CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I have had many opportunities over the past year – over the past number of years, really – to reflect on Canada’s success.
And every time we have done something well, whether it was decades ago with Medicare and CPP, or more recently getting our national debt under control in the 1990s, taking steps to ensure the stability of our banking system, or responding to a global refugee crisis, our success has been rooted in two things.
First, that when we see a problem, we don’t walk away from it, or deny that it exists. Instead, we lean in. We work hard – and we work together – to solve the problems that come our way.
And second, when we say we’re going to do something, we follow through. We live up to our commitments. The world expects that of us. So do the markets. And so do our fellow Canadians.
It is in that very Canadian spirit of solving problems and keeping promises that I address the House today, and share the government’s plan for pricing carbon pollution.
After decades of inaction, after years of missed opportunities, we will finally take real and concrete measures to build a clean economy, create more opportunities for Canadians, and make our world better for our children and grandchildren.
Mr. Speaker, we will not walk away from science, and we will not deny the unavoidable.
With the plan put forward by the government, all Canadian jurisdictions will have put a price on carbon pollution by 2018.
To do that, the government will set a floor price for carbon pollution.
The price will be set at a level that will help Canada reach its targets for greenhouse gas emissions, while providing businesses with greater stability and improved predictability.
Provinces and territories will have a choice in how they implement this pricing. They can put a direct price on carbon pollution, or they can adopt a cap-and-trade system, with the expectation that it be stringent enough to meet or exceed the federal benchmark.
The government proposes that the price on carbon pollution should start at a minimum of $10 per tonne in 2018, rising by $10 each year to $50 per tonne in 2022.
Provinces and territories that choose cap-and-trade systems will need to decrease emissions in line to both Canada’s target and to the reductions expected in jurisdictions that choose a price-based system.
If neither price nor cap and trade is in place by 2018, the Government of Canada will implement a price in that jurisdiction.
Whatever approach is chosen, this policy will be revenue neutral for the federal government. All revenues generated under this system will stay in the province or territory where they are generated.
Because pollution crosses borders, all provinces must do their part.
And to make sure that this plan continues to meet Canada’s targets, it will be reviewed at the end of five years, in 2022.
As we are talking today, the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change is discussing the details of this plan with our provincial and territorial partners.
Over the next two months, the government will work closely with the provinces, territories and Aboriginal organizations to finalize this plan.
These discussions are essential, because we know that no plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions can succeed without the help of our provincial and territorial partners, who have already shown great leadership in tackling climate change.
I am especially looking forward to meeting with provincial premiers and Aboriginal leaders on December 8 and 9 to finalize the details of this pan-Canada plan to fight climate change.
This framework will include not only the plan for pricing carbon pollution, but will also pave the way forward to better support innovation and jobs in the clean energy sector, manage the effects of climate change, and improve our capacity for adaptation and climate resilience.
I’d like to take this opportunity again to congratulate the provinces who have led on this file while the previous federal government abdicated its responsibility to all Canadians.
That era is over.
Of course, a plan is only as good as the principles on which it is based. And so I would like to take a few minutes, Mr. Speaker, to talk about why the government has decided to act now to put pricing on carbon pollution.
There are many reasons to act now, and I am certain that the Members opposite are as familiar with those reasons as the government is, even if their track record suggests otherwise.
But today I would like to identify three of the biggest reasons why pricing carbon pollution is right for Canada, and for Canadians.
First, setting a price for carbon pollution will give us a significant advantage while we build a clean‑growth economy.
A reasonable and predictable price for carbon pollution will encourage innovation because businesses will have to find new ways to reduce their emissions and pollute less.
It will also make our businesses more competitive.
The global economy is becoming increasingly clean, and Canada cannot afford to be left behind.
Around the world, the markets are changing. They are moving away from products and services that create carbon pollution and turning to cleaner and more sustainable options.
By giving Canadian businesses the incentives they need to make this change, we are opening the door to new opportunities.
And you do not need to take my word for it, Mr. Speaker. Last summer, business leaders from across the country spoke out in favour of carbon pricing.
Retail leaders like Canadian Tire, Loblaws, IKEA and Air Canada.
Energy producers like Enbridge, Shell and Suncor.
Natural resource companies like Barrick Gold, Resolute Forest Products and Teck Resources.
And financial institutions like BMO, Desjardins, Royal Bank, Scotiabank and TD.
These businesses support carbon pricing because they know that – when it is done well – it is the most effective way to reduce emissions while continuing to grow the economy.
They know that a clean environment and a strong economy go hand in hand.
They are anxious to take advantage of the opportunities inherent in a clean-growth economy.
And they, like the government, recognize that if we do not act now, the Canadian economy will suffer.
The second reason to move ahead with pricing carbon pollution is the benefit it will deliver to Canadians – especially for the middle class and those working hard to join it.
As the business leaders I just mentioned put it, “… carbon pricing uses the market to drive clean investment decisions. It encourages innovation.”
That innovation brings with it new and exciting job prospects for Canadian workers.
As one example, last year, nearly a third of a trillion dollars was invested globally in renewable power – almost 50% more than was invested in power from fossil fuels. That’s a trend that will only accelerate, Mr. Speaker.
Simply put, there are billions of dollars, and hundreds of thousands of good, well-paying jobs on the table for the countries that get this right. Engineering, design and programming jobs. Manufacturing jobs – whether it’s solar panels or electric vehicles. Jobs researching and processing biofuels. Among many, many examples.
If we do not take full advantage of these opportunities now before us, we are doing Canadians a tremendous disservice.
Finally, I think that all Canadians will understand the third reason why we must move forward with pricing carbon pollution.
It has been proven that it is a good way to prevent heavy polluters from emitting greenhouse gases that fuel climate change and threaten the entire planet.
Carbon pricing is an effective way to reduce the pollution that threatens air quality and the quality of the oceans’ water.
Just last week, the World Health Organization published a report that said that 9 out of 10 people live in places with poor air quality. The consequences for human health are tremendous and devastating: each year, 3 million deaths are linked to air pollution.
We must – and we will – do better.
We’ve seen what can happen when governments take a stand for cleaner air. In 2005, in Toronto, there were 53 smog days. A decade later, thanks in large part to the phase-out of coal-fired generating stations, there were zero smog days.
This is a very big deal if your child has asthma, and can’t go outside to play with her friends during her summer vacation. Or if you have grandparents who have to miss out on family events because they find it difficult to breathe the air in their own backyard.
And if you live in Canada’s north, or in our coastal communities, or, really, Mr. Speaker, in any community that is subject to extreme weather conditions and the resulting floods, droughts, and wildfires, then the effects of climate change itself cannot be denied.
There is no hiding from climate change. It is real, and it is everywhere.
We cannot undo the last 10 years of inaction. What we can do is make a real and honest effort – today and every day – to protect the health of our environment, and with it, the health of all Canadians.
The Governor of the Bank of England – one of Canada’s best exports, by the way – has spoken to this issue on many occasions. And Mr. Carney has an interesting term for it. He calls the unwillingness to act “the tragedy of the horizon.”
What he means is that the truly catastrophic effects of climate change will be felt in the future. Or as he puts it, “beyond the traditional horizons of most actors, imposing a cost on future generations that the current one has no direct incentive to fix.”
With great respect to Mr. Carney – because I think when it comes to climate change, we are very much on the same page – I believe that current actors, such as the government, do have a direct incentive to fix things.
And if I may speak from a personal point of view, Mr. Speaker, I myself have three motivations. Their names are Xavier, Ella-Grace and Hadrien.
And I am not the only one who is concerned about the type of world that we will leave to the next generation and to generations after that.
From community to community, I have talked to parents and grandparents, who shared with me their concerns for the future, and who have challenged the government – and their provincial and community leaders – to take action immediately to avoid tragic and devastating consequences.
We hear their concerns, and we respect their voices. And it is because we respect the desire of Canadians that we will move forward with carbon pollution pricing.
Mr. Speaker, as you know, the government is not obliged to seek the approval of Parliament prior to ratifying the Paris Agreement, nor do we need the House to demonstrate its support for the Vancouver Declaration.
We have chosen to bring this issue before the House, however, because we think it is important that all parliamentarians – and through them, all Canadians – be given a chance to debate and vote on this crucial issue.
I look forward to what I hope will be a spirited yet respectful debate on this important topic. It is one that will shape the country we live in for generations to come.