From the Hill: Housing and Gas Prices
Two of the most important issues for Canadians right now are the affordability crisis—the impossibility of the housing market, the rising cost of groceries and the soaring price of gas—and the ongoing crisis of climate change.
Recently the House of Commons debated an NDP motion that combined these two issues. The motion asked the government to stop subsidizing highly profitable oil and gas companies once and for all—and we’re talking billions of dollars every year—and instead invest those funds in relief for the millions of Canadians who are struggling right now with the high cost of everything, and also invest them in renewable energy and other initiatives to deal with the climate crisis.
Thirteen years ago, Canada and its G20 partners promised to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies by 2025. In 2018, I was at the G20 meeting in Argentina where that promise was reaffirmed.
The Environment Commissioner recently reported that they couldn’t do a proper audit of Canada’s commitment to ending subsidies because the government did not even have a clear definition of an “inefficient fossil fuel subsidy”.
Canada gives more tax dollars to the multinational oil and gas companies than any other G20 country, handing out 14 times more to the oil and gas companies than to renewable energy companies between 2018 and 2020. Only last year the Liberal government paid out $8.6 billion dollars in subsidies and public financing to fossil fuel companies.
Canada paid $4.5 billion for the Trans Mountain Pipeline when the company building it said it was no longer a viable project. We’re now facing a $21 billion cost for the expansion of that pipeline, an expansion solely predicated on an increasing demand for oil when everyone realizes global oil consumption must surely decline over the next 30 years. We will never recoup the cost of Trans Mountain.
So if there ever was an inefficient subsidy, I would say buying a pipeline that a private company didn’t want, and then spending $20 billion to expand that pipeline to provide capacity for expanded oil production that the world cannot withstand—that is a highly inefficient subsidy.
And in the latest budget the Liberal government promises over $2 billion per year for carbon capture and storage projects for fossil fuel companies.
These are more taxpayer dollars going to companies that are doing very well. Imperial Oil is making more money than they have for 30 years; Suncor made a profit of almost $3 billion in the last quarter alone.
Even if carbon capture projects can be developed that actually work, and there’s a lot of evidence that they don’t, using them to clean up a fossil fuel industry whose raison d’etre is providing oil and gas for the world to burn to create carbon dioxide is a highly inefficient way to wean the world off fossil fuels.
So, what do Canadians get for this public investment in oil and gas multinationals? Record high prices for gasoline.
The NDP believe that companies that have reaped extraordinary profits while Canadians struggle should be charged a windfall tax, such as that levied last week in the United Kingdom. There, oil and gas firms will be paying a 25 percent tax on their profits, bringing in $19 billion to assist low-income households.
Unfortunately, the Liberals and Conservatives voted against the NDP motion that would have put an end to fossil fuel subsidies and redirected those funds to help Canadians. But my colleagues and I will continue to focus on initiatives that will truly help Canadians in these difficult times.
On another topic, I’m delighted to welcome Charanya (Jula) Sukumar as my new constituency assistant in Penticton. You can reach that office at 250-770-4480 or my Castlegar office at 250-365-2792; my email address is email@example.com