Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak to this very important motion.
I think the motion has two objectives. First, it will continue to not only raise awareness in the country but also in the House regarding the need to act in a serious manner on the issue of climate change, as there is a need for constantly evolving measures to address this crisis. Second, it is an opportunity for the government to get the support of the other parties in the House for strong action now, and even stronger action in the future, to address climate change.
I am quite proud of our government’s bold leadership on the climate file. We have introduced a price on carbon, namely through backstop legislation, and it is the first time a federal government in Canada has introduced a price on carbon. It is for those jurisdictions that have not already developed and implemented mechanisms to make carbon pollution no longer free.
It is important to note that the opposition is building a narrative around the price on pollution and our environmental plan, which involves more than just a price on pollution, as I will talk about in a little while. The opposition is feeding the notion that somehow there is no public support for this kind of measure. However, our policy came out of a platform commitment, and Canadians voted to give our government the mandate to put a price on carbon pollution.
Environmentalists have said to me that it is all fine and good to put a price on carbon pollution but that we need to do more. In fact, we are doing more. We are doing much more than implementing a single policy measure.
That is why I think the motion is important. It provides an opportunity to elaborate further on all the measures our government has implemented since coming to power to address the issue of greenhouse gas emissions.
We have introduced a suite of measures. As a matter of fact, we have become world leaders in the battle against climate change. Canada’s foremost resource economist, Mark Jaccard, has said, “Canada is innovating a model of growing interest to policy-makers in developed and developing countries.” He mentioned policies earlier in his article, which I will describe in a moment, and to that end he says, “In just four years, these and other policies have transformed Canada from a global pariah under the Harper government to a model for climate action under [the current Prime Minister’s government].”
We are becoming a world leader. Countries are talking about and being influenced by the measures we are implementing.
What are some of the measures we have implemented other than a price on carbon?
We founded the Powering Past Coal Alliance with the U.K. Now it involves a number of countries, all of which are working to eliminate coal production.
We have also introduced regulations against carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants. These are meant to eliminate the use of coal power generation in the next few years.
We are currently working on regulations to reduce methane emissions from industries like the oil and gas industry. These regulations will be flexible enough that industries can work within them.
We have also introduced the low-carbon fund, a fund of $2 billion, to invest in innovative approaches to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
We will be introducing a clean fuel standard as well. It is essentially a system of tradeable credits that will induce fuel distributors and producers to reduce the carbon intensity of their fuels. It will even go on to incite the adoption of electric vehicles.
There will be benefits under this system to those fleets that adopt electric vehicles. This is another important measure that we have implemented. It goes beyond simply putting a price on carbon. It includes a whole suite of measures. In the latest budget we introduced an incentive for those who purchase zero emission vehicles, including of course different types of hybrids.
Global climate change is having its impact. There is flooding, as we have seen this spring. There is drought. There are forest fires. Meanwhile, the Conservatives twiddle their thumbs. They do not have a plan for addressing global climate change, which has very serious impacts like flooding and drought.
Canadians have a right to be distrustful of the Conservative approach to climate change. The only measure that I can remember the Conservatives implementing in the fight against greenhouse gas emissions was the public transit tax credit. This was the showpiece of the Conservative climate change plan. The interesting thing about the public transit tax credit is that it was billed as a climate change measure, but in fact it was not. It was not a climate change measure and the government knew that, and I will tell the House how the government knew that.
I remember that when we were in government before the Harper government came to power, I thought this idea was a rather interesting one. It had a lot of intuitive appeal. I remember sitting on the environment committee and asking witnesses from Finance Canada why we did not have a public transit tax credit. The representatives said it just does not work, that it does not incite a significant change in commuter behaviour. It does not reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a significant amount, yet it costs the public purse a lot of money. The cost of reducing one tonne of greenhouse gas emissions through a tax credit like that ends up being about $1,000 per tonne.
Conservative members on the other side of the House are fighting what is essentially a $20 per tonne cost for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, yet they implemented something that cost $1,000 a tonne. It was not as advertised. It was not a climate change measure. It obviously had other objectives.
The interesting thing about the Conservatives’ opposition to a price on carbon is that there is an inherent contradiction in their position with the traditional Conservative adherence to the free market. There is a fundamental contradiction that leads to the incoherence of the Conservative Party’s approach to climate change.
The price on carbon works through the price system, and that is at the core of the free market system. That price signal will allocate resources towards one area or another, and that is exactly what a price on carbon is meant to do. Canadians need to know that there is a fundamental contradiction in the Conservatives’ position. A price on carbon sends a price signal to the market. It changes consumer behaviour.
There was an interesting quote in an article on the weekend by Andrew Coyne, who is no Liberal apologist I might add. He basically said as a result of the price on carbon, “the consumer, through the choices he makes in the marketplace, will be an effective agent, not only of his own interest, but of society’s.” This is what happens when there is a price on carbon pollution.
The last point I would like to make is that there must be a bit of division in the Conservative ranks, because we have had a price on carbon in Quebec for many years and I have not heard any Conservative member disagreeing with Quebec government policy on pricing carbon.