Madam Speaker, I am very pleased today to take part in the debate on the Government of Canada’s fall economic statement. We live in very uncertain times. Canadians and all the citizens of the world are struggling not just with one crisis but with multiple crises. Our world is struggling with an inflationary crisis and with an increasingly devastating and costly climate crisis. Canada and its allies are trying to combat the rise of extremism, of isolationism and of the aggression in authoritarian countries like Russia, China and Iran.
Members of the opposition may wish to minimize the climate crisis or misrepresent the inflationary crisis as being caused by Canada's leader, by Canada’s efforts to combat climate change or by our government’s efforts to support Canadians through the COVID–19 pandemic. However, Canadians, including those of my constituency in the Yukon, know that these issues have a much further reach and a more complex origin than any message bottled into a TikTok video.
Canadians of all ages are dealing with a host of crises simultaneously that have not been seen before, and stress, in particular, our children and our grandchildren. They are the younger generations whose very futures are at stake. They face a radically changing planet, because older generations have waited too long to listen to our scientists and elders who pleaded that our climate was changing. They face unsustainably high costs of living. They face a growing tidal wave of right-wing populism channelled out of frustration with the status quo and directed against the very measures that would help alleviate that discontent.
Lester B. Pearson once said, “The choice...is as clear now for nations as it was once for the individual: peace or extinction.” Although his words are somewhat chilling when we reflect on Russia's current illegal war in the Ukraine, I would also add today that the choice now includes addressing this climate crisis or facing extinction.
Baby boomers and generation Xers, like me and many of my colleagues, have been particularly blessed in generations of global stability, high standards of living and mostly peace and prosperity. However, despite all we have been given, the future is increasingly uncertain. Our children, grandchildren, younger parliamentary colleagues, candidates, staff, activists and constituents are the ones who have to face that incertitude, that uncertain future, a future fraught with the destiny of our planet.
The fall economic statement that we are now debating is well positioned to address the times and the challenges, as well as the opportunities that we are presently living. One of the key components of the economic update is to give younger Canadians a helping hand by making Canada student loans and Canada apprenticeship loans interest free. Thirty per cent or more of what a government student or apprenticeship loan borrower in Canada repays to the government is interest. More than half of Canadian students utilize Canadian student loans.
Someone from Dawson City who travels to Victoria, Edmonton or Ottawa for an undergraduate degree and takes out a $40,000 loan for that degree will currently pay an additional $13,000 in interest alone. This says nothing of the cost of pursuing a graduate degree or professional degree like engineering or medicine. With the passage of this bill, that is money they can reinvest in the economy now, or save for a down payment on a home. This is a big step forward for Canada and for our younger Canadians.
I returned from my riding after a long day of travel yesterday. Many people spoke to me to tell me how much they welcomed this support. Young people are not alone in feeling the brunt of rising costs and an uncertain future, which is why our affordability plan is already in place. That includes increasing the Canada workers benefit, cutting average child care fees by 50% and increasing old age security pensions by 10% for those over age 75, and more.
Rising costs of living are felt particularly in northern and remote communities like those in the Yukon. This has hit families across the Yukon hard. Now, while our government is working hard to help those at the lowest income levels, our middle class is also struggling. The government is building an economy that works for all Canadians. Contrary to what we sometimes hear from across the aisle, there is no magical solution to the pinch of inflation, including removing the price on pollution, which would literally be robbing Peter now to pay much more to Paul later.
Times are indeed tough. According to Statistics Canada, in the past year alone the cost of heating oil in Whitehorse has increased as much as 80¢ a litre, and it currently sits at almost 60¢ a litre more than it did last fall with a similar increase in the price of diesel and regular gasoline.
Since 2019, the price on pollution has increased about 13¢ a litre. Though, due to the fluctuations in oil and gas prices in September 2021, Yukoners were actually paying less per litre than they were in January 2019, the year the price on pollution was introduced. The increase in the price on pollution earlier this year was about three to four cents, while the price per litre overall has increased 60¢ to 80¢. Our price on pollution, which some refer to as the carbon tax, represents less than 5% of that overall increase.
The Yukon government offers its own climate action rebate program. Much of the increase in fuel prices and the cost of living is tied to inflation, higher oil prices and global pricing decisions made by OPEC, along with the global economic impact of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine and the lingering supply chain impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pricing pollution is the most responsible and economical way to reduce emissions in the long run, and while it has increased, it is not having the dramatic impact on inflation and rising prices that the opposition accuses it of. They are more focused on suggesting that devastating forest fires, melting permafrost and more severe storms are not happening because of anthropogenic global warming, and on suggesting that climate change is not wreaking havoc on our infrastructure, people and economy, rather than either coming up with alternatives to combat climate change or proposing concrete measures to support Canadians with these rising costs.
Not only does Canada and Yukon offer rebates on the price on pollution, putting more money in the pockets of the average citizen than the price on pollution costs, but we are working to implement measures that would support Canadians through these difficult times. Our government has not only introduced measures such as the doubling of the GST tax credit for six months to help Yukoners struggling the most with higher prices, but also invested in a net-zero emission that runs on clean energy so we would not beholden to the decisions of OPEC.
For Yukoners who rely on home heating fuel and are looking for an alternative, I hope they will explore the Canada greener homes initiative, which offers grants of up to $5,000 and low-interest loans of up to $40,000 to help transition homes and lower their emissions.
Our government is investing in the jobs of tomorrow, as demonstrated by our fall economic statement, and is working to build the economy of tomorrow with investments in the sustainable jobs training centre and launching the Canada growth fund. The CGF is Canada’s low-carbon financing initiative, which would attract private sector investment in Canadian businesses and projects to help reduce emissions and deploy clean technologies that drive growth, achieve climate targets and capitalize on Canada’s natural resources and critical supply chains.
Our fall economic statement also introduces a competitive clean technology tax credit of 30% of the capital cost of investments to ensure that Canada can compete with the United States in attracting clean technology developments. This credit would be critical for business, communities and individuals in the Yukon, as we look to green our economy and our energy grid, which is heavily reliant on fossil fuels.
I just came from Yukon Geoscience Forum, where our government's critical ministerial strategy and our investments in moving to clean energy were welcomed enthusiastically. Clean energy needs mines, and mines need clean energy sources. The Yukon has a great future in both.
The clean tech tax credit would be available for investments in electricity generation and storage systems, including run-of-the-river, tidal, and small modular nuclear reactors, all of which are potential components of long-term efforts to green the Yukon’s energy grid.
It would also be accessible for low-carbon heat equipment and zero-emission industrial vehicles, such as those used in mining and construction. As one of the strongest economies in the G7, with an excellent international credit rating, and a debt-to-GDP ratio that continues to decline, we are facing headwinds in a strong economic position.
Our communities in Yukon deal with long winter nights every year, but we know that spring, summer and the sun await us all, as they await all Canadians. Our government will be there to continue to help Canadians through what could be a dark winter.
We will continue to base our decisions on data and facts. We will continue to build an economy that works for all Canadians.