Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to rise today to discuss this very important motion from a public safety perspective. I would like to thank the hon. Minister of Environment and Climate Change for putting forward the motion we are debating this evening.
Our government is taking the actions necessary to address climate change and position Canada as a leader in the clean growth economy. We are focused on helping Canadians and different orders of government to deal with the devastating effects of climate change. As well, we are working hard with stakeholders from all orders of government and from all industries on how best to prevent the devastating effects of climate change.
That is what Canadians expect from us. That is why we were elected and that is what we will do.
Canadians do not want over-the-top rhetoric, political games or denials on this critical issue. Climate change is real, it is happening and we are already feeling its impacts.
Over the past few years, with this year being no exception, many communities have been hit hard by severe floods, unprecedented wildfires and destructive storms. We know that these natural disasters are happening with greater frequency and ferocity than ever before. Already this summer, we have seen climate change in action in Alberta with smoke from forest fires blanketing our province, blocking out the sun in my city, and leaving us in such pitch-black darkness that the streetlights came on in the middle of the day in Edmonton.
Two weeks ago on May 31, among thousands of cities and 85 countries around the world, Edmonton had the worst air quality in the world. Spending an entire day outside, as many Edmontonians have to do, was equivalent to smoking at least 40 packs of cigarettes. If they were stacked up, it would be quite a stack of smokes, and that is what people were breathing in.
Mike Flannigan, a professor with the department of renewable resources at the University of Alberta, said that the smoke from wildfires “is like a 'chemical soup' that can be trapped in the lungs and cause a number of health issues.” This is a chemical soup that some children in Edmonton have been consuming every single summer that they have been alive.
Meanwhile, as Alberta burned, causing thousands of innocent people to flee from their homes, Jason Kenney, Premier of Alberta, repealed the carbon tax stating, “We've always had...fires.” He said that climate change had nothing to do with what was happening in our province.
Let me go back to what I said earlier. On the same day that the smoke from the wildfires was so thick that people could not see a car in front of their car on the road, they could not see across the street, and at midday the street lights came on in Edmonton because of the smoke, the premier of our province said, “We've always had...fires.”
I wonder if Nero said the same thing while Rome burned. That is a good question. Canadians and Albertans might want to know the answer.
It simply is not true that Alberta has always had fires. We have had fires, but not to this severity, not the frequency and not causing the kind of devastation that we have seen over the last five years. Climate records already show an increase of 2.4°C in annual temperature over the last 100 years, for Edmonton. Not to mention the fact that Alberta's violent summer weather causes more damage now than it has caused in decades. As of 2017, 61% of all of Canada's insured damages have been in Alberta, amounting to over $5 billion in insurance paid between 2010 and 2017, and that is just damages related to wind, hail and flooding. Without action, this is not going to get any better.
We can no longer afford blissful ignorance. It is time for Conservative politicians, like Premier Kenney and the Leader of the Opposition here in this place to understand, accept and recognize the devastating effects of climate change for what they are, and to stop burying their heads in the sand when it comes to protecting Canadians.
It is no laughing matter, as we can hear outside the chamber right now. Climate change is serious. It has a real effect on our lives and on our economy.
It is time for Conservative governments and would-be Conservative oppositions to stop playing games with Canadians' lives for the sake of petty politics and decades-old ideological principles.
Under the former Conservative government, Canada won the Colossal Fossil award five years in a row. What is that? This award is given to the country doing the most damage to the climate in a given year. In 2013, Canada had the great dishonour of receiving the lifetime achievement award for the Harper government's continuous lack of action on climate change. The Conservatives received five dinosaur awards in a row. I do not need the country to get dinosaur awards. All I have to do is look across the way to see the dinosaurs on climate change. They somehow think that climate change is going to go away by putting their heads in the sand. That is not the case.
While the inaction continues on the other side, as we have waited well over 400 days for a Conservative plan, we are taking action. This Liberal government will continue to do what we need to do to make sure we can grow the economy, protect the environment and put our energy resources to good use for people in Canada and around the world.
We know that relief, recovery and rebuilding costs continue to climb year after year due to devastating climate change activities. We also know that our planet's changing climate has a lot to do with our new reality. By 2020, climate change could cost Canada's economy $5 billion a year. By 2050, estimates suggest that number could be more like $43 billion a year.
Thankfully, our government has a strong system in place to provide support to communities that are already affected. Emergencies happen locally, and when needs outweigh local capacity, the federal government steps up to the plate.
I saw that action first-hand with the Fort McMurray fires. I worked very closely with the Minister of Public Safety on that matter. In fact, the provincial and federal response operation centre is located in my riding of Edmonton Centre. I marvel at the work of the provincial and federal governments, the Department of National Defence and the RCMP, and partners like the Canadian Red Cross, when it comes to responding to Canadians in need.
As we have seen increasingly, provinces often require federal assistance when disaster strikes, and that includes helping to cover the costs. The Government of Canada's priority is ensuring that Canadians are safe and supported. This means working closely with provincial and territorial partners to coordinate the response efforts to natural disasters by ensuring that provinces and territories have the resources they need.
With respect to this year's record flooding, the federal government responded immediately. This included the deployment of the Canadian Armed Forces and coordination support from the Government of Canada's operations centre. As well, on May 3, we also announced a $2.5-million grant to the Canadian Red Cross to support recovery efforts in flood-affected communities.
It is very important that the Government of Canada continue to act with its provincial and territorial partners, as well as with the NGOs and agencies that Canadians can contribute to, to care for Canadians.
The federal government is also supporting provincial governments through the disaster financial assistance arrangements, or DFAA, to cover the costs associated with long-term recovery and rebuilding in the affected communities.
Remarkably, the upward trend of climate change events is evident in recent payments through this fund. Since the inception of the DFAA program in 1970, more than $5.1 billion has been paid out to provinces. I know this timeline very well, because it tracks my life here on the planet. Over the past six years, DFAA payments to provinces have totalled $2.8 billion. That is striking. It means that the program has paid out more in the last six years than it did in the previous 40 years combined. The growing unpredictability, number and severity of disasters have only increased federal liability under the DFAA, with an estimated outstanding federal liability at roughly $2.4 billion.
The DFAA is a federal commitment to providing early financial assistance via an advance payment to provinces. After the recent flooding, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness encouraged his colleagues to use the innovative recovery provisions under the DFAA. However, we should always remember that these are costs to taxpayers. It is not technically the federal government that has paid $2.8 billion in just six years because of inaction on climate change; it is Canadian families from coast to coast to coast who are collectively bearing this responsibility because of inaction and the lack of a plan on the part of the previous government. It is not just the tens of thousands who have been directly affected by natural disasters, but taxpaying Canadians across this country.
To mitigate those damages, federal support does not end with the DFAA. The national disaster mitigation program, or NDMP, has provided funding for 363 flood mitigation projects across Canada. I was very pleased to see in budget 2019 that $1 million was allocated to Western Economic Diversification Canada for water expertise, flood mitigation and planning and making sure that we can use the existing watersheds to mitigate future flood times. This is now in the budget and will be coordinated by Western Economic Diversification Canada. The national disaster mitigation program has helped to address rising flood risks and costs, and has built the foundation for informed mitigation investments to reduce or even negate the effects of flood events and climate change.
The disaster mitigation and adaptation fund, or DMAF, also provides provinces and territories with funding for large-scale infrastructure projects to help reduce the impacts of future disasters. The DMAF is a $2-billion, 10-year fund, making investments in provincial and community projects. That will mean more resilient public infrastructure that is better able to withstand the damaging and deepening cycles of storms, floods, droughts and wildfires.
Writ large, our commitments to Canadians are clearly outlined in the recently released emergency management strategy for Canada, entitled “Toward a Resilient 2030”. This strategy, released in January of this year, is the culmination of more than two years of work. It reflects strong engagement between federal, provincial and territorial partners and stakeholders. It supports a whole-of-society approach to emergency management, outlines key priority areas to building a more resilient Canadian society by 2030 and aligns very closely with the United Nations Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.
Ultimately, it provides a road map to strengthen Canada's ability to better prevent, prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters. I point out that all provinces and territories, including Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta, supported the strategy.
I would like to take a moment to read a paragraph from page 1 of the emergency management strategy for Canada that all provinces and territories supported with the federal government. It reads:
The impacts of climate change are already being felt across Canada increasing the frequency and intensity of hazards such as floods, wildfires, drought, extreme heat, tropical storms, melting permafrost, coastal erosion, and, in Northern Canada, damage to seasonal ice roads. These hazards pose significant risks to communities, individual health and well-being, the economy, and the natural environment.