will be there for that community. All members of the House truly care about what is taking place in Fort McMurray today.

I have had the opportunity to listen for a number of hours to many members in the chamber speak to this particular issue. I suspect it is a bit of a challenge for New Democrats in particular. I have seen them kind of bend over or turn themselves into pretzels, trying to figure out what it is they should or possibly could be doing on this budget.

My best advice to the New Democratic members of Parliament is that they should vote in favour of this legislation. They can try to come up with all the excuses they want, but at the end of the day if they have a progressive mind and would like to see Canada move forward, they should be voting in favour of this budget.

Let me expand on a couple of comments. I listened to the member for Churchill—Keewatinook Aski talk about our first nations communities. If she truly cares about what is happening with the first nations communities, this is a budget that she should be getting behind.

I listened to the member saying one thing after another, being critical of the Liberal Party. There is nothing that could be further from the truth. She should look at the NDP government of Manitoba, a provincial government that four years ago intentionally flooded out reserve communities. Some of those reserve communities that were flooded out by the NDP government are still evacuated today, and that was four years ago. I am talking about the Lake St. Martin First Nation reserve and the Little Saskatchewan First Nation reserve.

We do see more co-operation today with Ottawa to try to assist, but let there be no doubt that the provincial NDP government abandoned those communities.

When the member talks about the poverty that is there, that is very real. There is no doubt that there is a significant issue of poverty. I would argue, and it is not with pride, that with Manitoba's percentage based on per capita, we should be concerned about poverty in the province of Manitoba. In the last decade, it has not gotten better, with the federal Conservative government here in Ottawa or the provincial NDP government in Manitoba. I could cite many different reasons why the NDP's performance in government has been a big disappointment in the province of Manitoba over the last number of years.

I say that for one reason, and that is that the member went on at great length to try to be critical of the Liberal Party, as if her party has the high road in terms of trying to fight for good social programs. That is not the case.

If we take a look at the budget, we can see a huge redistribution of wealth. We often hear the opposition members criticizing the tax cut to Canada's middle class. It is something they try make a mockery of. They say that only a small percentage of people will actually benefit from it, and that it is only the rich who will benefit.

The opposition members are wrong. They are dead wrong. There are workers from every region of our country, from factory workers to teachers to health care providers, who will benefit from the two-point tax break that is being given to Canada's middle class.

Then the opposition members cite those who make less than $45,000. They are very much aware of the Canada child benefit program.

Members should think of the individuals who will benefit directly from that program, such as a single mother with one child, and the hundreds of dollars extra that she will be receiving every year because we have developed a program that will give more money to those in need. When we look at the budget in its entirety with respect to what is being proposed, we see three very significant measures from a tax and redistribution of wealth point of view.

The first is that those who are making more than $200,000 a year will be expected to pay more in taxes with a special tax increase. I believe even those individuals would acknowledge that they want to continue to contribute to being a part of making Canada a great country. That is one tax increase. The monies derived from that tax increase will go a long way in providing the middle-class tax break, which is estimated to benefit nine million Canadians. The vast majority of those nine million people are not making the type of money that the opposition is trying to portray, of $170,000, $180,000, and so forth. We are talking about hard-working middle-class families making anywhere in the range of $45,000 to $190,000, or a bit more than that.

Then we have the Canada child benefit program. That is something that I believe is virtually revolutionary. It is quite significant that this particular program will kick in on July 1, Canada Day. I would argue that if there is one aspect of the budget that I feel the most proud of, it is that program. History will reflect on this budget to say that we created a Canada child tax benefit program that lifted hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty in every region of this great country. That is something that we should all be proud of.

That is why I am suggesting to members that, from a tax and poverty-related issue, I cannot understand why any New Democrat would vote against this budget implementation. I do not know how many times I have heard the Conservatives stand in their place and say that they support tax decreases. This budget provides that tax decrease that they want to see happen, yet I suspect they will no doubt vote against this budget. I believe the New Democrats will end up voting against this piece of legislation because of the process. We have heard them talking about it not really being a budget bill.

I would suggest to them, because I have been here for the last five years, that I know what is and what is not a massive budget bill. When I look at this bill, every measure, every change is what is required to implement the budget that was presented to this House not that long ago. We know that Canadians from every region of this country are supporting this budget. They understand that what was promised during the election is being delivered in this budget. That is why I believe that the New Democratic members should seriously look at how they might want to vote on this particular budget implementation bill. If they believe that we need to put emphasis in areas that they have talked about, and some have spoken passionately about indigenous people, first nations, the Métis and Inuit nations and so forth, these are communities that this budget has allocated hundreds of millions, going into the billions of dollars, over the next few years to resolve many of the problems that the opposition members have talked about for years. If not this budget, I do not know what they would vote for.

I recall the election platforms that were presented, and there was quite a bit of difference. The Liberal Party was the only party that indicated right from the beginning that we were not going have a balanced budget. The reason is that we believe it is time for Canada to invest in our infrastructure, to do more for Canada's middle class. We believe that if we have a healthier middle class and we can allow for growth within the middle class, support the middle class, that we will have a healthier economy. A healthier middle class means a healthier economy.

A number of questions that have come forward from the Conservatives lately have been about small businesses. They talk about the small business tax. What they do not seem to realize is that the most important thing a small business wants is customers. They want business.

If we have a redistribution of hundreds of millions of dollars that goes into the billions, what do we think the middle class and the others—in particular, I am thinking of the Canada child benefit program—are going to do with the money? They are not going to be hoarding it. They are going to be spending the money. That means they are going to go to the retail outlets. That means they are going to be doing things, ideally within Canada, but whatever their decision, the point is that the disposable income of Canada's middle class is going to be going up under this budget. By doing that, we would see more money then being invested in our small businesses.

I, like everyone else, have many small businesses in the community that I represent. I can tell members that the small business community as a whole is very supportive and is encouraged by what they are seeing with respect to this budget.

When the Conservatives stand to say that this budget is not doing anything for small businesses, they are wrong. They are not recognizing the reality and the potential strength of the middle class in terms of driving Canada's economy.

We recognize within government that the backbone in terms of growth and creation of jobs is our small business sector. We recognize that fact. However, we also recognize the importance of that middle class. By supporting the middle class, we are supporting small businesses. We are supporting the Canadian economy.

From many years of sitting in opposition, I watched as government created deficit after deficit. In fact, it would have been about two weeks from now a year ago, when I stood in my place and indicated that I did not believe for a moment that the government had a balanced budget.

When the Conservatives first came into government, they inherited a multi-billion dollar surplus. We know that because the books did actually show that. At the end of the fiscal year, the books actually showed that. They converted that multi-billion dollar surplus into a multi-billion dollar deficit, even prior to the recession taking place, and they have not balanced the books since. Year after year, they had a deficit. Then, lo and behold, we were into an election year and the Conservatives said, “Now, we're going to get a balanced budget.”

I questioned that, and I indicated that there was no balanced budget, that they were just cooking the books to try to deceive Canadians. In fact, back in July, I think it was, the Bank of Canada governor indicated there was going to be a deficit, so no one should be surprised. Then the Conservatives said, “Well, for this particular month, it's a surplus.”

Conservatives talk a lot about small businesses. When we talk to small businesses, they tell us what matters is at the end of the year. We know at the end of the year that there is going to be a deficit. The good news is that previous Liberal administrations, whether it was Jean Chrétien or Paul Martin, were able to deliver balanced budgets. The only party in the last 50 years that has been unable to produce a balanced budget is the Conservative Party. That is the reality.

When we look at where the Government of Canada is going today, it is pretty straightforward. We understand and believe in Canada's middle class, therefore we are investing by giving significant tax breaks for them. We understand and appreciate the issue of poverty, and we are lifting hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty as a direct result of the Canada child benefit program.

We understand that there are communities throughout our great country that are in need of infrastructure dollars, and we are providing those infrastructure dollars, not six or seven years from now, but in this fiscal year. We know and appreciate that by investing in Canada today, it is going to make a world of difference going forward. We have had independent stakeholders who have been clear on the fact that this is a progressive budget, that it will allow the Canadian economy to grow.

One of the issues I have always been very passionate on is the issue of health care. Within this budget document, we have seen a commitment to a health care accord. The last time we had one that was signed off by working with the provinces was in 2004. It expired in 2014, and the government then did absolutely nothing. Once again, we have seen a government demonstrate that it believes in a health care accord, and the Minister of Health is proactively working with provincial counterparts to see if we can come up with something going forward.

We have had a substantial commitment going forward in terms of palliative care. In the last couple of days, we have had a great deal of debate about palliative care. One of the ways that we can ensure there is good quality palliative care being delivered in all regions of the country is to work with the provinces.

I was a health care critic many years ago in the province of Manitoba. We had to recognize that if we were going to deliver a program, one of the best ways is by working with the different stakeholders, and that means the provinces. We have given a $3-billion commitment going forward to deal with palliative care, recognizing that it is an important issue. It goes beyond palliative care. I would ask members to take a look at the cost of medicine, at home care services.

As Liberals, we believe in our health care system. We believe that the federal government does have a role to play. We will work with the different stakeholders to continue to push forward a health care system that Canadians will continue to be proud of. When I ask constituents and others what makes them feel good about being Canadian, quite often they will respond by saying that they love our health care system. We want to develop a social program for health care because it is the right thing to do.

There is so much more that one could talk about, but at the end of the day, we are giving substantial increases to our seniors, in particular the guaranteed annual income. Imagine being a single senior living at a fairly low level, and getting somewhere in the neighbourhood of a $900 increase through this budget.

That is a $900 increase. That is a substantial amount of money for a senior who is on a fixed income.

Second ReadingBudget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 1.Government Orders

5:50 p.m.


Cathay Wagantall Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, prior to coming here, I was a small business owner, working day and night with my husband, employing four other people, working very hard as a small business owner in Canada. As we know, small business is a huge economic driver in this country, and the way we do that is by being able to invest in our businesses.

The individual across the way indicated that people who are small business owners in his riding are happy. I just need to quote the Canadian Federation of Independent Business' responses to the government's budget:

In reacting to the 2016 federal budget presented today, the Canadian Federation of Independent deeply troubled that the federal government broke an election commitment....

I will not read them all: corporate tax rate promise; giant deficits with no exit plan; commitment to expand CPP/QPP payroll hike; youth employment hiring credit cancelled.

It does not sound to me as if small businesses in Canada are happy. However, I ask if the member across would be willing to give me the names of those businesses in his riding. I would be really pleased to get a balanced approach to this situation.

Second ReadingBudget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 1.Government Orders

5:50 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I invite the member to come out to Winnipeg North, and we could visit some small businesses together. She should give me a call, and we will see what we can make in terms of a connection.

I used to be a store manager. When I think from a store manager's perspective, with a number of employees, the most important thing I want is to see customers walking into my store, because I know if customers are walking into the store, they are buying products. If they are buying products, that means I need people to put that product on shelves.

If we look at the hundreds of millions of dollars we are giving, in terms of disposable income, we will have a healthier middle class going to stores like I used to manage, to restaurants, and to many other small businesses in every region of the country, wanting to purchase things, whether it is goods or services. That is healthy for Canada and for the economy. I will suggest that is what small businesses really want. They want more business, and this budget will deliver more business to businesses in every region of our country—

Second ReadingBudget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 1.Government Orders

5:50 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

We will have to break. When we resume debate on this bill, the hon. member for Winnipeg North will have seven minutes and 30 seconds remaining, and the questions can be resumed then.

It being 5:43 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

InfrastructurePrivate Members' Business

May 5th, 2016 / 5:50 p.m.


Andy Fillmore Liberal Halifax, NS


That, in the opinion of the House, the government should ensure that: (a) before making decisions on infrastructure funding proposals, where federal funding exceeds $500 000, an analysis of their impact on greenhouse gas emissions is considered; and (b) where appropriate, funding priority be given to proposals which help to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Mr. Speaker, it is a distinct honour to rise in the chamber today to introduce my private member's Motion No. 45. I would like to begin by thanking my seconder, the hon. member for Pontiac, and all my other hon. colleagues in all corners of the House who have agreed to sign on and second this motion.

As one of Canada's primary coastal cities, my riding of Halifax stands on the front line in the battle against climate change. The impact of greenhouse gas emissions if not curbed will have serious repercussions for Halifax, for Nova Scotia, and all of the communities that we so love.

A decade ago, the three orders of government and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities jointly funded a study called “Climate Smart”, a climate risk management strategy for Halifax that painted a very sobering picture of my city if climate change was not addressed.

Here is some of what that picture looks like.

Halifax's status and viability as a great Canadian port city, a key economic driver in my riding, my province, and in Eastern Canada, will be put at risk as changes in ice patterns jeopardize year-round shipping to Halifax through the Northwest Passage. Our port infrastructure will be damaged, at times irreversibly. Our local economy, and therefore the national economy, will suffer. Sea level rise will threaten the quality and quantity of our drinking water. The existing strain on our health care system will intensify as injuries from extreme weather events increase in number, and high humidity leads to higher frequency of respiratory ailments like asthma and allergies.

Climate change will harm marine habitat as well, and by extension the commercial viability of some of our most critical fish stocks, like salmon and cod. This is in a province where the fishery accounts for 10% of our GDP.

Transportation infrastructure found mostly along the coast will quickly deteriorate, and increased costs for road and rail maintenance will become a larger and larger strain on public resources.

This is the potential story of climate change in Halifax. However, the implications of uncurbed greenhouse gas emissions are equally dire right across Canada, where we are surrounded by more than 200,000 kilometres of coastline and where many upon many communities and cities lie.

The impacts do not stop at our borders. In January of this year, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, a federal department roughly the equivalent of our own Department of Infrastructure and Communities, announced grants totalling $1 billion in 13 states to help communities in dire need address climate change. One of those grants is for something new, but also something we are going to be hearing of more and more in the months and years ahead. It is a grant to pay for the resettlement of the United States' first climate refugees from the inundated shores of Louisiana. We are not talking about some far off land. We are talking about government funded relocation of climate refugees right here on this land mass that we share with the United States.

Of this, The New York Times wrote earlier this week:

Around the globe, governments are confronting the reality that as human-caused climate change warms the planet, rising sea levels, stronger storms, increased flooding, harsher droughts and dwindling freshwater supplies could drive the world’s most vulnerable people from their homes.

Just last week, Sally Jewell, the U.S. secretary of the Interior and former Mobil Oil executive said, while visiting Ottawa, “ ...the changes are underway and they are very rapid. We will have climate refugees”.

To bring it back home, we are told that a 2° Celsius increase in global mean temperature could mean that Nova Scotia becomes an island. That is the same 2° the Paris climate accord sets out to limit us to. Just imagine the costs to government of having to extend a lifeline to the island of Nova Scotia.

We can avoid those terrible human and financial costs, but we need to act now to protect our environment, to protect our communities, and to build a resilient Canada that is is prepared to adapt to the climate change that is already well under way.

I come to this House from a 20-year career as city planner. It is a career that has been dedicated to building livable, sustainable and resilient communities, in various urban, suburban and rural locales across Canada and in the northeastern U.S., but primarily, and for the past 11 years, in my home town of Halifax.

I am proud to have been a co-founder, and founding vice president, of a national organization called the Council for Canadian Urbanism. The Council for Canadian Urbanism, or CanU, was created 10 years ago by city planners, urban designers, and architects from public, private and academic practice across Canada. In 2013, in a historic moment, these community builders from across the country met in Halifax to ratify and sign the Charter for Canadian Urbanism, a copy of which hangs proudly in my office both here and at home in Halifax.

The charter is instructive in many ways for the members of the House, and today I would like to read this relevant excerpt:

Canada’s cities and communities urgently require more progressive and creative approaches in order to become more successful, sustainable, creative, livable, healthy and resilient. Implementing a better Canadian Urbanism is key to addressing our most critical challenges, including climate change, ecological integrity, economic health and global competitiveness, energy resiliency, affordability and homelessness, public health, and social inclusiveness.

It is clear that the way we build our communities, the kind of infrastructure we deploy, and how we make infrastructure funding decisions will, in large measure, determine how we face climate change and whether we win or lose the battle against it.

That brings me to my private member's motion, Motion No. 45.

Quite simply, Motion No. 45 proposes that greenhouse gas emission analyses be undertaken for infrastructure projects seeking federal funding, and where appropriate, prioritize this funding for those that mitigate the impacts of climate change.

If passed, I believe the positive impacts of Motion No. 45 will be profound and numerous, and I would like to use my time today to talk about just four of them.

First is the way in which it would increase government's capacity to make evidence-based decisions. Canadians expect us to ensure decisions are based on science, facts, and evidence, as written in the Prime Minister's mandate letter to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change. To this end, we must increase data-collection capacity, a directive in the Prime Minister's mandate letter to the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities. Motion No. 45 would further both of those goals.

The scientific evidence makes it clear: we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions. By having important data on GHG profiles of infrastructure proposals, as Motion No. 45 would require, our government would have the science, the facts, and the evidence to make better-informed decisions when making infrastructure-funding choices. That is a win for evidence-based decision-making, and that is a win for the environment.

Second is the way in which Motion No. 45 would help grow a strong economy while protecting the environment. Since the start of this 42nd Parliament and the Speech from the Throne, our government has recognized that a clean environment and a strong economy go hand in hand. We cannot have one without the other. Protecting the environment and growing the economy are not incompatible goals. In fact, our future success demands that we do both.

Because infrastructure spending represents a critical piece of our government's plan to grow the economy, we must ensure that the environmental impact of projects is a key consideration in the rollout of this historic investment program. The onus is on us here in this chamber to heed the call for environmentally responsible infrastructure spending, not only because it is the best hope of adapting to and combatting climate change, but also because projects with lower greenhouse gas emissions are more cost-efficient. They make use of renewable resources, and with current technologies moving away from carbon-based energy, they will last longer into the future.

In contrast, infrastructure projects with high greenhouse gas emissions and a lack of climate change resiliency further increase the many costs we know to be associated with the impacts of climate change.

Our investment in infrastructure is an investment in the future. By investing in a way that also contributes to mitigating and adapting to climate change, we have the ability to significantly amplify the outcomes of that tremendous investment. Simply put, when we invest taxpayer dollars intentionally and intelligently, we enhance our longevity and resilience, and this is not just environmental resilience, but it is economic resilience too. It helps to build an economy that works for the future, and that is what Canadians want.

The third impact of Motion No. 45 is the way in which the motion would foster environmental consciousness in government. If passed, my private member's motion would contribute to a government that keeps environmental costs and consequences in mind for all decisions. That is a government that recognizes infrastructure spending decisions can no longer be made based solely on a short-term bottom line.

Projects must not only be shovel-ready, but they must be shovel-appropriate. For that reason, we must consider whether the infrastructure investments we are making today might have future risks that outweigh their immediate benefits.

It was only this past January that the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and the Minister of Natural Resources announced a set of five interim principles for major projects designed to restore trust in the environmental assessment process. Among these principles was a commitment to assess the direct and upstream greenhouse gas emissions of major projects.

These interim principles represent a return of a government that takes climate change seriously, and Motion No. 45 is a natural complement to and accelerator of this effort.

The fourth positive impact of Motion No. 45, and the last that I will address today, is the way in which the motion would assist us in fulfilling our international commitments.

It was only recently that the Prime Minister signed the Paris climate agreement thereby agreeing to take domestic measures as soon as possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to keep the global temperature from rising more than 2°C.

To contribute to this effort and regain Canada's environmental credibility in the world, we must consider the environmental impacts of our government's historic infrastructure spending program. This is both an opportunity and a responsibility when it comes to our international standing and the global response to climate change.

In the same way that greenhouse gas emissions transcend the boundaries of the places where they originate, so too would the benefits of greener infrastructure. If we prioritize greenhouse gas reductions in our infrastructure spending, the positive benefits of that extend across the country, from our bustling urban centres to our beautiful rural communities to our beloved national parks, and yes, even beyond our country's borders. Motion No. 45 would position Canada to be an active and respected global partner in the worldwide fight against climate change.

At the outset of my remarks today, I painted a bleak picture of my riding of Halifax, a picture of what could happen to my beloved city if meaningful action is not taken to reduce GHGs. But there is another possibility. It is a future for Halifax where air and water are clean, where we consciously mitigate against climate change with every decision we make, where the infrastructure we build is resilient against climate change and sea level rise, where we live in healthy, walkable, and vibrant communities, and where looking after the environment is the surest way to ensure sustainable economic prosperity. That is the future I am working for as the member of Parliament for Halifax, for my community, and for all Canadian communities.

I must applaud the environmental organizations in my city for their work calling on government to address climate change, organizations like the Ecology Action Centre, the Dalhousie University Sustainability Office, the Citizens' Climate Lobby, NSPIRG working groups, the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition, and Sierra Club Atlantic, to name just a few, as well as numerous clean tech and green tech entrepreneurs in Halifax like CarbonCure, Green Power Labs, LightSail Energy, SabrTech, and Scotian WindFields Inc. There are so many more. I am very proud to heed the call today of those climate leaders.

I am so proud of this government and this cabinet for putting a stake in the ground to say that Canada is back as a global climate change champion. The work of the Prime Minister and many others in Paris and around the world has made us proud, but moreover, they have provided hope for the future for our children and for our children's children, and that has made us grateful.

Some might worry that the environmental assessment process like the one I propose is too ambitious, but I ask them to remember that there was once a time when Canada's environmental assessment process was rigorous and respected. In the decade since then we have lost time but it is not too late to make up for lost ground. It is more important now than ever before to take decisive and meaningful action to combat climate change. My motion represents that opportunity.

If agreed to, Motion No. 45 would send a clear message to Canadians that the government is committed to building a Canada they can be proud of and one that they will feel confident leaving to their children.

InfrastructurePrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I know the member's motives are pure here, however, I did want to highlight the fact that his Prime Minister has made a clear commitment to a new era of co-operative federalism.

As the member will know, there is somewhere in the order of 4,000 municipalities across the country that would be implicated with this decision. There are 13 provinces and territories across the country. Before one would embark upon a motion like this, which would have significant implications for municipalities and the provinces, one would think the member would have consulted with all of those organizations.

There is a pre-eminent association across Canada that reflects and represents most of Canada's municipalities: the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. Has the member consulted with the FCM? Does he have its written support for his motion, given how significant the impact would be on municipalities? Has he also consulted with the provinces and territories and secured their support for the motion?

InfrastructurePrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Andy Fillmore Liberal Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, this kind of motion is nothing new for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, nor for provincial governments or municipalities. Ten years ago the then Liberal government created the integrated community sustainability plan program, which linked gas tax funding for municipalities with the requirement that municipalities create an integrated sustainability plan, referred to in many cities, including my own, as a regional plan, sometimes for 20 years and sometimes for 30 years. Those went away for awhile and unfortunately now Canada is lagging behind in the climate change fight.

These groups that we are discussing, the FCM and local communities, are very familiar with this kind of approach of accounting for carbon and I believe are looking forward to this. Over the course of the summer, I will be getting those recommendations.

InfrastructurePrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think the answer to my Conservative colleague who asked the question earlier was no, but we never sacrifice the good while seeking the perfect. It is always exciting to introduce a motion, especially one that can help us deal with an issue that has long been ignored and neglected in this country by successive governments that have not even, in some cases, attempted to meet our climate change obligations and promises that have been made.

Part of the history that is important in this is that prior to 2009, all federal investments had to receive an environmental analysis of what their impact would be. Bill C-10, which was promoted by the Conservatives back then and supported by the Liberals removed that $10 million and then it was gone entirely.

My question is twofold. One, I do not look at the motion now and understand what the analysis would mean, whether GHGs would be analyzed or assessed, and I do not see any prioritization of projects that actually have a lower GHG impact. Is this something that my friend is contemplating, to promote up the projects that actually have greater environmental benefit than another, if two are of comparable size?

If it is good that environmental assessments are done on federal infrastructure projects, would it also be good to have a transparent analysis on all resource projects that the federal government assesses so that Canadians could understand what the GHG impacts would be, both upstream and downstream?

InfrastructurePrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Andy Fillmore Liberal Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for the question and the history, which is very interesting.

Embedded in the motion is this idea that there would be some prioritization of infrastructure projects that help to achieve our country's greenhouse gas reduction goals. A motion like this is going to have to have an implementation plan and that is the kind of detail that would be sorted out in the implementation plan.

I will take this opportunity to make one thing clear. There are projects in this country, like roads, bridges, and such, that are critically important to the prosperity and even the safety and health of our communities. This motion is not saying no to funding those, but that we should understand what the carbon profile is, what the GHG profile is. We should account for those. How else can we responsibly try to achieve our GHG reduction goals that we have committed to internationally?

Further, there is also a low threshold for municipalities that may be proposing small projects of inconsequential carbon load, particularly small municipalities that may not have the resources to conduct a full-blown analysis on the carbon profile.

InfrastructurePrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Dianne Lynn Watts Conservative South Surrey—White Rock, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this private member's motion today.

Communities across the country are looking for a clear, defined infrastructure plan from their federal government. Currently, there are many mixed messages coming from the government on infrastructure funding, and even more uncertainty as to when municipalities will actually see this funding. This motion from the member for Halifax does nothing but cast further uncertainty on the future of infrastructure in Canada.

Let me start by first addressing the beginning portion of this motion.

I would like to first say that we are all concerned with greenhouse gases. We are all looking forward to the plan from the minister on climate change. One of the things the former government did was implement, in 2009, the green infrastructure fund. We are all on the same page.

However, we have to drill down just a little further. As part of the phase one of the Liberal infrastructure spending, the Minister of Infrastructure's top priorities for the next three years were road repair, rehabilitation, and maintenance. With this motion, phase one of this plan will not be able to proceed. Placing mandatory GHG emission screens on municipalities will do nothing to speed up the infrastructure funding approvals nor the construction. That is something the Liberal government claims is a top priority for them, and it is certainly a top priority for many of us.

Instead, the motion will place an extra burden on small and rural communities across Canada. These communities will now have to find additional funds to go through this process. Furthermore, many Canadian municipalities already have their own environmental screens in place. The FCM released a report early in 2016. Over 90% of the surveyed Canadian municipalities either already had or were developing policies and plans to mitigate climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The additional screening required by this motion will now mean that municipalities will have to spend more taxpayers' money on something they are already doing, before their projects are even approved. This does not take into consideration the administration costs that would potentially be burdened upon communities.

However, what is even more troubling about this specific motion is the second portion. This states that projects that mitigate climate change will be chosen over other infrastructure projects. This is contrary to the Liberals' own policy. It directly contradicts the Minister of Infrastructure's own priorities, as I stated, of road repairs, maintenance, and rehabilitation, which is the priority over the next three years.

This would mean that Canadian cities would not, and could not, build new roads, bridges, or upgrade any highways, roads like those spoken about earlier by a member, to get to isolated communities, like the east side road to connect those people in rural communities. These projects are vital to the Canadian economy, but they would not meet the definition of mitigating climate change.

Furthermore, I would be curious to find out how this motion fits in with the larger context of the Liberals' pan-Canadian national climate change framework, which we hope to see the details of. We do not know if this motion is a piece of that plan or not a piece of that plan.

This private member's motion is really counter to what is being put forward by the Minister of Infrastructure. Also, in supporting the vital trade corridors between provinces and, in fact, between Canada and the United States, we are talking about bridges. This motion jeopardizes those road repairs, buildings, and it will certainly impact, as I stated earlier, small and rural communities and their access to their share of infrastructure funding.

There is no doubt in anybody's mind that we need to be protecting our environment, and that is critical for this generation and for future generations. However, we also have to have the responsibility to ensure that we have a strong economy, we are creating jobs, and we are building those trade corridors. We also need to ensure that we have fiscal prudence, responsibility in spending, and really well-thought-out public policy.

With the massive amount of debt that is projected to be added to Canada's debt load, I feel that passing this motion would just add to that.

We need a comprehensive plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. There is no doubt about that. We are patiently awaiting the pan-Canadian national climate change plan from the Minister of Environment and Climate Change. I do believe that this would be within that context in some form, but again, I am not sure if it is isolated or part of it. That was unclear.

As it stands right now, I will not be supporting the bill.

InfrastructurePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in this place and attempt as best I can to speak on behalf of the people of northwestern British Columbia, beautiful Skeena—Bulkley Valley.

In particular, when talking about climate change, for us, the realities and impacts of climate change are an incredibly intimate and real phenomenon. It is not some esoteric exercise. It is not some group of academics speaking and musing about graphs and parts per million. It is real and it is in the forests that we live around and from which we generate our economy. It is in the oceans and the rivers that provide us with sustenance and other forms of work.

Over the last number of years we have been raising the call many times. We have seen the pine beetle infestation across northern British Columbia that has then gone into Alberta and unfortunately into other forests in other provinces. It has had an enormously devastating effect. We have also seen the impact of forest fires that have come at times that have never been seen before with an intensity unlike the fires that we were used to in the past. We have had to grapple with what this means, what these changes mean.

For our colleagues who represent the far north, the changes have been even more dramatic, more impactful on their lives, particularly for those who gain sustenance and their livelihood from the natural environment.

While this is an issue that connects all of us, I think it touches us in different ways, so legitimate and real action after so many years of disappointment on the issue of climate change is welcome and of course we will be supporting the motion.

We have some recommendations for improvement that I think the member for Halifax should welcome, simply because they put a little more specificity to what it is I think he is trying to achieve, it puts a little more teeth into it.

For those who do not follow this, and why would they, the difference between motions and bills is quite significant in terms of what their impact is. A motion is a call upon government to do such and such a thing and a bill changes law. A bill brings with it the strength and bearance of law but a motion is quicker, so there is some advantage because it does not have to proceed through so many stages like a bill does. These are the choices each of us makes when introducing private members' business.

I referred to it earlier, but the history on this particular question of how we build things, how we fund things as a federal government, and that connection to the environment and to climate change has been a bit of an unfortunate one. There was a bill introduced a number of years ago, back in 2009, in fact, Bill C-10. There was a minority Parliament and I can remember the then Prime Minister threatening the then official opposition that if they defeated any bill, that was a confidence bill.

The Conservatives started very early on to attach the notion of confidence to virtually every piece of legislation. They never fully confirmed it, but they hinted at it, and that hint was enough for the now Minister of Foreign Affairs, who was then the leader, to blink more than 140 or 150 times to vote with the then governing party and pass legislation.

One of the bills that unfortunately got past with the Conservatives and the Liberals playing the sidecar role was Bill C-10. Up until that point, every time the government funded anything, any infrastructure project, it had some kind of an environmental analysis, a lens that we passed through in order to understand what the impacts would be on the environment. It seemed logical. It was 2009. After all, we were a modern country, a very thoughtful country. Then Bill C-10 went through and said it is so bothersome, so quarrelsome to ask these annoying questions about what impact a bridge or a road might have, or funding a new thing here, there, or anywhere, so it was stripped down and eventually it was tossed out completely, which was unfortunate.

This motion tends to put some of that back together. We would have some other suggestions around bills like Bill C-51 and some others, more than just dalliances that the previous government rammed through that we would like to pull back and restore some sanity to Canadian law again, but this is a start and it is important to start somewhere.

I do believe that this government has a strong and clear mandate to take significant action when it comes to climate change. I think the so-called debate that went on was so reminiscent of those debates that my friends will remember from the seventies, eighties, and nineties about smoking. There was a debate about whether smoking caused cancer and there were just enough scientists willing to sell out their souls to say that it was in doubt and that maybe smoking does not actually affect our health and maybe second-hand smoke is not so bad either. On and on it went and it delayed action.

That exact same strategy was taken out, to great effect, by Exxon and large companies. It has now been revealed in the last couple of weeks that, since the late 1970s, Exxon knew clearly that the burning of fossil fuels contributed to climate change and that climate change was an issue and a problem that actually threatened some its facilities, as it turned out, and that is why it was so concerned because of sea level rise and big impactful storms.

All that is going on. The dance of deniability went on a long time and not just in industry, but it was true within governments because it is a hard thing to get at. It is a hard thing to actually look at and address. Therefore when we look at this piece of legislation, we say, all right, there would be some analysis applied, and there would be some attempt at understanding what the greenhouse gas impact would be when the federal government writes a cheque; and when Canadian taxpayers pay for something, we would ask what the impact would be on this other question, not just the questions of whether we are putting some people to work and whether it is good infrastructure for our economy. Those are all very important questions.

Also, if we look at sustainable development, we need that second and third pillar. Is it socially sustainable? Is it good for people, as radical a notion as that is? Also the third one, the environment leg we need to stick onto the stool asks if it irreparably continues to harm our planet. I know, that is another radical notion.

Here are the questions, and this is where we will be looking to get a bit more specific with my friend. An analysis is fine, but what does it mean? Does it mean that, if a project exceeds a certain amount of greenhouse gases, it will not be funded? Does it mean that a project that mitigates and reduces greenhouse gas in its construction and implementation is promoted up the chain ahead of other projects? Who needs to know this? I will say this about my Conservative colleagues. They never miss an opportunity to shoot down an effort when dealing with climate change, but they also asked an important question earlier, which is that our municipalities and all those people who write the funding proposals, our regional districts and our mayors and councils who put the proposals together, are going to want to know what this motion would do to their proposal. I think that is a very fair question.

Councils can only fund so much. They can only ask for so much. They can only do so much. If this motion says that everything that mitigates or reduces greenhouse gas emissions will rocket to the top, or if there is a per tonnage limit, that there can only be so many tonnes of greenhouse gases emitted in a project per dollar spent, some sort of transparent, open calculus, so that people who are trying to build these things can understand, that would be very helpful.

Similarly, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and the Minister of Natural Resources attempted to bring clarity to the natural resource sector and unfortunately sowed a whole bunch of confusion around this same topic. This was a curiosity for me to see infrastructure but not resources, because in Canada's profile of emissions, the lion's share comes from transportation and resource extraction. Those are the big ones we have to deal with, and governments have sometimes tried.

When talking about the resource sector, the Liberals said they are the champs and are going to consider greenhouse gas emissions when looking at mines, pipelines, and all of that. Our first question, and that of industry, environment groups, and first nations, was this. It is great that they are going to consider it, but how are they going to consider it? Is it the first priority? Is it second? Is there a greenhouse gas limit to every project? Is there not? Industry, which is looking to invest billions of dollars in this or that, would like to know.

Environment groups and environmentally thoughtful Canadians would also like to know, and these are fair questions; yet all we have is vagueness, which allows people to feel uncertain and worried about things. This is why New Democrats and our leader from Outremont have pressed time and time again to say that the government went to Paris, it urged the world to go to 1.5 degrees below pre-industrial levels of greenhouse gas emissions, the world congratulated it, and then we asked what Canada's target is.

I was in Paris and asked government officials if they did any analysis of what that 1.5 degrees meant and how they would translate that into a target for Canada. The shocking answer was no. They made the 1.5 degree commitment but did not analyze what it meant. I had a Kyoto flashback. I have seen this movie somewhere before, where the government makes a bold pronouncement to the world and says Canada is there, or back, or coming again, or some other catchy phrase. Then when we ask about analysis, and how it will do this big thing, the government says it will get to that later.

We still have hope. New Democrats are hopeful people, and we ultimately want good things to happen. As we wish for ourselves, we wish for others. We want the government to succeed on this one because it does matter to our kids, and their kids, and generations to follow.

In this, the motion moves us a little way down the road, so we will be supporting it and looking for more brighter and bigger things coming from the government.

InfrastructurePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Northumberland—Peterborough South Ontario


Kim Rudd LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to rise in the House to speak to Motion No. 45 concerning infrastructure investments and climate changes, proposed by my colleague, the member for Halifax.

Let me begin by saying that the objective of the motion to achieve concrete outcomes for our climate through infrastructure investments is a critically important one for the government. Indeed, implementing measures outlined in my colleague's motion represents a significant opportunity for our government. Ensuring an analysis of GHG impacts of relevant infrastructure investments is undertaken, considered, and factored into investment decision-making is a way for our government to concretely advance mandate priorities on clean growth and climate change.

The link between climate change and infrastructure has been made repeatedly by our government. For instance, the relationship was referenced in our election platform, in mandate letters to both the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, as well as to the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities and, most recently, in budget 2016. That budget stated that phase two of our government's infrastructure plan will go hand in hand with the transition to a low carbon economy.

Infrastructure was also identified as an early action under the Vancouver declaration on clean growth and climate change, agreed to by the Prime Minister and premiers a few months ago. The significance of the declaration cannot be understated. The declaration charts a course for collaborative efforts to develop a comprehensive national climate change plan that responds to international commitments that Canada made under the Paris Agreement, an agreement that the Prime Minister and many other world leaders signed recently in New York.

Federal, provincial, territorial working groups have been established to identify specific actions to grow Canada's economy while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change. These working groups will develop reports identifying options for action in four areas: first, clean technology, innovation, and jobs; second, carbon pricing mechanisms; third, specific mitigation opportunities; and, fourth, adaptation and climate resilience.

These reports will help inform the development of a national approach to climate change and clean growth, which first ministers are to finalized this fall. Infrastructure investments are likely to feature in the options identified in these reports.

There are many ways that infrastructure can advance Canada's climate change objectives. In terms of climate change adaptation, infrastructure that is designed, built, and operated with the existing and projected impacts of a changing climate can help in enhancing Canada's overall resilience. For instance, infrastructure that accounts for and is better able to withstand the impacts of extreme weather events helps to address vulnerabilities and better protect communities from the impacts of climate change.

In terms of climate change mitigation, which is the focus of the motion, infrastructure can also play an important role. The construction and operation of infrastructure assets often has a direct implication for GHG emissions. Much of Canada's public infrastructure is comprised of assets with long lifespans that can lock in emission levels.

Ensuring that an analysis of GHG is undertaken and considered in specific cases could help avoid locking in higher levels of emissions. For instance, climate change mitigation efforts can be supported by making investments in our built environment that reflect the latest standards in energy efficience. Whether it is new construction or retrofits of existing stock, investments in buildings that meet stringent energy efficiency standards will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, lower heating and cooling costs, and create jobs.

Moreover, infrastructure investments can also help to address barriers to reducing emissions in key sectors of our economy. For instance, strategic investments in electricity transmission infrastructure could bring increasing shares of lower and non-emitting sources of electricity to jurisdictions that have higher-emitting sources. Investments in innovative storage infrastructure could also increase shares of non-emitting, but intermittent, forms of electricity in Canada's grid, like wind and solar.

To use another example, investments in alternative, lower-emitting fuel infrastructure and infrastructure for electric vehicles could support the increased uptake of lower and non-emitting forms of transportation, particularly along key travel corridors.

These examples demonstrate that applying GHG impact analysis to infrastructure projects can concretely help to advance the government's commitment on climate change.

Nonetheless, GHG impact analysis is not suited to all infrastructure investments equally. Currently, the threshold of the motion is broad and would apply GHG impact analysis to all legacy infrastructure funding and investments, as well as investments under phase one of the government's infrastructure plan, including many initiatives that do not have meaningful climate change implications.

For instance, this analysis would not be relevant for service-based infrastructure investments in initiatives like early learning and child care. It would also not be relevant for projects where GHG impacts are minimal and, for instance, only associated with the construction phase of a project.

These GHG impacts are marginal relative to Canada's overall emissions profile. Subjecting these types of initiatives to additional reviews would run counter to efforts to streamline the infrastructure approval processes, which our government has committed to doing. Consequently, it may be appropriate to focus the application of the motion to areas relevant to consideration of GHG impacts.

Options to focus the application of the motion could be explored with provinces, territories, municipalities, and other partners in the course of planned engagement on the development of the approach for phase two of our infrastructure plan. As owners and operators of large portions of public infrastructure across Canada, other levels of government must be invited to help shape how best to implement the next phase of investments.

Phase 2 of our government's infrastructure plan is meant to transition Canada toward a low-carbon economy and implementing Motion No. 45 would help ensure that the government's future infrastructure investments would support this transition.

Moving Canada toward a cleaner, lower-carbon climate resilient economy and society will require a significant level of effort from all levels of government, as well as from individual Canadians. As a result, we will need to leverage all the tools available to us. Infrastructure will be a central part of that.

Implementing Motion No. 45 will help ensure federal infrastructure investments are deployed to advance work under the Vancouver declaration, as well as Canada's international commitments under the Paris agreement. Importantly, it will also help to begin factoring climate change considerations into infrastructure investment decision-making as part of the normal course of business going forward.

I want to thank the hon. member for Halifax for bringing forward this important motion for our consideration. However, to give the government greater flexibility with regard to the implementation of Motion No. 45, I will propose the following amendment. I move:

That the motion be amended by replacing all of the words after the words “funding proposals” with the following:

“an analysis of their impact on greenhouse gas emissions is undertaken for those projects exceeding an appropriate threshold to be established in an implementation plan; (b) where appropriate, funding priority be given to proposals which help to mitigate the impacts of climate change; and (c) that an implementation plan be developed.”

I would urge all members of Parliament to vote in support of the amended motion, given the significant opportunity it represents for the government to advance Canada's clean growth and climate change agenda.

I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to this motion.

InfrastructurePrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

It is my duty to inform hon. members that, pursuant to Standing Order 93(3), no amendment may be proposed to a private member's motion or the motion for second reading of a private member's bill unless the sponsor of the item indicates his or her consent.

Therefore, I ask the hon. member for Halifax if he consents to this amendment.

InfrastructurePrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


Andy Fillmore Liberal Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I consent.

InfrastructurePrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Very good.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Abbotsford.

InfrastructurePrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to engage in this debate. For viewers of this debate and other MPs in this House, I want to begin my comments by framing what the motion is all about .

The motion does two things. First, it calls upon the federal government to impose a full greenhouse gas emission impact study for every single federally funded infrastructure project over the value of $500,000. Second, it calls upon the federal government to give priority to infrastructure proposals which specifically mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, notwithstanding the clearly expressed preferences of municipalities or provincial governments.

I do not question the motive behind this motion. It has to do with ensuring governments at all levels exercise wise environmental stewardship. We can all agree on that.

Sadly, the wording of this motion is reflective of how Liberal governments cannot resist the urge to overreach and increase red tape by interfering in the affairs of cash-strapped local and provincial governments, and in the lives of ordinary Canadians.

What this motion is about is essentially a big government solution for a perceived local government challenge. Essentially, when we talk about big government, we are talking about big costs. Who bears the cost of this? That is where my criticisms are focused.

First, these additional costs for municipalities will be imposed without guaranteeing any value for the money that is spent.

Second, the decisions on local infrastructure priorities will no longer be made exclusively on the merits of the projects and the needs of local communities.

Third, what the motion really does, if the government follows through on it, is it indirectly intrudes on provincial and municipal jurisdiction. Why do I say that? Most of these projects will be cost-shared, either fifty-fifty between the federal government and the municipality or the provincial government, or a tripartite funding agreement, one-third, one-third, one-third.

Most of these projects will actually be funded one-third, one-third, one-third, with the federal government only contributing one-third of the cost and yet imposing upon municipalities the requirement to embark upon a very expensive greenhouse gas emission assessment process.

The large majority of these projects, of course, are going to take place in the 4,000 municipalities across this country. I asked a question earlier of the sponsor of this bill, whether he had actually consulted with those municipalities and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. He did not actually give me a straight answer, but it was pretty clear that the answer was a big resounding no. It was the same thing with the provinces and territories. Were they consulted? It appears they were not.

Who bears the expense and cost of this? It is going to be the provinces, territories, and the municipalities across Canada.

We talked about partnerships. I will talk a little about Abbotsford, the city I represent.

We have a recently completed project, funded under our previous Conservative government, the Mill Lake Spray Park. It was a small project. It does not have serious greenhouse gas emission impacts, but that project would be captured by this motion and would have to go through the expensive review process. We are talking about not only upstream, but downstream greenhouse gas emission impacts as well. This is horrifically expensive. We are talking about a significant amount of research that has to be done. We are talking about a lot of time spent putting together the information to make this assessment, and tremendous costs to local communities.

We have to understand that the priority setting that takes place for these projects, the design and engineering, the costing, and all of the other fundamental work on these projects is done at the local level. They will be the ones who will have to pay the cost for this ill-advised motion. These requirements capture most of the infrastructure projects that will be built by municipalities across Canada.

I am a former city councillor. I spent nine years as a city councillor, as well as five years on a local school board. I have become keenly sensitive to the pressures that municipalities face. They are stretched to the max. Many of them no longer have any ability to raise tax revenues to meet the demands of their residents.

In fact, this all goes back to the 13 long dark years of the former Liberal government under Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin. What did they do? After years of accumulating national debt they realized there was a problem. However, instead of making the tough decisions, controlling spending, as we in the Conservative government did, and controlling the growth of government, they looked for an easy target. That easy target was the provinces and territories. They downloaded billions of dollars. It was somewhere around $20 billion a year of federal government transfers, which were intended to support the provinces in providing health care, social services, and education. The provinces were left with this crater in their budgets. What did they in turn do? They looked for the next target, which was municipalities.

I remember, in one year alone we had approximately $3 million of cutbacks of provincial transfers dumped on us in the municipality in Abbotsford. The impact was so significant. Many municipalities across the country have yet to recover from that. In fact, our former Conservative government tried to address that. We actually went out of our way to double the amount of gas tax funding for municipalities. On top of that, we made that gas tax program permanent to try to help our municipalities grapple with these demands for services but a declining tax base.

We can see where this all comes down. I asked whether the motion's sponsor had actually consulted with our municipalities across the country. It is pretty clear he did not. The reason I wanted him to advise us of that is that our municipalities across the country have made it very clear. In fact the 2015 Federation of Canadian Municipalities' report on local climate action across Canada highlighted the disparity between municipalities with capacity to undertake detailed environmental analyses and those that lack the human resources, scientific, and planning expertise to afford to do that.

That is the case here. The motion is imposing additional burdens on our municipalities, and many of the projects that are captured under the motion should never actually require these assessments to be done.

This is an example of top-down government, a failure to respect the knowledge and wisdom of local communities. It is all being done in the absence of the long promised pan-Canadian framework on climate change, which the Prime Minister promised in Paris he would deliver within 90 days in Vancouver. I was in Vancouver. Was it delivered? No, it was not.

We have these ad hoc environmental initiatives and greenhouse gas emission reduction initiatives being implemented by the Liberal government willy-nilly without an overarching national climate change plan. In fact, they are spending $2.65 billion in foreign countries, without us even having a national climate change plan in place.

Therefore, the bottom line is this. All Canadians expect their government to take action on protecting our environment and meeting our environmental challenges. However, those efforts should never displace investment in critical infrastructure driven by the priorities of the municipalities, the provinces, and the territories. As governments address those environmental commitments, we need to be selective in determining which projects merit greenhouse gas emission assessments and which do not. Otherwise, we are wasting taxpayers' dollars. Of course, the motion does not in any way contain those safeguards.

I will conclude. It is very simple. Of the many effective tools government has available to address greenhouse gas emissions, this motion is not and should not be one of those tools.

InfrastructurePrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.


François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to Motion No. 45 concerning infrastructure projects and assessing their impact on greenhouse gas emissions. I will support the motion moved by the Liberal member for Halifax at second reading.

Beginning in 2011, I worked with my colleague, Megan Leslie, who is also from Halifax and did excellent work on environmental issues. She continues to work in this area, and she is an inspiration to me. I am pleased to be able to continue working in this place to advance environmental issues.

This important motion represents a first step. However, it is unfortunate that it is just a motion and not a bill, because it does not require the government to take action. That is disappointing, especially since the Liberal government supported the Conservative government when it did not want to make the environmental assessments mandatory for green infrastructure funding.

We in the NDP believe that a serious plan is essential in order to combat climate change. As far back as 2007, Jack Layton introduced a bill on climate change accountability that would have required the government, regardless of its political stripe, to be accountable in that regard. It was extremely important. Unfortunately, that bill was never passed because circumstances—

InfrastructurePrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

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.

The EconomyAdjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.


Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

Mr. Speaker, on January 27, I asked whether the member for Regina—Wascana would stand up and support the economy of western Canada and the hundreds of thousands of western Canadians who work in resource sector jobs.

This topic is especially important given that western Canada is presently suffering from structurally low prices for resource products, which is affecting the hundreds of thousands of workers and their families. Unfortunately, the Liberal government and the lone Liberal member from Saskatchewan have been silent on their plan to support this region.

The Liberal plan for the struggling sectors of western Canada's economy is to provide a temporary bump in employment insurance to folks who are out of work, rather than support getting resources to market, which would create real new opportunities and new jobs.

Western Canadians are not asking for a government handout; they need a federal government that supports the west, because we have a dynamic and innovative economy that is struggling because of a drop in demand for goods. Canadian companies from western Canada are innovative and have exported incredible technologies around the world. Unfortunately, western Canada's economies cannot succeed by just being innovative. The reality is that Alberta and Saskatchewan are both landlocked provinces that need a willing partner in the federal government to facilitate getting resources to market. A willing and proactive federal government is the only way to overcome the not-in-my-backyard mentality that has become too prevalent in a federation like Canada, where the success of one region truly is the success of the entire country.

Imposing a crude oil moratorium on B.C.'s west coast will not help get Canadian resources to some of the world's fastest growing economies.

According to internal documents, 64 major resource projects are presently waiting for approval, just from Transport Canada. The Minister of the Environment likes to talk about the Woodfibre LNG project getting approval from her department. However, it is still waiting for approval from Transport Canada.

What was most worrisome in the Minister of Finance's response on behalf of the member for Regina—Wascana was that he happily admitted that he was “working diligently to figure out the priorities of Canadians”. Quite frankly, one does not need to be the head of the C.D. Howe Institute to know that the greatest long-term problem facing western Canada's economy is the challenge of getting resources to market, whether down south to the United States, west to Asia, or even east to Ontario, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada. Sadly, this budget has only added to the regulatory debt load that companies face, making it more difficult to get resources to market.

Will the member for Regina—Wascana today stand up and state what specific actions he intends to take to help get resources to market and get Saskatchewan workers back to work?

The EconomyAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting to note that the member believes we need to have a proactive government, a government that is prepared to get engaged and get the job done.

I want to talk a bit about the pipeline issue.

My colleague from Wascana, representing Saskatchewan, has done an outstanding job in ensuring that we recognize how important our natural resources and other commodities are to not only Saskatchewan but to all of the Prairie provinces.

It is especially nice for me to stand in my place as a member of Parliament from the Prairie provinces. I am familiar with just how important our natural resources are. I am sympathetic to the issue of being landlocked. I have lived in Saskatchewan and Alberta, and Manitoba is my current home. I am sensitive to the issue.

The Minister of Natural Resources and the Minister of Finance have talked a great deal about this issue. The Prime Minister of Canada has talked a great deal about the needs of our western provinces. Pipelines are just one example. The member said that we need a proactive government to get our resources to market. It is really important that the member reflect on the 10 years of being in government and the Conservatives failure to get one inch of pipeline to tidewaters.

In recognizing the importance of building that social contract of moving forward on the pipeline file, one of the first things our government did was to have the Minister of Natural Resources, working with cabinet and the Prime Minister, come forward with what would be an effective tool in managing western Canada oil resources, particularly in Saskatchewan and Alberta, and make a commitment to do what we could. We can not do any worse than what the Conservative government did when it was in office. We have put in place a system that shows we will have greater potential to get our natural resources to tidewater.

We see the disaster taking place in Fort McMurray, which both myself and the Prime Minister referenced earlier. As a priority, we have committed infrastructure dollars to that area.

We have recognized, unlike the former government, that we need to invest in Canada's infrastructure. If we invest in Canada's infrastructure, as we have advocated, it will help get our natural resources get to market.

This government has listened, canvassed and been very thorough in trying to ensure we do what we can with regard to our natural resources. This government has clearly demonstrated that we support our prairie provinces. I would suggest the member join my colleague from Wascana and this government in recognizing the valuable role we have played in just six months.

The EconomyAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.


Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

Mr. Speaker, with all due respect to the member opposite, we have seen all too often over the past six months members across the way all too willing to pat themselves on the back before they have actually accomplished anything.

The northern gateway project received approval to go ahead from the National Energy Board, with 209 conditions after thousands of hours of consultations. How many more conditions can be placed on a project before social license can be attained?

There is no single resource or product in which Canada has a worldwide monopoly. Our country has been blessed with an abundance of natural resources, but a lot of these resources need to be shipped long distances to get to market. Every day the federal government is not proactively helping get resources to market, we become slightly less competitive internationally.

Is the minister willing to come out and say that he will champion any project that receives the approval of the National Energy Board, or will he dither on this matter as the Prime Minister