Response to the 2021 federal budget

2021-04-26 15:55 [p.6184]
Madam Speaker, I speak to colleagues today from the traditional territory of the W_SÁNEC nation. It is a deep honour to be a member of Parliament for such a place. Hych’ka Siem.
I am going to start with a reflection on the historical nature of this budget and with a thought that comes to us from the late Jane Jacobs, one of the most remarkable thinkers in Canada and a great urban planner. In her last book, Dark Age Ahead, she mentioned that we as a society seem to have collective amnesia.
What I am going to say next will probably result in some heckling. I apologize for that. I mean I apologize for possibly provoking heckling, not for heckling, as I have never heckled.
I do find it important, as we look at this budget, which has, finally, a historic commitment to child care, to look at the last chance we had for child care, the last chance we had to actually live up to our Kyoto targets and the last chance we had to make substantial progress toward reconciliation.
I am speaking of the 2005 achievements that were brought to an end. I am not going to refer to the political parties or the leaders at the time, but I will say that those opportunities were snatched from us by our first-past-the-post electoral system. This is why I say that, and I will just preface this by saying I was not a member of any political party at the time. I was the executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada. When I think of November 28, 2005, I could weep. I have wept.
We had a really good plan to reach the Kyoto targets. When I speak of collective amnesia, this include the Liberals, whose plan it was, but who seem to have completely forgotten that this was a historic reality. We had a very detailed budget from Ralph Goodale as finance minister. The minister of environment at the time was Stéphane Dion. It was found that it would have gotten us to within striking distance of 6% below 1990 levels. We now stand, in our last reported emissions, at 21% above 1990 levels.
Ken Dryden was the minister who delivered the child care plan, which was phenomenal. It had something that we do not have now in that it had signed agreements from 10 provinces. It really mattered. Members can ask Martha Friendly. It mattered, and it also had funding.
We also had five major indigenous organizations in this country representing first nations, Métis, Inuit, native women and so on working on a very strong agreement, which was called the Kelowna accord, of $5 billion over five years. It was never enough, but it was a good start. These were all brought to an end because of first past the post and because of looking ahead at what would happen if a minority government was supported again.
Earlier in this House there was a bit of a debate between the member for London—Fanshawe and the member for Kingston and the Islands about the budget that year. Let us be clear. The budget that year did carry. Paul Martin’s government did not fall on the budget. The budget, as some of us will remember, was brilliantly rewritten by Jack Layton. The budget included close to $5 billion in increased social spending, money for affordable housing and more money to end global poverty. It actually would have put Canada on track to hold to 0.7%, to meet that target known as the Pearson target. As I said, I could weep.
The budget passed, but then the Conservatives under Stephen Harper engineered the fall of the government by putting forth their own non-confidence motion, with the support of the other two parties in this House today, the Bloc and the NDP. It brought down the government because of first past the post. This is because, if an opposition party is looking forward, it really does not want the Liberals to be all that popular, and it would be popular if it were delivering on Kyoto, delivering on Kelowna and delivering on child care.
If it were not for that fateful vote on November 28, 2005, our emissions would now be measured against 1990 levels, not 2005 levels, and we would not be 21% above 1990 levels. We would be below them. Child care would have been a reality for Canadian working mothers and, I should say, parents, as dads take responsibility too, but as we know, it is mostly moms. Child care would have been a reality for the last 15 years, not five years away, as the new Minister of Finance states. I believe she fully intends and is fully committed to delivering on child care, but as a provincial jurisdictional reality, the money will not be enough without the agreements. We have to hope that child care deal gets done, but we would have had it for a very long time.
Here we are with this budget, and what do we like about it? Again, I have to say that if this budget is back to the future, we will never get those years back. It was a political calculation that it was worth defeating Paul Martin’s government to put Stephen Harper in place because everybody, the Bloc, the NDP and the Conservatives, would do better later on.
We will never get those years back, so now where are we?
I am sure that I can speak for the other members of the Green caucus, and we are all very pleased to see the child care funding. We want to see that succeed, and we would love to support that. However, this budget is missing pharmacare. Why are we not moving ahead on pharmacare? The Hoskins report is sitting there gathering dust.
What happened to guaranteed livable income? We heard the Liberal convention and the NDP convention both support having a basic income, and that means a guaranteed livable income. It is not here at all.
What happened to speaking to the opioid crisis that is taking lives across this country? Where is decriminalization? Where are the really significant plans to deal with the opioid crisis? What about those who are really being left behind here. Youth and post-secondary students, and people living with disabilities are being left behind. There is nothing for people who are dealing with low income and renting their places. There is so much missing here.
What of overseas development assistance and that one little promise from 2005? We have not heard anybody in the government talk about 0.7% of GDP to overseas development assistance since. This budget does very little on overseas development assistance, a surprisingly small amount. NGOs and those in the development community have asked for at least put 1% of what industrialized countries are putting into COVID relief to be put into overseas development assistance. This does not come close. It comes to less than half of one per cent, and it is spread over many years. We know the developing world is going to face a food crisis as a result of COVID. There is a need for more help than ever to developing countries, and, yes, there is an increase, but it is not nearly adequate.
There is money for the Canadian water agency, which is terribly important, but years ago, in 1986, when I worked in government, there was the Inland Waters Directorate, which is essentially what the Canada water agency is now being created to replace because it disappeared through cuts through years. It had over 1,250 employees and I think a budget of $16 million, if memory serves. Just a drop in the bucket is going into this new agency. It needs far more than $8.5 million a year for two years. That is just not adequate.
On climate, the budget itself says it will get us to 36% below 2005 levels by 2030. That is debatable. There is a lot of spending in here that is really laudable. I love the green bonds idea. That is great. It is very exciting to see $4.4 billion go into what they are calling “deep home retrofits” to do more with renewable energy, but there is a lot in here that is masquerading under titles like “clean technology”, but it is dirty technology, such as small and medium nuclear reactors. If we are making hydrogen, that is great, but we have to make sure it is 100% from renewable energy, not from fossil fuel sources.
The big elephant in the room is how we can have a budget that claims to do something about the climate crisis, but that keeps the subsidies in place, the billions of dollars a year, to produce more fossil fuels while promoting and building, as a Canadian Crown corporation, a pipeline to deliver a product that does not have a market, is uneconomical and threatens to destroy ecosystems all along the route it is being built.
It has already been halted because just last week they realized they were cutting down trees and endangering the habitat of migratory birds. They were, in fact, destroying the habitat of migratory birds. Our Crown corporation, which is our tax dollars at work, is building a TMX pipeline that should never be built and which is a direct threat to the climate.
The Parliamentary Budget Office says that if this project has any more climate limitations imposed upon it, it will lose billions of dollars, and that was before this budget, which does have new climate limitations.
There is much to like in this budget. There is much that one would want to support, but how do we get around knowing that, if we are serious about holding onto a livable world for our kids, we have to reduce greenhouse gases far more rapidly? We have to reduce them more rapidly than even the new announcement of 40% to 45% below 2005 by 2030 the Prime Minister made at President Biden’s climate leaders summit last week. Our fair share is a minimum of 60% below 2005 levels by 2030. This budget, as much as there are good measures in it, and I have mentioned only some of them in relation to climate, there are others that are—

2021-04-26 16:05 [p.6185]

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her steadfast dedication to solving the climate crisis that we are currently faced with and her interest in the budget with respect to that matter.
A constituent of mine, Mary Jane Philp, purchased a copy of the book A Good War by Seth Klein and sent copies of it to all 338 members of Parliament. I have just started reading it, and one thing that I find very interesting about the book is that the author starts by comparing the climate crisis to the Second World War and the way that Canada was able to mobilize in response to it.
I find something perplexing. One of the reasons we cannot mobilize as effectively now as we would like to is that we are having a difficult time convincing everybody that we need to mobilize, whereas in the Second World War, Canadians seemed to come together and unite around a common cause so much more effectively and efficiently.
Can the member comment as to why we are having a hard time uniting around this?
2021-04-26 16:06 [p.6185]
Madam Speaker, I want to celebrate the member’s constituent for sending Seth Klein’s excellent book to every member of Parliament.
Part of it is that it does take leadership, and it takes it from the top down. Members will recall that the United States was very slow to realize that it had to step up to deal with the fascist Nazi threat. Leadership does make a difference, and if we say that it must be done and will be done, we can get to the point where we will stop arguing about what is possible and start doing what is necessary.

2021-04-26 16:07 [p.6186]

Madam Speaker, I congratulate my colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands on her speech.
I really liked hearing the Greens talk about the environment. It reflects more of their true nature, although they have not always been very critical of pipelines. However, that is another story.
Instead I want to talk about the issue of Quebec and provincial jurisdictions. Earlier we talked about the national child care program, which, I have no doubt, will be largely modelled on the one that has been in place in Quebec for over 25 years and that is working very well.
There is also the issue of unconditional compensation. As we know, the Prime Minister has been rather vague about his intentions on the matter. Will there be conditions attached to the financial compensation for Quebec’s withdrawal from the program, yes or no?
I have the same concerns with respect to the eventual implementation of a Canada-wide pharmacare plan.
I would like my colleague to comment on this lack of specific detail and clarity regarding the government’s intention to unconditionally compensate Quebec for child care.
2021-04-26 16:08 [p.6186]
It is clear: We now have funding for a national child care program. This is extremely important for all families outside Quebec. My colleague is right to point out that Quebec introduced a very good program a few years ago.
However, I think the lack of specifics is due to the fact that negotiations will take place in the future.

2021-04-26 16:08 [p.6186]

I was talking to a constituent of mine named Maurice on the phone. He was asking me about seniors, and he wanted to know how this budget was going to affect them. He mentioned that about a month ago, a bill was brought forward in the House that the Bloc, the NDP and the Conservatives supported. It was for an increase in OAS of $110 per month. This budget, unfortunately, instead of bringing people together like the leader of the Green Party has done, is almost like the politics of division. The Liberals are treating seniors over the age of 75 differently from those under 75.
I wonder if the member could comment on this. Is there a way we could fix that?

2021-04-26 16:09 [p.6186]

Any increase in OAS is very welcomed. It is true, as the hon. parliamentary secretary mentioned just a moment ago in debate, that this was what the Liberals ran on in their campaign. I would rather that it were not defined based on the dividing line of over 75 or under 75. Perhaps we can make improvements in the budget before we vote for it, but I doubt that we are going to have time to see the Liberals change their budget much—