HANSARD: Jenny advocates for the economic support towards people in need as living expenses continue to rise

House of Commons Debate
Opposition Motion—Subsidies for the Oil and Gas Sector
Business of Supply
Government Orders
May 17th, 2022 / 4:05 p.m.

 

Jenny Kwan (NDP) Vancouver East, BC

"Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of the motion put forward by my colleague, the member for Victoria.

The NDP motion calls for the government to stop using Canadian taxpayers’ money to subsidize oil and gas companies, and to instead reinvest that money into renewable energy and measures to help Canadians with the rising cost of living.

The motion could not have come at a more desperately needed time. This week, constituents in my riding are paying over $2 a litre for gas at the pump. Many of the people scraping together the necessary funds to pay for fuel are essential workers, small business owners, families with young children and people with mobility challenges who need to drive for their livelihoods or to access essential goods and services.

Canadian families are already struggling with sky-high housing costs and income precarity exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic. Even before the rise in gas prices, people were living paycheque to paycheque and struggling to make ends meet. Retirees and people on fixed incomes have not seen a rise in income to account for the rise in living costs.

By glaring contrast, the oil and gas companies are making record profits, while being heavily subsidized by taxpayers’ money. This grossly unjust situation is a direct result of the government’s heavily misaligned priorities. The NDP motion calls on the government to fix this dire situation and place people and the planet before oil and gas company profits.

As Canadians are struggling more than ever, we are also faced with the most urgent crisis of our time: the climate change crisis. The most recent IPCC report states:

It is unequivocal that climate change has already disrupted human and natural systems.

It goes on to say:

Societal choices and actions implemented in the next decade determine the extent to which medium- and long-term pathways will deliver higher or lower climate resilient development.... Importantly climate resilient development prospects are increasingly limited if current greenhouse gas emissions do not rapidly decline, especially if 1.5°C global warming is exceeded in the near term.

A new climate update issued by the World Meteorological Organization pointed out that there is a fifty-fifty chance that the annual average global temperature will temporarily reach 1.5°C above the pre-industrial level for at least one of the next five years, and this likelihood is increasing with time.

Let us just think about that for one minute. They are saying that we are not going to meet our target. I should not need to remind anyone in this house of the importance of the 1.5° mark. Climate scientists have long established that holding global warming to 1.5° could limit the most dangerous and irreversible effects of climate change.

Our global temperatures have already risen by 1.1° since pre-industrial levels. We are already feeling the devastating effects of climate change. B.C., my province, has just experienced one of the most challenging years of extreme weather in recent memory, with a heat dome that shattered temperature records and killed hundreds of people, followed by weather bombs that destroyed critical infrastructure, livestock and agricultural lands with record precipitation and floods. For days, B.C. was cut off from the rest of Canada by rail and road because of the damages from the unprecedented floods.

Left unchecked, extreme weather connected to climate change will continue to wreak havoc on Canadian lives and livelihoods.

Around the globe, we are witnessing how climate change has caused substantial damage to terrestrial, freshwater and coastal and ocean marine ecosystems. We are seeing glaciers melt, mountains change and permafrost thaw in the Arctic ecosystem. Let us be clear: This is the result of human-induced climate change. That is why we must fight the climate crisis like we mean to win.

Despite the urgency of the climate crisis on our doorstep, Canada has failed to meet any of its climate targets to reduce carbon emissions over the past 40 years. In fact, not only has Canada repeatedly failed to meet its climate targets, Canada is also one of the few wealthy countries where carbon emissions continue to rise. Industrialized and wealthy nations are responsible for most of the greenhouse gas emissions in the world, but the effects of climate change impact developing nations and indigenous peoples the hardest.

Climate justice is justice, period. Continuing to subsidize oil and gas companies while delaying the economic and infrastructure overhaul and transition to green energy is the very opposite of climate leadership that Canadians and the world so desperately need. The new carbon capture tax credit is, in effect, a $2.6-billion subsidy to oil and gas disguised as a so-called climate solution by the Liberal government. It is the wrong path to take.

Earlier this year, more than 400 Canadian climate scientists and academics pleaded with the finance minister to scrap the plan to create the carbon capture tax credit. Professor Christina Hoicka, from the University of Victoria, stated that carbon capture is expensive and unproven in its effectiveness in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Julia Levin, senior climate and energy program manager, stated that by relying on unproven “techno-fixes”, the government is “gambling with our lives.”

Carbon capture projects exist at the demonstration level only, and have not successfully been deployed at the scale needed to make them part of a viable pathway to reach net-zero by 2050. More than 80% of the carbon capture projects attempted in the United States have ended in failure. Shell's Quest carbon capture facility near Edmonton is emitting more greenhouse gas than it captures.

Across the board, scientists are calling for the government to invest in proven climate solutions, including renewable energy, efficient affordable housing and the electrification of transportation as the way to go. The choices we make today will have a lasting impact on future generations.

It has long been my belief, and the NDP's belief, that a just transition must not only create a healthier environment, but also create better opportunities and improve affordability for Canadian workers and families. A just transition creates good jobs in the renewable energy sector and supports workers and communities in transitioning to jobs in this sector.

Canada could become a world leader in renewable energy development. Investing in energy-efficient home retrofits and affordable energy-efficient new homes, as well as investing in a robust electric public transit system, would make life more affordable for Canadians and reduce emissions. In other words, a just transition would help to build a stronger, resilient economy. It is an opportunity that any government that values people and the planet would jump on. Instead, Canada is spending 14 times more on financial support to the fossil-fuel sector than it does on renewable energy.

The Liberals promised a just transition act in 2019, but have failed to deliver and were recently rebuked by the Environment Commissioner for their lack of a plan to support workers and communities through the transition to a low-carbon economy. At the same time, oil and gas companies are making record profits, and Canadians are being decimated at the pump with record-high prices while the world is on the brink of a climate disaster.

The majority of Canadians are concerned about climate change and affordability as the cost of living continues to rise. If the Liberals eliminated the tax credits for oil and gas exploration and development right now, it would bring in almost $10 billion over the next four years. Instead—"

 

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Carol Hughes (NDP)

"The hon. member's time is up. I have been trying to signal that to her.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Kings—Hants."

 

Kody Blois (Liberal) Kings—Hants, NS

"Madam Speaker, my hon. colleague made it very clear that she is against any type of public financing for the oil and gas sector. The way I view it is that this particular tax credit is meant to incentivize a reduction in emissions, but I respect her point and her view on this.

My question is a bit broader. Does she feel the Government of Canada has a role in working with private-sector entities to reduce emissions? She has made it very clear that she does not support that in the oil and gas sector. Where would she delineate, if at all, whether or not the Government of Canada should be providing these types of incentives to other private-sector industries?"

 

Jenny Kwan (NDP) Vancouver East, BC

"Madam Speaker, instead of subsidizing very profitable big oil companies, the government can provide immediate relief to struggling Canadians by suspending the GST on residential energy bills, doubling the GST tax credit and increasing the Canada child benefit to all recipients by $500. That would be an immediate help for Canadians.

By the way, the oil and gas industry should be paying for the work that needs to be done to make the planet better. It is making record profits and can afford to do it. There is no good reason why the Canadian Liberal government continues to subsidize it. That money should be invested in people and renewable energy."

 

Greg McLean (Conservative) Calgary Centre, AB

"Madam Speaker, I heard the member refer in her speech to the same misinformation we identified earlier when we talked about a lie, which was propagated by a subsidiary of Tides International. It is the only place where this “14 times” number comes up. I hope she is happy, in this House of Commons, as she and her colleagues continue to repeat that misinformation, but they should recognize what it is.

I am going to challenge the member on the whole thing: on carbon capture, utilization and storage, because she talked about it being at a demonstration level only in Canada. She also referred to the Shell Quest facility. Shell Quest is using the technology it has at Edmonton in the Northern Lights project that is offshore of Norway, which has a better tax regime than Canada with respect to carbon capture, utilization and storage. Can she comment on why we have developed technology in Canada that is now leaving to be exploited around the world in other environmental countries that are approaching the same problem?"

 

Jenny Kwan (NDP) Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, I did not realize the member was a scientist. I did not realize we should trust someone who is frankly right in the pockets of big oil instead of the scientists who have brought forward the evidence. The last time I checked, I would rather trust the scientists than the Conservatives.

Let me say this on the issue of carbon capture. If that is the technology to be used, as the member suggests, why does the oil and gas industry not pay for it itself? Why does it need a subsidy from the Canadian government? I hope the member realizes that money should be invested in communities and Canadians who need that support and are being gouged right now at the pumps.

 

Louise Chabot (Bloc) Thérèse-De Blainville, QC

Madam Speaker, I completely agree with the speech denouncing the use of carbon capture technologies, which will benefit the oil companies. However, there is something I do not understand. I would like the member to explain to me how she can condemn this practice and at the same time praise it in the last budget.

 

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Carol Hughes (NDP)

"Before I get the hon. member to respond, I just want to indicate that if anybody has any questions or answers or comments, they should wait until I recognize them. Otherwise, I would ask them to be quiet until such time as I acknowledge their presence in the House.

The hon. member for Vancouver East."

 

Jenny Kwan (NDP) Vancouver East, BC

"Madam Speaker, on the issue of the NDP negotiating with the government on the supply and confidence agreement, we have advanced the notion to call on the government to end the oil and gas subsidies. We got a bit, only $9 million, in terms of a return, but of course the government went and gave a giant gift to the oil and gas sector. That does not mean to say we will not continue to strongly advocate for this and to call the government out whenever it steps in the wrong direction. That is why we have this motion on the floor today. I hope all members of the House will support it."

 

Kody Blois (Liberal) Kings—Hants, NS

"Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague from Vaughan—Woodbridge. As usual, it is a privilege to rise this afternoon to speak to the NDP opposition motion moved by my hon. colleague from Victoria.

In principle, the motion has three elements. It recognizes that the price of gas is high, at more than $2 a litre in some regions in the country, and that that is affecting affordability across the country. The motion points out that energy companies are making profits, especially with the high price of basic energy products. The motion calls for the elimination of the tax credit for carbon capture, utilization and storage that was presented in the budget by the Minister of Finance and for the savings from that measure to be reinvested into helping Canadians.

I will talk about the motion, but I will also use my time to talk about the broader issue of affordability and the energy transition in Canada and in the world.

I represent a rural riding where a good number of my constituents do not have access to public transit. This conversation on affordability and the ability to use public transit for work and pleasure is an important public policy concern.

As far as affordability is concerned, I would like to share with my colleagues that my father was a truck driver and my mother is an administrative assistant. We were a low-income family. One of the reasons I decided to join the Liberal Party and run as an MP is because of the work this government has done to support low- and middle-income families. I want to give some examples of how our government has done that since taking office in 2015: We created the Canada child care benefit, enhanced old age security, reversed the Conservative plan to change the eligibility age from 67 to 65, and strengthened the guaranteed income supplement.

We also introduced national child care, and we had the opportunity to see that rolled out across the country. That is something that this government has focused on because it helps support affordability for families paying for child care costs. It is also an important economic driver. It had been talked about for a long time, but it was this government that stepped up, showed leadership and made it happen across the country.

I was not part of it, but from 2015-19, in the 42nd Parliament, the first thing this government did was to lower taxes for lower and middle-income Canadians and increase them for the wealthiest one percent in the country. Indeed, this government has invested significantly in the Canadian housing benefit, trying to support individuals with rental costs and their ability to put a roof over their heads.

I could go on with the programs I am proud of from this side. That is not to say that all issues are solved or that affordability writ large is taken care of, but I am proud of the record on this side of the House, and of the plans and programs we have introduced because they are making a difference in the lives of Canadians across the country.

Let us talk about the inflation issue because it is an important piece to raise. I would suggest that from where I sit in the House, there is no one silver bullet solution to inflation. In fact, history has shown that to be the case, but let us first examine the reasons why we are seeing inflation across the economy and recognize that this is not just a Canadian problem. This is being recognized across the world, in Europe and in the United States. Indeed, the inflation we are experiencing is challenging and impacting us in Canada, but it is actually lower than in other jurisdictions around the world.

It is happening, in part, because of the war in Ukraine. We heard, in question period, the Associate Minister of Finance talk about the importance of supporting Ukraine and being able to support them in their fight against Russia. The war and the conflict is having cascading impacts that are creating inflationary pressure around the world. We have to remind Canadians that this is being perpetuated by the Russian Federation, namely, Vladimir Putin.

There has also been a supply chain disruption, and it has been talked about at great length. The pandemic has created those challenges. They are not easily reversed. I would also submit that the changing geopolitical situation will also have reverberations on how our supply chains have traditionally operated prior to the pandemic and, indeed, prior to the war in Ukraine.

On government spending, governments around the world, including this one, were compelled to step up to support their citizens and make sure that they were taken care of. We were asking individuals to do their part to stop the spread of COVID-19 until we had access to a vaccine and until we had the work that had to done by the scientific community. This government makes no qualms about the fact that we stepped up for Canadians. Eight dollars out of every 10 were provided by this government. That was to help provinces and territories, municipal governments, businesses, and individuals.

Undoubtedly, the global community stepping up to help support citizens put additional liquidity into the market. I think that has led, in part, to some of the inflationary pressures we have seen.

On the aging workforce, I think this is something we have not discussed to the extent that it should be discussed in the House. We have labour challenges. We have heard that in large detail, in the 44th Parliament, about some of the challenges.

That is not just Canada. That is the western world, as we have a large baby boomer demographic that is making its way to retirement. That is creating challenges in employment, which has, as well, an inflationary pressure on wages. In some cases, that can be really important for lower wages, in terms of lower hourly wages, but it is undoubtedly putting on some of that inflationary pressure. That is part of what we have seen.

As we can see, it is nuanced. There is not one single thing we can point to. It is a variety of circumstances that have presented themselves for a long time and, indeed, in the last couple of years to where we find ourselves.

The question becomes how best to address it. History suggests that it is not easy. Do we spend more money to give individual households some of the affordability measures that they might need? Of course, I think most of us would agree that, in principle, this sounds great. History has shown that when the economy is hot, providing additional support to households, notwithstanding that we want to do that, in some cases, can actually reverberate some of the inflationary pressure that we have seen, particularly when there is a lot of liquidity in the market, with money supply.

On interest rates, the Bank of Canada has raised interest rates and, indeed, that is seen as one way, from an economic theory. If we raise interest rates, it can have a cooling effect on the economy to bring inflation down, but that has an impact on the affordability element for individuals who might hold debt, in terms of their monthly mortgage payments and some of their bills on that side.

I guess, at the end of the day, what I would say is that the question of inflation and affordability is an important one. There is no easy solution, but when I look at the text of this motion, which is talking about taking away a program that the government has introduced for our energy sector to reduce emissions, for us to able to meet our emissions reduction plan, which was introduced a couple months ago by our Minister of Environment, I do not think that this is the best public policy approach.

I agree that we need to have important conversations about what the government can do to support affordability and to support Canadians who are having challenging times, but taking away a program that is designed to incentivize the energy sector to reduce emissions and ensure that we are competitive heading into 2050 is the wrong approach."

 

https://openparliament.ca/debates/2022/5/17/jenny-kwan-1/

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