Mr. Speaker, climate change is real. The consequences are serious. We are feeling them today, and we know that they are only going to get worse.
There is no doubt in my mind that the challenge we are facing when it comes Canada's climate constitutes a national emergency and that we need to take action urgently to combat the most dire consequences. However, I am optimistic, because I know that we have the opportunity to do something about it if we pull together to face this greatest political challenge of our generation and muster the political will to implement the solutions that we all know exist.
Last week, our government announced that we would be tabling a motion to debate the issue of Canada's climate emergency in the House of Commons. Subsequently, on Monday of this week, NDP members tabled a motion that seems to do a similar thing, although they have added a few extra positions that seem to formulate the basis of their party's platform. The NDP motion we are debating today includes similar elements, which are deeply flawed, and as much as I want to support the idea that we are in a climate emergency, I will not be supporting the motion.
Our approach is informed by facts, science and evidence. We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that a dramatic increase in global emissions in recent history is directly tied to human activity and has caused the climate change we are witnessing in our communities today. The IPCC has been sounding the alarm on this issue for decades now. Most recently, we have seen a report from Environment Canada, “Canada's Changing Climate”, that confirms not only that climate change is real and happening in our communities but that Canada is actually warming at twice the global average.
If members do not believe the science, I think they should be able to trust the insurance industry, which monitors its money very closely and has paid out more in the past six years than it has in the previous 40 years as a result of the consequences of climate change. These consequences are not something far-fetched that happen somewhere else 100 years from now. We are feeling them in our communities now, whether it is the floods we witnessed recently in New Brunswick, the heat waves that took dozens of lives in Ontario and Quebec, the forest fires that have ravaged western Canada or the hurricanes and storm surges that hit my province of Nova Scotia.
Wildlife across the world is in crisis as well, with 60% of our wildlife having disappeared since the 1970s. Canada is in a position to do something about this, being one of five countries that contain three-quarters of the world's remaining wilderness. However, we are seeing the impact of biodiversity loss at home in our most iconic species. If we look at certain caribou species, they are threatened with potential extinction. If we look at the challenges facing the orca on the west coast of Canada, the situation could not be more dire. On the east coast, the northern right whale is facing severe challenges. The list goes on and on, and we need to do something about it.
The consequences we need to be concerned about are not just environmental in nature. There are social and economic consequences that should scare us all. We are seeing communities that are actually being displaced as a result of climate change.
I mentioned the insurance sector earlier, which now has losses that exceed $2 billion a year. It is only going to be harder and more expensive to get insurance as the consequences become worse. From 1983 to 2008, the average payout from the insurance sector for severe weather events was between $250 million and $450 million. Since 2009, that figure has skyrocketed to an average of $1.8 billion.
Climate mitigation infrastructure is paid for with Canadians' tax dollars. There is also the prevention of economic activity as a result of climate change. If we look at the state of Maine, its fishery has lost 22 million pounds in its catch as a result of the warming ocean temperature. Things are good back home in Nova Scotia right now in the lobster fishery, but if we continue to experience climate change at the rate we have been witnessing in the past few years, I wonder how long it is going to last. We see crop failure as a result of climate change. The forest fires in western Canada prevented serious economic production in places like Fort McMurray.
Put simply, the cost of inaction is too great to ignore, and we ignore the problem at our own peril.
The NDP seems to have criticized the motion we put before the floor to be debated tomorrow, but the government's plan has been formed by experts. It is designed to ensure that we do the most effective things to allow us to continue to experience economic growth and make life more affordable for Canadian families. It includes over 50 different measures.
Perhaps most notably, we are putting a price on pollution for the first time. This approach follows the advice of last year's Nobel Prize winner in economics. It also has the support of folks like Stephen Harper's former director of policy, Mark Cameron. Doug Ford's chief budget adviser, who testified before the Senate in 2016, said that the most effective thing we can do to transition to a low-carbon economy is put a price on pollution. Notable Conservatives like Preston Manning support this kind of approach. I would note that the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, when it was defeating the provincial government's challenge to the constitutionality of our climate plan, said that “GHG pricing is not just part and parcel of an effective” climate plan, it is “an essential aspect...of the global effort to limit...emissions.”
However, we are not a one-trick pony. We are making investments in energy efficiency, because we know that it is cheaper to reduce the use of energy than it is to produce a similar unit of energy. We are investing in transportation by introducing a clean fuel standard and adopting new and more ambitious vehicle emissions regulations. We are also investing in electric vehicles, both in infrastructure and the affordability of vehicles themselves, because our country is at a tipping point. We know that the future, when it comes to vehicles, is electric.
We have made the single largest investment in the history of public transit in Canada, and we have invested in new energy generation to ensure that we are promoting the transition toward renewables and phasing out coal by 2030, more than 30 years ahead of schedule. On that timeline, 90% of electricity in our country will be generated from non-emitting sources. This is serious progress.
At the same time, we know that workers in the traditional energy sectors need assistance to ensure they are not left behind. These are good people with skills that are transferable. That is why we have invested in a just transition program that will help ensure they receive the training and skills development they need to enable them to be part of the transition to a new and green economy, and to capitalize on the economic opportunity that stares us in the face today.
There are many benefits to taking action on climate change. First, we can avoid many of the harmful consequences I laid out earlier in my remarks. We can also become a leader in the new green economy. Globally, the value of this opportunity is thought to be in the ballpark of $26 trillion, and we should go get our share.
This is not some imaginary opportunity. It is real, and I am seeing it in the communities I represent today. I can look at companies like the Trinity group of companies in Pictou County, Nova Scotia. It started out as two guys who were good with their hands and knew how to fix up a home. When they transitioned towards energy efficiency projects and home retrofits, supported by different levels of government, they added dozens and dozens of employees. They put people to work retrofitting homes, and helped bring the cost of electricity down for homeowners.
I can look at CarbonCure in Dartmouth, which has developed a carbon sequestration technology that it can inject into concrete to make it stronger.
In western Canada, companies like Carbon Engineering are doing incredible things to help pull carbon out of the atmosphere.
One of the members from the NDP mentioned earlier that if we have a serious climate plan, the construction opportunity could create millions of jobs in our country.
The fact is we are also investing in more efficient and effective trade corridors that could help our producers get products to global markets at a cheaper price and with a lower carbon footprint. I mentioned homeowners paying less, month to month, for their energy bills.
When we invest in public transit, it will reduce traffic congestion. We can expect better health outcomes, like a reduction in childhood asthma and lung disease when we phase out coal, or prevention of the spread of Lyme disease in provinces like Nova Scotia when we combat climate change and reduce the rate at which temperatures are rising.
I have to point out that both the Conservatives and the NDP have failed when it comes to the introduction of their own policies. The Conservatives do not seem to take the issue seriously; conversely, the NDP members, whom I know to be well intentioned, seem to be throwing ideas at the wall to see what sticks, without thinking through the consequences of what they are proposing, whether it has unintended consequences, or whether it has the ability to achieve meaningful progress without a devastating impact on the Canadian economy.
When it comes to the Conservatives, in the face of rock-solid evidence and scientific advice, we see Conservative politicians disputing the science based on their ideology alone. I have seen MPs from the Conservative Party cite pictures of snowbanks in parking lots in Saskatchewan in February to demonstrate that climate change is not real. I have seen them liken global warming to the phenomenon of when people show up in a room and give off body heat, raising the temperature of the room. I have seen members who want to retreat on the Paris Agreement because they deny that human activity is connected to climate change. I have seen Conservative MPs show up in videos of school groups, saying that CO2 is not pollution but simply plant food that we need.
I have seen them saying, without evidence, that Environment Canada's reports have been debunked, and then shamefully deleting the tweets, pretending they never happened when they were called out for this misinformation. Perhaps worst of all, I have seen the Leader of the Opposition refuse to put forward a plan or to explain clearly that he remains committed to the Paris Agreement and to doing our part by the world.
It is entirely unacceptable that we have to have a debate today about whether climate change is real, rather than debating what solutions exist and could be implemented. The Conservative strategy seems to be to mislead Canadians about our plan, because they have not been developing their own. They previously showed support for the Paris Agreement, as I mentioned, but now seem to treat this commitment as an inconvenience rather than an essential aspect of governance in the 21st century.
In 2019, Canadians are going to have a choice between a Liberal government that understands and takes seriously the threat of climate change, or a Conservative government that wants to turn back the clock to the days of Stephen Harper.
Now, I assume that the Conservatives are going to produce some kind of a plan at some point, and I hope they are watching, because I know they are not taking it seriously. If their plan does not include a pricing mechanism, then they are rejecting the advice of the world's leading experts. If the plan simply involves the expansion of Canadian fossil fuels to displace fuels elsewhere, then they are shirking their responsibilities at home.
We see Conservative premiers who are setting aside tens of millions of taxpayers' dollars to fight climate action rather than fight climate change, and Canadians do not support it. It was recently discovered that the Premier of Saskatchewan was burying reports about the economic impact of carbon pricing because he did not like the results, which demonstrated that there was not a negative impact to implementing carbon pricing in his province. We cannot afford to turn back the clock. We cannot afford to abandon our commitments, and we cannot afford another Conservative government with the same ideology that Stephen Harper brought towards climate politics.
With respect to my New Democrat colleagues, I believe that they are honest and well intentioned on matters in the environment and climate change. I support different aspects of their motion, but cannot support it in its totality. However, it is obvious to me that they do not bring a level of thoughtfulness to their policy development process on these matters that require complex solutions.
The NDP's new leader, who genuinely seems to be a nice person, has indicated that his approach is to eliminate the development of our natural resources overnight, which would bring our economy to a halt. Not only would it have far-reaching economic impacts, but such an approach may only have a modest impact on emissions until we have the ability to displace the difference between supply and demand with renewable resources. We do not want to create a circumstance where foreign producers simply scoop up the Canadian market and pollute elsewhere in the world.
Moreover, the social consequences of cutting off energy supply to Canadians before we have the ability to meet their needs with renewable resources would result in driving up the expensive things like home heating, making it harder for people to get to work, and making the basic necessities of life unaffordable to low-income families.
When it comes to LNG Canada's investment in B.C., I know that the leader of the NDP previously seemed to support the proposal when he was running as a candidate, and now that he has seemingly lost a seat in B.C., he has shifted his position and will not state clearly whether he stands for or against the investment. I just put the question to another member, who refused to answer.
This is a position of convenience, not principle. If the leader cannot get behind the largest private sector investment in the history of Canada, which will create 10,000 jobs and help reduce foreign reliance on coal, then I question his ability to form a position on any issue of importance.
When it comes to pricing, NDP members seem to lack thoughtfulness and foresight when it comes to the process of developing that policy. It seems that they do support pricing, but will not say whether they will return the rebates to citizens. They did say that they want to support low-income families, which is a laudable goal, but they do not seem to appreciate that the Parliamentary Budget Officer confirmed that that is exactly what our plan is going to do. They repeatedly say that big emitters are exempt from our plan. I can tell the House unequivocally that that is false.
Before they start criticizing ideas, it would be nice if they would at least read the proposals that have been put forward by our government, which now form part of Canadian law. The fact is, big emitters contribute under our plan, and that is why eight out of 10 Canadian families will be better off.
The motion that is actually on the floor today has a couple of flaws, and I want to draw attention to one in particular. It calls for the immediate end to all fossil fuel subsidies. We want to transition to a circumstance where we are not reliant on fossil fuels, but this is a knee-jerk reaction that once again demonstrates that the NDP did not do its homework when formulating this policy. The proposal outlined in the motion, if implemented, would end support for diesel in rural and northern communities, and would literally turn the electricity off for communities that rely on diesel for power today.
We are helping with that transition, but if we supported the motion, it would mean leaving communities in the dark. I do not believe that was their intention, but I believe it demonstrates a lack of the thoughtfulness that they should have brought to the discussion. Similarly, it would erase investments in electric vehicle and alternative fuel charging stations that we are making across Canada to help transition to a more effective transportation sector.
Importantly, it would end investments in research that are actually helping to bring climate emissions down. In my own community at StFX University, we have an investment through Dr. David Risk's Flux Lab, where he has developed instrumentation that can detect methane leaks from a significant distance. If implemented across Canada in a widespread way, this has the potential to reduce emissions from our methane and gas sectors by almost 20%.
These are positive investments, and that is why we phased out some of the tax subsidies that we knew existed and launched a consultation to help identify the ineffective and inefficient non-tax subsidies that are still propping up the fossil fuel subsidy. I think the NDP members come from a good place, but they just did not look into the consequences of what they are proposing in an attempt to grab lightning for political gain.
When it comes to Trans Mountain, the New Democrats have prejudged the outcome of a thorough review process that is currently under way. In the 21st century, developed economies need to have an objective process by which industries will have confidence that their projects are being considered fairly. This project in particular is undergoing extensive consultation, including with indigenous communities, and I do not believe it is fair to pull the rug out from under the people who are taking part in that process and dictate an outcome before they have considered all the facts.
The NDP's approach to economic development seems to determine the fate of a project, find a reason for it afterwards, and then change positions when it becomes politically inconvenient. Even the NDP premier of B.C. is now calling for increased shipping of refined fuel through the Trans Mountain pipeline to help with the cost of gas in that province, but it seems to be falling on deaf ears with his federal counterparts.
The fact is, Canadians expect and deserve a climate policy that is thoughtful and deliberate. The NDP plan is seemingly not well thought out and would have a dramatic negative impact on the economy and on affordability for Canadian families. A credible climate plan does not require a campaign against Canadian jobs or the Canadian economy. Having watched the NDP leader's performance on these key issues, Canadians would be right to dismiss his approach as unserious and, quite frankly, disappointing.
For these reasons, despite my ready acknowledgement that our country is facing a crisis, an emergency of climate, the motion on the floor is simply not supportable. That fact is, our government is seeking real and meaningful action to combat climate change, which we know is a national emergency. We are doing so in a way that has allowed the economy to add over a million jobs since we took office in 2015, and has made life more affordable for Canadian families.
However, government alone is not going to solve this challenge. We need Canadians to embrace the task before us. I implore Canadians from coast to coast to coast to take advantage of the efficiency programs that will help reduce their environmental footprint and actually save them money month to month on their power bill; to consider installing products in their homes, like heat pumps or solar panels when there is a program that makes them more affordable, and to take part in community initiatives, cleanups and co-operatives. If they have access to public transit in their community, or if a new system is under construction because of the investments our government is making, I encourage them to think about taking the bus or the train instead of driving their car to work. For rural residents, I know that may not be possible, but there are other things they can do.
I want people to speak to their representatives at the local, provincial and national levels and push us all to do more. Perhaps most importantly, I ask the parents who might be watching to talk to their kids. Kids know what is the right thing to do here. Young people care so deeply about protecting their environment because they know that when they look 20, 30 and 40 years into the future, the greatest asset we have in our community is our natural environment.
If we were a municipality, we would be expected to have an asset management plan. We would be expected to replace and repair pipes before they burst. Well, the pipes are bursting, and the planet is on fire. We need to manage the most valuable asset we have, and that is planet Earth.
The time to come together is right here and right now. We need to address the existential threat that climate change represents. It is the right thing to do, and we simply have no choice but to act. People are going to look back at this moment in our political discourse and our political history as a turning point. I want our generation to be the one that our kids will one day be proud of.