Mr. Speaker, climate change is real. It is primarily driven by human activity, and we are experiencing very serious consequences as a result today.
There is no doubt in my mind that the challenge relating to climate change constitutes an emergency here in Canada. I am so proud to lend my support to the motion on the floor of the House of Commons to declare an emergency in respect of climate change in our country. We need not panic, because we can be optimistic. We know that the solutions to this existential threat are before us, if we can simply muster the political will to implement the solutions that we know very well exist today.
Over the course of my remarks, I hope to offer some insight into the nature of the consequences we are experiencing, to give some of my insights on the opportunity that could be garnered if we embrace climate change as an economic growth strategy, and to perhaps provide some additional insight, for any of those listening, into the political dynamic that we are facing today as we approach the next election with climate change being a central issue of importance to the campaign.
To begin, I do want to address some of the consequences that we are facing, but perhaps before, although it seems trite to say so, it is important to explain the science behind how we know climate change is real. The recent report from Environment Canada, “Canada's Changing Climate Report”, signals that Canada is experiencing warming at twice the rate of the global average. In some parts of our country, it is five times that rate.
The consequences that we are seeing are apparent in our communities. This science has been corroborated for decades by groups like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. A majority of the world scientists who are studying climate change acknowledge not only that it is happening, but a primary driver of what is happening is human industrial activity. It is incumbent upon us to take action if we are going to avoid some of the worst consequences of climate change that we are seeing.
Though I probably do not have to explain to many in this room, we can observe these consequences in our community. If we look at my home province of Nova Scotia, we deal with increased storm surges and hurricanes. The report I mentioned, “Canada's Changing Climate Report”, flags that the city of Halifax in my home province of Nova Scotia in the next few decades is going to experience floods at four times the rate it does today.
We look at our colleagues from New Brunswick, who I have had numerous conversations with about the floods that their province has been experiencing. We have seen pictures circulating on social media of highway signs that are completely submerged under water. We can look at a few years ago in Quebec and Ontario, and we see the heat waves that took dozens of lives. We can see the forest fires in western Canada. We can see the melting of our glaciers in northern Canada. There is not a community in our country that has not been impacted by the environmental consequences of climate change.
It is important to acknowledge that it is not just environmental consequences that we are experiencing as a result of climate change, there are social, health and economic consequences as well. When I see communities next to coal plants, we can observe a higher rate of childhood asthma. There is increased lung and heart disease in communities. In fact, there is a physical threat to many folks, like those who had to flee the fires in Fort McMurray.
The fact is we know that these consequences are having an impact. In addition, we can point to the changing patterns and migration of infectious diseases. I know ticks have become a much bigger problem in Nova Scotia. They were not when I was a kid. With them, we are seeing a similarly rising level of Lyme disease in my home province.
The fact is, we can observe these changes. There are social consequences, like communities physically being displaced, the impact on wildlife that communities have traditionally hunted, indigenous and non-indigenous alike. We are seeing consequences that are changing our weather patterns, our climate systems that are changing the way that we have to live and forcing us out of the habits and traditions we have practised for generations.
If the environmental, social or health consequences are not enough to inspire action, we can see the economic losses that we are experiencing today. If we look at the data from the insurance sector in Canada, we see that they are starting to change the way that they assess the risk of climate change. I take it that most people here would accept that the insurance sector is doing what it is in the best interests of its bottom line.
From the time of the mid-1980s until 2008 or so, the average payout in the insurance sector for severe weather events in Canada was between $250 million and $450 million. Since that time, the average has climbed to about $1.8 billion, exceeding $2 billion most recently. That number is projected to grow. This is having an impact on the cost of insurance.
There are some homes that simply will not be able to be insured. There are provinces and communities in Canada that are spending taxpayer dollars to help relocate families from homes that are no longer in a safe area, places that used to have 100-year floods once every 100 years are now having them every few years.
The fact is there is something happening, and those who are watching their pocketbooks very closely are changing their behaviour. They are reflecting a new reality.
It is not just the insurance sector. Members should look at the costs to municipalities paid for by by local ratepayers of building out flood mitigation infrastructure, for example. That cost is borne by taxpayers. The cost of inaction is simply too great to ignore.
However, it is not all bad news because we actually see an enormous opportunity to invest in the measures that are going to help deal with the consequences of climate change. Canada's Building Trades' projection is that as many as four million jobs for the Canadian economy could be added if we embrace new building codes that would actually bring us up to a standard that can help us reduce our emissions.
I have companies in my own community like the Trinity Group of Companies that have embraced energy efficiency as an economic growth strategy. It started out with a couple of great guys from home who were pretty handy and were able to do some local contracting work. Due to investments of successive provincial governments, we have actually seen energy efficiency take hold and homeowners who want to save on their power bills hire a company to come in, conduct an energy audit and make their home more efficient. It has grown from an operation with just a couple of guys into an organization that has dozens of employees and is present across the entire Atlantic region.
There are incredible world-leading companies like CarbonCure in Dartmouth that are delivering incredible products when it comes to carbon sequestration, pulling the carbon emissions out of our atmosphere and using it to strengthen products we need like concrete. Another company, just five minutes from where I live today, is MacKay Meters. It has secured a patent to build electric vehicle charging stations into their parking meters. This is truly innovative stuff that is going to help change the world that we live in.
Of course, the value that we gain from researchers who are working in our communities, researchers like Dr. David Risk at the FluxLab at StFX University in Antigonish, is actually developing instrumentation that can help detect gas and methane leaks in oil and gas infrastructure across Canada. He is commercializing this technology, not only to make a profit but to continue doing more research, keeping young people employed in a rural community that has a university that I represent.
There is also a missed economic opportunity if we do not address the worst consequences of climate change. I represent a province that relies heavily on the fishery in order to sustain the smaller communities that dot the coast of Nova Scotia. What we have seen take place in Maine over the past few years, a loss of 22 million pounds in their lobster catch, would be devastating if and when it comes to Nova Scotia, and if we continue to see the acidification and warming of our oceans off Nova Scotia. We can only expect that the lobsters will either move or suffocate inside the waters where they traditionally live and sustain a local economy.
In western Canada, we saw an enormous dip in production in the energy sector when forest fires that are linked to climate change ravaged parts of western Canada. The fact is that we can look at any province and see that.
In the Prairie region, the agricultural sector is under threat. I met with a young researcher, who did a master's thesis on the impact of climate change on agriculture in the Prairie provinces, recognizing that the Prairies are in the rain shadow of the Rockies and do not benefit from some of the weather that helps make our soil fertile, essentially large amounts of rain. They rely heavily instead on the spring melt that comes from our glaciers. When they finally disappear, there may be insufficient water and increased droughts that prevent our agricultural sector from growing.
These are very real and obvious risks, if we just take the time to speak with people who have been studying them. Frankly, we need to take this opportunity because the governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, a Canadian, has identified that there is a $26-trillion opportunity in clean growth and Canada should be on the front end of that wave so that we can capitalize on not just the growth but the jobs that come with that growth. We can do the right thing and do the smart thing at the same time.
However, it is difficult to have discussions in this chamber and in Ottawa when it comes to climate policy, because the starting point is not only that we need to address the problem and do something about it. Sometimes we have to turn back the clock and prove the science to one another before we can have a meaningful debate. To me this is completely unacceptable.
What Canadians are going to face come October is a choice between a Liberal government that is advancing an ambitious agenda, trying their best to fight climate change and making a meaningful difference, not only to reduce our emissions but to capitalize on clean growth opportunities, and a Conservative Party that has refused to put forward a plan on climate change to date, despite their leader saying more than a year ago that he was going to find a plan that would comply with the Paris Agreement targets.
With respect, the Conservative Party has said it is going to be releasing their plan later this week. I do not have much hope that it will be worth the paper that it is written on. When I look at some of the Conservative members who would have informed that plan, it gives me great trepidation. We have seen members identify piles of snow in western Canada in February to suggest that that is evidence that global warming is not taking place.
Some Conservatives have indicated that the phenomenon of rising global temperatures is simply like folks walking into a room and their bodies giving off heat. We have seen other members suggest to school children in Alberta that CO2 is not pollution but plant food. Just recently, one of the caucus member sitting in the Senate indicated that a recent power outage was due to the Prime Minister of Canada's anti-energy policies.
The Conservatives are saying we should retreat from the global conversation on climate change by withdrawing from the Paris agreement. Even the the leader of the Conservatives and deputy leader have recently tweeted articles, suggesting that the link between climate change and severe weather events has not been proven.
If this is the kind of information feeding into the plans that are developing, I have great disappointment in advance of the plan being released if these are the kinds of conversations that are taking place behind the scenes.
We know that the Conservatives' provincial counterparts are pushing forward the same kind of laissez-faire attitude when it comes to climate change. The Premier of Ontario, Doug Ford, has advanced a policy dismantling flood protection and then has shown up at flood zones and said, “I wonder what could possibly be going on.” He has set aside $30 million to fight climate action, rather than take action on climate change. That money could make a difference. He has launched a frivolous campaign to post stickers on gas stations. At the same time, he purports to support free speech. This makes no sense.
The climate economists who have been covering this issue are suggesting that his plan is not only going to slow down our reduction in emissions, but it is going to be more expensive for households as well.
With respect to my NDP colleagues, I have a lot time for their ideas, because I know they care about climate change and protecting the environment. However, I do have reservations about the policy suggestions they have advanced. I think we can work together to accomplish certain ideas, but others have very serious problems that need to be addressed.
In some of the commentary I have heard around our plan to put a price on pollution, NDP members have indicated that big emitters are exempt. This demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of what is going on. The NDP has advanced a plan that would put a price on big emitters, but, as the Ecofiscal Commission has pointed out, it would not lead to a reduction in emissions globally, because it would simply encourage polluters to leave Canada and pollute elsewhere even more. This would hurt the Canadian economy and would not contribute to our emissions reduction efforts.
Other examples from the NDP include the declaration that we need to immediately end all fossil fuel subsidies. We need to take action on fossil fuel subsidies, do not get me wrong. In fact, to date, we have phased out eight that were embedded in the tax code. However, the blanket ban the NDP proposed on this specific issue would lead to fundamental consequences, which are certainly unintended, because the plan was not very well thought through.
Examples include the denial of subsidies that support diesel to northern and remote indigenous communities, which rely on diesel for electricity, and the denial of subsidies for the potential research I mentioned at the flux lab at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish. Some of the products being developed with those research funds are going to reduce emissions in the oil and gas sector. Similarly, the NDP plans would deny the opportunity for us to invest in certain infrastructure that is helping us transition from gas and diesel-powered vehicles toward alternative fuelled vehicles.
I am happy to work with my colleagues in different parties to advance ideas that make sense. However, we cannot make statements that they will work before we have actually thought them through.
I would like to take some time to mention some of the actions we have taken to date.
We are facing a climate emergency, and a lot of attention has been given to our plan in this place with respect to putting a price on pollution. However, we are not a one-trick pony. Our plan has over 50 measures that would help to bring emissions down.
I want to take a moment to discuss our plan to put a price on pollution to educate the public on how it works. It is pretty simple. If something is more expensive, people buy less of it. When it comes to carbon pricing, every penny generated from revenues related to the price on pollution is kept within the province where the pollution is generated. Those revenues are directly returned to residents living within those provinces.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer has stated in a public report that because of the structure of this kind of a plan, eight out of 10 families can expect to be better off. They will receive more money than the price on pollution costs them. The number of families that will be out of pocket will be a modest amount, but they will be among the 20% wealthiest Canadians living in provinces where our plan applies.
This is not some hare-brained idea born simply out of the Liberal caucus in Ottawa. It has broad-based support among anyone who has any expertise in the conversation about climate change and economics. In fact, last year's Nobel Prize winner in economics won the Nobel Prize for developing an approach to climate change that would do exactly what the federal government's plan is doing: put a price on pollution and return the rebates directly to households so the majority of folks are left better off.
It is not just Nobel laureates and Liberal politicians who support this plan. Mark Cameron, the former director of policy for Prime Minister Harper, is behind this kind of an approach. In fact, Doug Ford's chief budget adviser testified in the Senate in this Parliament that the number one thing we could do to transition to a low-carbon economy was to put a price on pollution.
Most recently, the Pope made statements, just this last weekend, indicating that carbon pricing was essential. He said, “For too long we have collectively failed to listen to the fruits of scientific analysis, and doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain.”
When I talk to people in my community, particularly young people, I see them advocating for the kind of change that all of these different folks have been suggesting we should be taking for so long.
Let us look at the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal case that recently dealt with the constitutionality of the federal government's backstop that implemented a price on pollution. The court said that carbon pricing was not just part and parcel of an effective plan to reduce emissions; it said it was “an essential aspect...of the global effort to limit GHG emissions.” It put the word “essential” in italics so folks like us who are sitting in this chamber would pay extra close attention to the importance of advancing this important mechanism, which we know to be the most effective thing we can do to bring down our emissions.
However, we are not a one-trick pony. We are advancing measures to phase out coal. By 2030, 90% of the electricity in our country will be generated from non-emitting resources. We are making the single largest investment in the history of public transit. We are making record investments in energy efficiency to support companies that are advancing green technology. We are changing methane regulations to reduce the fastest-growing sources of GHG emissions that are driving climate change today. We have adopted new vehicle emissions standards. We are working on a clean fuel standard.
We are also taking steps to protect nature. I know Canadians, the ones who I represent in Central Nova, have demanded that we take action to protect nature and to eliminate plastics from our marine environment. We put forward a $1.5 billion oceans protection plan early in our mandate.
More recent, we announced that we were moving forward with a ban on harmful single-use plastics. We are putting the responsibility to deal with the life cycle of those plastic products on the manufacturers rather than on the end user. We expect that this is going to create economic opportunities in the plastics industry. At the same time, we prevent the discharge of harmful materials into our environment and in particular into our marine environment.
I want to spend a minute of the few I have left talking briefly about the impact that climate change and human activity have had on nature.
Since the 1970s, the earth has lost about 60% of its wildlife. This should shock the conscience of every Canadian. Let us look at the largest countries in the world. Canada is one of five countries that represents about three-quarters of the world's remaining wilderness. We have an opportunity and an obligation to address this issue. We are seeing the impacts today with some of our most iconic species.
Caribou herds across Canada are suffering because of immense deforestation. We have seen the southern resident killer whale population dwindle in recent history. We have a number of other species at risk. Globally, it is expected that one million of eight million species in the world are at serious threat of extinction if we do not change direction.
I have spent a lot of time dealing with the southern mountain caribou. In British Columbia right now, there are population units that have just a handful of animals left. They have been there for thousands of years but will disappear. We have made the single largest investment in the history of Canada to protect nature by more than doubling our protected spaces.
However, we know that it is not enough and we know we need help to get there. We need every Canadian to be pulling in the same direction. The time to come together is now. People who are living in a community that has a solar co-op can figure out how they can take part. If they want to take part in a community cleanup, they are doing something. Through collective global action, we can make a difference. Quite frankly, we do not have a choice. It is the smart thing to do and it is in our self-interest.
I am proud to speak in favour of this motion to recognize that we face a climate emergency. I am even prouder to work as part of a government that is doing its best to do something about it.