Speeches | Budget 2011 - Inquiry

16 June 2011

Honourable senators, I would like to thank you for your patience. I would like to make a number of comments about Inquiry No. 1. I will try to be brief but there are several points that I must make about climate change.

There is not a lot to talk about on the question of climate change if one was left referring simply to the Throne Speech and the budget. The Throne Speech says absolutely nothing about climate change. This is probably the biggest issue facing this country in its entire history and the Government of Canada said absolutely nothing about climate change in the Throne Speech at a point in its existence where it actually has a majority and has political credit out there, or so they keep telling us. One would think that they could actually do something and use some of that political credit to make tough decisions — they always talk about tough decisions — in one of the most important areas facing this country and, in fact, the world today.

It is not just an environmental issue. I will not try to appeal to their better nature — and I will be careful how I use that word — on the question of the environmental side of the impact of climate change. Instead, I will try to appeal to their instincts with respect to the economic impact of climate change and the economic impact, the flip side of the same coin, of not dealing with climate change.

We hear over and over again that somehow dealing with climate change will hurt the economy. I would argue, and it is evident, that not dealing with climate change can hurt the economy infinitely. Certainly, there is adequate anecdotal evidence to indicate that climate change is already hurting the Canadian economy.

I was in discussions with some agricultural people about a week ago and they pointed out that it will be five consecutive years that a significant area of Saskatchewan has been under water and has not been able to be seeded. They were referring to Interlake. That is absolutely specifically related to climate change and its impact. One cannot control those impacts. One can manage the ability and manage the programs that would begin to address the problem more fundamentally.

What bothers me, in particular — and there are a number of things, of course — is that one cannot manage a problem such as climate change if one cannot measure it. Recently, we have seen very disconcerting evidence of a government that either on purpose is not measuring climate change properly or simply is not competent to do so.

They sent a major report to the UN, required under an agreement with the UN, on our emissions over the year 2009. That report said two things, both of which are highly questionable. They did not indicate the degree to which climate greenhouse gas emissions have increased so significantly from the oil sands.

When I raised that question the other day, the Leader of the Government said that somehow I was not representing the interests of Albertans by pointing out that the government was at fault for the lack of integrity of information they were presenting to this international body and misleading the world. I said to her then, and I will say it again: One does not have to represent Albertans' interests by misleading the world. Albertans are quite happy to have the world know the truth about Alberta, because there are many very good things about Alberta and the oil sands. However, one does not promote the interests of the oil sands, the interests of Albertans and the interests of Canadians if one misleads or lies to the world about that important information. That is the first problem.

The second problem is that in that report, they said that Canada has reduced 40 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in the year 2009. Well, at face value, one would think one could believe a report like that from the Government of Canada. I remember a time when one could actually believe a report from the Government of Canada. The world would believe it. We had integrity, honour, reputation and credibility in the world. However, just days later, another report on the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, from the same department, said they have reduced emissions by 4 megatonnes. So they just misled the world by 10 times. That is probably within the rounding factor. It could be zero. They have misled the world by 10 times, from 4 to 40.

The Minister of the Environment's answer in the other place was, "Well, we have two sets of data." Oh, my God, we have two sets of data? You have had five years to figure it out, and you worked so hard that you were able to come up with two sets of data? Maybe if you had worked a bit harder, you would have been able to come up with three or four sets of data.

It is incomprehensible that he would brag about the fact that we have two sets of data or some kind of an answer to the problem that, if we cannot even measure climate change, then how could we ever begin to manage it? Clearly, they are either incompetent or they purposely do not want to measure it because they are looking for yet another way to delay action on this very important problem, but more importantly, on this very important economic opportunity for this country and to provide leadership in the world.

I want to ask the government, if one was running a business, would one have two sets of books, one for the auditors and one in that drawer way down at the bottom with the real figures? One for the tax department and one way down there that shows what one is really making? Of course not. Of course one would not.

Just ask Tony Clement; he had no books at all. That is the other way to do it: Do not measure it at all. Have no paperwork at all. That would be so much easier. Unbelievable.

Then I went to the budget and I had some anticipation because I was thinking, "Oh, my God, there is nothing in the Throne Speech, but maybe, just maybe, there will be something in the budget." How thick was that budget? Not only that, but they had months and months to prepare it and then they had months to re-prepare it, because they had all that time after the first time they brought it in. There is $400 million in that budget for one single climate change initiative, the ecoENERGY Retrofit program. Great program. Fantastic program. One megatonne of reduction.

We are now at 2011, and they are saying they will drop 17 per cent by 2020. That is 178 megatonnes. One megatonne has to be less than 1 per cent. It is just over half a per cent, when we have to get to 17 per cent, to 178 megatonnes. At that rate — I figured it out — it will take 45 years, if one takes the four they have already done and add the one from the ecoENERGY Retrofit program. We will get to our 2020 objective by 2057. Wow. That is fantastic.

I have such respect for Senator St. Germain. He represents the Aboriginal people in this country so profoundly well. Do you know who will suffer in this country from climate change as much if not more than everyone else? The Aboriginal people, because they live on the land. They live in ways that many of us do not live and they depend upon the climate and the land, and that land is being hurt, if not in many cases destroyed, in its ability to deliver their food and their livelihood. We have to consider those people as well. I want to register my profound disappointment — not surprise, but my profound disappointment — about that.

The other thing I want to mention briefly is this. Several of us had an interesting dinner, including Senator Angus and me, with the British High Commissioner. One of the British ministers was there, a Liberal Democrat — enlightened, intelligent and insightful, as one might imagine — and he outlined the progress and achievement of Britain with respect to climate change.

Do honourable senators know that Britain has doubled its Kyoto objective already and it will be more than doubled by the end of 2012?

One of the things that has helped them do so — and this will be a surprise to the Conservatives, because they will not believe this — is that they used a market mechanism to help them achieve their climate change initiative. They allowed the market to price carbon and they allowed all those entrepreneurs and businesses to make that infinite number of decisions. They did not try to direct it from the top, as Mr. Kent is now doing. No, they did so in the least intrusive and least expensive way, and they doubled their objectives.

We now have a bunch of Conservatives and public servants beavering away trying to figure out regulation — the most expensive, the most intrusive, the most socialistic way possible to begin to do this. I do not want to criticize their values, and I will not. I want to hold them to their values and standards. I stand here today trying to do them a favour, trying to do my best on their behalf by saying that if they believe in business, market and economic opportunity, then they should do something about climate change. One thing they could use is carbon markets that will drive the climate change initiative and get money into businesses and farms.

I do not know one Albertan or Canadian farmer who has enough or too much money. One can use those mechanisms and a little bit of creativity to move us forward to save the environment, to save our economy, and to fulfill our intergenerational responsibilities to our children and our grandchildren.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

Hon. Sharon Carstairs: Would the honourable senator accept a question?

Senator Mitchell: Yes.

Senator Carstairs: Honourable senators, I was in Brussels in late March giving a speech to an international conference on palliative care. To reach the speech venue, I had to go through the grounds of the European Commission. To my shock and dismay, there was a huge poster board on both sides of the commission deploring the lack of Canadian response to the environmental problems with the oil sands.

I was somewhat embarrassed, as a Canadian, to be standing there. Some of the information was, frankly, not true, but some of it was. It is a bit like the seal campaign; if we do not get on it, then we are going to lose it.

Does Senator Mitchell know of other such exhibits around the world? Does he know whether the government has taken any action to counterbalance this misinformation?

Senator Mitchell: I thank the honourable senator for the question.

She is addressing something that businesses go to great extents to address all the time, and that is reputational risk. Reputational risk is hugely significant to business and is hugely significant to Canada. Let me count the ways.

First, if we have a strong reputation, then we have strong credibility and a sense of power and influence in the world. Therefore, for example, if we wanted to take a strong position, which we do, and help Israel, then we would have the influence, the credibility and the base from which to help Israel. It is one thing to talk about helping Israel, but if one has no credibility internationally, then one cannot help Israel. We are risking that because we are losing our credibility on things like climate change and the reputational risks that are inherent.

We also see it beginning to bear on our ability to have a strong trade relationship with Britain and Europe. We are trying to create trade agreements with these countries. I am sorry to have to report to the honourable senator that that is beginning to bear upon the kinds of relationships that other countries are willing to enter into with respect to Canada and its trade interests.

In addition, very significant and powerful people in the U.S. are saying that they do not want to build pipelines to bring oil sands oil — although they do not call it that — into their country, and that will start to hurt our international exports. That becomes even more significant when one considers that with shale gas finds the U.S. will be able to stop importing gas from Canada by 2030. That will kill that market for us, so we need to be thinking about our other exports.

Reputational risk is huge. If we do not do something about it, then we begin to hurt ourselves and our allies in many ways. This government is literally doing nothing to recover and build our reputation in the world.

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