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  • Writer's pictureChristian Wehrli

Price on Pollution

Updated: Dec 14, 2022

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to today's opposition motion put forward by the member for Calgary Forest Lawn. I will be sharing my time with the member for St. Catharines.This motion proposes to exempt carbon pricing from some fuels based on their targeted purpose on the premise that affordability and fighting climate change are mutually exclusive. From the outset, I want to make it clear that this is a false premise and I reject it. The environment and the economy go hand in hand, and one good example of this is the price on pollution. We know that the price on pollution has reduced carbon intensity in our economy since it was first introduced, and without it, our emissions would have been going up more than they have been. We know that the price on pollution is a market mechanism and is one of the most efficient ways to reduce carbon. It is widely held as the best way to do this from economists worldwide and has been instituted by many governments. We also know that this is a revenue-neutral price on pollution and that the money given back to Canadians who pay for it, for the most part, offsets any additional costs they incur.

We have been targeting our relief to Canadians who need it most. A blanket exemption of the price on pollution for all Canadians would provide relief to Canadians who need it and to Canadians who can perhaps afford it. All Canadians should be doing their part to reduce pollution. I believe we are doing that, and we are compensating those who can afford it least by returning this money, which is paid through the climate action incentive. Canadians in provinces where this plan is in place have received a cheque. In Ontario, they would have received it starting last Friday from the climate action incentive. It gave them much-needed money at this time. The money they will be receiving back will be in excess of what they are contributing, if they are taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint. It is this price signal that is so important for reaching our goals. We all know that we have had inflationary periods over the past and that commodity prices rise and fall. We have seen this happening for many reasons. The global impacts of the war on Ukraine, of the post-COVID economy and of so much more have hit people around the world. This will happen again, and while we know it is causing challenges for many Canadians and we are providing programs and incentives that are targeting the Canadians who need help the most, we are also aware that the climate crisis is not going away. We as a government have a commitment to Canadians. We have a commitment to businesses that are investing in clean tech. We have a commitment to Canadians, who are trying to make choices to reduce their carbon footprint, to maintain this price on pollution and not continually introduce waivers and exemptions along the way. They rely on our commitment to make investments. We need to continue to do that. If we want Canadians businesses to invest in clean energy and want Canadian businesses to invest in clean tech, we cannot go back and forth and say today it is on and tomorrow it is off. The Progressive Conservative Party used to be a party of business. It understood economics. I am really dismayed to see how the CPC has changed its bend. Now its math is even off. The price on pollution will be increasing from $50 a tonne to $65 a tonne on April 1, 2023. For most of Canada, that is after the coldest winter months, and in the math that I learned, that is not a doubling, a tripling or even a 35% rise in the price on pollution. I am not sure where the Conservatives are getting their economic or math abilities these days, but clearly they are not doing it themselves. To go back to the price on pollution and the need for it, we often talk about what it costs Canadians and the cost of a price on pollution, but we do not often talk about what it costs us if we do not do this. What does it cost us if we do not take action to fight climate change? Those costs are significant. We have seen them recently on the east coast with hurricane Fiona. We saw them on the west coast with atmospheric rivers, which none of us had heard of before but we now have in our vocabulary. These costs are significant. It is estimated that they are now $1.9 billion a year. Those costs and the effects they have on Canadians' day-to-day living, on small businesses, on the agricultural manufacturing sector, on farms, on so many people are real costs. They include the cost of insurance going up, the flooding of homes and the supply chains that are being affected, which ultimately affects inflation. These things are happening because of the climate crisis and because we are not doing enough. Therefore, in addition to the price on pollution, we have introduced other programs to try to expedite that change, because we know we have not met some of our targets. However, the price on pollution is effective and we have seen that because the intensity of carbon emissions has gone down. We cannot be short-sighted in this House. We cannot just be focused on the next six months. We have to look at the long term and do things for Canadians, both to build a stronger economy and to help Canadians with affordability while at the same fighting climate change. I am proud that our government is doing that. We are targeting support because we are cognizant of the effects of widespread spending on inflation. We are trying not to put in place a measure that all Canadians get. We are trying to put in a measure that Canadians who need it most would benefit from. Taking the price on pollution off of heating oil and propane at this time would benefit all Canadians who use that fuel. I use that fuel in my home and I am among the many Canadians who do not need that break currently. Let us focus on Canadians who need it most. Unlike Conservative policy with the Canada child care benefit, which was given to millionaires, we changed that and gave it to the people who need it most. That is what we have to do with our dollars now: focus on those who are really suffering and try to help all Canadians through other programs that we have put in place. We have one of the most ambitious programs to address climate change and we know that other countries around the world are joining us. In fact, one of the premises in the preamble of this motion is that we are the only country that has increased the price on pollution during this period, and that is not true. In Canada, we are doing it in a very orderly fashion, incrementally by $10 a year and $15 a year going forward. Germany, for example, put a price on pollution of $25 a tonne in 2021. It will be going up to over $55 a tonne in one fell swoop. That is not what we chose to do. We chose to do it incrementally and consistently, so that people knew what was going to happen, they could adjust to those price increases and it would allow businesses to respond accordingly. I know that Canadians from coast to coast to coast recognize that we need a government with a real plan of action, including the very effective market mechanism of the price on pollution. It is not sufficient, so we are moving forward with that. We are sticking with it while offering support to Canadians who need it most now. We will continue to do that and show that a green economy and green future go together. Let us keep fighting climate change while supporting Canadians.

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