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Select Discussion: Opposition MPs criticize environmental impact of federal Budget

April 22, 2015

House of Commons Debates, 41st Parl, 2nd Sess, No 198 (22 April 2015) at 12874.
Debate content that is unrelated to the environment has been removed

  • Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour for me to rise. Our esteemed House leader just made a suggestion as to what I should do with this first response to the budget as the critic of the official opposition and having unlimited time. He suggested I use 14 hours. I do not think we are going to actually spend that much of the House’s time on some of the New Democrats’ thoughts about the most recent budget. Yet, it is extensive in terms of some of the things we do want to talk about and some of the things that are important to Canadians that are not in the document that was presented, this so-called plan from the government.

    First, I have to place myself in the context of the debate and my comments will come as the representative of Skeena—Bulkley Valley, the great northwest of British Columbia. The riding represents about a third of the province of British Columbia. It is the northwest coast, the northwest corner of our country. It is a beautiful place.

    As is often noted, it is also a place that has met with some of the most pressing and important questions facing our country. We are a resource-based economy, primarily. With 40% to 45% first nations representation and some of the longest and strongest traditions of first nations people anywhere in the world, we have had to meet with some of the sometimes difficult questions about how to make decisions, not only for today but for future generations.

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    My goodness, this type of crass political calculation that will cost future generations so much is reminiscent of one other Conservative policy. It is not just fiscal, it is environmental. The former environment minister will know this. We have seen the Conservatives act like The Monkey Wrench Gang when it comes to environmental commitments on the international stage, which is the only way we are going to deal with climate change. We have to act both locally and internationally.

    We have seen other countries take these steps. The Danes, the Finns, the Germans, the Brits, the Americans and the Chinese are all making pledges, commitments and promises. More important than that, we have seen it from the private sector. Globally last year investments in clean energy technology and energy production outpaced those of all carbon investments combined.

    In fact, in Canada, despite antagonistic policies from the government, never mind not being helpful, as the Conservatives find a way to try to thwart anyone trying to do the right thing, we have seen the cost of solar go down by 83% since 2008. We have seen wind, solar, run-of-river and biomass energy production almost double since 2009. This is despite a Conservative government.

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    We have talked about climate change. We have talked about their deplorable record on first nations. The Conservatives have gutted the coastal protection that we have in this country, on all coasts, with the Coast Guard, DFO, the ability to respond to accidents when they happen, and we know they happen because humans are involved. Yet, they did not replace that.

    In fact, amazingly in this budget, the Conservatives are going to export the spill response model used in British Columbia to other coasts in Canada, because we saw with the spill last week in Vancouver harbour that a twelve and a half hour response to an oil spill beside one of our largest cities is not only acceptable, it is exceptional, according to the transport minister. Twelve and a half hours to get booms out 400 metres near a population of 3.5 million is great. Yet, when we look at what the Conservatives are going to do about coastal protection, they say they are going to take that awful performance and spread it around like a virus.

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    Mr. Nathan Cullen

    Skeena—Bulkley Valley, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to talk about the budget that was tabled yesterday by the Minister of Finance. I am pleased because this will give me an opportunity to respond to many of the issues raised yesterday by our Conservative friends, particularly the minister of state who just gave a speech himself. These are issues that we regularly hear about in the media but that are not based on truth.

    With regard to the budget, Canadians should see the way the Conservatives are boasting about balancing the budget and creating tools like TFSAs. We are not opposed to TFSAs. The principle is excellent. That is why the argument that the minister of state is making that many Canadians and Quebeckers are investing in TFSAs is true. The Conservatives did not create the TFSA in this budget; rather, they increased the contribution limit to $10,000.

    This is just one example of many that I am going to try to talk about in my speech. These examples clearly show that the Conservatives are not serious about the economy, that they have no economic credibility and that the budget is about politics rather than economics.

    Let us take, for example, the statement that with this budget, the government has finally balanced the budget. Good job. The Conservatives are boasting about the sacrifices that had to be made, but they are not the ones who had to make them. Quebeckers and Canadians are the ones who have suffered as a result of the many cuts made over the past five years. These cuts did not get rid of fat in the system. They got rid of some meat and bones. By that I mean that Environment Canada’s budget was cut by 50% at a time when we are talking about the importance of combatting climate change and on the eve of the Paris conference.

    The balanced budget was also achieved thanks in large part to major cuts to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, rail transportation inspection and the Canadian Coast Guard. All of these cuts have hurt Canadians. We have seen recent examples of how Canadians have been affected, such as the listeriosis crisis and the recent spill off the coast of Vancouver that the Canadian Coast Guard was unable to respond to properly. The Kitsilano base had been closed to save a few bucks. The same thing was supposed to happen to the maritime search and rescue centre in Quebec City, which the Conservatives threatened to close to save $1 million. That $1 million keeps boaters in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the estuary safe. Those boaters, particularly francophone ones, would have been in jeopardy.

    With respect to cuts that were really to the bone, funding for scientific institutions was slashed and institutions were closed. There is a perfect example of that in my part of the country: the Maurice Lamontagne Institute. This world-class institute suffered huge cuts that are now preventing it from doing proper monitoring of the quality of the St. Lawrence River and research on the species there and how they live.

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    Mr. Guy Caron

    Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, NDP

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