Conservative MP Garnett Genuis recently made an impassioned speech against Trudeau’s carbon tax.
Watch the speech below or read its transcript:
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my friend from Oshawa.
My grandparents were my inspiration for my involvement in politics. My maternal grandmother was a Jewish child who grew up in Nazi Germany, and taught us up the importance of universal human rights. My grandfather was an engineer who worked for Syncrude in Alberta in the 1970s and 1980s. My grandfather made sure that we understood the devastating impact that bad and capricious government policy could have on the lives of ordinary hard-working men and women, men and women who, from the stroke of a Prime Minister’s pen, could lose the ability to make a decent living for themselves and their families. This is his story.
My grandfather was born in Toronto in 1922. His parents came to Canada during the Irish potato famine. Even in Canada, he grew up poor. He studied engineering at U of T. He told us that he got good grades in the first year, and then he joined a fraternity. He went on to travel the world, practising his craft in the U.S., the Philippines, Venezuela, and Ecuador, where he met my grandmother at a house party.
Neither of my grandparents were political people in the same way that I am, but they were people whose lives were affected by politics. They settled in BC upon returning to Canada, and then moved to Alberta in 1975. Then, along with an entire generation of long-term and brand-new Albertans alike, my grandfather saw the economic health of Alberta collapse around him under the weight of the national energy program.
This is a common Alberta story, but it was a shock for me to discover, upon starting university in Ontario, that many people in this part of the country had not even heard of the national energy program. For those unfamiliar, the national energy program was a policy of the last Trudeau government that forced oil produced in Alberta to be sold at below market prices. Predictably, oil companies reduced production as a result, reducing wealth and benefiting no one. The program cost Alberta between $50 billion and $100 billion. Bankruptcies increased by 150%. We took decades to recover.
Albertans are not bitter people. We are proud and optimistic Canadians. We are proud to do our share, and more than our share. We are not bitter people but we will never forget, and indeed we will be ever vigilant. People like my grandfather, who were hit by the national energy program, were not privileged aristocrats, they were not big banks and they were not oil companies. They were ordinary people who came to one of those beautiful places in the world where hard work was enough.
There is not much so-called old money in Alberta. When Alberta is booming, anyone can make it. It does not matter where people come from or who their parents are. If people are willing to work, then they can make it in Alberta. When Alberta does well, everyone does well. When Alberta does poorly, everyone does poorly.
The national energy program was a high-minded elite scheme that hit ordinary people hard. Here is another thing about it. It was just plain stupid. It did not make sense. Reducing Canadian oil production did not make the east better off, it did not move jobs to other parts of the country; it just killed them.
It is 2016, but 2016 is apparently the new 1980. The Liberal government has once again turned its back on ordinary, decent, hard-working women and men who work in Alberta’s energy industry, and all the interrelated jobs in Alberta and from coast to coast.
The government has announced that it is intent on imposing a national carbon tax. If provinces refuse to participate, then the Prime Minister will impose a jurisdiction-specific tax on that province. To my knowledge, this is the first time in Canadian history that we have a prime minister who wants to impose a punitive tax on some jurisdictions and not others in response to what it views is supposed to be their areas of jurisdiction.
What happened to national unity? What happened to working with the provinces? What happened to consultation? This announcement happened while provincial environment ministers were supposed to be discussing the way forward. A prime minister has not behaved this disdainfully toward the provinces in 35 years.
Let us talk about the policy here. Imposing a carbon tax will make it harder to do business in Canada. It will make it more expensive to produce energy. It will make it more expensive to eat, to travel, to heat homes. In the process it will reduce the production and consumption of goods in Canada.
We can hope that Canadian energy production will become more efficient in the coming years, and thus reduce emissions, but a punitive tax is probably more likely to reduce emissions by reducing production. It is not much of a win if that production is replaced by production in less environmentally friendly jurisdictions. The economic theory predicts that taxing a thing reduces its production, but it does not predict the mechanism by which that will occur. In the context of international competition and an already struggling energy markets, it is most likely that a blunt-ended new tax will just see investments not get made.
Canada accounts for less than 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, so doing our part does not mean cutting ourselves off at the knees to reduce that amount marginally. We can actually do much better than that. We can look for policy solutions that incentivize innovation without incentivizing reduced production.
I would support binding sector-by-sector intensity-based regulations which would require companies to innovate and reduce emissions, but which would also allow them to admit more if they were producing more. I would also support additional incentives for new projects which produced energy in more efficient ways, not just wind and solar but natural gas and energy production that involved effective carbon sequestration.
This is not just hypothetical. Conservatives in office reduced greenhouse gas emissions. GHG emissions went down by 1% from 2006 to 2014 because of this suite of policies, even while they surged under the previous Liberal government. Our critics will say that they went down because of the global economic crisis, an event, incidentally, that they only seem to remember when they talk about the environment. However, the facts do not support that at all. While we were reducing emissions in Canada, global emissions grew by 16%, and we were one of the countries least affected by the global economic recession. Further, while decreasing emissions by 1%, we oversaw GDP growth of 35%.
Other critics will say that emissions only went down under the Conservatives because of policies in Ontario, but in reality emissions increased in every province under the previous Liberal government. Then, under the Conservatives, emissions in every province either went down or increased by a much lower amount than they did under the previous government.
Emissions reductions were not just happening in one province. The facts show that under the leadership of prime minister Stephen Harper, real improvements on greenhouse emissions were evident in every jurisdiction from coast to coast. Those are the numbers and members can check them.
An approach that encourages cleaner production as opposed to less production is good for the environment and it is good for the economy. However, an approach that taxes Canadians and Canadian companies, forcing them to produce less and lay people off, is terrible for the economy and does nothing for the environment as other countries pick up the slack. Let us not forget that China is building a new coal plant every week. Maybe the Prime Minister wants to extradite our coal industry to China, but I would like to keep energy jobs in Canada.
This is just like the national energy program, a proposal that kills jobs and reduces production without actually addressing the problem that it is supposed to address. Some Liberals will say that a carbon tax is a market mechanism. This is sort of like saying that eating a doughnut on the bleachers at a basketball game counts as going to the gym. It is formally correct, but substantively misleading.
I am not sure that the Liberals and the New Democrats believe in market mechanisms in any event, but just to make the point entirely clear, I think it would be considered a market mechanism if it uses market forces to drive behaviour. However, the value of that market mechanism is entirely dependent on its effects. A market mechanism which incentivizes good behaviour is likely good. A market mechanism which incentivizes bad behaviour is likely not.
Here is a simple comparison for hon. members. The United States has experimented with private prisons. Private prisons insert market incentives into prison administration, but they are the wrong kind of market incentives because prison operators do not have any incentive to encourage rehabilitation. In fact, they have every incentive to encourage recidivism and therefore repeat business. One might say that private prisons involve a market mechanism, but it is still a bad market mechanism.
The same is true of carbon taxes. One reduces one’s carbon tax take by cutting production, killing jobs, and moving jobs overseas. Again, this might be markets in action, but it is still a bad outcome.
Many of us hear from time to time from representatives of different energy companies, but the government needs to spend more time listening to energy workers. “Bernard the Roughneck” is one of those workers, a young man who came to Parliament Hill two weeks ago to tell his story. This is what he had to say, “We’ve got people from all over this country coming to Alberta….These are places that you can go being an average person, and if you’re willing to work hard and work more than 40 hours a week and bust your butt you can have something and you can have a decent quality of life. I would never have been able to get an education were it not for the oil patch.”
Bernard and so many other young Canadians did what my grandfather did. They came to Alberta, they busted their butts, and they made something for themselves and their families. Listening to Bernard’s presentation struck a chord with many Albertans, because we or our families have been there before. However, now we are going back to a place of economic policy, which, to be frank, is just plain stupid. It will have a devastating impact on regional and national economies. We cannot let this happen again.