October 4, 2016
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I would like to begin by acknowledging that we are gathered on traditional Algonquin territory.
Mr. Speaker, climate change, as we all know, is a threat unlike any other.
We know action needs to be taken to address what I believe is the biggest threat to our lives, our country and our planet. That is why I will be voting in favour of this motion. Taking action against climate change is a moral imperative. I don’t believe there is another option if we care about our children, our grandchildren, the very future of our land and waters.
To meet this threat, and to minimize the potential for its devastating impacts, requires global action, global cooperation and global collaboration. Indeed, our world needs the historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
It was a result of our commitment to inclusion and engagement that the delegation to Paris included Indigenous leaders from regions across Canada, including from the Arctic, which is on the frontline of experiencing the impacts of climate change.
In Canada, achieving the vision of the Paris Agreement will require the full inclusion and leadership of Indigenous Peoples.
As Canada’s First Ministers committed in the Vancouver Declaration, we are working in partnership with the provinces and territories to establish a pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change—to reduce our emissions and ensure Canada takes full advantage of the opportunities associated with the emerging low-carbon economy.
This affects all Canadians, and in particular Indigenous Peoples and northerners. Going forward, we are working with provincial and territorial partners and with indigenous peoples to ensure all voices are heard.
For too long, governments did not listen to the warnings from elders—how traditional knowledge of the patterns of nature did not apply the way it used to; how ice was thinning and disappearing; how forest fires were becoming more frequent; how new fauna and flora were appearing while others were disappearing.
These are real changes that are having real impacts on real people— affecting the ability of Indigenous Peoples to exercise their rights; their ability to connect with the land; their food security.
We must listen to the solutions and traditional knowledge Indigenous Peoples can share if we are to mitigate and adapt to the impact of climate change.
We are committed to acting. Budget 2016, for example, includes $10.7 million over two years to implement renewable energy projects in off-grid Indigenous and Northern communities that rely on diesel and other fossil fuels for heat and power. This kind of partnership is essential and I hope only a start of what can be accomplished.
We will invest close to $130 million over five years to strengthen the science we need to inform decision-making, protect the health and well-being of Canadians, build resilience in the North and Indigenous communities, and enhance competitiveness in key economic sectors.
Good things are happening already, especially in the North—and we can learn a great deal from the spirit of collaboration reflected in the close links among Indigenous Peoples around the circumpolar region.
The Inuit Circumpolar Council, the Gwich’in Council International, the Arctic Athabaskan Council—the very existence of these organizations is due to the fact that Indigenous nations took it upon themselves to find a way to speak in unison, on issues of shared concern.
The visible effects of climate change, from melting permafrost to waning sea ice, make the Arctic a region that demands our attention.
Indeed, in the wake of the Paris conference, the Arctic is a focus for global attention.
And the world will be watching to see how Canada responds to the real and urgent concerns expressed by Indigenous Peoples in the North and communities across this country.
Ratifying the Paris Agreement will moves us, globally, in the direction that will hopefully slow down effects of our warming planet.
I’d like to speak more about the effects of climate change in the North. As mentioned, we are seeing vegetation changes, animal migratory changes and permafrost melting; All of these things are causing abrupt shifts to traditional practices like hunting and trapping as well as practical problems like maintaining infrastructure on melting grounds.
The North is experiencing the impacts of climate change right now and that is a real threat to the sustainability of our communities. This threat is in addition to the high cost of energy and limited infrastructure that already challenge the sustainability of rural and remote Northern communities.
Recognizing this, the Government of the Northwest Territories has been actively working to reduce its carbon footprint. Between 2001 and 2011, the Territorial Government reduced emissions from its operations by 30 percent.
In addition, the NWT currently ranks second in the country on a per capita basis for installed solar power; and the feasibility of wind development is also being investigated in the Inuvik region next year.
We, in the Northwest Territories, understand that a carbon price is an important measure to get people to stop using fuels that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, but the very high cost of fuel in our communities is already an incentive to reduce consumption. Northerners do not choose high-carbon options; they are the only choice.
In addition to the relative costs of electricity, due to our long winters, and the use of heating oil, heating costs in some of our northern communities are seven times that of the cost of heating with natural gas in Edmonton.
NWT governments and residents are being diligent and responsible to control emissions of greenhouse gases in the NWT and prepare for climate change impacts. Even though the Northwest Territories accounts for only a small fraction of Canada’s overall Green House Gas emissions, there is commitment at all levels of government to find ways to reduce our carbon footprint.
It is my hope that we at the Federal level will continue to assist Northerners in their work to provide reliable, affordable alternatives to carbon intensive fuels for our communities and businesses. Budget 2016 was a great first step.
It is important also that the federal government understands the potential harm that increased carbon prices could have on the fragile, resource-based economy of the NWT if implemented in a manner that does not work for the north.
Carbon pricing can’t penalize Northerners by raising their already high cost of living or discouraging the economic development Northerners need to support themselves and their families.
I am confident a supportive approach, that recognizes the unique realities of the North will be followed. Through ongoing discussions, partnerships and innovation along with investment in green energy, clean growth, and better infrastructure, we in the North will continue to reduce our greenhouse emissions in support of the Paris Agreement and Vancouver Declaration.
In doing so, we will underscore our commitment to ensure all Canadians, including northerners and Indigenous peoples are partners in this global effort.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.