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House of Commons Hansard #146 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was energy.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Impact of Carbon TaxesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Halifax Nova Scotia

Liberal

Andy Fillmore LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions

Mr. Speaker, I applaud my hon. friends for their concern for Canadians of lower and modest incomes, including seniors in Canada who fit into that category.

Of course, the carbon pricing the government has put forward is intended to be cost neutral, and as such, the provinces are free to give back all or some portion of the revenues generated to such groups as low and modest-income Canadians.

I wonder if the member had some ideas about how best those funds might be returned to the members of his constituency and those of others.

Opposition Motion—Impact of Carbon TaxesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Conservative Brantford—Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, the provinces that have implemented them are putting them into their budgets as estimated revenues. In Ontario, the estimated revenue from the cap and trade system is $1.9 billion. That money is not going back to taxpayers. In British Columbia, the federal government charges GST on top of the carbon tax. We are getting income in our revenue stream through the GST. The government is taking that additional funding and putting it into operational funds.

My idea is that we not put a carbon tax in place, because it makes us uncompetitive and it affects people with the lowest incomes the most. We should not go down that road at this time.

Opposition Motion—Impact of Carbon TaxesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his speech, but I have to say that 99% of it is irrelevant. He ranted on about what the provinces are doing. We have certain jurisdictions, and so do the provinces.

If we want to talk about a jurisdiction in Canada that significantly raised the cost of electricity, it is Alberta, where the previous Conservative government introduced deregulation, which that member's party loves to tout. There were astronomical increases in the cost of electricity, which had nothing to do with consumption.

I wonder if the member could speak to the issue I raised with his colleague. It is well known around the world, and certainly well known in this country, that the longer we delay action on reducing greenhouse gases, the higher the price. Sooner or later, that cost is going to be imposed on consumers. His government promised cap and trade but did nothing. His government put in place a home energy retrofit program and then cancelled it and used the money to cover its deficit.

Does the member not think it is time that measures be taken at the federal level to work with the provinces and territories to address climate change through programs like home energy retrofits?

Opposition Motion—Impact of Carbon TaxesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Conservative Brantford—Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to correct some of the information the member talked about. It was actually the Conservative targets the current government used for the Paris agreement. We set out a plan, sector by sector, to make progress toward achieving those goals, and they were put into effect.

That is rhetoric that nothing was happening and that we do not care about climate change. Of course we do. We just believe that there is a better way to do for the 400-plus people in my community who will have no income and will be on the list of the unemployed when $9000 is added to the overhead at their factory, making it uncompetitive, and that factory relocates to Michigan. We need to care about those individuals.

Opposition Motion—Impact of Carbon TaxesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Dianne Lynn Watts Conservative South Surrey—White Rock, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government laid out targets and a plan to reduce greenhouse gases using incentives and mechanisms other than a carbon tax. Those targets were adopted by the Liberal government and taken to Paris. An agreement was signed, and everybody was happy, because the Liberals were doing so much for the environment. I find that ironic, because when I look at what is happening in cities across this country and the reduction in greenhouse gases and all the programs and incentives that are in place, they are far better mechanisms than taxing the poor.

I would like to hear my colleague's comments on that.

Opposition Motion—Impact of Carbon TaxesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Conservative Brantford—Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, the previous Conservative government set out realistic targets that could be achieved. We went about it sector by sector, putting incentive programs in place for people to move toward those targets. It was the stick and carrot idea. We believe, as Conservatives, that the way to move forward is to get people to do it in a way they agree with and that they agree to build into their cost structure, be they individuals or businesses.

We went down that road. We implemented a number of initiatives that were working. The rhetoric that we did nothing is absolutely false, and the record shows that. What more do I need to say?

Opposition Motion—Impact of Carbon TaxesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe New Brunswick

Liberal

Ginette Petitpas Taylor LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond to the question posed by the hon. member for Carleton. Our government knows that the economy and the environment go together. That is why we are committed to making investments that will lead to a cleaner, more innovative economy that will not only help us achieve our goal of reducing emissions but will create well-paying jobs for middle-class Canadians and those who are working hard to join them. We are taking concrete steps to protect our planet for our children and grandchildren.

The motion before us today references information that bears no reflection to our plan. Our government's plan to address climate change involves working with the provinces and territories to determine mechanisms and impacts in various regions of our country.

As was noted during the first ministers meeting last December, climate change is indisputable, as are the significant impacts it is having in Canada and around the world. We are already facing the social and economic cost of climate change, which poses significant risk to our environment as well as our health, security, and the future prosperity of our nation. This is why we have shown leadership by working together in close collaboration on behalf of all Canadians. We are working to develop a plan to grow our economy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and build resilience to the impact of climate change.

Our government is approaching this challenge in a prudent and flexible manner. We are committed to collaboration with provinces and territories on climate change issues. We will ensure that the provinces and territories continue to have the flexibility to design their own policies to meet their targets, including their own pollution pricing policies. Provinces are actively pursuing their own climate policy agenda and are introducing pollution pricing measures as part of their plans.

We have developed a pan-Canadian approach to pricing carbon pollution. Under the new plan, all Canadian jurisdictions will have pollution pricing mechanisms in place by 2018. To facilitate this plan, the government has set a benchmark of pricing carbon pollution at a level that will help Canada meet its greenhouse gas emissions target while providing greater certainty and predictability for Canadian businesses.

Each jurisdiction will be given a choice on how to implement carbon pricing. They can put a direct price on carbon pollution, or they can adopt a cap and trade system. We propose that in jurisdictions with a direct price on carbon pollution, the price should start at a minimum of $10 per tonne in 2018, rising by $10 a year to $50 per tonne in 2022. Jurisdictions with a cap and trade system will need to set their annual caps to achieve at least the same emission reductions that would result from a carbon price in a price-based system. Cap and trade systems will also need a 2030 emissions reduction target equal to or greater than Canada's 30% reduction target.

Each jurisdiction will also have the flexibility to keep revenues to use as they see fit, whether it means giving it back to consumers, supporting their workers or families, helping the most vulnerable, including communities in the north, or supporting businesses that innovate and create jobs for middle-class Canadians.

Take the case of British Columbia, where carbon pricing is revenue neutral. Since 2008, B.C. has proven that it is possible to reduce emissions while growing the economy and creating good-paying jobs. B.C. has the highest broad-based carbon tax in North America. Its carbon tax sets a transparent and predictable price on carbon while returning all revenues to B.C. individuals and businesses. The price signal creates a real incentive to reduce emissions across the economy.

Again, jurisdictions have the freedom to use the revenues from this source as they see fit. It is their choice. In the case of B.C., it has meant that every dollar generated by the carbon tax is returned to British Columbians through reductions in other taxes. In fact, during the period between 2008 and 2015, the net benefit to taxpayers was $1.6 billion.

It also goes without saying that because of the very flexibility that defines the pan-Canadian framework, attaching a benefit or a cost to households or individuals at large is not as straightforward as the member opposite would have us believe. In fact, it is terribly misleading.

Since each province and territory has the flexibility to design a system that works for it and to use the revenues as it sees fit, much work remains to be done in the way of further analysis and modelling in collaboration with the provinces and territories before a relevant estimate can be provided.

It is important to understand as well that the memo being debated today and much bandied about by the member for Carleton was written before the current government was in office. Its data in no way reflects our government's pan-Canadian collaboration and flexible approach. It will not help him or anybody better understand the impact of our plan. How could it? It was drafted a year before it was even hatched. Its release could cause confusion for Canadians, industries, provinces and territories, and our partners around the world about Canada's actual plan and the cost associated with it. That is not something to toy with. That is my opinion. Members opposite may feel differently.

Luckily, as the member well knows, the professional public service manages access to information in the Government of Canada and applies certain restrictions to information that is released according to the rules set out by the Access to Information and Privacy Act. The impartiality and non-political nature of this process is important and must be upheld by all members of the House. It is in Canada's best interest that we not undermine these carefully considered decisions with partisan barbs.

In summary, pricing carbon pollution will give Canada an edge in building a clean-growth economy, will make Canadian businesses more innovative and competitive, will bring new and exciting job prospects for middle-class Canadians, and will reduce the pollution that threatens our clean air and oceans as well as the health of Canadians.

Together, we will create the clean-growth economy necessary for the collective health, prosperity, and security of this generation of Canadians and the next.

The government's overall approach will be reviewed in 2022 to ensure that it is effective and to confirm future price increases. The review will account for actions by other countries.

As far as Canada is concerned, I am pleased to say that we are working from a position of strength. We are in an enviable fiscal position. Our debt-to-GDP ratio is well above the average for the G7. This means that we have the flexibility needed to implement our long-term vision of ensuring that Canada's economy works for the middle class. If the economy works for the middle class, it works for everyone.

The measures to support the middle-class is what the Canadian economy needs and what Canadians deserve. It is what Canadians wanted and what we provided and will continue to provide in the future.

On January 1, 2016, nearly 9,000 Canadians had more money in their pockets thanks to the middle-class tax cut. This measure was not only the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do for our economy.

The middle-class tax cut and the measures that go with it help make the tax system fairer to give all Canadians the opportunity to succeed.

Specifically, the government lowered the tax rate in the second personal income tax bracket from 22% to 20.5%. Single individuals who benefit from the reduced second personal income tax rate will see an average tax reduction of $330 every year, while couples will see an average tax reduction of $540 every year. Only the higher income earners, the wealthiest 1%, will pay more taxes with the introduction of the 33% personal income tax rate on individual taxable income in excess of $200,000.

Finally, the government returned the tax-free savings account, or TFSA, annual contribution limit to $5,500 from $10,000, effective January 1, 2016. Returning the TFSA annual contribution limit to $5,500 was consistent with the government's objective of making the tax system fair and helping those who need it the most.

When combined with other registered savings plans, a $5,500 TFSA annual contribution limit will enable most individuals to meet their ongoing savings needs in a tax efficient manner. Furthermore, indexation of the TFSA annual contribution limit was reinstated. Thus, the annual limit will retain its real value over time.

Another cornerstone of the government's plan to help the middle class and those working hard to join it is the Canada child benefit. The benefit will help parents better meet the needs of their children. The CCB is simpler and more generous than the old benefit system it replaced, and it is completely tax-free. In addition, it does a better job of targeting the people who most need it.

I firmly believe that the many parents who receive this assistance agree that it is greatly needed and appreciated. With the introduction of a much better-targeted Canada child benefit, about 300,000 fewer children will be living in poverty in 2017 as compared to 2014. That means that Canada's child poverty rate will drop by about 40% relative to 2014.

Since the Canada child benefit was introduced in July 2016, nine out of ten families are now receiving more money than they did under the previous system. They are receiving an average increase in annual benefits of $2,300 in 2016-17.

Parents with children under 18 will receive a maximum annual benefit of $6,400 per child under the age of six and up to $5,400 per child between the ages of 6 and 17. Whether these additional funds are used for things like buying school supplies, covering part of the cost of registering for sports activities, helping with the family grocery bill, or buying warm coats for winter, the Canada child benefit helps parents cover the high cost of raising their children.

Finally, the Canada child benefit will be indexed to inflation starting in 2020 so that families can continue to count on this additional support for a long time, with their benefits keeping pace with rising expenses.

As on pricing carbon pollution, our government has achieved other goals through collaboration with the provinces. We have reached a historic agreement with provincial governments to enhance the Canada pension plan. This project was undertaken given our knowledge that one in four Canadian families approaching retirement, 1.1 million families, is at risk of not saving enough to maintain the family's current standard of living. The risk is highest for middle-class families. Families without workplace pension plans are at an even greater risk of under-saving for retirement. In fact, a third of these families are at risk. Saving more through an enhanced CPP will mean Canadian families are more confident about their future and about their ability to secure a dignified retirement.

Our government is particularly concerned about the situation of young Canadians. They tend to have more debt than previous generations and, in most cases, they will also live a lot longer than previous generations. They are faced with the challenge of trying to save enough money for retirement at a time when fewer of them can expect to have a job with a pension plan.

In summary, the measures that our government has taken show our commitment to helping the middle class and those working hard to join it. We have taken action to strengthen the Canada pension plan. We introduced the middle-class tax cut, which benefits nine million Canadians. We introduced the Canada child benefit, which provides additional financial assistance to nine out of ten Canadian families.

We will continue to work for Canadians in order to build a stronger and more equitable economy where all families can grow and prosper.

If it is a real, relevant, and factual debate the member for Carleton is looking for, I am hoping that we can use our time to talk about those numbers.

Opposition Motion—Impact of Carbon TaxesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to salute my colleague and thank her for her contribution to this debate.

The motion put forward by the member for Carleton is very clear. It calls on the government to release a study it did on how families will be affected by the Liberal carbon tax. I would remind the House that the government remains very tight-lipped when the news is not good. The Minister of Finance sat on this study for 10 weeks, a study done by his own bureaucrats that found that if nothing changes, we are heading toward a debt of $1.5 trillion by 2050, with no return to balanced budgets until 2055. I understand why the minister was probably embarrassed by his bureaucrats' work, which is why he kept the study to himself for 10 days.

If the Liberal government is so proud of the Liberal carbon tax and really believes it is going to be wonderful, why does it refuse to release a study regarding the direct, real, and concrete repercussions the Liberal carbon tax will have on Canadian families?

Opposition Motion—Impact of Carbon TaxesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Liberal

Ginette Petitpas Taylor Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his question.

Once again, it is the employees working for the access to information program who assess these requests. They are the ones who decide to provide information. Their work is extremely professional and non-partisan, and they are the ones who make the final decision.

Opposition Motion—Impact of Carbon TaxesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, as it is my first time to speak in the debate today, I have to say it was a breath of fresh air to hear from the parliamentary secretary.

My criticism of the Liberal government is that it is not doing nearly enough to price carbon at rates that are competitive in the world. Starting at $10 a tonne is too low. British Columbia already has a carbon tax of $30 a tonne. Contrary to the misinformation and, I will say with all due respect to my colleagues, disinformation coming from the Conservative benches talking about a Fraser Institute study that has been entirely discredited, the Government of British Columbia, its finance minister and finance civil servants have no possible way to explain the Fraser Institute propaganda. Our tax in British Columbia is revenue neutral. The problem with it is Christy Clark has not raised it every year on year, as was under the original plan of her ideological soulmate, former premier Gordon Campbell.

In this debate, we should talk about real impacts on real families. A revenue neutral carbon tax in British Columbia of $30 a tonne has not hurt our economy. We continue to lead nationally. British Columbians want the premier to raise the carbon tax.

Opposition Motion—Impact of Carbon TaxesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Liberal

Ginette Petitpas Taylor Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, once again, I want to thank my hon. colleague for her comments and for her ongoing work on this issue.

Our government is committed to creating a cleaner, more innovative economy that reduces emissions and protects our environment while creating good jobs for middle-class Canadians.

At the first ministers meeting that was held in December 2016, most provinces and territories agreed to implement a Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change. The framework includes a pan-Canadian approach to pricing carbon pollution, such that carbon pricing will be implemented across the country by 2018. Under the pan-Canadian framework, provinces and territories have the flexibility to choose between the two systems and it is their choice to do so. We encourage provinces to take the lead on this. We want them to be the drivers on this. We are there to support the work they are going to be doing.

Opposition Motion—Impact of Carbon TaxesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Mr. Speaker, one thing I am very concerned with is the Liberal government's very slow action, or complete inaction, on a lot of climate issues. It could very easily and quickly bring back the eco-energy home retrofit program, which was initiated by the Conservative government in previous years and was very successful.

For some reason, the Conservatives stopped it when it was doing good things. Hundreds of thousands of Canadian families took advantage of this. It reduced energy costs by 20%, greenhouse gases by three tonnes per year in every household, and it leveraged four times the investment across the country for every dollar put in by the federal government. Instead, in the pan-Canadian framework, it is shuffled down to the provinces to maybe do something about retrofits in homes.

Why has the government not brought this back? It is such an efficient, no pun intended, way to get the country doing good things on climate action.

Opposition Motion—Impact of Carbon TaxesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Ginette Petitpas Taylor Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question and the work he does on this file.

To us, this is just the first step. We want to work with the provinces and territories. The revenues generated from carbon pricing will remain in the province or territory where they are generated. We also want to ensure that such decisions are made by the provinces and territories and not by us here in Ottawa.

Every province or territory can use the revenues from carbon pricing as it sees fit, including dealing with pollution and the impact on vulnerable sectors, and supporting the achievement of climate change objectives and clean growth.

In fact, it will be up to the province or territory to make the necessary choices to meet its own needs.

Opposition Motion—Impact of Carbon TaxesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Matt Jeneroux Conservative Edmonton Riverbend, AB

Mr. Speaker, it just shows how out of touch the government is by the comments the member has made. We constantly hear in the House about how great the Liberal policies, such as the CPP increase and the carbon tax, are for jobs and people. We just heard a passionate speech from the member for Carleton. He indicated that a number of people in Ontario were losing their jobs. Just in Alberta last month, 25,000 full-time jobs were lost, and 8.8% of people are unemployed in the province.

We are told that Albertans and Ontarians are asking for a carbon tax. How can the member stand in the House and say that a carbon tax is exactly what the country needs right now?

Opposition Motion—Impact of Carbon TaxesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Ginette Petitpas Taylor Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, this member is saying that the environment and the economy go hand in hand. We cannot keep putting our heads in the sand about the issue of climate change. It is this government that is here to help middle-class Canadians and those who are most vulnerable. It is this government that has put in place the Canada child benefit program, which has helped hundreds of thousands of Canadians move out of poverty. It is the party opposite that has voted against that policy.

It is also our government that has put in place an increase in the guaranteed income supplement. I hear the opposition speak about seniors and say that we have done nothing to help them. We have done a lot to help our seniors, and we will move forward in that direction. We care about Canadians and we want to ensure they get the help they need to support them in their time.

Opposition Motion—Impact of Carbon TaxesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, the arguments we hear from the Conservatives are about whether this is revenue neutral. Could my colleague pick up on that point? We are seeing a strong national leadership working with the provinces. In fact, Ottawa does not receive any revenue from this. The provinces will get the revenue. Could my colleague explain that further?

Opposition Motion—Impact of Carbon TaxesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Ginette Petitpas Taylor Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, our government is committed to working with provinces and territories, and we have done so on many fronts, be it the Canada pension and the list goes on. For this situation, we ensured we consulted with provinces. We wanted to ensure they were the drivers in all of this, that they would determine where that money would be invested and how it could better help their provinces. We want them to take the lead and that is exactly what we have done. We are proud of that.

Opposition Motion—Impact of Carbon TaxesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Ziad Aboultaif Conservative Edmonton Manning, AB

Mr. Speaker, the government claims it is borrowing and spending that money to put toward helping seniors and others, yet it does not have any idea how to pay it back.

Also, is the hon. member aware of the final report last week on the non-revenue neutral carbon tax in British Columbia? It was reported that the government generated over $450 million from it. Where is the revenue neutrality in that? I hope she is aware of that and will admit that this is true.

Opposition Motion—Impact of Carbon TaxesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Ginette Petitpas Taylor Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I always appreciate my colleague's interventions. Our government is committed to ensuring we help middle-class Canadians. We committed to do so in our platform as we formed government. We are continuing to move forward.

We are the government that has put in place the guaranteed income supplement for low-income seniors. We are the government that has put in place the Canada child benefit program. We are the government that has lowered taxes for low-income Canadians.

We have a plan to help middle-class Canadians, and we will continue to go forward with that plan.

Opposition Motion—Impact of Carbon TaxesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie.

It is an interesting debate this morning. I have looked at the motion, listened to the speeches and I wonder if anybody here has actually read the motion. The motion tabled by the member for Carleton is in essence a call for an order of the House that the government deliver on its duties and commitments for openness and transparency, although the ask is narrow in scope.

The member has previously raised in this place his frustrations with the government providing significantly redacted documents, documents allegedly providing analyses of the impacts of the proposed carbon tax on low and middle-income families. The documents the member seeks to have released include reports titled “Impact of a carbon price on households' consumption costs across the income distribution” and “Estimating economic impacts from various mitigation options for greenhouse gas emissions”. However, the Conservatives have also asked for any additional documents that the government may have prepared, or have in its possession, or have used public funding for to analyze the implementation and the costing of the carbon tax.

As I mentioned in my questions for some of the colleagues in this place, the motion does not call for release of any analyses documenting the cost of failing or delaying action to address climate change, including impacts associated with mitigation costs already experienced in our country. Natural Resources Canada commissioned such a report decades back, documenting climate impacts across sectors of the economy and across regions of the country. I recommend a read of that document by everyone in this place.

The motion also does not call for any measures to mitigate the costs associated with private investment and reducing greenhouse gases, such as the home energy retrofit program, installation of solar panels, and so forth.

I first wish to speak to the matter of the duty and commitment for open and transparent governance, including full disclosure of documents.

As the motion states, the Liberal Party was clear in its election platform on its commitment to restore openness and transparency in government. By way of example from its platform, it states, “Together, we can restore a sense of trust in our democracy. Greater openness and transparency are fundamental to accomplishing this”. It goes on to say, “At its heart is a simple idea: transparent government is good government. If we want Canadians to trust their government, we need a government that trusts Canadians”.

Once elected, the government issued a policy document entitled “Open and Accountable Government”. Under this policy directive issued by the Prime Minister, the Liberals undertake to ensure a policy of openness and transparency, and respect for the role of Parliament. It states:

In our system of government, Parliament is both the legislative branch and the pre-eminent institution of democratic accountability. Clear ministerial accountability to Parliament is fundamental to responsible government, and requires that Ministers provide Parliament with the information it needs to fulfill its roles of legislating, approving the appropriation of funds and holding the government to account.

That is the most important role we have on both sides of the House.

This mantra is again repeated in the mandate letters issued by the Prime Minister to his ministers. For example, the mandate letter to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change repeats this mantra of openness and transparency. It states:

We have also committed to set a higher bar for openness and transparency in government. It is time to shine more light on government to ensure it remains focused on the people it serves. Government and its information should be open by default. If we want Canadians to trust their government, we need a government that trusts Canadians....Canadians do not expect us to be perfect – they expect us to be honest, open, and sincere in our efforts to serve the public interest.

Again from the Liberal Party platform, I will share some of the actions the government committed to in the election. It states:

We will work together to establish national emissions-reduction targets, and ensure that the provinces and territories have targeted federal funding and the flexibility to design their own policies to meet these commitments, including their own carbon pricing policies.

These targets must recognise the economic cost and catastrophic impact that a greater-than-two-degree increase in average global temperatures would represent, as well as the need for Canada to do its part to prevent that from happening.

That is precisely what is being asked for in this motion, which is the deliverance of the documents so all sides of the House can make a determination on whether the government is moving appropriately and cost effectively in the measures it is introducing.

In the mandate letter to the Minister of the Environment, she is then specifically mandated to ensure that any reduction targets recognize the economic cost and catastrophic impact that a greater than 2° increase would deliver.

The Minister of Environment and Climate Change and the Minister of Finance are mandated to undertake a cost estimate of delayed action. It would be nice if we could have that revealed as well. Certainly, when the Conservatives were in power, they did not reveal nor advertise the fact that even before their mandate the Department of Natural Resources had done an in-depth analysis showing considerable impacts across our country already occurring more than 15 years ago. Although the member does not request the release of information on the economic costs of mitigating that damage, failing or delaying to take action, it would be useful as well.

Where we differ with the Conservative Party on this motion is the Conservatives' persistence, first, in refusing to recognize that climate change even exists and, second, that Canada has inappropriately committed to do its part to prevent catastrophic climate change, including imposing a price on carbon. It is clear that the Conservative Party continually does not support any kind of measures to put a price on carbon, including the measures chosen to date by the Liberal Party. Third, the Conservatives refuse to accept that world leaders are taking action, including embracing a transition to a cleaner energy economy, and fourth, that credible entities, such as the International Energy Agency, have called on all nations, including Canada, to expedite this transition to investment in clean energy.

Yes, we need full disclosure of any considerations, studies, assessments, or estimates on the cost, policies, or measures for greenhouse gas reduction, including the proposed carbon tax and other measures which have not come forward yet and will be needed in order for the Liberals to deliver on the commitments made in Paris. However, the starting point must be toward delivering on our nation's commitments to reduce greenhouse gases. The Liberals committed to one thing in Paris and we have targets that came from the previous regime, which are not going to deliver on our commitments made in Paris. That should be done through a just transition.

If there is one thing we have not heard from either the Conservatives or the Liberals in this place, it is the need to start moving on action for a just transition. If we are going to move from an economy largely based on the oil and gas sector, we are going to need to support the people who work in those communities. Many workers in the oil and gas sector, including the oil sands sector, started their own organizations and are calling on the government to actually finance their retraining and deployment, not just research, on renewable energy and energy efficiency.

In closing, this motion is, frankly, all about openness and transparency and I grow tired of hearing that access to information requests are done independently. I, too, have been refused documents which, in fact, I knew were already publicly released. I call upon the government to rethink and commit to the our previous bill that called for improved access to information, including for members of this place.

Opposition Motion—Impact of Carbon TaxesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, we have seen a very open and transparent government on the environment file and in fact on all files. That has been a default position of this government.

In our debate today, we should go back to the Paris agreement, something that happened literally months after we became government. The Prime Minister went to Paris and an agreement was achieved. He came back to Canada, worked with the different stakeholders, in particular, the provinces, territories, indigenous people, and through national leadership, came up with a plan to deal with carbon pricing, something that is good and healthy for Canada's environment.

Would the member not acknowledge that as we move forward, we need to continue to work with the stakeholders? That seems to be lost in a lot of the discussions. What Ottawa should be doing, or continuing to do, is to demonstrate strong national leadership on the file, but we also need the buy-in from the other stakeholders, like our provinces, and so forth. Perhaps the member could comment on just how important that aspect is.

Opposition Motion—Impact of Carbon TaxesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to spend 20 minutes responding, but I will not have the opportunity.

There were a lot of promises made by the Liberals in the election. One was that they would immediately restore and strengthen Canadian environmental laws. Those include the environmental assessment process, in which stakeholders, the communities that are impacted by resource developments, would have a voice on how they proceed, including the calculation of what the greenhouse gas emissions would be.

It is nice to talk about working with the provinces and territories. However, we are seeing a federal model where the government sits back and says to the provinces and territories that its their job. I have yet to see a federal plan from the government on how exactly it is going to deliver on its commitments in Paris. Is it going to be another Kyoto?

Opposition Motion—Impact of Carbon TaxesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

February 23rd, 2017 / 11:20 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend, the member for Edmonton Strathcona, not only for her recent work but for her decades of work for the environment, and for understanding the climate crisis and its urgency. That is one of the things that is absent from most of the discussions in this place. We tend to have what I regard as a most unfortunate, ill-informed focus day after day on carbon taxes as opposed to discussing the imminent threat that we are going to be too late, with respect to the Paris commitment, to avoid a 1.5° global average temperature increase. We are going to be too late to focus on the fact, and it is a fact not an opinion, that the current federal target falls well below our Paris goals and is in fact incompatible with the Paris goals.

I want to give my hon. colleague an opportunity to speak to the enormous cost to Canada and future generations if we do not move more aggressively.

Opposition Motion—Impact of Carbon TaxesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, of course, we all recognize in the House the member's hard work on the environment and climate file. I look forward to speaking with her on these matters at the University of Ottawa tomorrow evening.

It is already documented. I mentioned a report that was issued by NRCan, even before the Conservative government took power, and I have seen no one taking any measures to distribute that report. There already have been major impacts on agriculture, and major impacts on our cities and towns across the country. There have been significant impacts on the Arctic. We already know that the costs are rising, but we are dragging our heels.

I would like the Liberal government to step forward and start working with us in this place, and with Canadians, on what its actual fulsome plan is to actually meet those Paris targets. We are waiting. Time is running out.

Opposition Motion—Impact of Carbon TaxesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Edmonton Strathcona for her excellent speech and her very thoughtful answers.

Today we are debating a motion moved by the official opposition, the Conservative Party, an oddly drafted motion that addresses a number of different themes. The wording of the motion feels like a trap. In fact, it makes a tenuous connection between a number of things that might also be the subject of entirely separate debates. The motion tackles everything from access to information and transparency to the cost of home heating and climate change. It combines all these topics and patches them together for a debate that could go pretty much anywhere.

I am going to talk about three things. First, when it comes to transparency and access to information, let me take a moment to point out the irony of the Conservative Party moving a motion calling for access to more information. When I think of the Harper years and the Conservative Party's record on providing access to information, I do not know whether to laugh or cry.

Creating the parliamentary budget officer was a good idea on the Conservatives' part. It is a good thing. It is a watchdog that audits estimates, government expenses, and the repercussions and costs of various programs and measures. However, once they created the parliamentary budget officer position, they made it so difficult for the incumbent to access figures and data that he had to use the Access to Information Act to get departmental figures.

The Conservative government was anything but transparent and open. It was the worst. In 2014, journalists told us that never in Canadian history had the Access to Information Act been in such bad shape. That matters because that is how the government is meant to be accountable to Canadians, so they know how money is being spent and whether it is really helping people.

If the government makes decisions but keeps information hidden, how can citizens of a democracy understand the pros and cons of those decisions and judge whether they are appropriate?

The Information Commissioner used to give a report card, like the ones children are given, to the defence and transport departments concerning their handling of access to information requests. They received marks ranging from D to F. However, nothing was really done about this.

The Access to Information Act states that a disclosure must be made within thirty days of the request for access. The Conservative government set a record when the defence department took 1,100 days to respond to an access request. That is the equivalent of three years. It is just slightly longer than the siege of Leningrad.

In 2013, Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault said, “I know of no other federal law that is so openly flouted by government authorities.” Today, I have to admit that I find it a little funny that the Conservatives are lecturing us about transparency and the openness of government. Now that they are in opposition, they are changing their tune. However, they are not the only ones. The Liberals have also changed their tune now that they are in power. That is also interesting.

Pat Martin, our friend and former colleague, introduced a bill to improve access to information, and the Prime Minister himself supported it when in opposition. However, today, now that he is in power, he is doing absolutely nothing.

The NDP has been asking for years for the Access to Information Act to be modernized so that government information is open and accessible to associations, organizations, citizens, opposition parties, and the media.

Accessing information is still extremely difficult today. Despite all of the nice words and grand promises to be a different kind of government, develop a new policy, and restore public confidence, the Liberal government remains secretive and opaque.

It is not the intent of the motion, but it is still important to mention the Liberals' by-invitation-only fundraising activities, which gave privileged access to ministers and the Prime Minister. That is not at all the type of politics that the Liberals promised during the campaign.

Furthermore, the Conservatives have every reason to be concerned about energy costs, because they are causing a lot of trouble for many families across the country. I understand my Ontario colleague's concern about high heating costs, which are causing a lot of trouble for many individuals and families right now.

The NDP believes that a good public power generation and distribution system is part of the solution. In Quebec, we are lucky because the cost of energy is regulated and controlled. We are also fortunate to have many rivers, which means that our energy is renewable. That is important when it comes to climate change, an issue that we are going to talk about shortly.

We must not use the trouble some provinces are having with heating and electricity costs as an excuse to tear down measures that are a critical component of our contribution to fighting climate change and global warming.

I am surprised at the Conservatives' silence on the subject of energy costs even though they were the ones who cut the program. The Liberals' silence surprises me too. Why not bring back the ecoENERGY retrofit program, which I think was a win-win-win program? My colleague talked about it earlier. Why is that program no longer available? It worked. Its benefits were threefold: it lowered heating costs for families because houses were better insulated and lost less heat through their roofs, windows, and doors; it reduced greenhouse gas emissions because it lowered energy consumption in places where people heated with gas, oil, or coal; and it created jobs because people and small businesses needed workers to replace windows and doors to better insulate houses.

We can reduce the cost of heating, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and create jobs, and yet what is the Liberal government doing? It stays silent, which is unfortunate. We in the NDP really want to hammer this home, because we think it is a good program that should be brought back.

Now I want to talk about climate change. We can see the trap set by the Conservatives, as they use pretexts like the cost of heating and so-called transparency to attack something that is necessary, that is, our contribution to what is probably the greatest challenge of our generation, the fight against global warming. Global warning will reach a tipping point and cause massive natural disasters.

Unfortunately, the Conservative government did absolutely nothing on this issue for 10 years. In fact, certain members of the Conservative cabinet and certain Conservative MPs even denied human activity's influence on global warming. That is absolutely incredible.

Former U.S. vice-president Al Gore was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and do members recall why? It was for his efforts to combat climate change and global warming. Indeed, if sea levels rise by one or two metres, it will create population movements so massive as to provoke conflicts. Some areas will be flooded, while others will become deserts.

We need to tackle all of these changes, and we want action from this Liberal government.