Mr. Speaker, I rise to join this important debate with an observation I would like to share from my past.
Like many members of this place, I was formerly a city councillor. Those who have served on a city council and in local government will know that at times there are often projects or programs that come along that carry a hefty price tag to the property owners whom they serve. If a council is united, or at least the majority of members of that council believe in the merit of a project, despite those costs, they will make the case to voters. However, make no mistake that we know exactly what those costs are as they are always fully disclosed. This is part of accountable and transparent governance, and I would like to think that all members of any elected office would agree with that basic principle. If government is going to impose a cost on citizens whom they serve, those same citizens deserve to know what the costs will be, yet here we are in what I view as a completely unacceptable situation where the Liberal government is blatantly refusing to disclose to Canadians the cost of its carbon tax.
There is a problem with that. Canadians are forced to ask the obvious question: Why would a government intentionally withhold information on a tax it is forcing them to pay? Is it because to the Prime Minister image is everything and he is worried about yet another hit to his own brand? Is it because the Prime Minister has repeatedly promised he would lower costs on middle-class Canadians, and these data reveal that there will be yet another broken promise? Is it because the Prime Minister cannot blame this carbon tax on Stephen Harper, his favourite bogeyman of late? Is it because there will be GST on this carbon tax, meaning that it will be another tax on a tax grab from the Prime Minister who is making life less affordable? Maybe it is because the United States and other jurisdictions that Canadian employers have to compete with do not have a carbon tax, and this makes us less competitive.
On that note, I want to talk about something on the subject of carbon leakage. Carbon leakage occurs when industries that compete with industries in countries with no carbon price can cause that industry economic harm, and that does not reduce global emissions. Typically those industries obtain exemptions or subsidies from the carbon tax, something we see in British Columbia on an increasing basis. The bottom line is there could be all kinds of reasons why the Prime Minister refuses to come clean with Canadians on the true cost of his carbon tax.
Canadians can only speculate as to the reason, but I can say that if a government truly believes in a program and if it will not disclose the cost of that program, ultimately our democratic process is being undermined. This type of thing leads to increased cynicism in our democratic process.
Let me read a couple of quotes in this place: “We are committed to delivering real change in the way that government works. It means setting a higher bar for openness and transparency, something needed if this House is to regain the confidence and trust of Canadians.” Here is another one: “People want a government that is honest and open, transparent, and accountable.” Who said these things? We all know who said these things. It was not you, Mr. Speaker. It was our Prime Minister.
Let us all pause for just a brief moment. The very same man who told us that people want a government that is more honest and open, transparent, and accountable is now hiding the costs of his carbon tax from Canadians, and he will order all members of Parliament on the government side through a whipped vote to support this blatant betrayal to Canadians. That is not open. That is not transparent. That is not accountable. Certainly, it is not being honest to the Prime Minister's original promise.
He is not raising any bar here. He is actually making the bar so low he would need to do the limbo just to slither under that bar. The Prime Minister is doing it all because he does not want to take a hit to his personal brand. If the Prime Minister truly believes in the merit of his carbon tax, and I believe that he does, he should have the fortitude to disclose and defend these costs. Let us make no mistake, that when a politician promises to be honest and open, to be transparent and accountable, and then is anything but, that leads to cynicism in our democratic process.
To me, that is a selfish thing. Here we have a politician who is so obsessed with his own brand that he is willing to undermine this entire place, all because he refuses to disclose the costs and come here today to defend them. Instead, what does he do? He leaves it all to the members on the government side, not unlike the situation we saw recently with Mr. Atwal. Everyone else was forced to do the Prime Minister's bidding, until eventually the Prime Minister and his glee team figured out that doing so caused more harm than good and decided that, yes, they should be accountable, open, and transparent, and then they came clean on the subject. Maybe that will happen again. Maybe lightning will strike twice. Maybe, once a few more unflattering polls come out, eventually so, too, will the cost of this carbon tax.
Right now, in British Columbia, we are witnessing record-high gas prices, which of course is precisely what a carbon tax is designed to do: make things unaffordable and cause hardship for Canadians so they will use less carbon because they cannot afford it. Reduce the carbon footprint, they call it. Did members ever notice that those who most advocate for a reduced carbon footprint are often the ones who also burn the most carbon?
Getting back to B.C., we have record gas prices, and what are the results of that? Many people are simply crossing the border into Washington state, so that we have all those cars idling in border lineups and increasing greenhouse gas emissions, just to avoid paying a tax exactly like the carbon tax. Why are they going to Washington state? It is because the Washington state oil tankers that navigate off the coast of B.C. and feed a massive refinery complex are all unopposed. Of course, those refineries are not subject to carbon taxes, as refineries in Canada will be. That is why no investor would invest in a large-scale refinery in Canada, because the competitors elsewhere do not have to pay carbon taxes that make them uncompetitive. That is why investment is on the decline, but that is for another debate.
In British Columbia, we also have another rising and disturbing trend. People are now drilling out gas tanks so they can steal gasoline. That causes well over $1,000, and in some cases close to $2,000, in property damage to a vehicle.
Let us not forget that in rural Canada, where there is no public transportation, there are no lower-cost alternatives, and likewise in many areas in Canada where people have only non-renewable energy options to heat their homes. They have no alternative. Basically, what this carbon tax would do is make life less affordable, especially for those who have a low income or a fixed income.
I believe the Prime Minister knows all this, and that is why he is trying to hide the true costs of his carbon tax from Canadians, because it is more difficult to justify making life more unaffordable for those who are the most vulnerable.
Recently, we learned that the Office of the Information Commissioner has launched an investigation into why the Liberal government is refusing to release the true costs of its carbon tax to Canadians. I, for one, am very much looking forward to the outcome of that investigation. As we all know, from the Liberal government and the Prime Minister being formerly investigated by an independent officer of Parliament, there is a pattern that they do not have a very good track record.
Before I close, I would like to point out that I may sound a little harsh in my comments today, but accountability is something I take very seriously. That is why I first put my name forward to run for public office. I know that there are many good members on the government side of the House who also value accountability. I have worked with them in committees and in other areas.
To be clear, my comments today are largely directed at the Prime Minister and his inner circle, because I believe that there are members of Parliament on the government side who believe in openness and accountability as much as I do. Some of them have even voted against the Prime Minister, despite knowing full well that they could be personally penalized for doing so. To all those who have done that, I offer my thanks for their efforts to restore trust in this place.
However my colleagues vote today, I hope all members of Parliament feel that we have had a good thrashing of the issues and that we can have an open, honest debate on this. I do hope that we will ultimately see those numbers so that our own constituents can know that their members had an honest debate and fought over facts. However, we cannot have that debate, not just yet. I hope that the Prime Minister changes his mind because of these members.