Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to an important topic in the context of the Conservatives' opposition motion.
I am a bit surprised to have to rise yet again to speak to a question that is very similar to others that have been raised by my Conservative colleagues. Here they are again on the issue of carbon pricing and its cost. It is the famous question that they keep asking over and over again in the House of Commons. It seems that they will never be satisfied with the answers from the government and the interventions by our colleagues in the House.
Today I will address the issue in a broader context and talk about climate change leadership. It is leadership that was completely lacking from the Conservative side. They were content to bury their heads in the sand. As for the Liberals, they are being completely inconsistent when it comes to fighting climate change, especially in light of their recent decisions. I will come back to that later in my speech.
Let me begin by saying that I am disappointed that the Conservatives are so obsessed with this issue that they do not see all the other important issues that we could be discussing in the House. They are obsessed with this topic. They are fixated on a document from October 20, 2015, the day after the election of that same year. The document, to which they keep referring, is some sort of memo or email from the Department of Finance in which the figures are redacted. If the Conservatives seriously want to obtain this document then I do not understand why they have not managed to get their hands on it. That document was dated the day after the election and was highly likely prepared during the 2015 election campaign, when the Conservatives were technically still in power. The Conservatives have developed a baffling fixation with this document.
I am fortunate to sit on the Standing Committee on Finance, where we heard public servants being quizzed about this. They said that the document was prepared during the campaign along with many documents put together in the event that a new government was elected. They worked on several scenarios based on the election platforms of the different parties. It seems that it was common practice in the public service, during and a little after the campaign, to start doing the groundwork for potential changes in government policies and in advance of the swearing in of the prime minister and cabinet. That is what the Conservatives continue to refer to. They are fixated on this document, which is a little surprising given that it was prepared under their watch.
It is also a little surprising to see them so opposed to the polluter pays principle whereby those who pollute have to pay for the cost of that pollution to our environment and our society. In several other areas, paying for one's pollution is standard practice. Our municipal taxes, for instance, pay for our garbage to be taken to the dump. The same principle applies to recycling, because there is a cost associated with taking recyclable materials to a recycling centre. The polluter pays principle applies in most sectors. We pay for the pollution we create.
Until just recently, however, this principle has never applied to greenhouse gas pollution. That is what this government is trying to do, as are the provincial governments and many governments around the world that have already taken action in that regard. It is the right thing to do. As in other areas, whoever is responsible for polluting should have to pay for the cost it imposes on our society. The Conservatives do not seem to understand, nor are they willing to try to understand, that this principle should also apply to polluting our atmosphere.
If this principle is good enough for the garbage we bury in landfills, why should it not also apply to the pollution we put in the air, which goes out into the atmosphere and surely has a significant impact? I do not think we still need to make a case for the existence of and the science behind climate change. Only a few Conservatives still deny the existence of climate change, or more specifically, the fact that human activity affects climate change. Thankfully, their numbers are dwindling.
During the recent campaign in Ontario, we heard Conservative candidates denying that humans had anything to do with climate change. Some of them are in complete denial. Fortunately, a few of them have seen the light with regard to the action that we must take and some others support the polluter pays principle. There are also some Conservative thinkers who have realized that this is the right thing to do. Take for example, Mr. Manning, a well-known Conservative, who has come to realize that a carbon tax is one of the most effective ways to combat climate change. I am also thinking of Canada's Ecofiscal Commission, which did a lot of work on this issue. This commission is made up of a number of thinkers from various backgrounds, including some who are a bit more fiscally conservative. They realized that a carbon tax is the best way to fight climate change.
Based on their studies, they came to the conclusion that, of all the possible tools at their disposal, pricing carbon is the most effective way of meeting our objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Conservatives alone continue to deny the facts and the studies and findings that have been confirmed by countries around the world.
It is really unfortunate that they are still in denial. Fortunately, leaders around the world have begun implementing polluter pays mechanisms and putting a price on carbon. Take for example British Columbia. It put a price on carbon over 10 years ago. Alberta did the same just recently, and so did Quebec and Ontario. They joined California in implementing a carbon exchange, even though Ontario may end up changing its system. Provinces across Canada have been showing leadership on this issue, and they have had some success.
I do not necessarily want to repeat the Liberal government’s words, but we are told that 80% of Canadians are currently subject to a carbon pricing system. We see that these jurisdictions are the most economically successful. This flies in the face of the Conservatives’ message and talking points; they say that carbon pricing will spell the end of the economy, that it will catastrophically blow up the Canadian economy, and that as a result, the economy will go into a tailspin. However, Alberta has the highest economic growth, at over 4%, and has also had carbon pricing for a few years now. The economies of British Columbia, Quebec, and Ontario are also doing well.
It is hard to understand why the Conservatives think that there is a cause and effect and that a Canada-wide carbon price will be catastrophic, as well as lead to an economic apocalypse in Canada as soon as it is brought in. This is not supported by any facts, and these are just political talking points for the Conservatives.
This brings me to the importance of the fight against climate change. I am pleased to speak to this issue and say to my constituents that it is extremely important to me. This must be our primary concern here in Ottawa.
In Sherbrooke, hundreds of people constantly write to me on this and other environmental topics. These are very important concerns for us. People are aware of the impact of the climate change that we are seeing across Canada and around the world. They understand that Ottawa must have leaders in the fight against climate change. I am therefore very happy to represent them and to stand up and assure them that this is also very important to me.
It is often said that we must protect the planet for future generations. I still count myself among them to a certain extent, although I am already 27 years old and quite a bit older than when I was first elected. When they say that climate change will affect the youngest, it is because they will have to live with its long-term impacts. I can understand that, and I am certainly worried about my own future on this planet.
We must do everything in our power to slow the impact of climate change, because everyone understands that the process is already under way. We are already seeing the effects, unfortunately, but we have a duty to slow down this process and minimize its impact on future generations and my generation. We want to continue to have a planet where we enjoy living. As my colleague said, we can still swim in our lakes and rivers across Canada, but I fear that this will change in the long term. When I am 80 or 90 years old, if we keep going in the direction we are heading in now, I am not even sure that I will be able to enjoy the same quality of air or water.
That is why I am always happy to share my thoughts on this issue and demand more action from the government. Clearly, doing nothing is not an option, but that still seems to be the Conservatives' preference. They just want to wait, hope, and pray. Some Conservatives pray many times a day, but prayers will not slow the effects of climate change. To do that, we need a real plan.
We must also remember that the cost of inaction is much higher than the cost of action. That is another thing the Conservatives seem to be forgetting here. Yes, there is a cost to taking action, and when the government takes action, it has to get good value for money. An example of that is carbon and pollution pricing, as I was saying off the top. The cost of inaction is much higher, though. The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, which the Conservatives shut down in 2011, pegged the cost of inaction at $5 billion per year by 2020 and up to $43 billion per year by 2050. Those costs are much higher than the cost of carbon pricing. The Conservatives seem to have lost sight of that in this discussion.
At the Standing Committee on Finance, the member for Carleton asked the same questions every time, just like he asks the same questions every day in question period. When people talk to him about the cost of inaction, he does not seem to get that such a things exists.
It is truly unfortunate that the Conservatives are so blinded by their ideology. They do not understand that these measures are necessary.
I also want to talk about what various provinces have done, particularly Alberta, which is a real role model in this area. There is the principle of revenue neutrality, which is also part of this government's approach. This means no cost to Canadians. Once again, the Conservatives do not seem to understand. Every time we remind them, either in committee or here in the House, that this will be revenue neutral, they do not seem to understand that every dollar raised by carbon pricing is reinvested directly into the economy. The Conservatives cannot seem to grasp this concept.
Alberta is an excellent example of revenue neutrality, and less fortunate low-income families even have a surplus at the end of the year. They receive more money than they pay for carbon pricing. These figures are obviously put forward by the Alberta government. I do not have the exact numbers in front of me today, but costs are estimated at around $400 for each low-income family.
Furthermore, these are the families least affected by the carbon tax because they consume the least. The tax is estimated at $400 per family, but the Government of Alberta gave out direct rebates of about $500. They came out on top at the end of the year. I used the past tense, but I should also use the present. They come out on top at the end of the year. This system is still in place in Alberta. An important part of the discussion should be that the money from the carbon tax is directly invested into the provinces or given directly to citizens through direct transfers.
This brings me to the Liberals' inconsistent approach to the environment, even though today we are talking about the carbon tax and we support this initiative, as we said earlier. All of the major political parties, except one, promised some kind of carbon tax in the last election. I must commend the Liberals on their initiative. However, I condemn their inconsistent approach to combatting climate change.
Everyone, including the people of Sherbrooke, saw what happened recently. We were outraged by the government's decision to invest $4.5 billion of our money in a pipeline transporting oil sands to British Columbia, in spite of obvious opposition in several regions of British Columbia, including indigenous reserves.
The government decided to take money from the people of Sherbrooke, who pay their taxes every year and every day. It decided to take taxpayers' money to invest in a 70-year old pipeline that leaks. Just recently that pipeline leaked 5,000 litres of oil. I want to use the very apt analogy that my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie used yesterday, I believe. He said it is as though the government decided in 1990 to invest in the VHS industry, which was obviously doomed to sputter, if not fail, with the arrival of new technologies.
In this case, the government is deciding, with a glaring lack of long-term vision, to take taxpayers' money and invest it in the energy of yesterday, specifically in a pipeline and even a pipeline expansion. The government is going to inject an additional $12 billion to $15 billion of public money into the expansion of this pipeline in order to transport even more oil.
This is completely inconsistent with the current narrative of the Liberals, who signed the Paris Agreement and say they want to fight climate change. They then turn around and take our money to invest it in a pipeline, an extremely bad deal for Canadians. No private investor was prepared to invest money in this project, and the company that owned the pipeline could not find a buyer.
How can the government claim that this is good for Canadians when the Prime Minister was the only person willing to kick in? This project certainly conveys no vision for our country's future. I just wanted to make sure I condemned that in my speech today. We are talking about climate change and greenhouse gas reduction measures, but we have a government that is inconsistent, to say the least. It says it wants to fight climate change, but then it turns around and spends an eye-watering $4.5 billion on this pipeline. That is an astronomical sum. What could we do with $4.5 billion? The opportunities that could be created with $4.5 billion would be amazing, especially if invested in an energy transition. However, the government has chosen to spend it on a project that is utterly devoid of any vision for the future and is doomed to fail, given that no private investor was willing to risk a penny on it.
I would be happy to take questions from my colleagues to elaborate further on the points I addressed today.