HANSARD: Jenny calls on the Conservative's lack of support following natural disasters

House of Commons Debate
Opposition Motion—Carbon Tax
Business of Supply
Government Orders
February 7th, 2023 / 11:50 a.m.


Jenny Kwan (NDP) Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, I happy to enter this debate today.

There is no question that people are struggling to pay for the rising cost of living on groceries, housing and energy. Just name it and they are struggling, while billionaires and big corporations are getting richer than ever. Big oil companies and CEOs are getting wealthier off the backs of Canadians, who are struggling with the rising cost of living and dealing with the devastating consequences of extreme weather caused by the climate crisis.

B.C., my home province, is still trying to recover from its devastating wildfire and floods. In 2021, there were 1,600 fires in British Columbia, and together they burned down 8,700 square kilometres of land. The summer of 2021 saw the village of Lytton burn to the ground, with the cost estimated at $78 million. That is not to mention the emotional trauma and damage this has done to the community and individuals who suffered this loss.

Then came the floods in November 2021, when the communities of Merritt, Princeton and Abbotsford in southern British Columbia were flooded, with an estimated cost of $450 million in damages. Again, that is not to mention the emotional trauma that people are still struggling with.

Of course, B.C. is not alone in this experience of extreme weather. This is happening across the globe. It is happening right here in Canada from coast to coast to coast. I will not go on to list all the examples, as we all know them and have spoken about them in this House. However, what is clear is that urgent action is needed to address the climate crisis.

The Conservatives are choosing to close their eyes and turn a blind eye to this reality. To be clear, carbon pricing is revenue-neutral, so all revenues are returned to the province or territory in which they are generated. Households receive 90% of revenues raised from the fuel charge through a direct rebate, and these rebates are paid back quarterly in my home province of British Columbia. There is also an additional supplement available to people who live in small and rural communities.

The PBO has estimated that eight out of 10 households will receive more back in rebates than they pay in fuel charges. The Conservatives' claim that 60% of households incur a net loss is based on the PBO's estimates of the economic impact of federal carbon pricing in 2030. That is seven years from now, just to be clear and to put that on the record. Those estimates incorporate a projected loss in economic efficiency from carbon pricing and do not attempt to account for the economic and environmental costs of the climate crisis. I just put on the record the cost to British Columbia when it experienced the floods and wildfires. That has not been accounted for.

Looking at the direct fiscal impact only, the same PBO report found, “For the vast majority of households in the backstop provinces, their rebates exceed their carbon costs.” The net benefits of the federal carbon pricing system are broadly progressive by income group. Households with the lowest incomes receive the largest net transfers, and only the wealthiest households pay more than they get back in rebates.

Why let the facts get in the way of the rhetoric? Why let the facts get in the way of the Conservatives' attempt to fundraise for their own political gain at the expense of the climate crisis? Instead of focusing on real solutions, they choose to engage in cheap politics. That much is clear.

The Conservatives said no to the NDP's proposal to exempt the GST on home heating. That would have made a real difference in support of everyday Canadians who are struggling to pay their energy costs. However, the Conservatives said no to that and rejected it. That is the truth.

They also refuse to go after the biggest polluters and refuse to go after the ultrarich. When the New Democrats called for a tax on the excess profits of huge corporations to make life more affordable, the Conservatives and the Liberals voted no to making big oil companies pay what they owe to help families cope with the high costs of living. They refused to go after big oil, which is making record profits to the tune of $147 billion in profit last year. The Conservatives have selected to give them a free pass instead.

Under Canada's carbon pricing system, the biggest polluters pay the lowest carbon tax rate. Loopholes allow for oil and gas companies to only pay a tiny portion of the costs for their pollution. In fact, 80% to 90% of emissions are exempt. Suncor only pays one-fourteenth of the full carbon price. These loopholes need to be closed so that big oil pays what it owes for its pollution. More than that, the UN Secretary-General said, “Polluters must pay”, and called on countries to implement a windfall profit tax on fossil fuel companies.

The Conservative government in the U.K. has already put a 25% windfall tax on oil and gas profits. The EU has announced plans for a tax on windfall profits. Spain, Greece, Italy, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria have all implemented a similar levy, yet both the Liberals and the Conservatives oppose making big oil companies and the ultrarich pay their fair share.

The NDP has a very different perspective. This corporate greed has to stop. Families are struggling, and one way to help them tackle the high cost of living is to put in a windfall tax on excess profits for the ultrawealthy. Both the Liberals and the Conservatives need to step up and support the people across this country. They have voted against the NDP's motion on an excess profit tax for the ultrarich to help struggling families. It makes no sense.

The federal carbon pricing system, by the way, only applies to provinces and territories that do not put a price on pollution or do not meet the federal standards. Across the country, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, the Northwest Territories, British Columbia and New Brunswick all have their own carbon pricing solutions that they have already put in place. That means that what the Conservatives are talking about with their rhetoric would not actually help those provinces and territories.

The Leader of the Opposition claims that he is there for the working people, the working class, and we heard it today in his speech. What do they want? They want the government and the Conservatives to support the fight against greedflation. They want that action. They want to see a windfall tax or an excessive profiteering tax for the ultrawealthy CEOs. They want real solutions, not just slogans. Divisive rhetoric and fearmongering will not help with the struggles people face every day.

I would be remiss if I did not point out the offensive comment that came from the leader of the Conservatives. He called my riding “hell on earth”. It is despicable that he would use that language to describe any riding in this country. Of course, our community is struggling; we are struggling. However, we have people in our community who are working every single day and putting their lives on the line to support people in the community. For the leader of the Conservatives to call my riding hell on earth is despicable, and he needs to apologize.


Fraser Tolmie (Conservative) Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan, SK

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has stated numerous times in this House that the government is putting a price on pollution. Actually, the NDP-Liberal government is putting a price on people, not pollution. Why does this member punish the people of this nation with bad policy instead of supporting technology that would reduce emissions and actually make a difference?


Jenny Kwan (NDP) Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, first off, the member is wrong. There is no coalition government. The NDP is not part of the Liberals. We have a supply and confidence agreement, but we do not sit in cabinet. We are not there at that table. If it were an NDP government, we would have different policies; that is for sure.

On the issue around the climate crisis, I think the member did not hear what I said. I invite him to come to British Columbia to see the aftermath of the fires and floods and what is going on. Conservatives can continue to be climate deniers or they can step up and actually make the wealthy pay and get the big oil and gas companies to pay their fair share so we can really fight the climate crisis and support Canadians in their everyday struggles.


Mark Gerretsen (Liberal) Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons (Senate)

Mr. Speaker, I certainly admire the member's passion for putting a price on pollution. One will not hear an objection from this side of the House; it is the only way to go. If I am quoting her right, she said “polluters must pay”, yet I cannot help but reflect on the fact that the NDP has been supportive and plans to vote in favour of Bill C-234, an act to amend the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act. This bill would specifically remove a price on pollution, or the carbon tax, from certain sectors. If the member is such a huge fan of pricing pollution, why would she vote in favour of Bill C-234?


Jenny Kwan (NDP) Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, to correct the member, if he actually paid attention to my speech, he would have heard me say that I was actually quoting the UN Secretary-General.

That said, we do believe we need to tackle the climate crisis. There is no question about it. We have been calling on the government to take exactly those actions and make the biggest polluters pay their fair share, yet the Liberals continue to exempt the oil and gas companies. In fact, they would go as far as to provide them with a subsidy so they do not have to pay their fair share.

Through a supply and confidence agreement, we are pushing the Liberals every step of the way to make them step up. That is why we are seeing a tiny bit of action on the subsidy aspect.

To the member's final comment regarding the bill, when there are no alternatives, we need to provide alternatives to address the climate crisis. That is why we did what we did on that bill.


Elizabeth May (Green) Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I really want to thank my colleague from British Columbia for bringing us back to what happened there in the summer of 2021. I do not think even colleagues who think they know about it really do. Over 619 people died in four days from a heat dome. In the same year, we had the atmospheric rivers. I know the hon. member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke spoke to this too, but the temperature record hit 50°C at its peak; this was in the backyard of my husband's family farm. My stepdaughter, who is in her mid-30s, nearly died.

We are still not preparing. We are still not understanding. In the context of my friend from Vancouver East's riding, people who are homeless were unable to get to cooling shelters because none were set up. They were kept out of parks, where they went for shade, for fear they might set up encampments. Again, the equity issues, the intersectional issues of the climate crisis are ignored in pointless debates about a carbon tax, which is a necessary but completely insufficient way of addressing the climate emergency.


Jenny Kwan (NDP) Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague raises exactly the right point about the real impact for people. In my riding, and particularly in the Downtown Eastside, people can actually suffocate and die when there is a heat dome like that. In the SROs they are living in, there is basically no air circulating. That is why people took to the streets. If people want a solution, we need an investment in housing as a basic human right to address the housing crisis.



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