House of Commons Hansard #187 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was transportation.


Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

moved that Bill C-345, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (pregnant and nursing employees) be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to present an amended version of the bill that my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie introduced in the previous Parliament because I think this bill is very important for women's rights at work.

Many people do not understand the difference between preventive withdrawal for pregnant and nursing employees and parental leave programs. People may turn to employment insurance benefits when they are in a work situation that puts their pregnancy at risk, but preventive withdrawal is something completely different. Quebec legislation makes preventive withdrawal easier to understand.

Let me explain how it works for a Quebec worker under provincial jurisdiction to make sure everyone really understands.

When a worker feels that her work may put her pregnancy at risk, she requests a medical evaluation. If the evaluation indicates there is a risk, the worker must be reassigned to a less risky position or withdrawn from the workplace.

The priority really is to try to reassign the worker, because the employer must pay a certain amount of money if it decides to send the worker home. For instance, the employer has to pay for the first five days. When the worker can be reassigned somewhere with no risks involved, it is definitely better for the employer. This also means the worker can stay in the workplace and still remain safe.

Preventive withdrawal becomes necessary when the employer cannot adapt the workplace or the job. The woman stays home, because of the risk, and receives benefits that, in Quebec, are paid by the CSST, Quebec's workplace health and safety commission. Those benefits are paid as soon as the workplace poses a risk. For instance, if the employer cannot reassign a worker who is five weeks pregnant and whose job poses a risk to her pregnancy, she is given preventive withdrawal benefits. She can receive those benefits from the beginning of her pregnancy, thereby avoiding any harm to her fetus. I think it is important to understand this.

One important aspect of preventive withdrawal is that women are eligible from the very beginning of their pregnancy, as soon as there is a risk, unlike parental insurance programs, which only apply once the woman has reached a certain point in the pregnancy. It is important to understand that.

Under the existing legislation, if a woman with a high-risk pregnancy works in an area under federal jurisdiction or if she works in a province that does not offer benefits like the ones offered in Quebec, she is entitled to preventive withdrawal, but at her own expense. In that case, she will have no income for 20 weeks or several months. She does not have the right to benefits because her job falls under federal jurisdiction and she is not far enough along in her pregnancy to be eligible for employment insurance parental benefits.

As a result, these women end up in a situation where they have no income at all and they have to make very difficult choices regarding their pregnancy. They either have to choose to continue working, even though doing so will jeopardize their health and their pregnancy, exposing them to the risk of a miscarriage or birth defects, for example, or they can take leave and end up in a precarious financial situation where they do not have any income until they can claim EI parental benefits.

Quebeckers are very lucky when it comes to parental benefits. To be eligible, women must have earned $2,000 over the past 52 weeks. That means that most women have access to these benefits. In order to be eligible for the federal program, a woman has to have accumulated 600 hours. There is no guarantee that she will have accumulated the necessary hours, particularly if she chooses to stop working because it is too risky and she is not receiving any benefits or income during that time.

Many women are placed in a very difficult position, and there is a very simple way to fix that. The federal government could make an agreement with the provinces that have a better preventive withdrawal program for pregnant and nursing woman than it does. For example, the federal government could make an agreement with the Government of Quebec so that women in Quebec who fall under federal jurisdiction are entitled to the same benefits as every other woman in Quebec.

What benefits would these agreements provide? If every woman in a given province followed the same rules of preventive withdrawal it would make things much simpler. It would be much easier to communicate information, putting women in the same province on equal footing. That equality is especially important. It is outrageous that in a system like ours there are two classes of women depending on whether their employer falls under provincial or federal jurisdiction. That situation could be resolved through these agreements.

Under the bill, provincial legislation must to be better than Canada Labour Code provisions for federal employees. That is not so hard to achieve considering that currently under the Canada Labour Code an employee is entitled to preventive withdrawal, but at her own expense. Other provinces might choose to introduce preventive withdrawal programs and the government could enter into an agreement with those provinces.

Alberta currently has an NDP government, a progressive government, and it is in a position to choose to act on this situation. British Columbia is going to have a coalition government between the NDP and the Green Party. Again, it can choose to act on this situation. If so, the federal government could enter into an agreement to provide measures that would help all the women in those provinces.

Preventive withdrawal is about the work and not the worker. Take for example the woman who has three part-time jobs and wants preventive withdrawal. If she can continue working at two of her jobs, she will get benefits only for the job she is no longer able to do, and she can withdraw only from that job if she cannot be reassigned.

This also has an advantage when we are dealing with preventive withdrawal. In the case of parental insurance programs, when we choose to take the weeks we are entitled to earlier, while continuing to hold both jobs we are able to do, those amounts are deducted from our benefits. It is therefore not very advantageous to do that, because there will be cuts to the amounts of money, and since those weeks have been used, they cannot be recovered. It is more advantageous to take that time to rest. Where there is no preventive withdrawal associated with the work, this requires that the worker leave all her jobs, even if only one of them is problematic.

Because this is associated with the work, it is not the employee’s health that counts, it is the work, regardless of the conditions. What is done is really an analysis based on the work. The question is whether any pregnant woman would run a risk if she did that work. If the answer is yes, then an effort is made to find a solution, whether by relocating her or by paying her benefits.

This is a fairly simple bill. A few minor corrections have been made to it. There is also the addition of a report, because I think it is important that the federal government be accountable to the House, that it say what the status of the agreements is, and that it show what it has done, in concrete terms, and how things have progressed.

Because this is a bill that could help women who are under federal jurisdiction, it is important to act quickly. The choice these women have to make is entirely impossible to live with: they can go back home, with no income and no consequence for their employment, and have access to parental insurance, but only after a few months. They therefore go back home with no income. The other option is to continue working, with the risks that entails for their pregnancy and for the fetus, in order to continue to earn a living.

Obviously, when there is another person in the couple to help, the decision may be a little easier to make, but we must not forget women who are on their own to deal with their pregnancy. In those cases, we can say that they have no source of income during a crucial time, precisely when they need money to start buying things to prepare for the baby's arrival, to eat well, and to stay healthy. What we have, in both cases, is a situation where the woman’s health is in jeopardy, whether because she has no income and her status is precarious, or because her work presents a risk. This is a situation that would be impossible to live with, particularly if we consider cases where, for example, a woman might have worked for ten years before becoming pregnant.

Mr. Speaker, I know that you cannot become pregnant, but try to put yourself in the shoes of these women. Imagine that a woman has tried for 10 years to have a baby; she finally becomes pregnant, and she discovers that she is not entitled to any benefits, when she was sure she was entitled and all her friends were entitled. In Quebec, for example, there is the CSST, the occupational health and safety commission, so the woman in question was certain she was covered, and that if there was a risk to her pregnancy, she would be eligible for benefits. Suddenly, she learns that she is not, because she under federal jurisdiction, and that if she wants preventive withdrawal, she will have to pay for it. These situations really are impossible to live with.

It would be easy for the federal government to take action. All it has to do is enter into an agreement with the provinces so that women in those provinces working under federal jurisdiction are eligible for provincial benefits. We can sort out the paperwork afterwards. Relatively few women would be affected, but the issue is important enough that action should be taken on this. About 5% of employees in a province are under federal jurisdiction. Of that 5%, about half are women. Obviously, not everyone is pregnant at the same time. The number is further reduced based on the number of women working high-risk jobs. For example, office employees who are under federal jurisdiction will not be affected, because their jobs do not involve risk. They do not need benefits for preventive withdrawal.

I will conclude by saying that I believe this is an important subject. It is time to give every woman, in every province, the same rights in matters of preventive withdrawal. It is entirely reasonable for the federal government to take action. The Prime Minister has said several times that he identifies as a feminist.

I believe this is a good bill that will initiate concrete action to help women who might find themselves in very precarious situations. I hope that we will back up our words with action and that we will try to advance the rights of women, and in particular of women in Quebec.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Spadina—Fort York Ontario


Adam Vaughan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member from the New Democratic Party of Canada for her presentation.

I will not try to fine-tune my question in French. The steps taken in budget 2017, in particular make eligible those pregnant women whose work presents challenges to carrying a child to term, are an expansion of the benefits and are positioned in such a way as to accommodate the issues raised by a private member's bill in this House. I was curious as to whether the member opposite could reflect on the flexibility that has been built in as part of the change. With regard to the new approach that the government has taken to protect women who work in environments that are harmful to a full pregnancy, are those provisions something that her party can support?

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, the problem with EI benefits is that they are only given at the end of the pregnancy. When a woman has a job that poses a risk to her pregnancy, the beginning of the pregnancy is not included in the benefit period.

For example, if a woman who has an at-risk federally regulated job is five weeks pregnant and is unable to transfer elsewhere, she must wait until 12 weeks before the anticipated delivery date to receive employment insurance benefits. In fact, her case is taken over by the QPIP before that. In other words, she must wait for her 28th week.

However, the risks of miscarriage are greatest at the beginning of a pregnancy, so nothing is being done when the risks are greatest. That is why we must stop confusing preventive withdrawal with employment insurance, because preventive withdrawal exists to protect the pregnancy at particularly crucial times, namely at the beginning, when it is at a particularly high risk.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague. Our caucus will continue to study this bill.

I would like to ask a question about the member's speech in the context. As I see it, there are two specific and distinct issues. One is the question of the rules around preventive withdrawal, and the other is a question of alignment within jurisdictions.

On the one hand, the member's bill addresses a certain kind of misalignment, where we have different rules for a person in a federally regulated sector versus a provincially regulated sector in Quebec. On the other hand, if the bill were to pass, we could see another kind of misalignment, where a federally regulated worker in Gatineau would be under under different rules from a federally regulated worker in Ottawa.

An alternative way of addressing this issue might have been to simply make changes with respect to the Canada Labour Code overall. I wonder if the member can comment on why she decided to pursue this route, potentially creating misalignment across provinces, rather than addressing it through a sort of global Canada-wide change.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, as federally regulated employees are covered under the federal system, amending the Canada Labour Code will not affect the provinces.

Furthermore, we must respect provincial law. We can reach an agreement for all women to receive the same level of protection when provincial law provides greater benefits, and as such, the level of coverage would not drop below a certain point. Thus, no federally regulated employees will lose anything if this bill is passed. The best case scenario is that some of these women will have greater benefits.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to thank the member for tabling this bill again before the House. The member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie had tabled a similar bill a few years ago.

When that bill was discussed a few years ago, there were very concrete examples that demonstrated its importance. I would like the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue to remind us of those concrete examples to illustrate the importance of such a bill.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, for example, flight attendants based in Quebec have a job that is considered to be at-risk for a pregnancy. However, they are given the choice to remain at work or to return home at their own expense. They are faced with an impossible choice.

That is a concrete example of women who could benefit. Those in Quebec could benefit from the provisions of the CSST and would receive benefits. Currently, they have nothing at all.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Wayne Long Liberal Saint John—Rothesay, NB

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my great riding of Saint John—Rothesay, I am very pleased to stand in the House today to speak about the proposed legislation to amend the Canada Labour Code with regard to preventive withdrawal provisions for federally related workers who are pregnant or nursing. This is known in the House as Bill C-345.

The bill would add a new section to part II of the Canada Labour Code to allow the minister to enter into agreements with the provincial government to give pregnant or nursing employees under federal jurisdiction access to certain provisions of provincial health and safety legislation. The Canada Labour Code currently contains provisions that allow a pregnant or nursing employee to be reassigned, or have her job modified without loss of pay or benefits if there is a risk to her health, the fetus, or the child. If a reassignment is not possible, the woman may take a leave of absence for the duration of the risk.

Labour code job protection for maternity leave varies across the country. Bill C-345 proposes that the federal government enter into agreements with provinces that have provisions related to preventive withdrawals that are at least as favourable to the employee as those in the federal legislation. Currently only Quebec specifically offers preventive withdrawal job protection with wage replacement for pregnant and nursing women.

In Quebec, if a pregnant or nursing employee must stop working because of a health risk to herself, her fetus, or her child, and if her employer is not able to reassign her to another job, this employee is entitled to a preventive withdrawal leave with wage replacement equivalent to 90% of net insurable earnings. The maximum annual insurable earnings are set at $67,500. Bill C-345 would represent a number of challenges which would have to be taken into consideration as we examine this proposed legislation. Among these challenges, applying provincial legislation to federally regulated workers in this area would create a situation where federally regulated employees working in Quebec would be treated differently than those in other provinces.

It is important to note that implementing Bill C-345 would involve increased costs to employers in Quebec, who could be required to pay additional premiums under Quebec's Commission de la Santé et de la Sécurité du travail. It is also worth mentioning that a review of Quebec's preventive withdrawal program in 2010 identified a number of concerns regarding its operation and scope, and recommended that the program be refocused on its original workplace health and safety objectives.

There are strong measures currently in place in the Canada Labour Code to protect pregnant and nursing employees. The government understands that at certain points in their lives, workers may also have to take time away from their jobs because of the circumstances or demands of their personal lives. Caring for a new child or providing care to a family member who is gravely ill are a couple of examples. This is when the employment insurance program helps eligible Canadians by providing the income support they need, allowing them to focus on what matters most. With budget 2017, we are helping working parents to better face the challenges that come with a growing family.

Budget 2017 proposes to make EI parental and maternity benefits more flexible. This is being received very well in my riding of Saint John—Rothesay. Parents would be able to choose the option that best suits their needs based on their work, family, and child care circumstances. Under the changes, parents would have two options: receiving EI parental benefits over a period of up to 12 months at the existing benefit rate of 55% of their average weekly earnings, or over an extended period of up to 18 months at a lower benefit rate of 33% of average weekly earnings. Parents would continue to be able to share these benefits. Budget 2017 provisions also propose allowing pregnant women to claim their EI maternity benefits up to 12 weeks before their due date, up from the previous eight weeks, if they so choose.

This additional flexibility would allow pregnant women to access EI maternity benefits and leave earlier than before. Again, in my riding, that change is going over very well.

I want to emphasize that these improvements were guided by last year's consultations on EI maternity, parental, and caregiver benefits. We held an online consultation, hosted round tables with stakeholders, and we sought their views in providing more flexible EI maternity and parental benefits, and leaves under the Canada Labour Code, as well as more inclusive caregiving benefits and leaves for Canadians who provide care to a family member.

It was essential for us to consult with all of our partners and stakeholders, especially Canadians directly. The reason is simple: amending the Employment Insurance Act is a complex endeavour, and we want to make sure that we do it right. The consultations with key partners were to help ensure that the program better responds to the needs of hard-working Canadian families.

In budget 2017, we have also proposed measures to help workers find the right balance between their work, family, and other personal responsibilities.

Amendments to the Canada Labour Code would ensure that federally regulated employees have the right to request flexible work arrangements, such as flexible start and finish times, as well as the ability to work from home. The amendments would also provide employees with new unpaid leaves for family responsibilities, the ability to participate in traditional indigenous practices, to seek care if they are the victim of family violence, and make bereavement leave more flexible.

In closing, our government is committed to supporting workers, and this starts with making sure that federally regulated workers are protected from harm in the workplace. Preventive withdrawal provisions in the Canada Labour Code emphasize work modifications in job reassignments so that women can continue to work in a safe environment. These provisions ensure that women can continue to participate in the labour force through the many measures put forward in our recent budget.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise today and address the bill. Before I go on, I am sure I speak for all members when I say that our thoughts and prayers are very much with the British people as they grieve yet another terrorist attack this weekend, and certainly with the family and friends of the Canadian victim.

I want to congratulate the member who brought the bill forward. It is a bill our caucus is going to continue to study and review as we go forward and proceed to the second hour of debate. Certainly there are some important issues raised that we are very much aligned with in terms of supporting pregnant women, mothers, and families, but there are also some practical issues with the bill. Therefore, in my remarks today I would like to talk about some of those different questions and put those considerations on the table for members to draw on as we continue the debate on the bill.

Bill C-345 speaks of the issue of preventive withdrawal, the idea that a pregnant woman who finds she is in an employment situation that may create some risk to her well-being and the well-being of her unborn child may then ask to be reassigned, and if reassignment is not available, she may then need to leave the workplace for the period of time that she is pregnant. In the province of Quebec, under provincial jurisdiction, there is an ability to get paid leave during that time. In other jurisdictions and in the federally regulated workforce, it is possible for a woman to get that time out of the workforce, but she would not receive paid leave during that time.

How a woman in that situation might be able to access that time outside the workforce is an important question. As the mover of the bill rightly put forward, depending on the woman's financial circumstances, there might well be situations in which it would be difficult for her to leave the workforce, so she might remain in a dangerous workplace and take on additional dangers to herself and to her child as a result.

This is a legitimate and important question, and we need to engage with it and look for effective ways of solving it. There are probably a variety of ways of doing this. We can imagine different arrangements that would address that specific situation. Perhaps it could be a more targeted way that looked at those who clearly did not have the level of financial independence they would need to step out of the workforce for that period of time. There could be a range of different ways of addressing the issue.

The bill, in any event, does speak to the question of withdrawal from the workplace and the compensation that would be associated with that withdrawal when there is a risk to the health of the mother and her child.

However, there is another, separate issue, and this is where perhaps the problem arises. I mentioned the distinction between federally and provincially regulated labour forces. Many members will already know that in Canada, some workers are regulated at the provincial level and others are regulated at the federal level. Those different systems of regulation apply in different sectors. About 10% of the workforce across Canada is federally regulated. It is a minority, but it is still a fairly significant portion of the workforce.

On the issue of alignment, we can get into a situation where there can be, in the same place, different rules respecting labour certification, leave, and these kinds of things, depending on which sector one is a part of. People could live in the same city and the same neighbourhood, yet have a different set of labour laws apply to them because of the sector they happen to work in. To some people it may seem unfair that certain benefits are available to someone because they are regulated by a different jurisdiction, but it is a reality of the way labour is regulated in Canada. It is always going to be a reality. The only way to prevent it would be to have complete alignment across all jurisdictions, and that is never going to happen. This labour regulation reflects a reality of our constitution, the spheres of sovereignty that are given to both the provincial and federal governments separately.

There would be some new problems introduced if the federal government alone tried to achieve perfect alignment of labour rules even in this specific case in each province. If we were to have alignment within individual provinces of the rules that exist, for example, on an issue like preventive withdrawal, then we would have misalignment for federally regulated workers across the country, perhaps even working in the same company.

The member who moved the bill brought up an example in questions and comments that is quite illuminating for the point she talked about, and that is flight attendants. Flight attendants are workers who might seek to withdraw from the workplace during pregnancy because of fear of the impact that the job could have on their well-being and the well-being of their child. On the other hand, companies that employ flight attendants are working across different provincial jurisdictions. This is something that falls squarely into federal jurisdiction because it involves interprovincial transportation.

We would have a situation where flight attendants from Quebec might be working alongside flight attendants from Ontario, Manitoba, or other parts of the country and be subject to a completely different system with respect to the kinds of benefits that they were entitled to.

Although one might say that there is some perspective on fairness to assist them in which two women in the same city, in the same neighbourhood in Quebec, have different labour rules apply to them, one might also say that there is some unfairness if two women who work for the same company, with similar hours, similar situations, similar working conditions, have different rules apply to them because their home bases are located in different places, such as Ottawa and Gatineau.

These are important questions to consider while we look for ways to address this issue of preventive withdrawal to ensure that there is safety in the workplace for everyone and that pregnant women have an opportunity to take the steps they need to protect themselves and their child, while at the same time trying to ensure some degree of consistency and alignment within the federally regulated situation so that a company doing business in a federally regulated sector involved in interprovincial transportation would not have to have completely different structures for different employees in different parts of the country.

In the remaining time that I have, I want to mention a number of other measures that the government should be looking at with respect to supporting women as they have children.

One of those measures is a proposal that our leader put forward during our recent leadership race, which is to make parental leave tax free. This would be an important way of providing income support to families while they are dealing with the loss of income that is associated with being in a parental leave situation. Making parental leave tax free would not create an additional burden for the EI fund, so it would not result in higher payroll taxes. It would provide that benefit back to families but do so through a tax cut that would impact general revenue rather than the EI fund. That is a positive proposal that has come from our new leader and one that I hope the government will consider. We will be happy to applaud the government if it chooses to adopt it, because it is the kind of tax cut that would impact parents precisely in the kind of situation that we are talking about.

One of the other things that I heard a lot about from people in my riding during the election campaign is the need to increase the flexibility of parental leave, especially for those who might want to work a bit while on maternal or parental leave.

There was a time when there was a kind of binary choice. One was either at home with children or at work. Things like the Internet make it so much easier for people to work from home, maybe to take work files home, yet our system for parental leave has not appropriately caught up with that reality. If we made it easier and more flexible for people to work a bit at home while still collecting some of these benefits, it would be easier for them to continue to work a bit and have that balance between work and being at home.

These are some of the other things that the government needs to consider as we go forward, as we seek to modernize and improve the benefits we provide to parents and families.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure for me to rise in the House to support this important bill from my colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue, Bill C-345.

To a certain point, to a small extent, I feel this bill is my own, as Bill C-345 is a new and improved version of Bill C-307, which I had tabled in the previous parliament. No one should be surprised, then, to see me speak in favour of it, as it would raise standards and increase fairness, unlike what the previous Conservative Party MP declared. In particular, the bill is more in line with our values and stated positions, which are that society must strive to protect our children and support pregnant women.

It is often said that our children are society's greatest asset. Unfortunately, government decisions sometimes do not support that claim. Indeed, some pregnant women are forced to stay in a job that could jeopardize their own safety, that of their unborn child or that of a child who is already born and must be nursed.

Currently, women working in large federally regulated industries, most notably marine transportation, rail transportation, air transportation, telecommunications and aeronautics, make up about 10% to 15% of all workers in our society, which is a significant percentage. At this time, these individuals have access to almost nothing. However, there are time-tested provincial programs that can resolve the problem that I will discuss in a moment.

Under Quebec’s safe maternity experience program, if a pregnant woman has a position that requires her to lift very heavy objects, make repetitive movements, walk a lot or remain standing for long periods of time, she can go see her doctor and ask for a risk-assessment.

There are also those cases where chemical or hazardous products may be inhaled or come into contact with the skin, which could have an effect on the unborn child or on the mother’s milk, for example. If that worker sees her doctor and explains the situation, the doctor can assess the risk of the position. He could ask the employer to reassign the worker to another type of job that is less dangerous or that is better suited to her stage of pregnancy. We can agree that the risk changes throughout the nine months of a pregnancy. Obviously, I cannot testify to that personally, but that is what I have read and what I have heard.

The program works well, and it is reinforced by another very interesting option, that of preventive withdrawal. If there are no other positions that are compatible with the pregnant or nursing woman’s health, she could always be offered benefits so she can continue to receive remuneration, a salary, without jeopardizing her own health or that of the unborn child. That particular benefit demonstrates how seriously we take the future of our children. We do not take that lightly. Collectively, we are ready to assume the costs and to invest so that women can pregnancies it can be done in the safest way possible.

I thank my colleague from Rouyn-Noranda for introducing the bill once more, as it will improve living and working conditions for many women across the country who are not currently eligible for benefits.

The safe maternity experience program can improve the health of women and help their unborn children remain healthy. I have a hard time understanding why two women in Quebec, one in a federally regulated job and the other in a provincially regulated job, cannot both have access to the same program and the same rights. They are both taxpayers, both citizens living in the same province, and there are two standards. There is a double standard. This bill improves other things as well, but this situation would be eliminated to the benefit of all women who would have access to the provincial program. That is why I think that all members of the House should think about how, in concrete terms, we can help pregnant workers and those who have delivered and are nursing their child. This is a good example, particularly for members from Quebec, who can see concrete examples of this problem in their constituency offices.

Having spent a lot of time working with flight attendant unions, I will talk about those. These unions have long called for this change, as they see some of their members actually being financially penalized when they are no longer able to fly and the employer is not necessarily able to reassign them elsewhere, such as to a counter, a cash, client service or ticket sales, for the simple reason that there are already people in those positions. They cannot be moved and replaced by flight attendants who can no longer fly because that is not allowed past a certain point.

This demand is entirely legitimate, and anyone who has ever flown can easily understand why. Those workers are penalized. They are required to go home, with no pay, or to use weeks from their maternity or parental leave much earlier in the process, thus losing them at the end of their year of maternity leave. A Conservative member has stated that it could create an injustice or inequity if two people working for the same company are from two different provinces and are not subject to the same rules. I would say that, in some cases, that is true, particularly when people work on the border between two provinces. We need only look at people working in the House of Commons. Some live in Quebec, others in Ontario. They do not have the same health and safety system, nor do they pay taxes at the same rate. There are many provincial laws that differ, but that is part of life in a federation.

This is a very important private member's bill that my colleague from Rouyn-Noranda is presenting to us. It could really increase the health of pregnant workers and their babies, and it would make sure that if provincial legislation exists, it could be used to ensure a woman's work would not hurt her own health and safety or the health and safety of her baby.

Something has to give. At this time, the employment insurance system, which offers maternity benefits, includes restrictions that limit access to benefits for certain women. For example, at the moment, workers must have accumulated 600 insured hours of work to be eligible for benefits. However, there are no benefits available for women who have not reached the 600-hour threshold or who may need these benefits more than 12 weeks prior to their expected delivery date.

The Liberal government has taken measures, but it is still not enough. I am actually thinking of the extension of the leave benefit period from the current 12 to 18 months. In fact, the cost would be borne by the worker, by the employee who will use this measure, since instead of receiving 55% of her salary out of the 12 months, she will receive 33% of her salary out of the 18 months. Few people can afford to live on 33% of their salary.

The Liberal government says they support the middle-class people or those who wish to join it, but the type of measures it has implemented are far from adequate, and they are really not helping middle-class workers.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

June 5th, 2017 / 11:50 a.m.


Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a very real pleasure to rise to speak to Bill C-345. I would like to salute my colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue for bringing forth the legislation. As a father of young children, I certainly know intimately how important it is to have comprehensive parental benefits. I have the privilege of representing an amazing riding which, particularly in the south end of the city of Langford, is seeing explosive growth at the moment, particularly with families with young children. When I go to my constituents and explain to them the benefits that are contained in the legislation, I know that will resonate very much with constituents, particularly in Langford but indeed all across this country.

This enactment would amend the Canada Labour Code to authorize the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour to enter into an agreement with the government of a province that would provide for the application, to pregnant or nursing employees, of certain provisions of the provincial legislation concerning occupational health and safety. The bill would also require the minister to prepare a report on the agreements and to cause that report to be laid before Parliament. As someone who feels very strongly about the role of parliamentary oversight on the functions of the executive, I think it is a fantastic way for members of Parliament to keep track of how the executive is doing on its particular programs.

Just to go into a bit more detail, certain provisions would provide the better of the protection between provincial and federal protection to pregnant and nursing employees. It would ensure that women receive the best benefits possible before the child is born and during the breastfeeding period. Bill C-345 could protect women in high-risk work environments, and it would also motivate employers to adapt jobs in order to keep pregnant and nursing employees in the labour force.

Just on those two points, I am home to a riding that has a lot of industries where there are high-risk environments. The bill would elevate the value of pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding to the level that our society needs to place on those functions. In bringing forth much-needed equality in our society, we as a society, as a government, and as employers have to put value on those all-important functions of raising the next generation of our children, ensure the supports are there for women, and ensure that everything we do is looked at through that lens of equality.

The bill would put forth an amenable means of delivering the best-possible care to women by giving the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour the ability to consult with provincial governments in order to decide whether the provincial or federal maternal benefits package would better suit constituents on a province-by-province basis. That is an ideal situation. Often, with many different programs, because of that federal-provincial jurisdictional divide that we have, we can end up with a patchwork quilt. I look no further than what happens with benefits that are given under access to justice, particularly with legal aid. We are studying that issue right now in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and certainly we do see a patchwork quilt. It is unfortunate that the types of benefits people receive are dependent on where they live in this great country of ours.

Finally, Bill C-345 would be able to provide equal pregnancy benefits to all pregnant and nursing employees across a given province once an agreement is reached between the provincial or territorial government and the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, regardless of whether the employee's job falls under federal or provincial jurisdiction.

In the previous Parliament, my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, in the 41st Parliament, introduced similar measures, and that is why he made that reference in his speech. It was Bill C-307. While it is unfortunate that Bill C-307 was struck down at its second reading in the previous Parliament, I am glad to see my colleague continuing this fight with Bill C-345. Bill C-345 would expand on the goal of Bill C-307 by allowing pregnant employees and nursing employees to benefit from better programs between the provincial and federal maternity coverage if an agreement has been reached between the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour and a provincial or territorial government.

It also does the all-important thing of streamlining the bureaucratic process to allow employee access to maternity benefits. A great example is the Province of Quebec. I believe it has one of the most comprehensive pregnancy protection plans in Canada. It is certainly something that we can look to as an example.

Ultimately, our goal with the legislation is to better protect nursing or pregnant employees from losing their wages, as well as provide equal protection for all women within a given province or territory with respect to receiving benefits during pregnancy and the breastfeeding period. Many labour organizations that represent thousands of employees across Canada have indicated their support, such as the Canadian Labour Congress, CUPE, PSAC, and CHRC. They have indicated that this is an ideal piece of legislation, and that the House should be supporting it.

From some of the statistics, we know that paid parental leave can be very important for the individual and for society as a whole. A 2011 study done by researchers from Canada and the United States shows how paid parental leave can reduce infant mortality by as much as 10%. Another study found that children were 25% and 22% more likely to get measles and polio vaccines, respectively, when their mother had access to paid maternity leave.

Women who have a protected job and paid leave after birth report fewer depressive symptoms, a reduction in severe depression, and an improvement in overall mental health. If we, as a society, are to place that importance on the health of the mother, I think these are important statistics to be looking at. This is not just with respect to slightly after giving birth; women who have parental leave are much less likely to suffer from depression 30 years on, and so forth.

If we look at single parent households, they are disproportionately negatively affected by the loss of income resulting from parents being unable to continue their position due to pregnancy. Statistics Canada estimates that there were 1,404,010 single parent families in Canada in 2016. These families earned a median household income of $41,780. If we go back to the much-hyped middle-class tax cut that the Liberal government brought in, that actually falls below what those families would have to earn in order to qualify. That is the position that we, in the NDP, have been making all this time. So many of these families fall below the qualifying income level and do not receive the benefits given by that tax cut, it is not really fair to call it a middle-class tax cut at all. I think that is something that all hon. members in the House need to be reminded of.

If the bill is adopted and a province decides to make a program available, which is better than the current federal provision, or if a province improves an existing program, the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour has the ability to contract a new agreement or amend the existing agreement to include the newly created benefits. I think it is important to highlight that the legislation would allow the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour that flexibility, with the goal of improving benefits for a pregnant or breastfeeding mother. Going back to what I said in my introduction, this is about placing value on that so that we, as a society, can move forward with the best possible programs.

Bill C-345 conveys our belief, especially in the NDP, that it is essential to protect the rights of women in the workplace, and that pregnant and nursing women should not lose their wages because their work is unsafe. It also promotes the idea that women should not have to choose between risking their child's health or continuing to work and losing wages to protect themselves.

I will just conclude that this also needs to be put in the context of what we do for a national child care plan as well. I heard multiple times, on the doorsteps in the last election, that parents are facing that crunch. Often, we have cases where a women has to abandon her career to raise a child.

When they have that child, because of a lack of affordable spaces or no spaces in the first place, they cannot afford to get a job or a second job because it does not pay enough. There is no room for a family to advance itself through the traditional ways.

The bill places that value on child birth, on breast feeding, which we so desperately need in our society. I would like to thank my colleague for bringing the bill forward. I would be happy to give my support when we have a vote on it.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business



The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The time provided for the consideration of private members’ business has now expired, and the item is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

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Maryam Monsef Liberal Peterborough—Kawartha, ON


That, in the opinion of the House, climate change is a global problem that requires a global solution; and that, despite the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Agreement, Canada remain committed to the implementation of the Agreement, as it is in the best interest of all Canadians.

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Toronto Centre Ontario


Bill Morneau LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the economy and the environment go hand in hand. We say it often enough, and it is certainly true.

Until now, the global pursuit of economic growth has too often come at the cost of the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the soil where we grow our food. Today, we better understand that if we are to leave behind a better future for our children and our grandchildren, we must not only be sound economic managers, but also stewards of our environment.

Our government has a long-term economic plan. We are doing what optimistic and ambitious countries do. We are investing in our people, in our communities, and in our economy. It is a plan that is showing early signs of progress. Unemployment is down, jobs are being created at a rate not seen in over a decade, yet there is still much work to be done.

We want to grow our economy sustainably and well into the future. That means making sure that the benefits and the growth are shared by the middle class and those working hard to join it. It means making sure that everyone pays their fair share. It means making sure that the economic growth we create does not leave us without clean air to breathe, clean water to drink or good food to eat.

Luckily we do not have to choose between the economy and the environment. In fact, more and more we are realizing the potential in flipping this relationship on its head. where environmental sustainability drives our economy forward.

That is why as Minister of Finance, I am fully committed to creating the conditions for Canada to thrive in a low-carbon economy. Climate change is not just a challenge; it is an opportunity. However, to seize the opportunity, we need to be strategic. We need to be thinking about the long term. That means working with provinces and territories through the pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change, to take coordinated action to move Canada toward a low-carbon economy.

Pollution is not free. As of now, most of the world agrees that the most effective and efficient means of addressing this issue is carbon pricing. This sends an important signal to the market, and it promotes the reduction of energy consumption as a result of conservation measures and energy efficiency, by allowing the use of alternative fuels and technological advances. This is why a central pillar of our pan-Canadian framework is the adoption, in all the regions of Canada, of a carbon pricing mechanism by the year 2018. The exact design has to be determined by each provincial government, based on what works best for their own province.

The government proposes that in jurisdictions with a direct carbon tax, the price should start at a minimum of $10 per tonne in 2018, rising by $10 each year to $50 per tonne in 2022. Jurisdictions with a cap and trade system, like Ontario and Quebec, will need to set their annual caps to achieve at least the same amount of emissions reductions that would result in the 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.

By contrast, British Columbia chose a revenue neutral carbon tax. It was the first. That was nine years ago. Today, B.C. has one of the strongest provincial economies in the country. The sky has not fallen in B.C. Carbon pricing has not gridlocked its industry. Nor has it destroyed its competitiveness. British Columbia's approach sets a transparent and predictable carbon tax while returning all revenue to B.C. individuals and businesses.

The price signal creates a real incentive to reduce emissions across the economy. In fact, during the period of 2008-2015, the net benefit to taxpayers in British Columbia was $1.6 billion. This is why I have so little time for the criticisms regarding our plan to fight climate change and be leaders in the low carbon economy, and I know we will hear many of those arguments here today. However, we need to remember that these critiques are based on ideology, not facts. The facts are clear and they support our evidence-based approach.

By establishing carbon pricing, for the first time, we receive incentives based on the market, which are necessary for encouraging more environmental activities and low-carbon innovation. For those who wish to receive an example in real time of the strong market for this kind of thing, I need only mention the $500 U.S. green bond issued by Export Development Canada, its third and largest to date.

The products of this green bond will support the portfolio of green assets of Export Development Canada, including loans made to companies who are active in the fields of preservation, protection, or remediation of air, water, and soil, the creation of renewable energy, and the mitigation of climate change.

Therefore, the demand is clear, and we certainly have a solution. It is time we seized this opportunity.

We seize that opportunity by fostering innovation. We have to find new, innovative and efficient way of producing energy, generating electricity, and powering our businesses, homes and cars. Our government has a fundamental role to play here.

Around the world, countries are now investing in clean energy more than in fossil fuels. Companies are choosing non-polluting options as they produce and sell their products. They are making their operations more efficient. They are putting bold ideas into action, creating new jobs and opportunities in the process.

Global demand for these clean technologies is on the rise. Employment in our clean technology sector could increase to 76,000 over the next five years. There is an opportunity for Canada to get a bigger share of the rapidly growing global market for clean energy and innovative solutions to reduce pollution, and to position Canada as a world leader in a low carbon global economy.

Developments over the past decades have led to innovations in non-polluting technologies, such as wind, solar and geothermal energy production. In 2015, over $300 billion was invested globally in renewable power. That is almost double the amount invested in traditional sources. China alone is forecast to spend close to $350 billion on non-polluting electricity by 2020.

Clean energy is growing faster than ever. Since 2000, the amount of global electricity produced by solar power doubled seven times. Wind power doubled four times.

In the United States, as reported by its department of energy, more people were employed in solar power last year than in generating electricity through coal, gas and oil energy combined. Just under 374,000 people were employed in solar energy, while coal, gas and oil powered generation combined had a workforce of slightly more than 187,000 people. The boom in the country's solar workforce can be attributed to construction work associated with expanding generation capacity.

The gulf in employment is growing, with net generation from coal falling 53% over the last decade. During the same period, electricity generation from natural gas increased 33%, while solar expanded 5,000%.

Some countries, such as Costa Rica, are rapidly advancing toward consuming energy produced entirely from renewable sources. Very soon, solar roof shingles will power our homes with energy. More and more cars, buses, and trains will run on electricity. Electricity is also supplied to coastal communities through underwater rotary turbines that operate with rising and falling tides, such as those in the Minas Basin and the Bay of Fundy, which are currently in operation.

Canada has the talent and ingenuity to lead the world, tackle the world's challenges, and turn them into middle-class jobs and sustainable economic growth. Canada is already home to more than 800 clean technology companies, led by innovative entrepreneurs developing technologies like advanced batteries for use in electric vehicles, and employing more Canadians than any other key sectors like forestry or pharmaceuticals.

The clean technology industry in Canada employs about 55,000 people, including a large and increasing number of young Canadians. Take, for example, CRB Innovations, based in Sherbrooke, Quebec, that uses plants to make jet fuel that produces less pollution. Look at Siemens that started Canada's first wind turbine plant in Tillsonburg, Ontario, and now employs about 300 people. This is what we mean when we talk about the jobs of the future.

This is only the beginning. Creating solutions that reduce pollution, from batteries for electric cars to capturing carbon pollution from factories, could add thousands of jobs in the next few years. We need top-notch scientists, skilled workers, and trail-blazing entrepreneurs with new ideas to create and bring products to market. There will be new construction and manufacturing jobs as we make our buildings more efficient and modernize our electricity system.

Canada's industries will thrive as they find better and cleaner ways of working. Millions of Canadians will reap the rewards, not just of the jobs and opportunity innovation brings but of the cleaner, stronger, more resilient environment.

As Minister of Finance, I am fully committed to putting Canada in the best position to capitalize on the clean growth opportunity. That is why budget 2017 put Canada's skilled, talented, and creative people at the heart of a more innovative future economy, one that would create middle-class jobs today and tomorrow. We have made big bets on key sectors of our economy, where we have succeeded in the past and where we know we can lead in the future. Clean tech and clean resources are at the top of the list, along with agrifood, digital industries, health biosciences, and advanced manufacturing.

Through budget 2017, we continue to make investments in research and development, as well as in businesses seeking to bring these new ideas to the market. We are working with stakeholders and partners to develop a comprehensive clean technology strategy. This strategy would identify innovation opportunities, set ambitious growth targets, pinpoint sector-specific challenges and bottlenecks to innovation, and help innovators achieve their targets.

Our plan will include an international business development strategy to help Canadian clean energy companies to become world leaders and take advantage of the opportunities in the expanding global marketplace.

We are also developing a clean technology data strategy to promote innovation, develop knowledge in the private sector and stakeholder communities, and help the government make informed decisions in the future.

Lastly, we will establish a clean growth hub, which will be part of Innovation Canada's single-window service, with the goal of improving federal program coordination, enabling tracking and reporting on clean technology results across government, and helping stakeholders access international markets.

Supporting clean technologies will help position Canada to take advantage of opportunities in the new global economy by diversifying our economy and opening access to new markets.

For clean tech firms to really take off, they need access to capital and financing. That is why budget 2017 proposes to make available nearly $1.4 billion in new financing through the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada. This includes $380 million in equity financing to support clean technology firms, $570 million in working capital to support clean technology firms, and approximately $450 million in additional project finance for high capital intensive clean technology firms.

We are also taking steps to incentivize clean tech innovation in Canada's vital natural resources sector. Budget 2017 will invest $200 million over four years in Natural Resources Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada to support clean technology research, development, and demonstration and the adoption of clean technology in Canada's natural resource sectors.

In addition, the government will lead by example, demonstrating leadership and showing that these technologies work and change things, by using them in its own operations. For example, by 2025, all electricity used in Public Services and Procurement Canada facilities will come from clean energy sources.

Around the world, leaders from government and businesses are united in their desire to work together on one of the great challenges of our time. The Paris agreement, negotiated by 195 countries, sent an important signal to the market. In fact, according to the International Finance Corporation, it has opened up $23 trillion in clean innovation opportunities for climate-smart investments in emerging markets between now and 2030.

Canada remains steadfast in our commitment to work with all our global partners to address climate change and to promote clean growth. It is the right thing to do for future generations and will create good jobs as we grow a clean economy. That is why Canada will continue to take leadership on climate change. In September, we will co-host a ministerial meeting with China and the European Union in Canada to move forward on the Paris agreement in clean growth, and as host of next year's G7 meetings, members can be sure that climate change and clean energy will be top of mind.

We understand the huge economic opportunity of clean growth. We want to leave a cleaner and healthier planet to our children and grandchildren.

In the wake of floods, droughts, forest fires, and the melting Arctic ice, Canadians are seeing the very real effects of climate change in our country, and they understand the need to take action in order to leave a sustainable world to future generations.

We will continue to take advantage of the $23-trillion clean growth opportunity. Businesses in Canada and around the world are investing in clean innovation, from renewable energy to zero-emission vehicles to energy-saving technologies. They understand that tackling climate change is not only the right thing to do but is good for business. Together with provinces and cities, we will create the clean-growth economy necessary for the collective health, prosperity, and security of this generation of Canadians and the next. It is about creating opportunity and building confidence in the middle class by finding new, sustainable ways to drive our economy forward, never losing sight of the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat.

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12:20 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance is indeed the appropriate minister to address this issue, and not the Minister of Environment, because the government acknowledges today, by his presence as its spokesman, that the issue of carbon emissions and the Liberals' so-called price on carbon is an attempt by the government to raise money for its own operations and not to protect the environment for Canadians.

What I am surprised to have learned from the member's speech is not what he said but what he did not say. His department has done detailed studies about the cost of his government's carbon tax to Canadians, and it has broken down those costs by income quintile; that is to say, the very poor, the poor, the middle class, the affluent, and the rich. His department has information on what that tax will cost people in each of those groups. However, in access to information requests my office has in its possession, the numbers are actually blacked out. In other words, the government does not want Canadians to know what the carbon tax will cost families and what impact it will have on the poverty rate and on the gap between rich and poor.

Will the minister rise today and fill in the blanks that exist in the publicly released documents and tell us what the tax will cost those families?

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12:20 p.m.


Bill Morneau Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, we believe it is absolutely appropriate that, as Minister of Finance, I am here to talk about our approach to the environment and the economy, because as I said in my speech, we know that those two things go hand in hand. We know that, first and foremost, what we are trying to generate for Canadians is confidence in a bright future for themselves and for their families. We know that the way to do that is through growing the economy and thinking about how that growth actually goes to all Canadians. We know that what Canadians will consider is not only where they are going to see themselves economically. They are going to see that their health and happiness also depends on a strong environment and a sustainable situation for the long term. That is why we know that investing in our economy and clean technology is important. That is why we know that creating a market-based approach to the environmental challenges presented by carbon emissions is the right way to move forward.

Our approach is to think about how we can do that in a way that has the smallest impact on firms and individuals, through market pricing, and the biggest positive impact on our long-term environment. That is exactly what we are doing with our pan-Canadian approach to climate change. That is exactly what we are doing by asking provinces to ensure that they have an approach that makes sense for each province and by allowing them the flexibility to regenerate those taxes into their provincial economies.

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12:25 p.m.


Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have to say at the outset that there are many in this place who are puzzled by the decision of the government to table exactly the same motion it tabled last October and that this House voted for. We have heard the Minister of Finance speaking to the need to move toward a greener, cleaner economy and the various initiatives the government is proceeding with.

What is troubling, and I look forward to the Minister of Finance responding, is that he speaks about hand in hand. Everyone who is in the renewable energy and energy-efficiency sector knows what is needed. The most important thing in moving forward is removing the perverse incentives for the fossil fuel industry. The Auditor General has already chastised the government for failing to move on its commitment—in fact, the last two governments' commitments—to remove the perverse incentives.

The Minister of Finance also spoke to the pan-Canadian agreement. Indeed, many of our provinces, territories, municipalities, and even homeowners have expeditiously moved forward to invest. However, when we look at the government's budget this year, and we look at all the pan-Canadian initiatives for creating Canada's clean growth economy, it has committed close to zero dollars in support of those initiatives.

Perhaps the minister would like to speak to how deep this commitment is to moving forward expeditiously toward a cleaner economy.

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12:25 p.m.


Bill Morneau Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, we believe it is important to reinforce how critically important the issue we are talking about, the pan-Canadian approach to climate change, is for the long-term health of our economy and the long-term health of our people.

We know that there are many ways we need to do this. We have talked about this in budget 2016 and budget 2017 in terms of measures we have put forward. We put forward a low-carbon economy fund, putting forth $2 billion to seek approaches that will actually find ways to reduce our carbon footprint. This year we put forward clean technology investments, $1.5 billion in development and commercialization, which we know will be critically important.

We also talked about our ongoing goal of eliminating fossil fuel subsidies. We moved forward with one measure in budget 2017. We also reaffirmed our commitment, which was made internationally, to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies over time. That is a commitment we remain committed to.

What I can say is that in all the things we do, whether it be direct investments in the clean technology space, whether it be investments in public transit that we know have a positive impact on our economy, or whether it be the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies, we are moving forward in the right direction in this area.

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12:25 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I certainly welcome the resolution from the government today on the ongoing commitment of the Canadian government to the Paris agreement. We had already voted in this place and confirmed our support as a Parliament.

I quibble with the introduction, because as much as President Trump announced from the rose garden that the U.S. was out of the Paris accord, actually the U.S. cannot legally leave the Paris accord until November 4, 2020, which quite by coincidence, is the day after the next U.S. presidential election. That is a process based on the exit provisions we negotiated at COP21, that the treaty would have to be in place for three years after entering into force and then states could give one year's written notice.

My question for the Minister of Finance is similar to the one from my friend, the member for Edmonton Strathcona. What can we be doing in Canada, and particularly, what could his department be doing? For a government that has branded itself “sunny ways”, I would like to see more emphasis on solar energy.

Could the Minister of Finance update us as to why we continue to have a tariff on very efficient photovoltaic roofing tiles from China that directly take sunlight and produce electricity for those people who put them on the roofs of their buildings, whether schools or homes? It is time to take tariffs off solar energy.

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12:30 p.m.


Bill Morneau Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think I should respond in a number of ways.

We continue to move forward on making the biggest possible impact on our long-term environmental health with the measure that we know will have the biggest long-term impact on that very health, and that is the pricing of carbon.

As we put forward the pan-Canadian approach to climate change, we knew that this single measure, moving from the roughly 85% or 86% of Canadians who were in agreement to 100% of Canadians, was critically important. However, setting targets that are going to have an important long-term ability for us to move forward progressively over time on this issue is also very important. From my standpoint, getting that right is critically important.

We will continue to move forward on other issues. On an ongoing basis, we will look at tariffs to see if there are ways we could remove them, because that is part of our free trade agenda. We will specifically look towards doing that in places that would have the biggest impact on our global trade as well as on our goals around environmental stewardship.

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12:30 p.m.


Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Mr. Speaker, in British Columbia, when the HST was brought in, it was challenged by a former premier, because he did not feel it could be possible under section 53, which said that there should be no taxation without representation. The court agreed that the province had wanted it. It was actually under the good governance clause.

Obviously, the Minister of Finance is going to be looking to put in place a carbon tax over the Province of Saskatchewan's wishes. This will create issues. Can the minister use federal taxing power to basically force a province on what is provincial policy?

First, has the minister heard from his officials on his preferred course of forcing Saskatchewan to pay into this carbon scheme? Does he believe that it is constitutional? If that is the case, will he bring to this chamber proof from his officials that it is within the power of the Canadian government to do so? It is not an environmental policy; it is taxation the minister is proposing.

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12:30 p.m.


Bill Morneau Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start with not only what it is we are trying to achieve but how we are trying to achieve it.

First of all, what we are trying to achieve is a pan-Canadian approach, an approach for the entire country, to put a price on carbon. We know that a market-based approach to reducing our environmental impact over the long term is the right way to go.

Second, what we have decided is that we will allow provinces to take different approaches to getting to the same goal. In doing that, we have said to the provinces that they can take their own approach. British Columbia has chosen a tax. We can also see its economy has done very well under that approach, as it has moved that money back to its citizens. We see that in Ontario and Quebec, they have taken a cap-and-trade approach, which has allowed us to leave them with that approach but to set targets that make sense.

What we have also said is that each of those provinces are able to put that money back into their economies in a way that will have the best impact on their economies while having a broader impact on our environment over time.

We believe we have chosen an approach that is not only consistent with our goals but is consistent with provincial autonomy in the way they want to actually achieve those goals. Of course, we have a backstop if they do not do it, because we know that it is our federal right to do that.

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12:30 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by doing something that is unusual for me in this place, and that is to congratulate the government. I want to congratulate the government for acknowledging that the debate about its carbon tax is a fiscal one and not an environmental question. The Minister of Finance is here today representing the government on this question, and not the Minister of the Environment. That is because the government views the carbon tax not as an environmental policy, but as an opportunity to grow the coffers of governments by taking more money out of the pockets of everyday people.

For hundreds of years, our system of government has been based on the principle of no taxation without representation. Although many confuse this principle as being an American one, it actually has its origins in the Magna Carta of over 800 years ago, in the year 1215. Subjects of the crown said they were not prepared to pay any tariff or levy without their collective approval, through what would become the parliament, that is, a gathering of the common people. Hence, we have the term House of Commons.

The principle flowing from the Magna Carta and the meeting at Runnymede when King John signed it, is that for the crown to have the legal authority to extract a levy, a tax, or a fee from the population, it must have the approval of the population through their assembled members of what we now call and know as being parliament.

However, not only is there no taxation without representation, there is no taxation without information. Unfortunately, the government has provided precious little information about the cost of its carbon tax. Normally, matters of taxation are quite clear to anyone who is prepared to sharpen their pencil or pull out the calculator. Most Canadians do their taxes at the end of the year and they can determine how much they are paying in income tax. On a daily basis, they can take their bill from a night at the movies or at a restaurant and see what they paid in harmonized sales taxes or other consumption taxes.

Carbon taxes are insidious in a very special way. The cost of a carbon tax is embedded deep inside literally thousands of products that Canadians buy every single day. For example, a basket of fruit that is transported by a truck, was also transported by a train, and before that a ship. A carbon tax on all of the fossil fuels necessary to bring that basket of fruit to the grocery store, where a single mother buys it for her children, increases the cost of that fruit. Unfortunately, when that single mother goes to the cash register and pays that bill, she does not know what share of it is going to the government through carbon tax. Therefore, as an elector, as a common person, she cannot ultimately hold the crown accountable for what it is charging her to nourish her children with the vitamin C from that basket of fruit. She can hold the government accountable for the cost of the harmonized sales tax, because when she purchases various goods and services, she can look at the receipt and it will tell her what she paid. If she thinks it is too much, she can tell her local member of Parliament, and if he or she fails to act accordingly, she can vote against that member of Parliament in the forthcoming election.

No such accountability exists with the carbon tax. I endeavoured to create such accountability by filing numerous Order Paper questions and access to information requests, demanding that the government reveal the following information:

Documents such as briefing notes, analyses, projections, and emails regarding the impact of a $50-a-tonne price on carbon or carbon tax on the Canadian economy. Please include any analysis on how a price on carbon will impact the Consumer Price Index, median incomes, low-income household incomes, the poverty rate, the employment rate, and the unemployment rate.

Originally the government responded that it had no such data. It just did not exist. That was its original response to my Order Paper question. However, we later obtained documents showing that the government did in fact have the data. It had been calculated and it was in the possession of the Minister of Finance's department.

The government said secondarily that it was wrong, that it did have the information, but it would not tell us what it said. It released documents that were roughly 70% blacked out. For example, I have here a memo that was written on October 20, the day after the Liberal Party won the October 19 election, which says:

Imposing a price on carbon...either through a tax or a cap-and-trade system, would raise the cost of fossil fuels and energy. These...costs would then cascade through the economy in the form of higher prices, thus leading all firms and consumers to pay more for goods and services with higher carbon content. This would create distributional effects since the share of goods and services with high-carbon content may vary with households' income.

That is a quote from the document.

To simplify the overly complicated terminology here, distributional effects is an economics term for how the tax will shift income between rich and poor households. It would be effects on the gap between rich and poor, the poverty rate, and the income of the middle class.

I go back to quoting from the same document:

This [document] focuses on the potential impact of a carbon price on a households' consumption expenditures across the income distribution. Key findings are: [blacked out].

The key findings are blacked out and none of the information is included.

Now again, this memo advertises that the government will reveal the potential impact of a carbon price on a household's consumption expenditures across the income distribution. That word “distribution” is very important for those of us who are concerned about poverty. Distribution is used as a term by economists to describe how much money the very poor, the poor, the middle class, the affluent, and the rich have in this country. This document would tell us what impact the carbon tax would have on that distribution. How would it affect the very poor, the poor, the middle class, the affluent, and the rich? The House of Commons does not know. The finance minister does. He has this briefing, and, in his possession, that briefing is not blacked out.

Let me tell the House what else the finance minister has. He has a continuation of the backgrounder, which says:

A good predictor of the expected distributional effect of a price on carbon is to look at how the carbon intensity of a typical consumption basket varies across earnings groups.... This intensity is the result of the direct consumption of carbon intensive goods—like gasoline, natural gas and heating oil—and the indirect result from consuming goods with a high carbon [input]....

Let us return to common language, as we are in the House of the common people. Let us start again: “A good predictor of the expected distributional effect of a price on carbon..”. Simply put, how will a carbon tax affect the gap between rich and poor? A look at the carbon intensity of a typical consumption basket varies across earnings groups. What does that mean in plainer language?

It means that people with less money typically rely on things that have lots of carbon inputs in them, more so than do rich households, at least as a share of their income. That is because rich households can afford to spend more on luxuries rather than on basic survival. Poor households, it is proven, spend a third more of their household budget on things that the tax will apply to, like heating their home, turning on the lights, and feeding their families. If people are rich, they still have to do those things, it is just that those expenses represent a much smaller share of their household budget. Therefore, in percentage terms, the rich households are paying much less than the poorer households pay in carbon taxes.

If the members across the way disagree with my analysis, why do they not just remove all of the black ink on these documents and reveal what they say? It stands to reason, given the documented evidence from Statistics Canada, that the data contained here will show that poor families would be disproportionately hammered by this new tax because it is a larger share of their budget that would be taxed. In other words, as a percentage of income, a poor household would actually pay more than a rich household. That is the economic definition of regressive, from a government that tells us every day how progressive it is.

The Liberals also campaigned on transparency. Let us see if they lived up to that promise. In the September 11, 2015 documents, which calculated the impact of a carbon tax. I am going to quote what it says:

In the context of departmental work on the medium-term planning and transition advice on climate change, the memo provides the model based long run economic impacts of various policy scenarios to meet Canada's commitment to reduce greenhouse gas...emissions.

I would continue the sentence, but it is blacked out. It continues:

Environment Canada is in the process of updating their emissions projections and our analysis will be revised once these updated projections are available.

These are supposed to demonstrate what impact the carbon price will have on the emissions of greenhouse gases. Again, all the numbers are blacked out, so we do not even know if this expensive and damaging tax is going to have any successful impact on reducing greenhouse gases, which is the purported purpose of the tax. It goes on:

The estimated economic impacts from [greenhouse gas] mitigation scenarios are based on a computational general equilibrium...model of the world economy. The analysis shows that estimated economic costs (and the resulting carbon price) [will] vary greatly across the chosen mitigation policy.

How high does the tax have to be before it changes people's behaviour to be more conducive to the battle against climate change? Again, we do not know the answer to that question because it too is blacked out. I could go on and on. I have page after page here before me indicating that the government has data that it will not release because it does not want Canadians to know either the effectiveness of its policy or the cost that Canadians will have to bear in order to live under that policy.

I was very optimistic when I saw the finance minister stand in the House of Commons today to speak, that he would reveal the contents of these documents, given that they are housed within his own department and that it is his department that has blacked out those contents. However, no, he did not reveal any of that. Instead, he rambled on about all the spending and programs and government interference that his and the Prime Minister's administration are imposing under the ostensible pretext of battling climate change. If this were really about protecting the environment, then the government would ensure that every extra dollar in so-called carbon pricing that Canadians pay would be returned to them through lower income taxes or lower consumption taxes. The Liberals claim that these are revenue-neutral policies, but how can we possibly know that when they will not reveal what the tax will cost to begin with?

In every province the carbon tax has been imposed, there has been a net increase in government revenue. In other words, taxpayers have less so governments can have more. This is true even in British Columbia, which has the least damaging carbon tax regime. Recently, the Fraser Institute calculated that in British Columbia taxpayers will be net losers by about $500 to $700 as a result of the carbon tax. In other words, even as the government claims that it is reducing income taxes to compensate people for the higher cost of fossil fuel-based products, the taxpayer is actually a loser and the government, of course as is always the case, is the winner. Hence the need for transparency. Hence the need for Canadian taxpayers to have the ability to look at these documents and find out what in fact it will cost them.

Why is it that a carbon tax is so insidious? The answer is that its costs and impact are hidden. They are deeply embedded in literally thousands of products and it is mathematically impossible on a per unit basis to know what we are actually paying because the tax touches a product so many times as it moves through the supply chain. If a child asks his mother for a bicycle and she buys him one, the tires may have petroleum products in them and therefore the tax will have applied to the tires on that bicycle. There may be other plastics in the making of the bicycle. All of those plastics will have paid a carbon tax. The bicycle may have been transported by rail. Of course, our train lines burn fossil fuels to move products from one market to another. That bicycle is taxed as it travels gently along the railroad track.

I know how much the government and members across the way love bicycles. Many of them in municipal government have spent fortunes on bike lanes. We know how much they love bicycles, but that poor little child is now paying through his mother a carbon tax, probably many carbon taxes, just on the acquisition of that little harmless bicycle that he looks forward to riding down bike lanes in downtown Toronto and in downtown Ottawa.

That is the essence of an insidious tax: everything is hidden. Therefore, the reason we need government to be transparent about its own calculations is so that families know what they are paying. I say to my friends who support carbon taxes, surely if they believed this was not a net burden for taxpayers, if they were designing a revenue-neutral tax, surely if that were true, they would be delighted to release this data. In fact, it would be a great political benefit because they could walk up and down the streets and say this tax actually does not cost anything because it is revenue neutral, but the Liberals are hiding something. Why? What is the reason for hiding these costs?

I submit that the reason is the same reason that the provincial Liberals went to such great lengths to hide the costs of their so-called Green Energy Act. About eight years ago, the Government of Ontario passed this monstrosity of a bill that created something called the feed-in tariff, which saw the government pay 90¢ for a kilowatt hour of electricity produced by solar even though the market price of electricity in Ontario was 2.5¢. The idea was that this would save the environment and it was going to create all kinds of green jobs. That is what we were told.

We heard a very similar speech on that subject from the Minister of Finance, that there really would not be any extra costs to Ontarians because the resulting growth in green solar jobs would be so powerful that we would all be so rich that we would not even notice a change in our power bills. Therefore, this policy was rolled out and very few people spoke out against it. In fact, in Ottawa, the only major media personality who caught on to what was happening was the legendary Lowell Green from Ottawa. Mainstream media did not care and did not address it. The average person thought that because the government said that it would not cost any more, it sounded fine to them.

There is no magic trick here. When we pay 90¢ for something that is worth 2.5¢, that cost goes somewhere. Where did it end up? It was on the electricity bills of Ontarians, which have doubled since the passage of the so-called Green Energy Act. The result, according to the Ontario Association of Food Banks, has been that 60,000 people have had to go to a food bank in order to feed themselves because they could not pay their power bills. The Windsor food bank said it literally had people come in with their power bills and say, “If you can pay my food bill, then I can pay my power bill.”

The distributional effects of that, for those on the Liberal side who are so concerned about the gap between the rich and poor, were that some people became very rich. Let us make no mistake. Those insiders who were able to lock in the contracts to receive thousands of per cent's worth of price markups in order to sell wind and solar power to the electrical grid have made an absolute fortune. They, their children, their grandchildren, and their great, great, great, great grandchildren will be able to retire on the money that they have made off of this scam. Who cannot make money when they are selling something worth 2.5¢ for 90¢, with a government regulator that is forcing people to pay those prices? Who could not make money under those circumstances? As long as one has the connections to land the contracts, it is a pretty easy way to make money. That is the way that people get rich, when the government gets big.

In a free market, one gets rich by having the best product. In a government-run economy, one gets rich by having the best lobbyist. If one had a good lobbyist and was prepared to pay that lobbyist $500,000 or $600,000, the return on investment in Ontario was spectacular, because that $500,000 or $600,000 used to buy influence returned hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts to sell overpriced electricity into Ontario's grid.

What did this do for the environment? The Liberals will argue that, yes, people got poor, they ended up in the food banks, the gap between the rich and poor worsened, and that Ontario has the highest poverty rate of any province in Canada, after having had the fourth lowest under Mike Harris, but that they did it for the environment. They will say that all of those devastating economic impacts occurred and people suffered, but that it had to be done for the environment. What is the impact on the environment?

Right now, I am looking at the website of the organization that actually manages Ontario's electricity grid. It is called the IESO. It provides a breakdown of the sources of electricity that power our grid in Ontario. The amount of power we get from solar is 1%, the percentage of the power on our grid in Ontario that comes from wind is 6%, and from biofuels it is 1%, for a combined total of 8%. All of these literally tens of billions of dollars of subsidies mean that less than 8% of Ontario's electricity comes from the sources that were most subsidized. The irony of course is that clean, emissions-free electricity could have been bought from Quebec, which generates it for a couple of cents per kilowatt hour, or Manitoba, or nuclear production could have been expanded, which of course has no greenhouse gas emissions, and they could have paid 2¢, 3¢, 5¢, or 6¢ per kilowatt hour. Instead they paid 90¢.

What is the combined cost of this policy? According to an auditor general report in 2014, Ontarians, in the first eight years of the Green Energy Act, have overpaid for electricity by about $26 billion. The cost going forward for another 30 years is another $137 billion.

I have to say it hurts to say that, because I was part of a government that suffered a serious political controversy over a $90,000 expense claim that was repaid. These guys do not deal in $90,000. They go big. We are talking about hundreds of billions of dollars of wealth transfers, and after $28 billion of subsidies so far for these wealthy, so-called green energy entrepreneurs, we get 8% of our electricity from the sources that are subsidized. It is so much expense for so little benefit. All the more reason to have transparency in how all of these green taxes and green levies are administered on Canadian households, yet we have had nothing in the way of transparency from the government. The Liberals have been secretive and closed. In fact I am curious how many greenhouse gases were emitted to produce the black ink that was required in order to cover up the information about the cost of the carbon tax in these documents that came out through access to information.

If it does not make us laugh, it makes us cry. I have a tomato farmer in my riding, SunTech tomatoes. If we want to talk about a green energy company, it is SunTech tomatoes. It has learned how to make a profit growing tomatoes in Canada in the winter. For a government that talks about innovation, that is innovation. SunTech does not call itself an innovative supercluster, so maybe it does not have all the right terminology to get a grant from the government, but it is very innovative. It does not just talk innovation; it practices it.

I went to visit SunTech tomatoes, the little miracles of Manotick. I encourage all members to go there. They are fantastic tomatoes. However, it is more expensive to buy SunTech tomatoes in Ottawa than it is to buy Mexican tomatoes in Ottawa, even though a Mexican tomato is responsible for emissions of more greenhouse gases. After all, it has to be transported all the way across the continent, but of course Mexico does not pay carbon taxes, so even though eating a Mexican tomato in Ottawa causes more greenhouse gases than eating an Ottawa tomato in Ottawa, it is more expensive, due to Liberal carbon taxes, to eat the Ottawa tomato in Ottawa. Does that make any sense to members?

If already their heads are spinning, they are about to spin some more because I have some more information that will blow members away.

In order to help its plants grow, SunTech tomatoes actually releases CO2 into its greenhouse, because plants feed on CO2. The carbon tax applies to that CO2, even though its not released into the atmosphere. It is consumed by the plant. I have some more news. There is a 3-D printer that is capable of sucking greenhouse gases out of the air and turning it into a solid building product. They are called trees. Sun Tech tomatoes uses the very same technology to make tomatoes. It pulls CO2 right out of the air and turns it into an edible product. It is a 3-D printer.

I am trying to speak in the futuristic language that will get Liberals tingling over there and feeling excited because they want all of these innovative superclusters that will change the world. Here is an idea. If we want innovation, if we want a more dynamic futuristic economy, stop taxing the people who innovate and create that dynamic economy.

The problem with the Liberals is they think nothing good can happen except through them. Therefore, all good must travel through Liberal hands. Now, if a few Liberals get really rich along the way, all the better, but they are incapable of allowing prosperity to occur because of free people using their God-given gifts and talents to create good stuff. The last thing that the Liberal government wants to see is people being independent and producing positive outcomes on their own, because then they would not need the government.

One example in my riding is The WoodSource, which has a beautiful business right on Mitch Owens Road. It is a recycling and innovation business that has been taking down old barns and using the barn board to decorate coffee shops, libraries, and high-end restaurants, literally turning what some people think is trash into treasure. Abandoned barns that were filled with pigeons and mice now adorn the walls of fancy restaurants.

The WoodSource is taking something that was worthless and giving it great worth. It has had investment from a Belgian company. I did not know this, but across Europe there is demand for Canadian barnwood because it has such rich character and such incredible stories of the loggers, farmers, and pioneers who built those barns through post-and-beam. Those barns literally stood for 200 years, and now people want to have them inside their homes and coffee shops.

This business decided it was going to build a bigger shed to employ more people and provide more lumber across the Ottawa Valley. It took six years and $600,000 worth of paperwork to get it approved. Fifty years ago, a shed of exactly the same dimensions was built, and it took one page of paperwork stamped by an engineer for it to be approved. It was approved in one week.

My friends across the way say that is reckless and dangerous. I have news for them: the building is still standing today.

This entrepreneur went to talk to the local Liberal minister responsible for all the paperwork and burden he had borne in order to build this shed. It was $600,000, enough to hire 10 people at $60,000 a year. He said that he had made him do all this paperwork just to build a shed, and it had taken seven years when he could have been creating many jobs. What did the Liberal minister tell him? He told him to talk to his staff, that they could get him a grant to help him pay the cost to his business. He did not want a grant. He earns his own money. He said, “Why don't you just let me keep the money I earned?”

The reality is that if the government did that, then there would be no need for the Liberal minister. He would be unimportant. He would be airbrushed out of the selfie. To have a government that burdens this business, only to then come forward and offer it taxpayers' money as compensation, is part of the egoism of Liberal government that requires politicians be involved in everything.

As an example, the island airport expansion in Toronto is an opportunity to land more flights in downtown Toronto, which means less traffic from Pearson airport and fewer emissions, as people no longer need to be stuck in traffic idling their cars as they travel from a distant airport to a downtown business centre, and of course that would have led Porter Airlines to buy more jets from Bombardier, right?

The government says that the island airport cannot be expanded. It knows this will do damage to Bombardier because Bombardier will lose sales, but there is no reason to worry: it will give Bombardier a taxpayer-funded subsidy to cover the costs of all the damage wrought by the government in the first place.

The logic that leads the Liberals to block this privately funded infrastructure project at the Billy Bishop airport is the same logic that my friends at The WoodSource experienced when they spent over half a million dollars on paperwork to build a shed that only 50 years ago could be built with one page of approval, which is that the government and its cousins at provincial and municipal levels want to be involved in every aspect of human life. They want everything that people do to be approved by government and for people to bear the burden of administration and cost in every enterprise they undertake.

It is as Ronald Reagan said: the Liberal believes that if something moves, tax it, and if it keeps moving, regulate it, and when it finally stops moving, subsidize it. That is the Liberal approach. We see it played over and over again, but these policies are parasitic. They take, but they do not give. They consume, but they do not produce, and eventually the government runs out of other people's money. That is the trajectory on which the government is set right now.

For those reasons, Conservatives oppose the Liberal carbon tax, and I propose the following amendment. I move:

That the motion be amended by adding the following:

in particular, the interest of taking a realistic and achievable approach, as the previous government did, and finding the appropriate balance between protecting the environment and growing the economy in a way that does not increase the overall tax burden on Canadians.

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1:10 p.m.

North Vancouver B.C.


Jonathan Wilkinson LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's dissertation on the subject of the pricing of carbon pollution. However, this is not the subject of the motion.

Does the Conservative Party support the motion, which states, “That, in the opinion of the House, climate change is a global problem that requires a global solution; and that, despite the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Agreement, Canada remain committed to the implementation of the Agreement, as it is in the best interest of all Canadians.”?

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1:10 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I guess the Liberals now want to tell us that this is an environmental carbon tax and environmental policy. They started by having the Minister of Finance as their lead, which was an admission that this is really about raising money for the government, and now they have the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change. I was hoping that he was going to reveal what is in the documents that his government blacked out through the carbon tax cover-up. How will this tax impact the poorest Canadians, and what will be the increase in the gap between rich and poor as a result of increasing the costs of fuel, groceries, home heating, and other basic necessities?

I believe the parliamentary secretary has the ability to get his hands on all of that data, and I would encourage him throughout today to table in the House of Commons all of those facts so that Canadians can judge for themselves.