May 5th, 2016
Check against delivery
Mr. Speaker, it is a distinct honour to rise in this Chamber to introduce my private member’s motion, M-45.
I would like to begin by thanking my seconder, the honourable member from Pontiac, and all my other colleagues in various corners of this House that have signed on to second this motion.
A CHANGING CLIMATE
As one of Canada’s primary coastal cities, my riding of Halifax stands on the front lines in the battle against climate change. The impact of greenhouse gas emissions, if not curbed, will have serious repercussions for Halifax, for Nova Scotia, and for the communities that we love.
Mr. Speaker, a decade ago the three orders of government, and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities jointly funded a report called “Climate Smart: A Climate Change Risk Management Strategy for Halifax,” that painted a sobering picture of my city if Climate Change is not addressed. Here is some of what that picture looks like:
Halifax’s status and viability as a great Canadian port city – a key economic driver in my riding, my province, and in Eastern Canada – will be put at risk as changes in ice patterns jeopardize year-round shipping to Halifax through the Northwest Passage.
Our port infrastructure will be damaged, at times irreversibly. Our local economy, and therefore the national economy, will suffer.
Sea level rise will threaten the quality and quantity of our drinking water.
The existing strain on our health care system will intensify as injuries from extreme weather events increase in number, and high humidity leads to a higher frequency of respiratory ailments like asthma and allergies.
Climate change will harm marine habitats and, by extension, the commercial viability of some of our most critical fish stocks, like salmon and cod – this in a province where the fishery accounts for 10% of GDP.
Transportation infrastructure – found mostly along the coast – will quickly deteriorate, and increased costs for road and rail maintenance will become a larger and larger strain on public resources.
Mr. Speaker, this is the potential story of climate change in Halifax, but the implications of uncurbed greenhouse gas emissions are equally dire right across Canada, where we are surrounded by more than 200,000 kilometers of coastline – where many, many cities and communities lie.
And the impacts don’t stop at our borders. In January of this year, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development – a federal department roughly analogous to our own Department of Infrastructure and Communities – announced grants totalling $1 billion in 13 states to help communities in dire need adapt to climate change.
And one of those grants is for something new – but something that we’re all going to be hearing a lot more about in the months and years ahead: it’s a grant to pay for the resettlement of the United States’ first climate refugees from the inundated shores of Louisiana.
And Mr. Speaker, we are not talking about some far-off land. We are talking about government-funded resettlement of climate refugees right here, on this land mass, that we share with the U.S.
Of this, the New York Times wrote earlier this week:
“Around the globe, governments are confronting the reality that as human-caused climate change warms the planet, rising sea levels, stronger storms, increased flooding, harsher droughts and dwindling freshwater supplies could drive the world’s most vulnerable people from their homes. ”
Just last week Sally Jewell, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior and former Mobil Oil executive said, while visiting right here in Ottawa, “These changes are underway and they are very rapid. We will have climate refugees.”
And Mr. Speaker, bringing it back home, we are told that a 2 degree celsius increase in global mean temperature could leave Nova Scotia an island. That’s the same 2 degrees the Paris Climate Accord sets out to limit us to. Just imagine the costs to government of having to extend a lifeline to the island of Nova Scotia.
Well, we can avoid those terrible human and financial costs, but we need to act now to protect our environment, to protect our communities, and to build a resilient Canada that is is prepared to adapt to the climate change that is already well underway.
LESSONS FROM CITY BUILDING
Mr. Speaker, I come to this house from a 20-year career as city planner. It’s a career that has been dedicated to building livable, sustainable and resilient communities, in various urban, suburban and rural locales across Canada and in the northeastern U.S., but primarily, and for the past 11 years, in my home town of Halifax.
I am proud to have been a co-founder, and founding vice president, of a national organization called the Council for Canadian Urbanism. The Council for Canadian Urbanism, or CanU, was created ten years ago by city planners, urban designers, and architects from public, private and academic practice across Canada.
In 2013, in a historic moment, CanU’s community-builders from across the country met in Halifax to ratify, and sign, the Charter for Canadian Urbanism. A copy of which hangs proudly on my office wall both here and in Halifax. The Charter is instructive in many ways for those in this house, and today I would like to read this relevant excerpt:
“Canada’s cities and communities urgently require a more progressive and creative approach in order to become sustainable, and more: successful; healthy; livable, and; resilient. Implementing a better Canadian urbanism is key to addressing our most critical challenges, including climate change, ecological integrity, economic health & global competitiveness, energy resiliency, affordability & homelessness, public health, and social inclusiveness.”
Mr. Speaker, it is clear that the way we build our communities, the kind of infrastructure we deploy, and how we make infrastructure funding decisions, will in large measure determine how we face – and whether we win or lose – the battle against climate change.
And that, Mr. Speaker, brings me to my private member’s motion, M-45.
Quite simply, M-45 is a motion that proposes that greenhouse gas emissions analyses be undertaken for infrastructure projects seeking federal funding, and where appropriate prioritizes funding for those that mitigate the impacts of climate change.
If passed, I believe the positive impacts of M-45 will be profound and numerous. I’d like to use my time today to list just four.
1. SCIENCE, FACTS, AND EVIDENCE
First, Mr. Speaker, is the way in which it will increase government’s capacity to make evidence-based decisions.
Canadians expect us to “ensure decisions are based on science, facts, and evidence” – as written in the Prime Minister’s mandate letter to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change. To this end, we must “increase data collection capacity” — a directive in the Prime Minister’s mandate letter to the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities. M-45 furthers both of these goals.
The scientific evidence makes it clear: we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions. By having important data on the greenhouse gas profiles of infrastructure proposals, as M-45 would require, our government would have the science, facts, and evidence to make better informed decisions when making infrastructure funding choices. That’s a win for evidence-based decision making, and a win for the environment.
2. HAND IN HAND: A STRONG ECONOMY & A CLEAN ENVIRONMENT
Second, Mr. Speaker, is the way in which M-45 will help grow a strong economy while protecting the environment.
Since the start of this 42nd Parliament, in the Speech from the Throne, our government has recognized that “a clean environment and a strong economy go hand in hand. We cannot have one without the other. Protecting the environment and growing the economy are not incompatible goals; in fact, our future success demands that we do both.”
Because infrastructure spending represents a critical piece of our government’s plan to grow the economy, we must ensure that environmental impact is a key consideration in the rollout of this historic investment program.
The onus is on us, here in this Chamber, to heed the call for environmentally responsible infrastructure spending not only because it’s our best hope at adapting to, and combating climate change, but also because projects with lower greenhouse gas emissions are more cost-efficient. They make use of renewable resources and, with current technologies moving away from carbon-based energy, they will last longer into the future.
In contrast, infrastructure projects with high greenhouse gas emissions profiles and lack of climate change resiliency further increase the many costs we know to be associated with the impacts of climate change.
Mr. Speaker, our investment in infrastructure is an investment in the future. By investing in a way that also contributes to mitigating and adapting to climate change, we have the ability to significantly amplify the positive outcomes of that investment.
Simply put: when we invest taxpayer dollars intentionally and intelligently, we enhance our longevity and resilience. This is not just environmental resilience, but economic resilience too: it helps build an economy that works for the future, and this is what Canadians want.
3. AN ENVIRONMENTALLY CONSCIOUS GOVERNMENT
The third impact of M-45, Mr. Speaker, is the way in which the motion will foster environmental consciousness in government.
If passed, my private members’ motion will contribute to a government that keeps environmental costs and consequences in mind in all of its decisions.
That’s a government that recognizes infrastructure spending decisions can no longer be made based solely on a short-term bottom line. Projects must not only be shovel-ready, but shovel-appropriate. And for that reason we must consider whether the infrastructure investments we are making today might have future risks that outweigh their benefits.
It was only this past January that the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and the Minister of Natural Resources announced a set of 5 interim principles for major projects – like pipelines – designed to restore trust in the environmental assessment process. Among these principles was a commitment to assess the direct and upstream greenhouse gas emissions of major projects.
These interim principles represent the return of a government that takes climate change seriously. M-45 is a natural compliment to, and an accelerator of, this effort.
4. A GLOBAL PARTNER
The fourth positive impact of M-45, and the last I’ll address today, Mr. Speaker, is the way in which the motion will assist us in fulfilling our international commitments.
It was only recently that the Prime Minister signed the Paris climate agreement, thereby agreeing to take domestic measures to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions–as soon as possible–in an effort to keep the global temperature from rising more than 2 degrees celsius.
To contribute to this effort and regain Canada’s environmental credibility in the world, we must consider the environmental impact of our government’s historic infrastructure spending program: this is both an opportunity and a responsibility when it comes to our international standing, and the global response to climate change.
Mr. Speaker, in the same way that greenhouse gas emissions transcend the boundaries of the places where they originate, so too would the benefits of greener infrastructure. If we prioritize greenhouse gas reductions in our infrastructure spending, the positive benefits of that extend across the country from our bustling urban centres, to our beautiful rural communities, to our beloved national parks–and yes, beyond our nation’s borders. M-45 will position Canada to be an active and respected global partner in the world-wide fight against climate change.
A BETTER HALIFAX
Mr. Speaker, at the outset of my remarks today, I painted a bleak picture of my riding, Halifax – a picture of what could become of my beloved city if meaningful action is not taken to reduce GHGs.
But there’s another possibility. It’s a future for Halifax where air and water are clean. Where we consciously mitigate against climate change with every decision we make. Where the infrastructure we build is resilient against sea level rise. Where we live in healthy, walkable and vibrant communities. And where looking after the environment is the surest way to ensure sustainable economic prosperity.
That’s the future I’m working towards as the Member of Parliament for Halifax – for my community, and all Canadian communities.
I must applaud the environmental organizations in my city for their work calling on government to address climate change – organizations like the Ecology Action Centre, the Dalhousie University Sustainability Office, the Citizens Climate Lobby, NSPIRG Working Groups, the Canadian Climate Youth Coalition, and Sierra Club Atlantic, to name a few…
… as well as numerous CleanTech and GreenTech entrepreneurs in Halifax, like CarbonCure, GreenPower Labs, Lightsail Energy, SabrTech Biofuels, and Scotian Windfields, and there are so many more. I am very proud to heed the call of these climate leaders today.
And I am so proud Mr. Speaker, of this government, and of this cabinet, for putting a stake in the ground to say that Canada is back as a global climate change champion. The work of the Prime Minister, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change – and many others – in Paris and around the world, has made us proud. But moreover, they have provided hope for the future, for our children, and our children’s children. And that has made us grateful.
Mr. Speaker, I know that some might worry that the environmental assessment process like the one proposed in my motion is too ambitious. But I ask them to remember that there was once a time when Canada’s environmental assessment process was rigorous and respected.
In the decade since then, we’ve lost time. It isn’t too late, but to make up for lost ground, it is more important now than ever before to take decisive, meaningful action to combat climate change.
I believe my motion presents that opportunity.
Mr. Speaker, if agreed to, M-45 will send a clear message to Canadians:
Your government is committed to building a Canada you can be proud of – and one you’ll feel confident leaving to your children.