Hon. Ed Fast holds Government to account on COP21

January 29, 2016

 

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Mr. Speaker.

I would like to thank the Minister for her comments on the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.

I am pleased to note that the new government is using the intended national determined contributions set by our Conservative government, namely a 30% reduction of GHG emissions by 2030 over 2005 levels.

These targets are ambitious, and much work needs to be done in order to meet them within the required timeframe.

That said, and despite the language of inclusivity and positivity infused throughout her speech, I’d like to take this opportunity to remind the Minister of some of the very real challenges she faces.

The Minister of course is right to point to out that Canadians do experience the impacts of climate change – especially in northern communities.

And that’s exactly why we’re concerned that one of the very first actions of this government after the election was to drop a bombshell on Canadians. To the surprise of everyone, the Prime Minister announced, without warning or consultations, that he was spending more than 2 billion dollars of additional taxpayers’ money on climate change initiatives, not within Canada, but outside of Canada in foreign countries. Over $2 billion!

This is money that is being spent abroad without a climate change plan, without a clear idea of who will receive the money, and without any assurance the money will be spent as intended. What happened to the Minister’s commitment to, and I quote, “address this challenge through concrete actions HERE AT HOME?

Now, Mr. Speaker, I want to be clear that we understand Canada’s responsibility to help less developed countries address global environmental challenges.

However, Mr. Speaker, billions of dollars to the United Nations and other agencies – without consulting Canadians? Without clear oversight? Without effective control over how the money is spent?

Where’s the transparency the Prime Minister and his government were boasting about?

It is our Conservative opposition’s view that the government’s priorities right now should be to invest in Canada first, under a clear, defensible plan to address our own environmental challenges, before throwing more money at an unelected and often unaccountable agencies outside of Canada.

Canadians deserve better.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister rightly pointed to last month’s Speech from the Throne which stated that, quote, “protecting the environment and growing our economy go hand in hand.” End quote. But what she failed to repeat was the actual promise in that text, namely, and I quote:

working together, the government will continue to provide leadership as Canada works toward putting a price on carbon”

Mr. Speaker, while the Minister used this opportunity to proudly boast of her government’s wild spending on foreign ‘green initiatives,’ I would have hoped that she would have also addressed the actual elephant in the room.

That is to say, what additional burden does she intend to place on Canadian consumers and businesses? What additional price does she intend to place on carbon? What devastation will she wreak upon hard-working Canadian families at a time when our economy is facing significant headwinds? And how many Canadians will lose their jobs because of her policies?

Those are the questions the Minister refused to answer today.

Where is the leadership? Where is the transparency?

With a Liberal government that speaks so fervently about transparency and inclusivity, I am perplexed that these fundamental policy issues were not even mentioned today.

Yes, Mr. Speaker, we must, as the Minister states, “use a spirit of cooperation to fight climate change”. But we can’t very well cooperate if she spends billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money without warning or consultation; when she fails to address the most serious environmental policy proposals contained in the government’s speech from the throne, including the plan for carbon pricing.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister also failed to address any of the work being undertaken with our North American counterparts. I have applauded the Minister for making cooperation with our American and Mexican friends a priority as we seek to align our climate change policies with those of our North American partners.

That was also the policy of our Conservative government, recognizing that Canada’s place and competitiveness within the North American production platform can only be maintained if our climate initiatives are aligned with these partners.

Mr. Speaker, could the Minister not have used this opportunity to share any possible progress being made on joint regulatory initiatives?

Were these not discussed in Paris at COP21 when the Prime Minister wined and dined almost 400 Canadian delegates on the taxpayers’ dime? And were these joint North American initiatives not discussed at Davos, where the Prime Minister was hobnobbing with the international jet set?

While the Prime Minister used his time in Davos to cheekily promote Canadian “resourcefulness”, he showed utter contempt for our resource sector by glibly disparaging the critical role which oil, gas and mining play in supporting the Canadian way of life.

Canada is, as the minister stated, “blessed with great minds and tremendous motivation”. But, Mr. Speaker, let’s not forget that it is natural resources that pay for our education, our health care, and our high standard of living.

Canada must continue to engage in the global economy, ever finding new ways to assure our long term prosperity. Yes, we must always diversify and promote our knowledge advantage and the Canada brand. But we must never, ever trade our birthright, our competitive advantage in the resource sector, for misguided and uninformed sound bites.

So let me conclude, Mr. Speaker. I would like to remind the Minister that transparency and accountability require more than just vague promises of consultations with the provinces and territories. They require a clear understanding of the impact which carbon pricing policies will have on consumers, on small and medium-sized businesses, and on hard-working Canadian families. They require a clear understanding that Canadians expect their government to first invest here at home before dishing out taxpayers’ money to foreign governments. And transparency and accountability require a clear plan for Canadians to review before the government implements policies which could force hundreds of thousands more Canadians into unemployment.

Sadly, we have yet to see that plan from this government.

And sadly, we heard nothing new in the Minister’s statement today.

As I have said before, we are prepared to work with the Minister and her government to develop a plan that will find the appropriate balance between encouraging economic growth and job creation, and protecting our environment for future generations of Canadians.

That offer still stands.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.