Madam Speaker, Canadians and scientists alike understand the urgency of taking action on climate change.
We often think of it as a race against time, but the truth is that it is really two races. First there is the race to reduce our carbon emissions and limit their impact on our climate. This is a race with the highest possible stakes: ecological and social upheaval, food security, mass migration, and natural catastrophe.
However, there is a second race, too, and that is the race to lead the transition to a new post-carbon economy. In the second race, the stakes are jobs and prosperity for our communities, success for our businesses, knowledge and technical advancement, and the benefits that come from leading the world.
On the one hand, it is a race to avert disaster, and on the other other, it is a race to seize opportunity. In both races, the stakes are enormous. In both races, the key is a shift to clean energy. In both races, unfortunately, Canada is running behind.
Today, Canada produces only 18% of our primary energy from renewable resources. Sweden and Norway manage to meet 45% of their energy needs with clean energy, outstripping Canada by two and a half times. In Iceland, the figure is a staggering 88%.
Now, it is not for a lack of talent. Our country has some of the most cutting-edge companies in clean energy. In my own riding, I am thinking of Ballard Power Systems, with its fuel cell technology; Nano One, which is changing how the world is making battery materials; and just a few blocks away, Bullfrog Power, with its innovative approach to funding renewable energy.
It is not a lack of resources holding us back, either. We have huge potential reserves for wind and solar, for tidal and geothermal energy, and to extract even more from our hydro.
If talent and innovation are working in our favour, and if our reserves of renewable energy potential are so tremendous, the question remains. Why does Canada still lag? What is lacking, frankly, is commitment and strategy at the highest political levels in Canada. I am sorry to say we saw that lack of commitment in the latest budget from the government.
For years Canada had a federal government that held renewable energy in nearly overt contempt. Anything that did not burn oil, gas, and coal was not worth the time of day as far as the Conservatives were concerned. Then came the Liberal government, and I will say this for it: it talked a very good line. If feel-good rhetoric and symbolic gestures were energy sources, Canada would be the next OPEC, but they are not and we are not.
Instead, the budget we are debating actually removes over $1 billion from funds the government had promised for the pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change. Apparently sunny ways do not extend to solar power.
They do not extend to conservation of energy efficiency either. One of the most important energy insights in the past 50 years has been that a kilowatt conserved is even more valuable than a kilowatt generated, because it does not require the overhead of generation and transmission. However, this budget offered nothing to help Canadians reduce their emissions and lower their energy bills by retrofitting their homes. This kind of program has proven, time and time again, to cut emissions and save money while creating well-paying jobs. Not tapping that potential, while cutting back on investments in clean growth, is a failure of vision, a failure of leadership.
That is why I introduced my private member's motion, M-123, calling for a national clean energy strategy. This is a call for Canada to act urgently to rally our full array of resources to make the most of the opportunities clean energy offers and to meet the challenge of climate change head on. To succeed, a clean energy strategy has to be collaborative to the core. Imposing top-down solutions has a bad reputation in Canada, and rightly so.
Instead, Ottawa should be working with provinces, territories, municipalities, aboriginal communities, and with both public and private sector energy providers. For one thing, we know there is far too much wisdom and expertise among Canadians to let it all go to waste by ignoring it. For another, we need all hands on deck to make our transition to post-carbon energy successful. That means buy-in from all quarters, and we will not get that unless everyone has a hand in shaping solutions.
Even more fundamental than that is the question of fundamental justice and self-determination, and it applies in particular to aboriginal communities. Too often, when energy questions arise, first nations in Canada are bypassed, ignored, patronized, or offered lip service. However, energy policy and resource use are inextricably tied to our land base, and land is fundamental to aboriginal title. There should be no question that aboriginal communities must be full partners in crafting our clean energy strategy—anything else is unthinkable.
In the same way, when we talk about clean energy, it should not just be clean in terms of carbon and the environmental footprint, but clean ethically, as well. A project like B.C.'s site C hydro dam fails this test because without the consent of affected first nations it has no social licence to proceed.
The goal of our strategy, then, should be to steadily increase our capacity to produce ethically and environmentally clean energy.
The first step is to assess how feasible it is to increase that capacity to 100% of our energy needs; that is, through both increasing raw generation and reducing demand through conservation.
Obviously, this will vary from region to region. However, people will probably be shocked to learn just how close we are in British Columbia. BC Hydro estimates that we are currently meeting 93% of our needs with clean, renewable energy.
Once we have that sense of feasibility and timelines, let us set a realistic but ambitious target and, together, develop a plan to get there. At every step in that discussion, let us ask ourselves these questions. How does this help Canadian workers, communities, and businesses? How can we give them every chance to succeed and prosper? How can we ensure that we are helping workers and communities affected by the transition away from carbon-based fuels? What is needed to secure for them the kind of opportunities that come with being one of the world's leading renewable energy exporters?
I mentioned regional differences. Different regions will, of course, have different specific needs, strengths, challenges, and priorities, and each region understands better than anyone else how these needs and priorities play out. Therefore the strategy should allow for a made-in-B.C. plan, a made-in-Alberta plan, a made-in-Quebec plan, and so on.
Now, nobody who seriously thinks about these issues believes for one moment this will be easy; but anyone who thinks seriously about these issues knows it is essential.
If we fail to act, if we continue down the path we have been headed, we do not get to avoid this transition. All we are doing is ensuring this transition, when it comes, will be an upheaval—unplanned, chaotic, and disruptive. Communities and, potentially, whole regions will fall through the cracks of a rapidly shifting economy. We are ensuring that other countries get to seize the opportunities instead of us. They get the jobs. Their businesses lock up the markets, build the research and technology capacity, and set the standards, not ours.
Meanwhile, we continue to pay the ecological price of relying on fossil fuels: the spills that can devastate the ecosystem in communities; the environmental degradation; the poor air quality; and the damage to people's health and well-being.
Of course, we reap the results of failure to act more quickly and more effectively to reduce the carbon load in our atmosphere. The disruptions and damage wreaked by climate change may well dwarf any of the other impacts I have mentioned.
Compare this bleak picture to what we could instead gain, such as energy security: a sustainable, secure supply of safe, affordable energy throughout the country. Families need to know that they can heat their homes; schools and hospitals need to know they can light their corridors and power their equipment; and businesses need to know their offices and factories can operate reliably and affordably.
We can bring an end to price shocks and the economic roller coaster of a commodity-based economy. This strategy can give us leverage to diversify economies and build a thriving and growing clean energy sector in communities throughout the country. The countries that make the transition now get early-mover advantage. This means they develop expertise and industrial infrastructure that create a virtuous circle, attracting investment and research that, in turn, strengthen our economic leadership.
We can deliver cleaner air and water; we can end the ruinous devastation of our land that is too often the calling card of the carbon economy; and we can reclaim the mantle of global leadership that Canada has held before, technologically and economically and in the fight to end the destabilization of our planet's climate.
Clean energy is ultimately about securing our future and doing it in a way that is quintessentially Canadian. It is about working together to ensure prosperity that can be shared by everyone throughout this country. That should be the goal of any budget.
The most important measure of that budget's success is an economy that lifts everyone up.
By that measure, this budget represents a tragically missed opportunity. Let us not let these opportunities pass us by.