Mr. Speaker, I was elected to public office because I wanted to fight climate change.
I was first elected to local government in 2002 to fight a natural gas pipeline through the southern Salish Sea and a natural gas generating station that was going to be built by BC Hydro very close to my home. That got me into elected office.
I later became chair of Islands Trust Council, which is a local government with a conservation mandate put in place by the NDP Barrett government in 1974 to preserve and protect. That took us into climate change. Living on an island as I do, we saw the effect of climate change, whether it was drought, the impacts on aquaculture, or ocean acidification affecting jobs in aquaculture. The imperative was real.
Then the Harper Conservatives' dark decade really motivated us on the west coast to beat the Kinder Morgan pipeline. The way to take bold action on climate change was to defeat the Conservatives.
Now, here I find myself thanks to the good people of Nanaimo—Ladysmith.
My goodness, I am sad that we are still so far behind. I recognize that climate change is a long emergency, as I did in local government too. It was the most important thing we were going to do, but an advocate from the homeless shelter who came to the meeting was the one who had the most urgent action, so climate change slid to the background even though we were all good people with the intention of taking really meaningful action on climate change.
Now, here we find ourselves in this country with all of its abundant resources still not doing our share. The Liberal government with the best of intentions still has the same climate change targets as the Harper Conservatives had. They talk a good line but have not taken the imperative action that we need. Just last week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change proclaimed that alarm.
This is a deep emergency. BC was on fire this summer. The Prime Minister brought his cabinet to my riding and the smoke was so thick in the air that people could not see. Climate change causes wild fires. Climate change is all around us and I hear about it every day from my constituents.
The report released last week pooled more than 6,000 scientific reports. It confirmed that we are already experiencing the impacts of climate change and that we must take action right now, making deep cuts now to avoid having the worst, most devastating impacts happen to our the ecosystems and way of life.
Canada has been buffered from this. Ocean currents have kept our air a bit cooler even while the climate continues to heat. When those currents no longer continue in their same pattern, we will get a double whammy. We have not experienced climate refugees the way that other countries have from desertification. We have been buffered because of our abundant natural resources. Climate change is upon us and surely this is the time for us to take deep action.
The co-chair of the IPCC working group, Jim Skea, noted that limiting warming to 1.5° Celsius is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics, but that doing so would require unprecedented changes.
Jagmeet Singh has asked me to be the women's equality critic for the NDP. We hear that women, elders, and vulnerable poor people around the world are the most susceptible to climate change, but we see this right in our own country, not just from an international perspective.
Women have to travel further to carry water back to their village. That is hard on them physically and it takes away from other opportunities. It also exposes them to great danger, such as rape. We heard a lot about this through ParlAmericas and some of the other international parliamentary associations.
It happens in Canada too. NGOs have been doing studies on this. In Toronto, heat wave shelters are disproportionately used by women because they are the lower income earners. They are the ones who are living in apartment buildings with no air conditioning and they do not have the power to negotiate with a bad landlord. They suffer particularly from extreme heat. They are also more likely to live in basement apartments where flooding, which happens in a city like Toronto, hits them more.
What are the climate change solutions offered by the City of Toronto? There are renovation rebates, but they only apply to homeowners, who again tend to be men because of the income disparities in our country.
Even with our collective commitment to gender equality and fairness, action on climate change is good for women too.
Salmon cannot go upstream to spawn if the water temperature is too hot. This is a big issue in British Columbia. We are highly aware that climate change is reducing salmon returns, and salmon is the basis of indigenous culture and B.C.'s economy. Ocean acidification is affecting aquaculture. There are forest fires.
The things that are particularly important to B.C.'s coast are already being affected by climate change, yet the Liberals continue to delay action. We are still based on the same emission reduction targets the Conservatives put in place. The least the government could have done is commit to deeper cuts and regulate emissions reductions. Simply taxing is not enough. Market solutions alone have not gotten us out of any other social or environmental problem. Putting a price on pollution does not work unless one is ratcheting down emissions and doing it by regulation. My great disappointment is that the government has not done that.
The government has also not kept its promise to reduce fossil fuel subsidies. If subsidies were removed from fossil fuels and applied in other sectors, or if we just did not tax people for them, we would not be artificially stimulating the fossil fuel industry. The Auditor General has concluded that the government is dragging its feet on that promise. The Minister of Finance has refused to reveal the full list of subsidies, and we have had a number of reports in this Parliament expressing that concern.
The environment commissioner, again in this Parliament, found that 14 departments and agencies had no plan to assess the risks associated with climate change. Even the Minister of Environment and Climate Change did not have a plan in place in her department. How much more internal advice do we need to have? The government has the mandate. It is willing to spend money. It is willing to regulate. It calls itself a climate leader. I wish it would act like a climate leader.
I am strangely longing for the days of Stéphane Dion, Paul Martin and Jean Chrétien, but again, those were big Liberal promises not fulfilled. This is an ongoing pattern.
The late, beloved New Democrat leader Jack Layton brought to this House emissions reduction legislation that, with a lot of finagling and a few misses, he did get the majority of this House of Commons to approve. To our great heartbreak, it was blocked by the Senate. It could have been legislation that could have sent Canada in a new direction except for Senate interference.
What do we have to lean on? In my own riding, I am encouraged by the innovators who are taking action on climate change and are creating jobs and making money doing it. Nanaimo's Harmac Pacific mill has a waste wood cogeneration facility, which is capturing what used to be old pollution and generating electricity from it. For 25 years, Canadian Electric Vehicles, in Nanaimo, has been making electric vehicles, including the Zamboni and Bobcats.
The Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre has just built the first multi-family affordable housing in Nanaimo since the early nineties, and it was done with a passive energy design. It is something that was developed and innovated in Saskatchewan, but then the government lost its appetite for that. It was further developed in Europe and imported back to Canada, where now lower-income tenants have an 80% saving on their energy bill by virtue of this fantastic passive energy design.
Canada's green building sector has $128 billion in gross annual income. It employs more direct full-time workers than forestry, mining, oil and gas combined. Why on earth did the government instead choose to invest $4.5 billion in a leaky, old pipeline that risks B.C.'s coast immeasurably and compounds our climate and fossil fuel problem? It is to my great dismay that I urge this whole House to seize the climate emergency as the emergency that it is and to truly be a leader in actions and not only in words.