POLITICS
06/18/2019 14:11 EDT

Liberal MP Mark Gerretsen: Tories 'Playing With The Lives Of Future Generations' By Opposing Carbon Pricing

Conservative environment critic Ed Fast wants the government to "repeal the carbon tax."

Parlvu screengrab
Liberal MP Mark Gerretsen is shown in the House of Commons on June 18, 2019.

A Liberal MP says the Conservative environment critic is playing with “the lives of future generations” by opposing carbon pricing to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Mark Gerretsen, the MP for Ontaro’s Kingston and the Islands, made the charge in the House of Commons Tuesday while debating an Opposition motion from veteran Tory MP Ed Fast.

The motion urges the House to “call on the government to repeal the carbon tax and replace it with a real environmental plan.”

“He’s playing with the lives of future generations when he’s making these claims in this House, in particular about putting a price on pollution and how ineffective it will be,” Gerretsen said.

Watch his exchange with Fast:

 

Fast’s vague motion, doomed to fail against the Liberal majority in the House, was tabled one day before Tory Leader Andrew Scheer will reveal his long-awaited climate plan.

“We are going to be rolling out our own environment plan tomorrow. It’s going to give Canada a better chance — the best chance — to meet its Paris targets,” Fast said during debate.

In 2017, Tory MPs voted to implement the Paris climate agreement, which commits Canada to a 30 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2030. Since then, however, Scheer has backtracked to say his climate plan will “speak to” Paris targets. He has also called on Liberals to admit their current plan won’t hit that goal.

Fast dismissed the Liberal carbon pricing regime as a “craven tax plan,” even though Liberals have committed that 90 per cent of revenues will go back to Canadians in the form of rebates. He accused the Liberals of ramming the plan “down the throats of provinces and territories.”

Liberal MP invokes the Pope

Fast also latched on to a recent report from the Parliamentary Budget Officer concluding Canada may need to hike its carbon price — currently $20 per tonne and rising to $50 by 2022 — to meet its international obligations.

Gerretsen noted that he sat on the environment committee with Fast and knows he cares about the issue, which is why he finds the motion “deeply troubling.”

He noted that a Nobel Prize-winning economist and Pope Francis have endorsed carbon pricing in the fight against climate change.

But Gerretsen also highlighted how, in 2008, former prime minister Stephen Harper promised to introduce a cap-and-trade system. Liberal online ads have highlighted a 2008 speech where Harper said such a plan would “effectively establish a price on carbon.”

 

“It’s a basic economic principle that when you want to reduce something, you put a price on it,” Gerretsen said.

Fast, an international trade minister under Harper, responded that his former boss does not back carbon taxes.

Fast also pointed to his home province of British Columbia, where a carbon tax of $10 per tonne was instituted in 2008, as a “perfect example of a failed carbon tax policy.” He suggested the fact that B.C.’s carbon price has risen to $40 shows how easy it is for governments to hike the levy.

But Fast also alleged that emissions are going “up and up and up” in B.C., proving the tax doesn’t work.

Emissions dropped by as much as 15 per cent after B.C. instituted the system more than 10 years ago, according to a 2015 academic study.

Yet data released by the B.C. government shows GHG emissions in 2016 increased by 1.5 per cent from the previous year — from 61.3 million tonnes to 62.3 million tonnes. However, that still represents a drop of 2.2 per cent from 2007, before the carbon tax was instituted, according to the government report.

NDP MP Don Davies tried to pour cold water on the arguments made by Fast and fellow B.C. MP Dan Albas that the B.C. carbon tax hasn’t had an impact on emissions.

“Since it was introduced in 2008, there has been a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in British Columbia of 2.2 per cent,” Davies said.

“And by the way, one would expect carbon emissions to have gone up significantly in that time period, so the fact that there’s actually an overall reduction shows that the carbon tax does work.”

Sean Fraser, the parliamentary secretary to Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, later accused Fast and Albas of “cherry-picking” data.

The debate comes on the heels of the House voting Monday night to declare climate change a national emergency. That Liberal motion, tabled by McKenna in May, passed by a vote of 186-63, with the support of New Democrats, Greens, and Bloc Quebecois MPs. Tory MPs, including Fast and Albas, voted against it.

The full text of Fast’s motion:

That, given that the carbon tax will not reduce emissions at its current rate and it is already making life more expensive for Canadians, the House call on the government to repeal the carbon tax and replace it with a real environment plan.

With earlier files