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Fall Economic Statement needs to be much bolder

Updated: May 26, 2021

On February 2 I had the opportunity to respond to the government's fall economic statement. Bill C-14 contains a long list of much-needed needed spending to help Canadians get through the COVID-19 pandemic, but it lacks the bold vision needed to transform this crisis into a more resilient future for all of us. Below is a transcript of my speech.

Thank you Mr Speaker

I rise today to speak to Bill C-14, the Fall Economic Statement. I miss being in the House of Commons for these speeches, but it is always an honour and privilege to speak from my riding of Nanaimo-Ladysmith within the traditional unceded territory of the Snuneymuxw, Snaw-Naw-As, Stz’uminus and Lyackson First Nations.

In this house, I represent the constituents of Nanaimo-Ladysmith, but I also feel a responsibility to speak for the 1.1 million people who voted Green in 2019. If you do the math and average the number of votes by the number of MP’s elected, I represent 387,000 Green voters. By comparison, the Liberal party received 5 times more votes than the Green Party but elected 50 times more MPs, averaging 38,000 votes per MP. This is not a true representation of the democratic will of Canadians.

Mr Speaker

The fall economic statement contains a long list of much needed spending to help Canadians get through the COVID-19 pandemic. The Green Party welcomes many of the initiatives that are listed in the Fall Economic Statement. Our leader Annamie Paul is particularly pleased to see the government commit to exploring the implementation of Carbon Border Adjustments, to protect Canadian businesses and encourage climate action abroad. This is something Ms. Paul was advocating for.

What is remarkable about this Fall Economic statement is what has been left out. This was an opportunity to implement much needed reforms and improvements to our social welfare and healthcare systems. There are minor reforms to our tax system but they don’t go nearly far enough to create more fairness. There is program spending for Indigenous people but not enough to deal with the systemic problems they are grappling with. There are minor programs to deal with the climate emergency but not enough bold action to deal with this existential crisis.

I know that members of the Conservative Party, the official opposition, have been cuddling up to conspiracy theorists with their questions and speeches referencing the World Economic Forum’s ‘Great Reset’. Quite frankly the Conservatives should be ashamed of themselves. I am no fan of the World Economic Forum and their gatherings of unelected billionaires at Davos. Those billionaires talk a great game about social responsibility and protecting the environment, while they continue to press governments for more tax cuts for the wealthy and less regulations for corporations. It’s not a conspiracy theory, it’s unfettered greed in action.

The Conservative agenda has been much the same as the World Economic Forum agenda all along - tax cuts and deregulation while pretending to care about working people. When Stephen Harper was the prime minister he spoke at the Davos conference several times, including the 2012 meeting which planned for the so-called ‘Great Transformation.’ Same agenda, different title.

Canadians deserve better. It’s time for bold action.

It’s time for a Guaranteed Livable income so we can eliminate poverty by creating an income floor under which no Canadian can fall.

It’s time for universal pharmacare to complete our universal healthcare system. We are the only country with universal health care that doesn’t include universal pharmacare. It would save us billions in health care spending. We also need to fund proactive therapies, treatments and programs that keep Canadians healthy, and to include these in the Canada Health Act.

It’s time to fully include mental health care services and counseling under the Canada Health Act. We need more than half measures to deal with the mental health crisis in our communities. This is particularly true as we near the one year anniversary of pandemic restrictions.

It’s time to fund universal child care and early childhood education. This is especially important to ensure that women can regain the ground they have lost in the workforce as a result of the pandemic.

We need to increase funding to deal with the affordable housing and homelessness crisis and we need bold action to deal with the opioid overdose crisis.

It’s time for much deeper reform of our tax system to ensure that the billionaire class, the big banks and multinational corporations pay their fair share and cannot use loopholes and off-shore tax shelters to avoid paying taxes in Canada.

We encouraged the government to roll out and expand programs such as the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy to ensure that workers and companies could survive the economic lock-down. But we were also very clear that government emergency support should not be used by companies to pay CEO bonuses or shareholder dividends as has happened in the past. The government did not include these conditions as part of the relief programs and this has led to abuse and to corporate welfare.

A recent report found that billions in wage subsidies was paid to 68 companies which turned around and paid out more than $5 billion in dividends at the same time. For example Imperial Oil received 120 million in wage subsidies and paid out $324 million in dividends during the same period. The big telecom companies took in almost a quarter of a billion dollars from the wage subsidies program with Bell Canada receiving $122 million despite having $5.2 billion in available liquidity.

For-profit companies running Long term care seniors homes have also used government COVID emergency tax dollars to line the pockets of CEOs and shareholders while the death toll in their facilities continued to climb.

The Green party is happy with some of the Environmental Initiatives but they are clearly not enough to deal with the crash in biodiversity or the climate crisis we face.

There has been a lot of talk about the government initiative to plant 2 billion trees as part of Canada’s climate action plan. This sounds great but I would like to point out a few flaws in this idea.

A 500 year old tree sequesters far more carbon in a year than an acre of seedlings can. If the government is serious about using trees as a carbon sink they should fund an immediate halt to the destruction of old growth forests, especially in BC and on Vancouver Island where only 1% of the big tree old growth forests outside of parks remain standing. The BC government talks about preservation but continues to allow old growth forests to be cut down. This needs to stop. Let’s allocate tree funding for old growth.

The other trees we need to preserve and protect are in the boreal forest. The boreal forest is Canada’s equivalent to the Amazon and provides enormous ecological benefit to the planet.

It’s time to leave the virgin forests alone and preserve them. There are plenty of places in Canada where second, third and fourth growth forests can be used for a timber supply. But forest companies must be required to replant trees after they have harvested both on crown land or on private forest lands. It’s the cost of doing business and should not be subsidized.

The Green Party welcomes spending on consumer initiatives to address climate change, including funding for Home Energy Retrofits and Zero Emissions Vehicle Infrastructure. But the climate crisis demands more than consumer initiatives. It’s time for this government to take much bolder steps, starting with the cancellation of the Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline. Experts have stated that this project is not financially viable and is predicted to become a stranded asset. It will not help finance climate change initiatives.

Fossil fuels will continue to be used in the foreseeable future, but in dwindling amounts. We need to end all subsidies for the oil and gas industry.

The truth is that if we don't take bold actions to address the climate crisis, the spending needed to deal with mitigation and the disasters resulting from climate change will make what we are spending on the COVID 19 pandemic look like chump change. Canada is a climate laggard. Canadian governments have committed to nine international agreements and produced zero plans to meet the agreed targets.

Eight provinces and three territories representing 85% of the Canadian population met the Copenhagen target in 2020. But two provinces, Alberta and Saskatchewan increased emissions so much that they completely wiped out the progress of the rest of the country.

Canada has the worst record of the G7 for climate action. The UK, the country with the best record, has reduced their GHG emissions by 41% from 1990 levels while shamefully Canada has increased emissions by 21%. In order for Canada to catch up with the rest of the wealthy countries, we need to set new targets to reduce emissions by 60% by 2030.

The average Canadian consumer could take their emissions to zero and it wouldn’t mean a thing as long as we allow the oil and gas industry to continue to pollute our atmosphere with climate killing gases. The government shouldn’t let conspiracy promoting MPs continue to intimidate them from taking real action. Be bold, that's what our children and grandchildren expect from you.

In closing Mr. Speaker, Bill C-14 contains some much needed spending and actions. In our view it needs to be much bolder. The Green Party will support this bill and we will continue to press the government to take bold action.

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