Hon. Michelle Rempel (Calgary Nose Hill, CPC)
Mr. Speaker, today we are debating the following motion that Conservatives have put forward:
That, given that the carbon tax will not reduce emissions at its current rate and it is already making life more expensive for Canadians, the House call on the government to repeal the carbon tax and replace it with a real environment plan.
As part of debate on this motion today, I would like to break down what climate change is, what causes it, and then show why the Liberals' carbon tax scheme, which is currently at $40 a tonne, will not reduce emissions in Canada, why it exacerbates global climate change and why it is harmful to our economy, but I will do so in the following context.
Earlier in debate today, the member for Kingston and the Islands said that by raising this motion, the Conservatives were “playing with the lives of future generations”. Recently, something awesome happened to me. I became a stepmom and a step-grandmother. To one tiny, very sticky human being, I am known as nana. My stepson Kepi is watching the debate today and my stepdaughter Tori really cares about this issue because she has a son. This one is for them, not for the member for Kingston and the Islands.
What is climate change and what causes it? Climate change can be broadly described by global or regional climate patterns, in particular a change apparent from the mid- to late 20th century onward and attributed largely to the increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels. Climate change is caused by changes in greenhouse gas concentrations, for example industrial emissions, cars, volcanoes, forest fires; deforestation and land use changes; sulfate aerosols; and soot particles or black carbon. If that is what it is and what it is caused by, then how do we reduce it?
Let us start with the Liberal plan, which is the subject of the motion today. To the member for Kingston and the Islands and everyone who has mentioned children as the reason for debate on this issue, Liberals have staked their children's future on a $40-a-tonne price on carbon. If we know what the causes of climate change are, as I read them out, then the policy objective should be to put in place a policy instrument that reduces greenhouse gas emissions. That is what we are managing to, to save the planet for our children. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us as legislators to ask, given the severity and gravity of this, if the Liberals' purported plan would work.
Those who have a background in economics will know that there is a concept called price elasticity. I am oversimplifying this, but it means that if a price changes on a good, people will buy more or less of it. When the price changes on goods and people buy more or less of them, those are highly price-elastic goods. When the price of goods increases but people still have to buy them and their consumption does not change, those goods are called price-inelastic.
I am raising this because this concept is super important when we talk about whether a carbon tax would reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If an additional price is put on carbon, and I mean things like gas in our tanks, what we use to heat our homes or electricity, if it is produced by fossil fuels, if the government is going to put a price on that and that is its purported way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in theory, Liberals are hoping and praying that people will buy less carbon because the price has increased.
The government has refused to table or make public any sort of data that it has from modelling the price elasticity of carbon. That is really unfortunate, because it does not allow us as legislators, given what is at stake for our kids, to look at whether this is actually going to work.
The reality is that, in Canada, where it is very cold and we have to use fossil fuels to heat our homes and to drive around, as we do not have the same sort of transit infrastructure that a small European country would have, there really is not a substitute good for carbon. In Canada, carbon is price-inelastic, which means that putting a price of $40 a tonne on carbon, as the Liberals have done, is not actually going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.
The reason this motion is before the House today is that this is an important issue, but if we want to save the planet for our kids and we know that it is not going to work, then we have to talk about other solutions, not just cling to it out of political expediency.
Members do not have to take my word for it. This year, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, a non-partisan agent of Parliament whose job it is to do this type of modelling, said that the Liberals' carbon tax would need to be $102 per tonne in every province and territory in order to meet the greenhouse gas emission reduction targets set by the government, which it is purportedly managing to.
When asked if she would raise the tax to this level, the environment minister said no. Praise the Lord the answer was no. Essentially, the Liberals have said that they are setting a $40-per-tonne price on carbon. They know it is not going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and they are not going to raise it to a higher level.
What have we done in four years? The Liberals' own released report this year shows that Canada is actually further from the Paris target than last year. New numbers released by Environment Canada show that Canada is on track to fall 79 megatonnes short of its 2030 greenhouse gas emissions target, and that is up from 66 megatonnes last year.
These guys are standing here doing something that I like to call apocalypse porn. It is where people stand and talk about all the terrible things that are happening and focus on that to deflect any sort of legislative inquiry into the efficacy of their policies. We know it is not going to work. That is why the motion is in front of us today. Liberals shut down debate when any of their climate plans are questioned. If they know that their plan will not reduce greenhouse gas emissions and they will not raise the tax, then why have they put this forward?
I could speculate at length about that. I think this is a cash grab for the Liberals' out-of-control spending. This is a way for some of the senior cabinet ministers to get on speaking tours and perhaps position themselves for jobs in the industry of people who do not really have plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but make a lot as environmental consultants.
I think that is what they are managing to, and that is really unfortunate, given that the member for Kingston and the Islands appealed to the children. I do not want my kids to see a Liberal carbon plan where what the Liberals are managing to, instead of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, is jobs after politics, because they have said the right things but have done nothing.
I want to debunk some of the talking points that the Liberals have been throwing out today in opposition to the motion. First of all, they are citing the Nobel Prize-winning economist who said that this is the way to fight climate change. Let us go through some of the work that Dr. Nordhaus actually did. He acknowledges that the carbon tax raises many practical design and implementation questions. There are issues with cross-border taxes on carbon emissions and issues with administrative inefficiencies.
In fact, the Parliamentary Budget Officer said that the cost of administering the carbon tax in Canada, which, as I have shown, is ineffective and does not reduce greenhouse gas emissions, is $174 million, outside of the cost to Canadians in their pocketbooks. There is no price elasticity data by the Liberals to show that the $40 per tonne would actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
For comparison, the United Nations report the Liberals often cite actually estimates that the government would need to impose effective carbon prices of $135 to $5,500 per tonne of carbon dioxide by 2030. This does not take into account any sort of economic growth modelling or what would happen to the growth of the Canadian or global economy at this point in time.
There are other things that this professor talks about in terms of some of the inefficiencies and uncertainties that could be applied to the Liberals' ineffective plan.
In one of his books, he writes, “The exact pace and extent of future CO2-induced warming are highly uncertain, particularly beyond the next few decades.” Yes, there might be a consensus view, but he notes, “Science does not proceed by majority vote.”
He notes that costs are key:
People want to be assured...that [carbon emissions] targets are not simply the result of overly concerned environmentalists who are intent on saving their ecosystems at the expense of humans.... People want to compare costs and benefits.... It will not be sufficient to say: “Ecosystems are priceless”, or “We must pay any cost to save the polar bears.”
He also notes that modelling is hard. The Financial Post said:
Of his own computer exercises looking into the implications of climate tipping points, he emphasizes that the assumptions he makes “are at the outer limit of what seems plausible and have no solid basis in empirical estimates of damages”.
This is a complex issue with complex economic modelling, which the Liberals have not explained to Canadians. They have not talked about the fact that the $40-a-tonne price on carbon will not reduce greenhouse gas emissions, yet they are asking Canadians to pay a very high cost for that. It is morally bankrupt and it is wrong.
Nordhaus also notes that all countries, the poorest countries included, need to be included in globally binding emissions structures in order for this to have any effect. However, the Liberals are not doing any of the things cited by this economist, absolutely zero.
A few other things have been raised in debate today. The member for Vancouver Kingsway cited B.C.'s carbon tax. He cited this 2.2% emissions reduction as if it were a victory. However, he is looking at data in the context of the Lower Mainland, B.C. It is warmer there, and there is more public transit. The price elasticity for carbon there might be different from that in rural Saskatchewan. If we are looking for a solution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Canada, it has to be a solution that applies to the entire country without harming our economy.
Members opposite brought up Preston Manning. I think Preston Manning's approach on this is absolutely wrong. I question why Preston Manning is doing this. I would even go as far as to speculate that he is doing this to raise funds for his think tank, not to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I would be happy to debate Preston Manning, on any stage, on the same data I have put forward, because this is not right and it will not reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.
Members opposite have also cited the Pope. Members cannot stand in the House of Commons and say that we need a science-based, empirical response to climate change, not produce their own data and then cite religion, from a man who would not even meet the litmus test to run as a Liberal candidate.
Members opposite have talked about revenue neutrality. I will explain this concept for those listening and for my stepson, Kepi. According to the government, and only a Liberal would say that, revenue neutrality means paying a tax and getting an equal amount of money for it. That is crazy, because, as members know, it costs money to take money away. People are paid from the $174-million administrative cost. People will not get the same amount of money back in a cascading tax that affects every single level of production. This has been borne out by data reports in British Columbia, which have shown that the tax has become regressive. It is not revenue-neutral anymore.
Furthermore, with respect to the purported rebate that is going to Canadians, which the government said was factually correct, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, in an announcement, showed that the average carbon tax rebate Canadians received in 2018 was significantly lower than the amount the Liberals claimed Canadians would receive.
If it is not reducing greenhouse gas emissions, people are paying more and it is not revenue-neutral, why would we accept this as the status quo when talking about what we are doing for the children? It is just crazy.
In addition, the Liberals, the NDP and the Greens all say that this will not affect the economy. That is bunk. I will tie this into the concept that the Liberal carbon tax actually exacerbates climate change globally, because when we tax goods that are produced under high environmental standards, such as we have in Canada, we actually displace them with goods coming from higher-carbon jurisdictions. A perfect example of this is steel production in Canada.
When our steel producers in Ontario were subject to a carbon tax and Chinese steel was not, and the Chinese government was able to dump steel in Canada at lower prices, that was actually displacing goods in Canada that were produced under lower emissions standards.
We, as a country, can put a carbon tax on greenhouse gas emissions until the cows come home, but as long as we are buying goods from China, India, Brazil and the United States, we are not going to tackle the issue of greenhouse gas emissions. There needs to be a globally binding system that reduces greenhouse gas emissions, with binding targets, for this to work.
What should we do? Tomorrow, my leader is going to announce a very comprehensive plan that addresses many of these issues. Again, I do not want to scoop him. We need a made-in-Canada solution that addresses the fact that we have a regionalized economy. It is cold here. There are not a lot of substitutes for our products. We have a wealth of technology that needs the right incentives to be adopted. We need energy efficiency standards. This is just me thinking up things.
Our global climate action cannot be the Minister of Environment going on a photo op tour where the most environmentally friendly thing she did was sit at a table covered in grass and drink cocktails. That was not Canada using its role on the world stage to incent climate action.
I want to speak to the Conservative record. The Liberals can say that the Conservatives do not have a plan until the cows come home, but there is one inconvenient truth: there is only one time in Canada's history when we saw a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions while the economy grew. It was under Stephen Harper's government, when we imposed regulations on passenger vehicles. I would also argue with the member for Vancouver Kingsway about any reductions they saw in B.C. What about the passenger vehicle reductions we put in place?
The coal-fired regulations on Canada's coal-fired sector came in under a Conservative government, because we believe, and here is the underlying point, that we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions without undermining the Canadian economy. I am standing here as an Alberta MP, because these guys have used their apocalypse porn to put my riding out of work. The Liberals have done nothing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They have stood here and railed, “What about the children?” The Liberals have done nothing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and they have put my riding out of work. That is morally bankrupt. That is crass politics.
Members should be concerned about what political party they stand for after this debate. It is partisan. The Liberals stand here, apocalypse porn and all, behind policy instruments that do not work, and then they want me to look at my children and my grandchild and say, “Yeah, it was great. It was non-partisan. We did nothing.” That is wrong.
I was actually at an event with Al Gore, and I debated Al Gore. I wish that event had been public, because it was a lot of fun. There is a lot of inconvenient truth about the buzzwords that come out of these communities that do nothing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
We have a responsibility to take action in Canada. Conservatives have done that. In fact, the last Liberal government saw greenhouse gas emissions rise by 30% when it was in government. The Liberals are probably on track to do the same here.
This should be partisan, because these guys have made this all about falsehoods, all about policy, and have done nothing to materially reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change said that it is time to be debating solutions and implementing those solutions. The kids are all right. They want us to take action. They do. However, a price on carbon that does nothing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and puts people out of work in this country, and allows countries like China to get away with producing goods in a high-carbon jurisdiction while we buy them, is not action. That is politics. That is morally bankrupt.
Since this might be one of the last times I speak in this House in this Parliament, I want to thank all my constituents in Calgary Nose Hill for giving me the opportunity to fight for them. It is important. I would just say to them that we fought hard. We fought the Liberal government at every turn, and we have had great success in holding it to account and making it step back on some of the policies.
Now the time to fight goes to my constituents, so I ask them to join us.
Subtopic: Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic: Opposition Motion—The Environment