Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to speak today and I would like to point out that I am on indigenous lands.
It is Algonquin and Anishinabe land, and I am honoured to be here on behalf of my constituents from Saanich—Gulf Islands.
Today we are taking up Bill C-32, the legislative interpretation of the Minister of Finance's fall economic statement, as tabled on November 4. I will start with the things I like about the bill. I want to be clear that I will be voting in favour of it, but I will be bringing forward amendments, assuming the bill gets through second reading and we see it at committee, which I think is a foregone conclusion.
In any case, the bill is primarily focused, in its substance, on a number of promises that have to do with making housing more affordable, such as reducing speculation in the residential housing market with really substantial measures, which I am pleased to see, to discourage the flipping of real estate properties. As to first-time homebuyer opportunities, the first-time homebuyers' tax credit is being substantially increased. We are also seeing cuts on interest rates on student loans.
We are seeing a number of measures that one could generally categorize as making life more affordable, and I am pleased to see those measures. Clearly, there are things in the bill that are long overdue. I am also pleased that on facing the climate crisis, although there is very little, we have one good measure: phasing out the flow-through shares for oil, gas and coal activities. In other words, we are stopping one of the many tax advantages offered to fossil fuels.
However, there is a lot to discuss that flows from the fall economic statement that is not in the legislation. With the Speaker's indulgence, I will concentrate more on what is missing than on what is here.
I would like to read from the fall economic statement. The hon. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, in the introduction before we get into the substantial part of the statement, calls for a green transition and then says this requires “an industrial transformation comparable in scale only to the Industrial Revolution itself”. I completely agree with that. I would say that perhaps it is an industrial transformation that is quite comparable to what Canada's economy went through in the Second World War. These are not incremental steps. This is fundamental and transformational, and that is what is required.
The hon. minister put this forward in connection with a 1903 quote from Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier, who said in this place when it was in Centre Block that we cannot wait for transformation. He was referring to building a transcontinental railway and said that this transformation would change “the conditions of our national life which it would be folly to ignore and a crime to overlook.”
I agree with all of those words, but the ambition embedded in those words is completely lacking in Bill C-32. Looking ahead to the spring budget and identifying what is missing, I want to reflect a bit on the timing, the urgency, what I hope to see and what all Canadians should put pressure on the government to deliver by spring.
In contrast, looking south of the border, it is very interesting to me that President Joe Biden managed to get through a very ambitious climate plan, but the name of his bill is the Inflation Reduction Act. The target is inflation, and it will in fact reduce inflation, but the measures are ambitious climate-related measures that Canada has not yet undertaken. The U.S., of course, must do more as well.
As we stand here today, our delegates and friends from this chamber, such as my friend from Kitchener Centre and the Minister of Environment, are at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, where they just decided to extend the meeting that was slated to adjourn today. It is extended until midnight tomorrow as progress has not been made.
We are running out of time, quite literally. The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, opened COP27 by saying that the world was on “a highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator.” We have an obligation not to allow our children and grandchildren to live in a climate hell, yet everything we have done so far as a nation has fallen dramatically short of what is required to meet our obligations under the science and meet our international obligations to attempt to hold to less than 1.5°C global warming and stay as far below 2°C as possible.
It is getting impossible, even for an optimist like me, to imagine that we can hold to 1.5°C. We are on track to nearly double that. However, let us look at what we would do if we were serious. I will start by looking at what should be in the next budget and what the government should do, because it is not too late. It is desperately close to too late, but it is not too late.
We need to stop increasing greenhouse gas emissions.
Obviously, it is impossible to reach the targets set by the Paris Agreement with increasing levels of greenhouse gas emissions. We must act quickly and also accept the idea that the era of fossil fuels is almost over.
It will not be tomorrow, but we have to accept that our dependency on fossil fuels must end, and soon. It was very disappointing to read that at COP27, within the last 24 hours, Canada rejected the language that we had accepted in Glasgow last year, that we are working towards the phase-out of coal. Most countries, many of our allies, were prepared to say, let us say “coal and oil and gas”. Canada said we could not say we were going to phase out oil and gas, on any timeline. Of course we cannot do that in two weeks. Can we do it in ten years? Probably not. However, the goal must be to phase out all fossil fuels, or we are indeed headed on the highway to climate hell.
When Sir Wilfrid Laurier talked about linking the country, east to west, with a railway, what is the modern climate equivalent of that? It is an east-west electricity grid: 100% renewably sourced electricity must be able to flow from one province to the other and north to the territories. Right now, our provincial monopolistic utilities want to sell only one way: south. They sell south for their profits, and that is fine and good, but the grid could operate like the giant battery we really need.
Let us look at where we would be if we considered the links between inflation and climate action. That is an important place to start. We need to stop thinking in silos, in other words, and start thinking holistically.
A lightbulb went off for me recently. I was talking to a friend who is an Alberta grain farmer. I asked how they had survived the very brutal drought. His answer was that it would have been really bad because they had planted barley and only got in about half the crop they would have gotten in a normal year without the extreme drought, but because of the war in Ukraine, the price of grain was so high that in the end they kind of had a good year.
What does that say? It says that when Canadian consumers are looking at increased prices for pasta and increased prices for bread products, it is a combination of things that have nothing to do with the type of demand-driven inflation that we had in the early 1970s.
Food costs are going to keep going up, because the climate crisis will continue to interrupt the growing seasons and will continue to deliver what we had for a lot of farmers and livestock producers in southern British Columbia, when atmospheric rivers killed tens of thousands of animals, mostly chickens. We have droughts that mean farmers cannot plant crops and have a good return.
That is a real cost increase. It is not about spending by the government that drives up inflation because it is demand-driven by people needing more wages. These are real cost increases.
That means we also have to be prepared for extreme weather events, and we are not. The government has postponed the delivery of the adaptation strategy until next year. Yesterday the Auditor General told us that in the case of first nations communities, 112 approved infrastructure grants that would help first nations and other indigenous communities prepare for extreme weather events were not funded by the department, just through pure delays.
There is much to be done in this country to take us from laggard, and as many people know, this week we were rated among the worst-performing industrialized countries on climate. We could still propel ourselves to leader. We could take care of our farmers, our agriculture and our economic future, at the same time as ensuring that our kids live in a livable, hospitable world. We have an obligation to do so.