Address by the Honourable Jim Carr, Minister of Natural Resources, on Bill C-15


House of Commons
May 5, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I rise in this special place with humility and gratitude.

I rise with humility because I represent the 90,000 people of Winnipeg South Centre who, in the most magical moment of all in our democracy, have transferred their trust to me to represent them in the Parliament of Canada. They represent, really, all that is great about Canada, in all of its diversity across all of its neighbourhoods and with all of its sense of place and pride of place, as all of us in the House feel. We bring that pride of place to something that is greater than our own identities or the places in which we live: to the great country that is ours.

I rise with gratitude because I am here due to the courage of my grandparents. They left Russia in 1906, escaping the pogroms of the czar, Jewish people who were not at home in the Pale of Settlement, who could not exercise freedom, who could not own property, who had no sense of opportunity for their children or grandchildren. They came to Canada, where there was a single relative to welcome them. They came with no English, no money, and really no prospects. What they brought with them was a sense of hope, opportunity and the freedom to be who they were. They were displaced Jews from a foreign country. What they found when they came to Canada was limitless opportunity, if not for themselves, for their children and, in my case, their grandchildren.

In my mother's family, only one of the four children could go to university. Three of them went to work so one could learn. His name was David Golden. David Golden was a prisoner of war, who was captured by the Japanese in Hong Kong on Christmas day of 1941. He came back to Canada weighing 120 pounds in August of 1945. He then picked up his Rhodes scholarship and became the youngest deputy minister in Canadian history at the age of 34. His minister was C.D. Howe.

My uncle was one of a handful of public servants who rebuilt the Canadian economy after the war. What he taught my family was that citizenship in a country such as Canada and the nobility of serving that country was the greatest calling of all. I owe to my grandparents and parents a sense of what it means to serve the people of Canada. I am grateful for that opportunity, and I am humbled by it.

I come from a very special province for many reasons. We all think that our home province is special, but I want to talk about a few things that are particularly appropriate to the budget we are debating. We are all immigrants, with the exception of indigenous peoples who have been here for thousands of years.

I remember when I was president of the Business Council of Manitoba, we held a conference called Pioneers 2000. As an icebreaker, we wanted all of the delegates to see if their ancestors would have been allowed into Canada under the circumstances of today. It was remarkable because former premier Duff Roblin, a Progressive Conservative premier of Manitoba, whom I considered to be a mentor, would not have been allowed into Canada. The ancestors of Gary Doer, who was the premier of Manitoba at the time, would not have been allowed into Canada.

Therefore, I am so proud of what the country has done in accepting 25,000 Syrian refugees, with the promise of more. We realize that when we open up our country to those who are fleeing persecution from other places, we provide them the possibility of a lifetime, and that will always be repaid to the generosity of the nation that accepts them. I feel, as a Canadian, so honoured and proud to be part of a nation that understands that, as well as a nation that understands the importance of immigration as a way of building our nation.

We have a sensibility and a sense of generosity, which is really unique in the world. I was struck by the comments of the member for Outremont this morning in reflecting on the tragedy in Fort McMurray. He was probably speaking for many of us when he expressed that where else but in Canada would there have been such an outpouring of generosity, understanding, and a sense of the collective that we had a responsibility to help each other.

As a Manitoban, I also grew up with the understanding that our indigenous populations had been marginalized for decades, for generations. Therefore, I was happy to see the budget announce significant investments so children raised in remote communities would have the same opportunities that my children have for a quality education; that they live in places where the water is clean and does not have to be boiled; that they live in communities where schooling is going to prepare them to live out their lives to fulfill their aspirations, the same way my children are experiencing now. We have a historic challenge to offer indigenous communities what all of us aspire to, regardless of our ethnicity, our religion, our place of birth, and our community. I am particularly happy to be part of a government that has recognized this, not only with words but with action.

I am also very happy that within the first few weeks of us taking on this responsibility, we brought back the long form census. We asserted again the importance of evidence-based decisions and of scientific evidence as we looked at forming and informing public policy.

Then, who can forget November 4 when the cabinet was sworn in on one of those absolutely perfect days? The fall foliage was in all its resplendent colours, with not a cloud in the sky, and a gentle breeze. We walked from 24 Sussex to Rideau Hall. When the cabinet was sworn in, we saw a reflection of the nation itself. Many of us were particularly moved when our colleague, now the Minister of Justice, was sworn in. An indigenous woman, having just been appointed to be the minister of justice for Canada was in its own way a symbol of how far we had come. Remarkably, it was in 1960 when aboriginal people where given the right to vote in Canada. That is in the lifetime of many of us who sit in the House, certainly in my lifetime. Therefore, to see that the very diversity, the very texture of the country was reflected in the cabinet was very moving.

Very shortly after we were sworn into office, we were given our mandate letters by the Prime Minister. However, it was not just that I was given a copy of the mandate letter, so were you, Mr. Speaker, and 36 million Canadians. In fact, anyone around the world with access to a computer has access to what the Prime Minister has asked us to do as members of the cabinet, which is a remarkable departure from any other government.

As Minister of Natural Resources, the Prime Minister has asked me to do many important things. One of them is to work with the provinces to develop a Canadian energy strategy. I have a particular interest in the subject. In 2009, when the President of the United States came here to meet with the prime minister of the day to talk about a continental energy strategy for North America, a few of us scratched our heads and said “Well, that's a great idea, but what's the Canadian energy strategy?” There was not one.

We decided that we would put the frame around some principles, which ultimately led to the Council of the Federation publishing a Canadian energy strategy in July 2015, but the Government of Canada was not at the table. Therefore, a great national enterprise was not part of the Government of Canada's attention.

This is not the only example of how, over the last 10 years, the country has lost its sense of building national consensus over great national projects. In fact, the previous prime minister did not meet with the premiers for six years until the current Prime Minister called them to Ottawa to meet, first to prepare for the COP21 meeting in Paris, and then subsequently to begin sketching out a pan-Canadian framework on climate change, which most would agree is one of the great issues facing our time.

The whole nature of nation building by bringing leaders together to talk about those issues that were important to all Canadians had been lost. Well, not anymore. Now we are fully engaged in the business of building Canada from the top down and from the bottom up, as we have seen in the way in which the government has gone about doing its business.

Since taking on my responsibility, I have had the pleasure of representing Canada at the meeting of the International Energy Agency in Paris and of representing Canada at the G7 energy ministers' meeting in Japan just last week. My colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources, has travelled to China, representing this government on energy and climate issues. Wherever we go there is a tremendous welcoming of Canada re-engaging in the forums of the world to talk about issues that are important not only to Canada, not only to Canadians, but to our partners internationally. This is a responsibility that we take seriously, and it is a responsibility that I discharge with the great humility of knowing that when I am at these places, I speak on behalf of the Government of Canada and on behalf of Canadians.

This is a government with a different approach, with a different tone, with a different way of going about its business, but also, as we see in this budget, with very precise commitments that give meaning to the promises of the campaign, that give substance to the mandate letters given to ministers by the Prime Minister and part of our commitment to the people of Canada.

I will talk about some of the elements of the budget that bear directly on the portfolio of Natural Resources, particularly on our commitment to facing the greatest challenge of our time, climate change. In many ways, Canadians are showing us the way, and I will give colleagues some examples of how Canadians are doing that.

At the north end of Howe Sound, a Canadian company is pulling carbon dioxide from the air and turning it into a fuel that can replace gasoline. In Okotoks, just south of Calgary, a community is heating its homes by collecting energy from the sun, storing it underground, and drawing on it as needed. In northern Ontario, Whitesand First Nation is looking to biomass to provide its electricity. In my own city of Winnipeg, entrepreneurs are providing streetside solar-powered stations so passersby can charge their cellphones and computers for free.

In these communities, and thousands like them across the country, Canadians are using their ingenuity to solve problems, to better their lives, and bring us to the future. They know our world must phase-out its reliance on the fossil fuels of the past and embrace the renewable energy of tomorrow. While that transition may be long, its trajectory is clear.

Our government welcomes this new direction. We recognize that as a nation rich in fossil fuels, we need to find greater ways of extracting those resources. We must also accelerate the use of renewable energy.

Some may see these two imperatives as incompatible. They may, for example, view any investments in oil and gas exploration or infrastructure as reinforcing the past rather than building the future. We disagree. We see opportunity in all forms of energy, and as the Prime Minister has said, the choice between pipelines and wind turbines is a false one. We need both to reach our goal. Here is why.

While it is exciting to think about the low-carbon economy of the future, we are not there yet. The truth is that even in light of the Paris agreement, the demand for fossil fuels will actually increase for decades to come. In fact, according to the International Energy Agency, the world will need a third more energy by 2030, and three-quarters of that energy will come from fossil fuels, nor does it end there.

By 2040, a growing middle class in developing countries will consume 26 million more barrels of oil every day. At the same time, the use of natural gas could increase as a transitional fuel, cleaner than coal or oil and more accessible than many renewables. In short, oil and gas are not going away soon.

As Canadians we have a choice. We can say shut down the oil sands and natural gas production and let others meet this global demand, let others have the jobs and reap the benefits. That certainly is one option, or we can say let us use this period of increasing demand to our advantage. Let us build the infrastructure to get our resources to global markets and use the revenues to fund Canada's transition to cleaner forms of energy. In other words, let us leverage the fossil fuel resources we have today to deliver clean energy solutions for tomorrow.

How do we get there? Our government understands that to attract investment and build the infrastructure to move our energy to market, we need to get our environmental house in order and have Canadians behind us. We have to go to work.

The Prime Minister went to Paris with our provincial and territorial colleagues and let the world know that when it came to fighting climate change, Canada would no longer be a bystander. Then he met again with the provinces and territories to craft a new approach to climate change, including the possibility of putting a price on carbon. This budget goes further, providing $50 million to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the oil and gas sector.

We are restoring credibility to the environmental assessment process, and as Grand Chief Perry Bellegarde said so well, “Before you build a respectful relationship”. We agree. All of these measures are aimed at creating environmental assessments that will carry the confidence of both Canadians and investors. That is what this budget does.

The budget also invests more than $1 billion in clean innovation and technologies, technologies that will transform traditional sectors and open up entire new industries, technologies that can strengthen our economy, preserve our planet, and expand the middle class. Worldwide investment in the clean tech sector grew by 16% in 2014 alone. In less than five years it will be a $2-trillion industry. If Canada were to earn just its fair share of that market, we could create a $50-billion industry by 2020.

This budget goes further, investing billions of dollars in clean energy and technology, energy efficiency, charging stations for electric vehicles and refuelling stations for alternative energy, and a low-carbon economy fund that will support provincial and territorial action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

All of the budget initiatives I have talked about today take us closer to our long-term vision for Canada.

I believe that Canadians are ready to embrace that vision. After all, our history is market by successive generations, dreaming big and achieving greatly. We saw that spirit in a railway that spanned a continent, a broadcasting system that connected a country, and an arm that reached into space.

Today, that same spirit animates Canadians in every corner of our country. Like their forebears, they are tackling big challenges with big ideas, creating a future that will be brighter than we can imagine. This budget brings us closer to that future.

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Hon. James Gordon Carr Natural Resources Canada Nature and Environment

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